September was a pretty good reading month. I read ten books, with an average rating of 3.9 stars. I wanted to read more frontlist books, since I received so many last month, but I’m hoping I can catch up over the next few weeks.
As always, I use Goodreads’ rating system.
Five stars – It was amazing.
Four stars – I loved it.
Three stars – I liked it.
Two stars – It was okay.
One star – I didn’t like it.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Complimentary copies of some of the books mentioned below were provided by the publishers.
Emma in the Night is about two sisters, Emma and Cass, who went missing three years ago. Suddenly, Cass reappears with a wild tale of kidnapping and imprisonment on a remote island. Forensic psychologist Abby Winter senses something is off about Cass’s testimony and gradually uncovers the truth of the sisters’ twisted family. I really like the way Walker slowly dissects the family dynamics that drive the plot, culminating in a shocking twist. I’m not giving it five stars because I had a hard time connecting with Cass. Still, if you’re looking for smart psychological suspense, you’ll likely enjoy this one.
The Refugees is a collection of eight short stories about the lives, experiences, and memories of Vietnamese refugees. Short stories are not my wheelhouse. Still, I persist in reading at least one collection each year because I think it’s important to challenge myself in this area. This particular collection is better than many I’ve read. It’s well-written and the stories successfully capture the sadness, anxiety, hope, and anger of refugees. Still, I struggle to connect with characters in this format and it doesn’t help that a few of the protagonists are shady, unlikeable people.
I expected Ghostland to be a fun, spooky fall read. And it is, but it’s so much more than that. Dickey gives readers a whirlwind tour of some of America’s most famous haunted houses, hotels, brothels, bars, asylums, and graveyards. But it’s not the alleged hauntings themselves that drive the narrative. Rather, it is what these ghost stories say about our cultural anxieties, fears, and obsessions that Dickey seeks to uncover. In the process, he takes readers back in time to the madness of the Salem Witch Trials, the horror of southern slave plantations, and the parlors where the women of the 19th-century spiritualist movement found power before suffrage. If you enjoy solid history flavored with a hint of mystery and the paranormal, you will love this book! (And I highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Jon Lindstrom.)
The Story of Sex is a graphic history of human copulation, from prehistoric times to the present and beyond. Or at least, this is what it claims to be. It’s really a Western history, for there seems to be little mention of Asian, Middle Eastern, Native American, South American, or African sexual mores after the prehistoric and Babylonian eras. For example, The Kama Sutra is mentioned in passing but there is nothing about the culture from whence it came. This seems like a great oversight, for there is much to be learned from the sexual attitudes of ancient China, pre-colonial Native American culture, the Aztecs, and so on. The illustrations are impressive (hence the three stars) but the book’s narrow focus makes it feel incomplete and even biased.
What We See in the Stars is an illustrated tour of the night sky. It covers the constellations, the planets, the sun and moon, asteroids, comets, and meteors, deep space, and more. I’ve never been interested in astronomy but this book opened the subject to me in a whole new way. The illustrations are absolutely stunning. In fact, Oseid is my new favorite illustrator of all time. If you’re looking for an introduction to astronomy that will engage adults and children alike, look no further.Short book reviews of EMMA IN THE NIGHT, THE REFUGEES, WOMEN IN SPORTS, + more!Click To Tweet
Ignotofsky’s Women in Science was my #1 nonfiction read of 2016 and Women in Sports fully lives up to her previous work. It’s a beautifully illustrated collection of fifty one-page biographies of record-breaking, establishment-defying female athletes. It also provides a number of jaw-dropping statistics about the atrocious pay gap in sports, influential women’s teams, and the intricate muscle anatomy behind those powerful swings, punches, strokes, and jumps. If you have a daughter, granddaughter, niece, or mentee, please do her a favor and buy her a copy of this book!
I don’t often read celebrity memoirs but Remini’s outspoken criticism of Scientology caught my interest, so I decided to listen to the audiobook version of Troublemaker, which she reads herself. Remini is not the most eloquent of narrators but she is audibly emotive and has a big, fun personality. I found myself liking her almost immediately. I’m docking points for the fact that Remini seems to frequently forget that punctuation exists, which makes her difficult to follow at points, and for the fact that a lot of Scientology terminology is not defined for those of us who know nothing about the Church. Nevertheless, Troublemaker is an engaging and enlightening audiobook.
The Sacred Enneagram is a guide to spiritual growth using the Enneagram with contemplative prayer, a practice that dates back to the early Christian mystics. I’ve read a lot of books about the Enneagram, so I wasn’t expecting anything radically new from this book. As it turns out, I was wrong. Heuertz pairs each triad (heard, mind, and body) with a different prayer posture (solitude, silence, and stillness). Likewise, he pairs each harmony triad (frustration, rejection, and attachment) with a different prayer intention (rest, consent, and engage). This is a truly novel approach and a great addition to Enneagram literature.
I read Gilead last year and completely fell in love with Marilynne Robinson’s writing. Unfortunately, the sequel fails to live up to the original. Home takes place at the same time as Gilead but focuses on Jack Boughton, the son of Ames’ old friend, Reverend Boughton. Essentially, it is the story of the prodigal son, albeit with an ending that is more bitter than sweet, and is narrated by Jack’s spinster sister, Glory, who struggles with trials of her own. My love for Robinson’s writing has not diminished but her voice is so loud that she drowns out her characters, at times over-intellectualizing them to death, making theological points (some, of course, involving John Calvin) that should be saved for her essays.
This is the fifth novel in the Millennium series and the second written by David Lagercrantz, who took over after Stieg Larsson died. I read the first three books in the series about five years ago but DNF’d The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest because I found Larsson’s writing too convoluted. It was easy to pick up the story in book five and I like Lagercrantz’s writing better than Larsson’s (though I would like to go back and re-read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to see if my original impressions hold up). The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is a real page-turner and I like that Lagercrantz follows a different character every few pages. It’s great for holding the attention of someone with ADD. I have two complaints though. One, Lisbeth seems out of character at times. Two, there’s a recurring lack of realism. For example, in one scene, Lisbeth is depicted as absorbing a number of kicks and blows of a well-built man without even getting dizzy. Really? She seems more like a superhero than a resourceful human being and I’m not buying it. Overall, it’s a great book but it does have problems.
Tell me about the books you read last month in the comments below!