In My Library Tote: September Book Reviews and Recommendations

Is there anything better in the fall than a glass of red wine and a good book? Okay, maybe if there's also a bonfire and some s'mores involved (although, wash your hands before picking your book back up... sticky fingers). It was cool and rainy all weekend here, so I pretty much wanted to read and do nothing else. Here are the books I read last month.

{what I read in September}

{The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker} If I told you this is a World War II novel, but I swear it's different from anything I've read before and totally worth the read, would you believe me? I know, I probably wouldn't either. I chose this one as an Amazon First Reads book (free with Prime!) for last month, and because it was free I went in with low expectations. Well, it ended up being my favorite book of the month and quite possibly one of my favorites of the year. Based on a true story, it is a beautiful portrayal of an ordinary man--not a prisoner, spy, or typical World War II hero--who does what he can to resist the Nazi regime. In a time when I want to yell and throw things when I watch the news, this book offered respite for my heart and reminded me that there are indeed good people in this world. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

{I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell} This is a memoir unlike any I've read before, entirely made up of stories of O'Farrell's near-death experiences. I loved her novel This Must Be the Place, and while this, a memoir, is obviously much different, it confirmed that I love her writing and would like to read more of it. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel} As a What Should I Read Next? podcast listener and a Modern Mrs. Darcy reader, I was familiar with this first book of Anne Bogel's, so when it came across my email as a Kindle deal the other day I picked it up. I do enjoy learning about personality types, so as expected, this was such a fun read. If you consider yourself a personality expert I would skip this one, as it was more of an overview of several personality typing systems (Myers-Briggs, enneagram, Strengths Finder, etc.). I know my Myers-Briggs type (INFJ) and possibly my enneagram (tentatively I'm a one, but I'm not sure that's right), but this book did just the thing I hoped it would do--made me want to learn more about all those typing systems, correctly classify myself, and make them work for me. Personality typing isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy it, I recommend this book. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker} I've heard of Jen Hatmaker but this is my first experience with her work. I listened to this on audio, narrated by the author, and to be honest I think I would have enjoyed it more in paper or ebook form. I appreciated Hatmaker's honesty and openness about her life and her faith, but it didn't feel as cohesive to me as I believe it would have if I had the actual book in front of me. It was entertaining to listen to, but I didn't walk away with a strong understanding of her overall message. Also, I found her voice a little grating; it felt a bit like she was shouting at me. I think she is a talented writer with a lot of heartfelt, encouraging things to say, but I just don't think audio is the right way for me to read her. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

{The Secret History by Donna Tartt} My friend Becky and I read this for our book club last month. While I can appreciate Tartt's talent as a writer and storyteller, I didn't really enjoy this book. I've said before that I struggle to like a book when I don't have anyone to root for, and in this case I thought they were all a bunch of privileged, borderline-sociopathic jerks. I found that the beginning of the story moved pretty slowly, although I did turn the pages more quickly in the last half of the book. Becky and I did have a good time discussing this one, and I think that made me walk away with a more positive view. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

{Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips} My book choices were pretty all-over-the-place last month, and this thriller rounds out the selection nicely. Joan and her four year-old son visit the zoo one afternoon, and they soon realize that they are trapped there and in serious danger. Thinking quickly, Joan relies on her strength, knowledge of the zoo, and intuition to keep herself and her son safe. This was a fast-paced thriller that kept my attention, although I didn't love some of the choices the author made about the plot. There were also a few questions that were left unanswered, and I felt like they should have been addressed to make the story come together better. What I did like was Phillips' portrayal of Joan as a mom; she was a complex character who had to make some gut-wrenching decisions to protect her son. Also, having a son close to that age, her depiction of the child, his interests, and their relationship felt relatable and believable. My rating: 3/5 stars.

{Abandoned} I also abandoned two books last month. (As a former must-finisher I'm pretty proud of that!) I started listening to American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin on audio, about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst during the 1970s. I chose it because it is a subject I know nothing about, but as I started listening to it I realized I just wasn't interested in learning more at this point. I also started reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The concept of reading about the daily habits of famous authors and artists sounds fascinating, but in reality it bored me to tears.

Have you read anything good lately? (Or abandoned anything terrible? I'd love to know.) 

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