Books Make Me Happy

October Reads

I wish I was better about doing this every month, alas…it only hits me if I’m struggling for something to write about on the first of the month. My brain says: Oh! Review last month’s books!

Although I’m not struggling this morning with what to write about because we had a lot of great adventures this weekend but I’m waiting for some pictures and so I don’t want to regale you with those stories yet!

So….What I read this month!

I never know exactly how to break this down so I think I’ll talk about all of them just in order of what I read.

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero – by Kelly J. Baptist- A coming-of-age tale about a boy who discovers a love of poetry after finding his late father’s journal.

MY THOUGHTS: This book is yet another in the long line of young reader books I’ve read lately that feature a grieving child. I promise I don’t seek these out. (I actually read TWO this month.) This one tugs a little harder because Isaiah’s Mom is retreating towards drugs in her own grief and so you want nothing more for this boy than a drop into an easier life. This book felt very authentic though, as Isaiah struggles to find his path amidst the sadness and pain. I love how his Dad’s journals ended up playing a part in this story as well as the role of the library/librarian.

While Justice Sleeps – by Stacey Abrams – a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

MY THOUGHTS: I realized reading this how much I missed thrillers! I really struggled reading Abrams’ non-fiction (Not a critque on her, I struggle with a lot of non-fiction as my attention gets pulled to easily) but this one I could not put down once I got about 60 pages in. She’s an excellent plot writer and I was completely sucked into this. I read very much like a movie and I really hope we get to see it on the big screen one day. There’s one scene where the lead is checking on a patient in the hospital who she’s convinced has someone trying to kill him and the “someone” is nearby and I held my breath through the entire scene like I would if I was watching it unfold in the theater.

The Giver of Stars – by Jojo Moyes –  set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond.

MY THOUGHTS: I saw a lot of complaints on Goodreads that this story had too nice of an ending but you know what? I loved it. If you’re looking for a historical fiction with some drama but gives you a nice resolution/ending? Then this is your book. I’ve never ready anything by Jojo Moyes before, I get the impression she does a lot of romance, but in this book romance took a very back seat to the stories of these women running a horseback library in rural Kentucky. And yes…I’m definitely the perfect reader for a book about badass librarians on horseback, so maybe that is also why I was so forgiving of the saccharine ending so many criticized, but I loved it.

The Last Mrs. Parrish – by Liv Constantine

MY THOUGHTS: I did not like it. First: I hated Amber desperately. Second: I fully expected the turn when we started hearing the story from Daphne’s point of view. I wasn’t at all surprise by what her story revealed. Third: while I wanted to root for Daphne, I could not at all get behind the ending. I actually think I was supposed to be happy with the ending (I’m trying not to be spoilery) but it made me very angry.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman – a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

MY THOUGHTS: This is an old book that has been recommended to me a bunch since I read Backman’s Anxious People and loved it. And I did love this book, it’s like the Hockey version of the TV show Friday Night Lights, but with a lot more toxic masculinity and assault. It was a very difficult read, but I found myself completely attached to a few of the characters by the end of the book. I was thrilled to discover there was a second book where I could revisit some of them, but overall the story left me with a lot of sadness. Read with caution.

Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by Michelle Duster Called “a dangerous negro agitator” by the FBI, and a “brave woman” by Frederick Douglass, an inspiring biography of the American pioneer by Ida B. Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

MY THOUGHTS: If you struggle holding your attention in non-fictions, this is a good one to read. As you get the story of Ida B. Wells’ life, you also get present-day stories that relate to parts of her history. There’s also a lot of paintings and scanned newspaper clippings and such which really helps my brain break up some of what can feel like a drudge in non-fictions. I joked that this was a non-fiction for the ADHD reader.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson – Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago.

MY THOUGHTS: I really enjoyed this one. I think I found this book recommended on a list of books to diversify your reading if you find yourself short on stories about indigenous characters. And while you definitely get a lot of Cherokee folklore, traditions, etc…it’s mainly a story about grief. And I feel like I’ve been drawn to all of those stories lately as I process my own. My only real complaint is I felt cheated as I got so fully invested into this family, only to be ripped away from their lives abruptly at the end. But…in some way it also felt fitting to let them continue their story without witness of the reader…so I understood it from the author’s point of view.

Daisy Jones & The Six (AUDIOBOOK) – by Taylor Jenkins Reid

MY THOUGHTS: This is one that has been recommended to me a hundred times and I see why, it was really good. The audiobook was phenomenal, almost sounded like a fiction podcast. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much reading the story, simply because I’m not a music person so I think some of the passion from the characters about their craft translated better hearing their voice than it would have in my own voice in my head.

Too Bright to See – by Kyle Lukoff

MY THOUGHTS: This is another book about a child experience grief, and again…it feels very authentic in the roller coaster emotions that Bug feels. But this story adds a little bit of a fun element in that Bug lives in a haunted house, and so there’s a little bit of some spookiness playing around as they try to figure out who is trying to send them messages from beyond. This is a cute story for young readers, but I also would recommend it for any adult who loves a child who might be questioning parts of their identity. You follow Bug through that journey as well and I think it’s a beautiful insight that we all could really use.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World – by Benjamin Alire SáenzIn Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

MY THOUGHTS: First, don’t fret about rereading the first book if it’s been awhile (it’s been five years for me) because you spend the entire first half of the book in the boys heads as they map out their new love for each other, so you get enough of a reminder. And you also would be fine if you’ve not read the first one, although I recommend you do because it’s beautiful.

Because of the way I described the first half…I found it a bit slow, but I think that’s a reader problem, not an author problem. And I easily moved past those feelings because the second half grabbed a hold of my heart and didn’t let it go. Once the boys go back to school and there’s a little more “plot” I found myself unable to put the book down. I smiled, I sobbed, I loved it dearly.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam – From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated.

MY THOUGHTS: This book is written in prose and so if you love Kwame Alexander, you’ll love this. I actually started with the audiobook but I think it’s easier for my brain to “feel” poetry if I can see it written out and so I switched to the hardcopy. This book was really hard to read, being in this characters head as he processes his journey and his terrifying and lonely experience being incarcerated. But I think it’s an important read, especially in that it’s written by Yusef Salaam who himself was wrongfully incarcerated.

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