What I Read: October 2017

I get a mild feeling of panic every time someone asks me to recommend books to them. I want to just direct them here, to the safe space where all of my thoughts and feelings are already laid out, where they can read my thoughts on the books before they pick them up. Recommending is fraught with anxiety for me, because just spitting out a book title doesn’t tell the whole story, and what if they don’t like the book, and what if they don’t like me because I recommended an awful book to them? (For more on my generalized and uncalled for anxieties, see this post.)

When I do direct people here, they are only getting a snippet of the books I’ve read. I can’t review every book I read, mostly because half the books that I read don’t inspire the “I MUST TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THIS BOOK” feeling in me, or don’t inspire the “DO NOT READ THIS BOOK EVER!” feeling in me. Which is ok. I read quite a few “meh” books or books that are ok but not great. (If you do want to see a listing of every book I’ve read this year, you can check out the A Year in Books page.) So, in an effort to paint a full picture for you (and because October was such an awesome month of books for me), here’s a list with a small review of all of the books I read in October 2017.

Books are listed in order read. For more mini-reviews, check out my What I Read tag.

1984 by George Orwell

Premise: Written in 1949, this book predicts what the world will look like in 1984. A classic dystopian novel, Orwell predicts government overthrow and a serious caste system. Main character Winston works for the government, but secretly dreams of overthrowing it.

Thoughts: I realllllly wanted to like this book. But I just… didn’t. I can definitely see why it is a classic, and some of the observations made about the way people and government behave shook me to my core. But overall, it was slow and it moved slow and it just wasn’t my favorite read.

Who Should Read It: People who like classic novels. Anyone who enjoys long think pieces about war and humanity. If you told people you’ve read this book, and you haven’t, you should actually read it.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Premise: Libby Bray is the fattest teen in America — she had to get cut out of her house. Jack Masselin is a popular boy who has a weird secret — he has face blindness.

Thoughts: This book was surprising. I was worried it would be a stereotypical YA book, but it actually turned out to be really sweet and had some amazing character growth. (For a full review, see this post.)

Who Should Read It: People who love YA. People who want unique characters. People who love good character books.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Premise: A wealthy family rents their small duplex to a mother and her daughter. The children become interconnected. When the two families find themselves on different sides of a neighborhood fight, the tension is more than they can stand.

Thoughts: This book had a really interesting concept, but it just fell a little short. The characters were stereotypical, and many of the “plot twists” were predictable. It also moved realllllllly slow in the beginning. It did pick up at the end, and I ended up being really glad I saw it through, but it was a rough start.

Who Should Read It: People who read Big Little Lies or are interested in the ins and outs of Stepford living.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Premise: Two sisters find themselves living together again after many, many years. They are very different, but share the Waverley name and the Waverley magic. Love and drama ensues.

Thoughts: I love Sarah Addison Allen. I love magical realism. This book was such a wonderful, light, heartwarming read. (For a full review, see this post.)

Who Should Read It: People who need a light, fun read. People who love finding magic in the day-to-day.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Burrows

Premise: This is an epistolary novel containing letters from an author (Juliet), her publisher, her best friend, and a group of characters who live on the UK island of Guernsey. The correspondence is written just following WWII, and it tracks the stories of the lives of the people living on Guernsey, and the life of Juliet trying to find her way in a post-war world.

Thoughts: This book was darling and surprising and endearing, and I’m so glad I picked it up after having it on my shelf for months. It can be a bit challenging to keep up with the flow of letters, but I think the authors did a great job of slowly revealing information to the reader in a way that kept me hooked.

Who Should Read It: Historical fiction lovers. People who love letters. Anyone who needs a sweet, heartwarming read.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Premise: Aza and her best friend discover that they know the son of a missing millionaire, and they hope to solve his disappearance and collect the reward money. Aza also suffers from OCD and extreme anxiety, and the story is just as much about this as it is about the missing millionaire.

Thoughts: John Green is so good at so many things: putting feelings into words, describing the way anxiety feels, naming emotions that I couldn’t name before. This book is so good at so many things, but the plot and character development is lacking in this book, and that just makes me sad. (For a full review, see this post.)

Who Should Read It: John Green lovers. People who liked Paper Towns. Anyone with anxiety or anyone who loves someone who experiences anxiety.

The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Premise: Popular, pretty teacher is found dead in the lake, and the lead detective lady on the case has some weird past with her. There’s also affairs and embezzlement and kidnapping and all of the other things that make mystery novels mystery novels.

Thoughts: This book was SO GOOD. Gemma was the perfect main character who didn’t reveal any secrets to the reader until it is necessary. It kept me reading and neglecting my housework and schoolwork and husband. I hadn’t read a true mystery novel in a while, and this one fit the hole in my heart that I didn’t know was there.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who loves mystery or crime novels. Anyone who is looking for a good, suspenseful read.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Premise: Merricat (the narrator), her sister, and her uncle live in a house in a small village. They are seen as outcasts, and they generally hole themselves up in their house, until a random cousin comes in and blows things to pieces.

Thoughts: Sooooo many people said “OMG YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK” and I really didn’t. It was… ok. And the characters were ok. And it was all a bit predictable. But it was short and quick, and I got through the whole thing without wishing it would just. end. already.

Who Should Read It: People who like literary books with lots of symbolism and character analysis and other things that I typically don’t read for.

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