Saturday, September 30, 2023

September Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in September:

  • Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon - Remember last month when I mentioned one of the books I listened to had another one similar to it (with the same six authors collaborating on it), but I had run out of downloads and would have to wait until September? Well, you better believe this one was the first to be "checked out" this month. Just like Blackout, Whiteout is written by six amazing black young adult writers (and you know how I love me the YA genre). Each of them takes a different person (or couple) and tells the story of a few minutes in time during a whiteout in the city of Atlanta. Unlike the previous book, these stories were meant to be one continuous story (Blackout was individual stories that eventually meshed) - but, even still, I love how they intertwined. When I was pulling up the link for it I noticed one of the reviews said #BlackJoy and I couldn't agree more! I absolutely adore how black joy (and love) is at the center of this story. Don't get me wrong, BIPOC definitely have it harder in this society built on white supremacy, but not every story has to be about the trauma. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson - I saw this title pop up in the "new and trending" section of my Hoopla app and it caught my attention. I mean, how big is said family?! If the family is only two people than this might not be as 'impressive' as if the family is rolling twelve people deep ;) Anywho, this is a entertaining "whodunit" book. The narrator is actually an author who writes "how to write books" books. There are definitely a lot of characters and stories to try and keep straight, but I think with all of the jumping from the different characters' perspectives it didn't give you enough time to really ponder who may have done what and why. I wouldn't say this is my typical type of book, but it was an interesting listen that helped distract me during a few hot and humid runs. I appreciated the humor that was sprinkled throughout the story, because otherwise it may have been a little too gruesome for me. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The One by John Marrs - This popped up on my "recommended" list on Hoopla, probably because I had just listened to a "mystery/ thriller". There was a sticker on the cover that said it was turned into a TV series, so I figured I'd give it a go. It was an interesting premise - a new technology was created whereas you could get your DNA tested and find "the one" (the person who is your perfect match). Obviously this was dependent on "your match" having taken the test as well so they were in the database. Anywho, the book followed a few different key characters and their experiences. It was definitely a "page turner" (I listened to the audiobook so obviously I wasn't physically turning the page, but you get what I mean ;)). It brought up an interesting conversation... would you want to know if your current partner was "the one"? If you took the test and they weren't, would you stay in the relationship or track down your match? Again, I would say this isn't normally my genre of choice, but I wouldn't have an issue recommending this one to others. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - When one of my best friends was visiting, she was reading this book and asked if I had read it before. I told her I hadn't and she left it for me to read (she had read it quite a few times before). Apparently it is also a movie, but I have heard of neither. Think of this as like the original true crime book. The author went to a town in Kansas where a gruesome (and senseless) murder took place in 1959. He shares about the four family members who eventually become the victims, tell the tales of the two men who eventually murder the family and includes information about the trial and subsequent outcome. After reading it I can understand why it is considered "iconic" (it's just apparently I've been living under a rock ;)). I go back and forth on my thoughts about true crime and if it's appropriate for people to find entertainment in other people's tragedies, but at the same time I find all of it incredibly fascinating because it is so outside of my realm. I know, it may sound strange, but this book reminds me why I am against capital punishment and the death penalty. PS I read this at work when we were slow and between customers. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg - I had this book in my "for later" list on Hoopla for quite a while and I figured it was time for something a little more lighthearted, so I downloaded this one. It was something that I have been privileged to never have had to worry about. Rafe, the main character, was an openly gay teen living in Bolder, CO. He was heading to boarding school across the country (near Boston, MA) and decided that he didn't like his sexual orientation being what he was known for. He decided when he went away to school for his Junior and Senior year, he didn't want to lie, but thought he would keep his sexual orientation to himself and focus on his studies. The YA novel is about his experiences doing this. As you can imagine, his family and friends from home were worried that he was "going back into the closet", whereas when some of his new friends found out who he "really" was were angry because they believe he was lying to them. The story brings up a lot of important topics to think about (whether you're a part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not). It won't be one I'll buy, but I enjoyed it for what it was (a cute, teen rom-com). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg - This was the follow up book to Openly Straight. The previous book focused on Rafe as the main character, but this one was from the perspective of Ben. I'll be honest, I've never really thought through my sexual orientation too much. Living in a heteronormative culture, it was assumed I was heterosexual and I never questioned it. This story was about Ben diving into what he wanted, who he wanted, who he was and exploring the way it all made him feel. I do have to say that I think I like Rafe's perspective (or maybe him as a character) more than Ben's, although I would say Ben's story was a little more intriguing. I also really like the cast of characters around these two too. As with the previous book, I appreciate the author going deeper and digging into sensitive subjects, especially seeing as this book is written for young adults (folks who may be going through this same type of exploration themselves). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea - A friend of mine had mentioned she just finished this book and really liked it, so I checked to see if it was available on my Hoopla app and gave it a download. It was another thriller (apparently a lot of my friends like that genre ;)). I really enjoyed seeing how all of the characters and storylines tied in together. The "twenty years later" is due to a victim of 9/11 being identified 20 years after the attacks. A news anchor decides to chase the story (while also having some ulterior motives as why she wants to head to NY) and that's when the drama and mystery unfolds. I guessed some of the plot twists along the way (minus the very last one, which was a good one), but overall it was entertaining. I wouldn't say it was amazing, but I liked the idea and I definitely got wrapped up in the story. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • Up To Speed by Christine Yu -  I've been wanting to get my hands on this book since I saw it for pre-sale and I was finally able to not only acquire it but have time to read it ;) I was able to get through this one while we were in Mammoth for a long weekend. As you can see from the subtitle, this book is about the science of women athletes. Unless you've been living under a rock (or under the oppression of patriarchy), you probably can assume that the majority of research (whether on athletes or not) is done on men. Men are seen as "less complicated", so there tend to be fewer factors that need to be taken into account - which means research may or may not be accurate when it comes to women (FYI - women are NOT just smaller versions of men). Anywho, I found this read extremely fascinating. I was a little worried that it would be too technical or science-y, but everything was very easy to digest and understand. I feel as though I was underlining something on every other page (and I'm glad I read the physical book instead of listening to the audio version, because I will definitely be keeping this in my personal library and appreciated being able to take notes and mark up the pages). Honestly, as a female runner, I think this should be required reading (but I think it's interesting for non-athletes too). This is stuff we should've learned when we were younger. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, September has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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