Books I Read in September

Eight books this month!! Several factors contributed to this level of reading. First, this season of Game of Thrones ended and the current season of Better Call Saul is unavailable on Netflix. The only show we're watching right now is (the much shorter) Master of None once or twice a week. Second, there is a gaggle of younger siblings that come and play along with my daughter during my son's soccer practice. So I've got a built in two hours a week while I hang at the park! Third, I read six of these in print format, which always goes faster for me. And lastly, they were almost all excellent books this month! Okay, on to the reviews...

Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi
This was the first review copy I read provided by Little Brown as part of their ambassador program, and it was a lovely surprise. I was a little wary about what seemed like a lack of plot - yet I immediately identified with the protagonist Barbara, as she navigates life with her five children (one still in the womb) after the death of her husband. It reminded me a great deal of Commonwealth - just an engrossing, intimate portrait of a family and how seemingly small events, and our perceptions of events, have such a huge impact on generations to come. The point of view shifts between Barbara and her prodigal son Francis to give the full picture of the family as it evolves over a generation. There was a section in the middle of the book dedicated to Francis' journey that felt a bit long, especially since I loved Barbara the most. Overall though, the narrative moves quickly through time, sometimes jumping nearly a decade forward, and still feels well paced. I really enjoyed this one, and will be thinking of these vivid characters for some time.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
This story of a girl navigating her mother's death, along with her father and troubled older sister, was equal parts melancholy and hilarity. Elvis Babbitt is one of the more endearing characters I've ever read and her twisted story of love, loss, family and coming of age (including a Guinness attempt of the most rabbit shaped cakes, escaped animals from the zoo, and cross-dressing for comfort) was wonderfully told. "Maybe a spirit evaporates like a vapor off the bag of frozen peas you steam in the microwave: the droplets go everywhere, settle wherever they land." 

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge
The premise of this story was total catnip for me: two strangers stranded on a remote deserted island after a plane crash. It's like Castaway but the added dynamic of immediate intimacy with another person with whom you'd have to collaborate to survive. The literal and emotional journey of Sophie and Barry was a roller coaster that I burned through in nearly 48 hours. The banter between the two is written with great wit and tenderness, and I definitely held back a few tears at the end.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
I did not intentionally pick a second stranded on an island narrative when choosing my Newberry read for the month! However, it was an interesting contrast after reading Castle of Water. This was one I don't recall reading as a kid, but I can see the allure it would hold for young readers. Much in the same way The Boxcar Children held my imagination: you can't help but romanticize the idea of being alone, independent and running the show. But after reading the previous novel, the lack of emotional writing felt stark, as if it was a survival manual, rather than a story about a girl who survives. But I also appreciated the nuance of her relationship with the dog Rontu and fleeting relationship with Tutok.
Side note: both books made me fear encountering an octopus...

The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann
You can read my (favorable!) review here.

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perotta
Not since Where'd You Go Bernadette have I enjoyed such uproarious satire! I have had some of Perotta's books on my TBR for years, and when Mrs. Fletcher appeared on the lucky day shelf at the library, I had to grab it. This story, told in alternating viewpoints of single mom Eve Fletcher and her son Brendan as he flees the nest for college and they both try to navigate their new normal, captures the zeitgeist perfectly. 
"Young mothers in the schoolyard, on the sidelines at soccer games, at school plays and award ceremonies and graduations, a whole era of their lives - it had felt so permanent while it was happening - suddenly behind them. Just a chapter, and not the story itself."
I laughed out loud A LOT, while also cringing a lot. Both Eve and Brendan make some really questionable decisions and suspending my disbelief was challenging in some portions of the book, but it added to the urgency - oh my God, what will happen NEXT? I look forward to checking off more of his work from my TBR now.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
I had really high hopes for this one, given all the positive reviews and hype. Alas, it didn't work for me. It started off really strong, a story about culture, family, belonging, expectations amidst compelling viewpoints on arranged marriages within the Indian culture. I hope to read other work that might further explore this topic, because this book did not. Pretty quickly, it went from a fascinating situation and character development to formulaic boy meets girl/loses girl YA territory, with an added round of girl loses boy and dragging out storylines of peripheral characters. It became tedious and I just kind of wanted it to end. It held a great deal of promise, so I hope to see more from this author!
Side note: I saw The Big Sick this month and it filled a hole that this book left - FANTASTIC film.

The Futilitarians by Anne Gisleson
This was another review copy provided by Little Brown, as part of their ambassador program and it's not the kind of book I would have normally sought out, since I'm not big on memoirs and I figured the existential talk would be over my head. Admittedly, some of it is, yet Gisleson can compare Dante to Hot Tub Time Machine (!) and she intersperses the existential with such accessible thoughts on motherhood, sisterhood, marriage and life. And at it's heart, it is a beautiful and raw ode to her sisters who committed suicide years ago, the death of her father, and the city of New Orleans. It was very surreal to read it during hurricane season and all of the devastation that is happening right now. A memoir that reads like an atmospheric novel is impressive stuff. I haven't been back to New Orleans since Katrina, but The Futilitarians has me absolutely itching to return.


  1. I keep hearing more and more great buzz about Castle of Water...I'm planning to pick it up before the end of the year! And I have The Futilitarians on my Nonfiction November list!

    1. Excellent! I look forward to hearing your thoughts :)

  2. Adding Castle of Water to my TBR, I LOVED When Dimple Met Rishi but also read it knowing less about it, low (or no) expectations are helpful!

    1. YES. Expectations affect the reading experience so much, especially since we booknerds hear a lot about the books before we read them!