September Book Reviews


Sort of unpopular opinion on this one. Perhaps it was due to my super high expectations going into it - I’ve seen nothing but rave reviews, and decided to buy it for my Independent Bookstore Day purchase.
Alas... This story of a caseworker evaluating an orphanage of magical children (set in the future? The past? An alternate universe? There’s no clear indication.) was just too saccharine and vapid for my taste. The setup is exactly like X-Men, and I wish it had been similar: messy and imperfect characters instead of precious and unquestioning, real talk instead of platitudes, and real tensions when it comes to prejudice instead of a world where bigotry can be solved with a feel good bromide. IF ONLY.
For sure it’s a warm and fuzzy read, like cozy slippers and a mug of tea. Which is the PERFECT book for so many right now. So your mileage may vary! For me, it was if somebody spiked my tea with Splenda and hit me over the head with messaging.
I peeped the negative reviews on Goodreads, and many readers were fans of TJ Klune that felt disappointed with this particular novel. I definitely wouldn’t rule out reading his other books!

The Lager Queen of Minnesota  by J. Ryan Stradal
I put off reading The Lager Queen of Minnesota for too long! After adoring Kitchens of the Great Midwest, I was worried my expectations were going to be too high. I shouldn’t have worried!
This story of multiple generations of Midwest women struggling through different challenges, societal and familial, was utterly absorbing. Stradal poignantly conveys the obstacles that women and people in poverty so often encounter in our society. I love how he captures that quiet stoicism, as well as the petty grievances, that seem so prevalent and familiar to the part of the country where I come from. It resulted in laughter and heartache in equal measure while reading.
“...she wouldn’t leave the legacy she desired simply through prideful public displays, like some men did. There were advantages to a low profile. It was like a man to scratch his name on the banister of history, but Helen had come to believe that it was better to be the stairs.”

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Y’all. I absolutely get it now. This book blew my mind.
I thought I knew mostly what I was getting into, having some surface level knowledge of the unforgivable travesty of the real life Dozier School. The Nickel Boys is Whitehead’s fictional take on the life of one student and his, all too common, incarceration for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time while Black.
The story unfolds in the way I thought it would, given history and Jim Crow laws, and I put the book down to take quite a few breaks. But I’d pick it back up quickly, as I was so invested in Elwood and the other students with such vibrant personalities.
And. The. Ending. Of course I won’t spoil it, but a perfectly executed and emotionally resonant ending MAKES a book for me. Whitehead’s writing knocked my socks off. Perfectly illustrating that you don’t need flowery prose to create something so emotionally resonant. The use of a simple phrase like “this...or that” employed in different contexts throughout the novel echoes with meaning. Just.... All the stars. If you’ve been stalling on this one, hop to it.

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I don’t know if there is much more I can add to the conversation about how essential this topic continues to be. I appreciated Kendi’s passion in the narration of the audiobook and all of the salient points made with eye opening, detailed research while relating to his lived experience.
I will constantly be thinking about this book and the idea of lifting up individuality instead of assimilation into a fixed hierarchy, equalizing instead of ‘civilizing’, and the interconnection of racism and capitalism in our society. Absolutely a must read, but you probably knew that.

The Switch by Beth O'Leary
The Switch was a perfectly lovely little comfort read! This story of a twenty something city dweller switching lives with her nearly 80 year old grandmother was full of adorable humor and quirky characters. The romantic plots are completely transparent from the first pages, but it’s fun to see how O’Leary gets the story from A to Z. I think I liked The Flatshare a tad more, as it had much more depth than breadth. I got discombobulated a few times with who was who amongst the dozens of characters in The Switch. Still, a fluffy good time. I highly recommend this one for fans of Jenny Colgan’s books!

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
This was the one of Acevedo's three novels I had not read and it was lovely, as I expected it to be. Depending upon how you feel about YA stories, your mileage may vary. This story of a teen mom felt as if it was leaning very heavily into tropes of the genre. Obviously she's an outsider, parents are out of the picture, she has a spunky sidekick girlfriend, there's a mean girl and a love triangle with the perfect guy. But, I loved the cultural undercurrents and the way Acevedo brought intersectionality issues to light, as well as her characters to life.