September Book Reviews

And Now I Spill the Family Secrets by Margaret Kimball

Periodic reminder! Illustrated/graphic novels and memoirs are such a wonderful way of comprehending an author’s art.
And Now I Spill the Family Secrets was such an engrossing memoir. The nostalgic and melancholy tone (as well as a family dealing with the fallout of mental illness) reminded me of Fun Home, but more linear and accessible.
There is a lot to absorb on the subject of mental illness, how society affects each generation in different ways, and the devastation it can wreak on a family. Yes, it’s often sad, but so moving and well done.
*Major trigger warning for suicidal behavior.

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin

This coming of age novel has one of the more endearing main characters I have come across, albeit frustrating in her choices, and the author examines very realistic scenarios of how children can become homeless. I felt invested in April’s journey, and the pages went by quickly as I was eager for her happy ending. However, the overly solicitous kindness of strangers and insta-love seemed too far fetched, and things became increasingly unrealistic as the plot snowballs towards an ending that was rather twee. But we can all use a little schmaltz right now, right?

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I’ve started listening to backlist thrillers on audiobook, which has been a lot of fun. Normally I’m a nonfiction audiobook reader, but I have been in the mood for less reality and it’s been a perfect way to see what the fuss is about with books I normally wouldn’t pick up. This psychological thriller was pretty compelling on audio, but still a little slow paced for my liking.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I keep trying Backman books because they are so popular, and I find the discussion around them fascinating. Yet there definitely seems to be a polarizing component to his work. And increasingly I find myself in the ‘it’s just not for me’ camp. I disliked A Man Called Ove, felt that Beartown was quite good, but now Anxious People is swinging back towards that sense of emotional over-manipulation I got with Ove.
I will say that I absolutely admire his sense of humor and prose: he deftly conveys complex facets of the human condition.

“That’s an impossible thing for sons to grasp, and a source of shame for fathers to have to admit: that we don’t want our children to pursue their own dreams or walk in our footsteps. We want to walk in their footsteps while they pursue our dreams.”

Yet his stories feel more like parables, and characters typecast. The narrative structure for Anxious People was odd and hard to get my bearings. Though I eventually found it entertaining and found myself intrigued by the story and the interaction between the characters, but… in a detached way. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig landed similarly for me, which is also a hugely popular novel. So, your mileage will definitely vary! I will say if you are a fan of the one author you will probably be a fan of the other.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

This was another attempt at trying out thrillers on audiobook, and my first Riley Sager book. I was sucked into the atmospheric writing straight away, which had a very Gothic feel even though it’s a “camp experience gone awry" narrative which I found uninspiring. It seemed to drag on when the action should have set in midway through, too many red herrings, and an ending that left me with more questions than answers. It was a surprising one I didn’t see coming, at least, but doesn’t seem to hold water. I don’t know. I just don’t think thrillers are for me.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

The only retellings of Greek mythology that I have read are Madeline Miller’s books, and I have been meaning to read other authors. This was really well done and all encompassing. While I enjoyed getting such a broad view of the women of The Odyssey the author packed in to this novel, admitting that she couldn’t fit all that she wanted, I think I would have enjoyed a more narrow story about just one of the women. Or perhaps even just the women of Troy who anchor the book with their story told throughout. Though, if you are new to Greek mythology and don’t mind juggling a lot of names and relationships, it is a fantastic overview that gives a taste of just how fantastic the stories are in Greek myth.


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