Book Reviews xiii: Best Books of October 2017

Nov 3

I didn’t realize how much I actually read in October until I was prepping this blog post!  Honestly, I didn’t expect to get much reading done during the busiest wedding month for SDP and the Mill.  I prepared by getting some quick, fun, easy reads on deck, and that paid off!  While I didn’t LOVE some of my October picks, they helped me narrow down my tastes a bit!  Spoiler alert: celebrity novels are not treating me well so far.  If someone can recommend some good ones, however, I’m willing to give celeb-reads another try! 😉

**Note: The links you see here are affiliate links.  If you feel like one of my October faves is for you & order using one of these links, the blog will make a little money!

How to Behave in a Crowd: A Novel by Camille Bordas — Try as I might, I couldn’t get into this book.  I LOVED the cover and was so intrigued by the title, but I just couldn’t get interested in any of the characters.  The book is meant to be a character study about a young French boy dealing with the loss of his father and navigating adolescence.  He doesn’t fit in or have much in common with his older, uber intelligent siblings.  The siblings were kind of interesting, but their remarkable intelligence made them seem like caricatures more than real people to me.  After 110 pages, there still wasn’t any real plot, so I’m labeling this one “not for me.”

1/5 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

october reads

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng — This was a great Book of the Month Club pick!  Even after growing up in Ohio, I had no idea that Shaker Heights was this idealist experiment of a community.  I loved the twisted web that Ng weaves, but the ending felt abrupt — I wanted more resolution!!  I really got into the characters, so I just wanted to see what would happen to them next!  Let us all cross our fingers for a sequel from Ng!!

4/5 stars 

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling — While I did love the first few seasons of The Mindy Project and follow Mindy on Twitter, this book fell a little flat for me.  Basically it just made me wish I could be “kind of famous” so I could just write books about my life and my 4am worries and my feelings and have it become a NYT Bestseller.  No love lost for Mindy!  It was a little heavy on the “I’m pretty rich and famous, but look how self conscious and nerdy I am!”  Not going to lie though, I’m still going to read her first book.

2.5/5 stars

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance —  I think any book on the subject of growing up working class will forever fall in the shadow of The Glass Castle for me, but Hillbilly Elegy was pretty good.  I wish I loved it more, but it just didn’t have the emotional impact on me that Glass Castle did.  While I appreciated Vance’s facts and statistics on the harsh realties of growing up the Rust Belt like I did, I’m not sure if he backed it up with quite enough evidence from his own life.  Some of the stories seemed a little vague, like he wasn’t ready to lay it all out there.

4/5 stars

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel  by Jeannette Walls — I mentioned in the last book reviews post that I had to read everything Jeannette Walls after The Glass Castle blew me away.  I was serious!  According to the author’s note, Half-Broke Horses started out as Jeannette’s attempt to write about her mother’s childhood, but her mother insisted that the more interesting stories were about Jeannette’s grandmother, Lily. The stories are told in very short chapters, so the book spans Lily’s entire life.  Her adventures take her from Chicago to Arizona to California, and more.  She overcomes tragedy and adversity and does whatever it takes to succeed, from working as a maid in Chicago to facing down threatening Mormon polygamists in the Arizona Strip.

While the stories are interesting — and even more so when you consider that, even if there is some embellishing, they’re TRUE — I started getting annoyed with Lily about halfway through.  She’s pretty darn full of herself!  Maybe if the book was told in the third person instead of from Lily’s own point of view.  After a while, the formula of “This really bad/hard thing was happening, but I came up with the most perfect, creative, amazing solution and everyone listened to me and I was right” got a little stale.

Still, Lily is a total badass who was a feminist ahead of her time, so I still recommend giving it a read. PLUS . . . you get a glimpse into what made Rosemary Walls into the unforgettable character that she is in The Glass Castle.  In this novel, we see the beginning of her courtship with Rex Walls, as well as their grand wedding.

3.5/5 stars

Best Books of October 2017

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls — No one writes about a crazy childhood and a bi-polar, absent mother like Jeannette Walls.  Seriously, she is so good.  I want to have a drink with her.

The Silver Star is Jeannette’s first (and only) novel that is NOT based on her own family, but you can definitely still see her mother in Charlotte Holladay.  This book is about two young girls Liz & Bean) whose mom (Charlotte) is too busy chasing her dreams of fame and fortune to care for them.  When Charlotte leaves Liz & Bean home alone in California for about 2 weeks, they take a bus all the way to a small town in Virginia to find an uncle they barely know.  He takes them in, and a lot more adventures ensue as the girls navigate life in this small town, integration at their school, discovering their family history, and more.

5/5 stars

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes — BIG disappointment.  This was a best-seller, probably because we love Grey’s and Scandal AND How to Get Away with Murder, so we all know Shonda Rhimes.  Well, I USED to love Grey’s and Scandal.  Shonda killed too many great people off of Grey’s, and Olivia started getting WAY unlikable, in my opinion.  But still, I wanted to read this book because I am DEFINITELY a person who says no a lot.  I wanted to read about how saying YES to even the simplest things changed someone’s life.  That’s probably why a lot of other people want to read it, too, right?  Because you think this book will be, as advertised, a “how to.”  I wanted/expected story after story of times Shonda said YES to something instead of no.

Instead, I got 300 pages of stream of conscious rambling that I could not relate to at all.  At one point, she goes on for 20+ pages about how much she didn’t want to do Kimmel Live, then didn’t talk about how going through the experience really CHANGED anything.  We get very little about what actually CHANGED and a lot of very, very, very, very, very repetitive sentences.  Shonda is queen of the powerful woman monologue on TV, but in writing, it irked my every last nerve.  I read until the end hoping it would get better, but it never did.  Big old let down.  I read a lot of reviews of people who loved it though, so maybe it just came at the wrong time for me!

2/5 stars

Remember, if you want to buy any of these titles to see what YOU think, please use the affiliate links above!

 

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