Books

What I Read in October

So I wouldn’t say this was my best month of reading in terms of number of books, but I’m happy to report that I read what I believe will be my favorite book of the year (spoiler alert: Betty). I also went into a bookstore for the first time and, ugh, it made me so happy. I walked out with a couple of books plus a list of books to read later. While I’m very happy I didn’t end up buying a bookstore at the beginning of the year (seriously the lease on the space would have started March 15… can you imagine???), it just reminded me how much I really do love being surrounded by books. (My Little Library will have to do for now!)

Alright enough of that, here’s what I read in October. I’m adding a few warnings here because some of the books had some graphic scenes and heavier topics… 😥

What I Read in October 2020

What I Read in October

MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

2.5/5 Stars

This book was recommended to me a handful of times. I felt really bad about my personal rating (2.5/5)– I always get a little nervous saying I didn’t enjoy a book. When I put the rating on my Instagram, the responses fell into two camps: HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE THIS and OMG SAME. Most people loved it so I felt like dumb for not liking it 🤷🏻‍♀️

If you enjoy gothic fiction, you’ll probably fall into the “love camp.” The book is about a socialite who goes to rescue her married cousin after receiving a disturbing letter from her. What happens at the estate is a series of creepy and eerie events. Personally, some of the descriptions were so repulsive my stomach would legitimately turn. I also felt a little lost through the first half of the book, though it did tie together at the end. Just ultimately wasn’t for me.

(Warning here: includes plot lines around sexual assault, scenes of attempted rape and attempted suicide and incest.)

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE by Susan Rebecca White

4.25/5 Stars

I thought the writing and character development in We Are All Good People Here was fantastic– I wasn’t ready to say “goodbye” to the characters. Two girls are matched as roommates in college and they become lifelong friends. The story follows them through college, then as one joins a radical group and the other goes down a more traditional path of career and marriage, and then as they both become mothers. I thought it brilliantly tackled female friendship and the idea of trying to live for a set of ideals and helping people but just completely missing the mark along the way. It was not the most thrilling plot of all time, but I loved the writing so much it didn’t really bother me.

(A warning here: there is a gruesome scene where someone kills a cat and it made me very, very ill.)

SEARCHING FOR SYLVIE LEE by Jean Kwok

4.5/5 Stars

Okay…. I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by this book. I really loved it. Sylvie Lee, a successful young woman, goes missing and her younger sister Amy, desperately searches for her by flying to Amsterdam where she was last seen. A series of family secrets are discovered as Amy searches for Sylvie. I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and found myself not wanting to step away from it. To me the most interesting part was the dynamic between sisters and how they perceive each other and themselves, especially in comparison to each other.

RODHAM by Curtis Sittenfeld

4/5 Stars

Mixed feelings on this one. Ultimately, I enjoyed reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s imagined novel of what would have happened had Bill and Hillary Clinton never married. On one hand, I couldn’t wait to see what happened and how the story unfolded. On the other hand, I thought some of the sections were just too long. (And there are many Bill/Hillary sex scenes that I’ll never be able to forget.) Also, it was probably NOT the best time to read a book about a presidential election where fictional, but also real characters, are involved. It was different, but it was also good. Maybe wait until you’re not stressed about the election though to read it…

BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel

5+/5 Stars

BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR SO FAR. This is an unbelievable fictional story, though it’s based on the true family secrets of Tiffany McDaniel’s mother’s childhood. It’s a coming of age novel about a young girl with a Cherokee father and a white mother. There are eight siblings and their childhood is filled with equal doses of magic (mostly at the hands of the stories Betty’s father tells) and hardship. It’s a heartbreaking story, but one that is more than worthwhile reading. Absolutely brilliant. I went into this book completely cold. Had no idea what it was about and was immediately pulled into the dynamic story.

(Warning here: there are multiple scenes of rape, suicide, infant/child death, and incest. Also there’s another scene where a cat is killed.)

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16 Comments

Jenn

I really loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s version of Laura Bush’s life in American Wife, so I’ve been really wanting to read Rodham. And I see what you’re saying about Mexican Gothic. Not specifically that book, but I felt similarly about Three Women. I didn’t really get it or love it, and everyone else around me was very into it, so I felt like I was missing something.

Finally, if you’re reading five books in a month, you’re outpacing most folks! Your version of a not great reading month in terms of numbers is actually over-achieving in my book!

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Mary

After clicking the link back to your desire to purchase the bookstore in your town, I cannot help but to write about the current state of libraries during COVID.

I am a research librarian at a small private library in the metro-Boston area. It closed the first week of COVID, it has no plans of when it will reopen. The likelihood of it not surviving is dangerously high. This is happening to a number of private libraries, large and small. In the past few months I have been fantasizing about attempting to purchase the books (if they go under) alongside a space, to create a small public reading room.

Dreams are so challenging, because with COVID we really cannot predict if an patrons would visit the library. But if I don’t pursue it when the time is right, the opportunity might be lost forever. I’m curious what the future of our libraries are.

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carly

I love that. Our town has been rolling carts of books out in the library’s courtyard for “outdoor browsing.”

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Juyoung

I also really enjoyed Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok recently! I absolutely loved Girl in Translation by the same author—it broke me.

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Erin Rice

Our community libaray has installed a book vending machine in a little shopping district called Valley Junction

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Libby

I also went to a bookstore (love indigo btw!) for the first time in months, and spent an hour in there looking at allll of the books. And now I have more for my TBR list! 🙂

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Cate McGeady

lol cats are not having a lot of luck in last months literary selections. I like Sittenfeld but I’ve heard mixed things about Rodham so I’ve been hesitant to read it. Maybe I’ll try picking it up after the chaos of this week is over. Also heard great things about Betty and you’ve officially inspired me to read that one as well. Currently getting my MFA so I’m not reading for pleasure as much these days, but the semester is wrapping up this month, so very excited to get in a book or two of my choosing.

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Grace K.

This might sound strange, but thank you for the trigger warnings! I’ve learned (after a few unfortunate reads that other people LOVED) that there are some topics I just can’t handle right now. I know some people scoff at TW, but this year means everyone’s mental health is in a different place…it’s hard enough being gentle with ourselves without inflicting non-necessary trauma.

Also, hi, I too was underwhelmed/slightly grossed out by Mexican Gothic, which I went in wanting to love. I read it at night. Big mistake, lol!

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Christina

I started Rodham but put it down because I felt like it would make me confuse facts for historical reality, if that makes sense. I’m still a little curious about the book, but I think I’d rather read a true biography to learn and remember something factually accurate than to confuse my future self. I also heard the sex scenes were unnecessarily over the top.

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Grace

HAH. I have the same feelings about the Bill/Hillary sex scenes… will never forget descriptions of Hillary grabbing Bill’s butt 😬

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WritingJudge

Such a nice list of books! I like reading too, but as for writing, it is really difficult for me. Last time I needed to write an essay, I decided to order it, and looked for a service on WritingJudge.

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