1

Fiction feasting in October

Did October go by at record speed or what? I’m not even mad about it (even though I love October) because it means we’re SO CLOSE to Nonfiction November.

Get ready, because November is going to be a glut of nonfiction. I know some participants read fiction during the month but I am not that person. I have even forced my book club to choose a nonfiction title so I can keep going.

But before we get to all that, let’s take a look back at some of the books I read this month!

Assuming I finish the book I’m reading by month’s end, 10 of the 12 books I read this month were fiction. Three of them (Undercover Bromance, A Rogue of One’s Own and American Royals) were Romance which is very unheard of for me! Undercover Bromance was a chance to revist some of the characters from The Bromance Book Club but I would have liked more connection with the main characters from the first book. Still going to read the next one. American Royals was angsty and had a lot of feelings but it is also YA so I’m totally fine with all of that. I was warned that this book ends on a cliffhanger so I knew I’d need the next book soon. Going to make sure I have it ready after November.

And A Rogue of One’s Own! Last year I wrote about how much I loved Bringing Down the Duke and the same applies for A Rogue of One’s Own. I honestly should have bought this instead of taking it out from the library. I will need to buy the third one and if they keep being this good, I will buy every one of Evie Dunmore’s books. Keep ’em coming!

Keeping with the romance theme, I also reread The Age of Innocence for Literary Wives (come back for that post in early December) with a very different lens than I remembered the first time I read it. I also read The Queen’s Fortune by Allison Pataki, about Desiree Clary, Napoleon’s first fiance and eventual Queen of Sweden. I loved Pataki’s books about Elisabeth of Austria and I liked this one but I’m not sure that it hit me quite the same way. I had wanted to read more about Desiree since reading Desiree by Annemarie Selinko years ago. You should for sure read that one.

And then. The big guns. The books everyone has been talking about for ages. I read Anxious People by Fredrik Backman and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.

Fredrik Backman is a Paperback Princess MVP. I love everything he’s written. Anxious People was very different in style to his other work and it took me a minute to get into it. But when I did, the emotional payoff was worth the work. Especially right now, a book about the things that really do matter, about working together to make good things happen, it’s what I needed.

I also loved Yaa Gyasi’s debut Homegoing. It has remained on my mental list of books that I really, really loved. I loved the structure, the story, it felt so original. Transcendent Kingdom is completely different. It’s melancholy and takes on this massive theme of faith vs science. The main character kind of holds everyone, including the reader, at a distance which made it hard for me to connect with it even while I was bowled over by the writing. There’s no doubt that Gyasi can write. Transcendent Kingdom gave me a lot to think about but I’m not sure I’d classify it as a favourite.

And hands down the most intense book that I read this month was Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching. If you’ve read it, let’s discuss. If you haven’t, I’m not going to say anything because I don’t even know what I read! It was WILD.

I’m working my way through J. Courtney Sullivan’s new one, Friends and Strangers and I’m already relating to it 100 different ways. I loved her book Saints for All Occasions so I’m hoping this is another winner.

A fiction feast before my nonfiction binge. What was the best book you read in October?

See you next week for Nonfiction November!

12

Five books that have held my attention this year

This has been an uneven reading year. With so much going on, I know a lot of readers have had a hard time finding the focus necessary to get through a book. This reader attempted to read Know My Name by Chanel Miller in the early days of the pandemic, where things were getting shut down and every day felt like a new, scary chapter in a dystopian novel I would never read. The timing of that read meant I wasn’t able to do justice to a remarkable story.

But every once in a while, I found a book that took me out of 2020 completely and I happily spent hours with them, my phone on do not disturb, ignoring my child and household responsibilities. Those were blissful days. Here are some of those books:

Pages and Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James. Tilly lives with her grandparents above a bookstore in London. Her mother disappeared when she was little and she’s at an age where she’s wondering about who her mother was and what their relationship might have been like. This is also the age where she suddenly starts seeing characters from her favourite books come to life in the shop; suddenly she’s having conversations with Anne Shirley and she’s pretty sure her grandmother has tea with Elizabeth Bennett. It turns out that Tilly is a Bookwanderer, she can travel into stories and she’s not the only one. Soon she is initiated into a whole society of people who can do the same. There are rules to learn and secrets to be uncovered and this book, the first in a series, is a complete joy to anyone still in touch with their inner child bookworm.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Two brother and their wives live in apartments in the same building, the family business is located around the corner. One brother has only daughters, the other only sons. The wives are pregnant again, due around the same time. On a snowy night that prevents the wives from getting to a hospital, with only a midwife and one of the daughters present, the babies are born: a son for the family with daughters and a daughter for the family with sons. This night ripples through the lives of both families for decades after. It’s one of those quiet, every-day, generational family stories and I couldn’t stop reading it.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. If you’re looking for a gentle book with a cozy vibe and Jane Austen connections (too niche?), look no further. The Jane Austen Society follows the residents of a small English village as they deal with some of the things that have happened in their lives in the last few years, mostly as a result of the war. Each of them reads and re-reads Jane Austen’s novels to escape the realities of their lives and eventually they form a book club dedicated to her work. There’s more to it but I don’t want to give the whole thing away. This is the kind of book that demands to be read with cozy socks and a warm beverage.

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View” by Ramin Setoodeh. This. Book. Was. Everything. If you’ve ever stayed home for the day from school or work you have seen The View. I’ve seen LOTS of episodes of The View and I’ve always been curious about what it’s really like behind-the-scenes. Especially in the last several years when the co-hosts were just as likely to make headlines as their Hot Topics. Setoodeh had the access, pretty much all of them spoke with him. The give up the dirt and reading this book will make you fall down a YouTube rabbit hole revisiting the moments talked about.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue. This book wasn’t really gentle or an escape as it deals with the Flu Pandemic of 1918. But there was something weirdly comforting about reading a book that was so eerily similar to what we’re experiencing, knowing that their pandemic ended and eventually things went back to how they were before. But this book is also kind of brutal and I wouldn’t recommend it to any reader who is pregnant for the first time or anyone who has any kind of birth trauma. This book follows a nurse, her helper, a doctor and their patients on a flu ward for pregnant women over the course of three days. It is gripping and propulsive and my favourite of Donoghue’s books.

Revisiting these books makes me want to read all of them again. What books have captured your imagination (and focus!) in the last several months?