October 25, 2022

What I Read in September 2022

I read a lot in September 2022 – 9 books, or more than two a week! (Though two were pretty short.) However, there weren’t a ton of standouts, for better or for worse – I gave everything either 3 or 4 stars.

These were the four full-length novels to which I gave 4 stars: The Second You’re Single, The Homewreckers, The Goddess Effect, and Meant To Be Mine.

4 stars:

Uncharted Waters (Getaway, #1), by Sally Hepworth: This is a short story about a woman who goes on an Australian cruise retreat and learns about herself in the process. Ella is married and plans to take the cruise with her doctor husband, but an emergency prevents him from joining her so the retreat ends up being very different than she expected. There’s a little bit of suspense, and it was certainly a quick snack of a read, but I think it was hard to pack that much intrigue into so few pages.

Meant to Be Mine, by Hannah Orenstein: Edie’s grandma has a special power: she has accurately predicted the day every single member of her family (and some close friends, too) will meet their life partner. Grandma Gloria has predicted 6/24/22 as Edie’s day, and that’s where the book opens: with Edie paying close attention to every guy who crosses her path, until a hot musician sits down next to her on the plane. There he is, right? Maybe not. The book has several twists and turns and I found it more thought-provoking than most rom coms as it explores fate, destiny, and soulmates. However, I found Edie incredibly annoying, particularly as she proved to be completely inflexible and set in her ways / beliefs. The ending was also quite rushed, and as a result, didn’t leave me with the closure I wanted from the story.

The Goddess Effect, by Sheila Yasmin Marikar: Anita moves from NYC to LA to live in a group house and try to get a job at Gonzo, a media outlet, based on a single networking conversation. But instead, she falls in love with a cult-ish fitness studio, The Goddess Effect, and builds her new life around that. Although Anita is supposed to be in her 30s, she felt more like an immature 22 year old – racking up credit card debt, blowing off career responsibilities, and being unable to pay attention to life moments because she’s too busy trying to think of the perfect hashtag to brag on social media. That said, I took a perverse pleasure in reading this – it was oddly compelling to try to understand Anita’s incredibly shallow mindset. The actual ending was kind of glossed over in favor of a cut to the epilogue, but I still was glad I finished.

The Homewreckers, by Mary Kay Andrews: Hattie is a contractor who just lost a lot of money on a flip – so she reluctantly agrees to star in a beach house renovation reality show in an attempt to financially recover. This book is a mashup of a romance and a mystery: Hattie starts falling for her hot Hollywood co-star, but is also kept busy trying to figure out who’s sabotaging the Tybee Island project AND solve a thirty year old murder mystery that ties into the rebuild. I found myself bored by the mystery part, and annoyed that it was complicating the rest of the storyline, as I hate the trope of amateur finding clues / trying to solve something the experts couldn’t (yes, Nancy Drew, I’m looking at you, even though I loved those books as a kid). However, it was fun to see the behind-the-scenes of the home reno shows I enjoy.

The Second You’re Single, by Cara Tanamachi: This book was so much fun! Sora is a writer who pitches a challenge for her magazine: for the month of February, she will #GoSolo and not only not celebrate Valentine’s Day, but not date at all, and just focus on herself. Problem is… she reconnects with her childhood crush, Jack, just as the month is kicking off. This is a light and quick read, and while parts of it were really predictable and “oh my gosh just TELL EACH OTHER your secrets and everything will be fine”, I still really enjoyed it. The writing style was delightfully fun and funny, and I thoroughly enjoyed the “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” vibes behind the scenes of Sora’s career.

How the West Brought War to Ukraine: Understanding How U.S. and NATO Policies Led to Crisis, War, and the Risk of Nuclear Catastrophe, by Benjamin Abelow: I have long maintained that you have no business having an opinion on one side of an argument if you can’t articulate the other side and know why they feel differently. With the war in Ukraine, I have found myself often thinking, “What is Putin / Russia thinking?!” – and this short book provides that other side of the story. It was really interesting and eye-opening to see what the American media isn’t telling us about how we got to this state of war, with a lot of history I had been unaware of. In sum, the author emphasizes that Russia was backed into a corner by the West, and if the shoe were on the other foot, we probably would have fought back even harder than Russia is doing now. While I recognize that this treatise seems biased against the US rather than being a truly balanced view, it’s made me look at world news with a new lens, and I feel like I can now better balance out the American coverage with what’s actually happening (like, the recent application filed by Ukraine to join NATO and all the backstory for why that’s controversial). My only nitpick is that even at just 76 pages, this book is still very repetitive in making a limited set of arguments but expounding on them repeatedly. If you are in a rush, you could probably read just the intro chapter and still be much better informed than 99% of Americans.

3 stars:

Sweet Tea at Sunrise (The Sweet Magnolias #6), by Sherryl Woods: Sarah is a single mother of two, who has moved back to Serenity where she grew up. Although she’s currently picked up a job working at the local diner, she catches the eye of Travis, a former baseball player who’s similarly just returned to town – and when he starts up a local radio station, he hires Sarah. Sparks fly between the two of them from the beginning, but it’s a predictable slow burn to see if they can ignore their reservations and make things work. A nice, predictable, sweet and easy read.

The Key to My Heart, by Lia Louis: Natalie is a 30 year old widow; although her husband died 2.5 years ago, she’s still wallowing in grief, while her friends try to cheer her up and encourage her to date again. Someone starts leaving sheet music for her husband’s favorite songs in a public piano bench at the train station, and this is what the book description cites as the central plot – but it’s actually kind of a minor point in a meandering book about how Natalie heals from her loss. I found this fairly slow moving; while books / TV / movies usually introduce everything intentionally (unlike real life, there are seemingly no coincidences / unrelated scenes in well-edited fiction), this wandered all over and took a while to form a cohesive storyline. Things finally started coming together about two-thirds of the way through, so I enjoyed the ending, but most of the read was not my favorite and it took me a while to get through.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler, by Casey McQuiston: Willowgrove Christian Academy’s perfect sweetheart, Shara, disappears on prom night… after kissing her boyfriend, her bad boy neighbor, and her rival for valedictorian, Chloe. The three band together to figure out what happened, as Shara leads them on a scavenger hunt of cryptic notes to find her. I had been waiting for months to read this much-hyped book, but for me, it really fell short. The two main characters, Shara and Chloe, were both toxic and unlikeable (though I forgave this a little bit, given that they’re only teenagers and not very mature). But in general, that was kind of the overall tone of the book: unrealistic, dramatic, and immature. Why didn’t the parents seem to care that their daughter disappeared for a month? I read this pretty quickly, but that was more due to insomnia than the compelling plot or characters.

Any book recommendations for me? Follow me here on Goodreads to keep up with what I’m reading in real time.


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