September started out as a slow reading month. I hadn’t found a book I absolutely loved in forever, but after starting a Netgalley account toward the end of the month, my slump definitely improved. I’m still having some trouble with reading consistently, but I think the more the fall season progresses, the more books I can get through. Colder weather means more of an excuse to stay inside and read!
Part of what initially delayed my book count this month was attempting to read The Kiss Quotient and The Wedding Date. These two books have gotten so much hype in the blogging community, and initially, it looked like they would live up to those high standards. I loved that they both had unique heroines and, particularly in the case of The Kiss Quotient, provided insight into the minds of people who are rarely highlighted in fiction. But other than focusing on underrepresented perspectives, the overall stories weren’t very remarkable or investing to me. I couldn’t get on board with either author’s writing style, basically confirming to me that lately I crave stronger writing in order to really enjoy a book. I ended up abandoning both books about halfway through. I wanted to like them so badly, but they just weren’t for me.
Luckily, my September reading material drastically improved after I left the books behind. Life is too short to read books you’re not enjoying!
Good Luck With That, by Kristan Higgins (★★★☆☆)
Count this as more of a 3.5-star read. Authors never come to bookshops near me, so when I found out Kristan Higgins was making an appearance to promote this book at a new indie bookstore 15 minutes away, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to see her. Good Luck With That follows Marley and Georgia after their longtime friend from weight loss camp, Emerson, passes away from complications with obesity. Her death inspires the two women to achieve the simple goals they all listed as teens and assumed were only attainable if they were skinny.
The conversation about this book online and at the signing was definitely multifaceted and opinionated. Addressing weight and body image in a way that helps people relate to book characters rather than feel isolated from them is complicated, and you can’t please everyone. While I’ve never had problems with my weight, I’ve always had on-and-off struggles with my self image and liking the way I look. Georgia and Marley definitely expressed some of my own feelings about self-esteem, but overall, this wasn’t my favorite Higgins book. The writing, setting, and family relationships didn’t stick out to me as much as past reads have, but the book’s focus is definitely a good conversation starter.
White Hot Grief Parade, by Alexandra Silber (★★★★☆)
Alexandra Silber is a stage actress who I first learned about through the most recent Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. She wrote a novel about Fiddler‘s Hodel and Perchik after the events of the musical, which I bought at the time of its 2017 release and am still trying to get through. Being a much easier read, White Hot Grief Parade is a memoir about Silber losing her father to a long battle with cancer when she was 17. Occurring soon after she graduated from a performing arts high school, Silber’s loss leads to some of her theatrical, artistic friends moving in with her and her mother and helping them find a new sense of normalcy in their lives.
Silber has her own blog that clearly displays how beautiful of a writer she is, and her memoir didn’t disappoint. Anyone who has experienced grief in any capacity can relate to her observations on funeral culture and moving forward from a monumental loss. Plus, it’s just unique to read the perspective of someone who experienced high school in such a unique way. After a long mourning period, Silber, an American, even went to drama school to Scotland and had a theater career in London before coming to New York. Basically, she’s just a super cool lady and I loved being in her head while reading this.
The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir (★★★☆☆)
If you followed the Duggar family scandal a few years ago, The Book of Essie will feel very familiar to you. Teenager Essie’s family gained fame for her father’s powerful sermons, eventually earning their own reality TV show for their appearance as a wholesome, religious family. As the youngest child in her family, Essie is now pregnant, and her calculating mother plans out a marriage between her and a local boy to hide the pregnancy as much as possible. Essie also trusts in a TV reporter from a similarly repressed, controversial background to work towards escaping from her family and avenging them for their contribution to the specifics of her pregnancy.
The real action of this book really only came forward to me when the story was nearly over, revealing the truth behind Essie’s pregnancy in a rushed-seeming manner. Essie and Roarke, the classmate she subtly presents to her mother as husband material, develop a very sweet and trusting friendship, and I definitely became invested in their story, but the book’s epilogue skimmed over the parts of their experience I would’ve really liked to see. Although, this gets bonus points for fueling my ever-growing speculation and fury about the lives the Duggar kids and similar families are conditioned to lead.
Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan (★★★★☆) – Out Nov. 6, 2018
I received an advanced reader copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. Facing an impending future in Philadelphia society married to a kind but dull fiance, Ruby Wagner joins the U.S. Army Signal Corp in World War I after losing her brother in battle. As she gains independence and becomes a leader among the groups of all-female phone operators, she meets an American medic who gradually begins to change how she feels about the life waiting for her at home.
This book reminded me of how much historical fiction can just sweep me away until I finish a story. I had no idea about women’s role in World War I before reading this, and now I’m equally fascinated and infuriated about how the women in Ruby’s position didn’t even receive veteran status until the late 20th century when the majority of them were already dead. While the first half of the book was a little slow and the love interest was initially a tad one-dimensional, I totally warmed up to both him and the story’s pace by the time I finished the book.
My Favorite Half-Night Stand, by Christina Lauren (★★★★☆) – Out Dec. 4, 2018
I also read this thanks to an ebook download from NetGalley. I loved Christina Lauren’s Roomies and Love and Other Words, and the recent Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is on my TBR list. In My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Millie is the only woman in a friend group of five academics. Realizing that none of their dating lives are as great as they could be, they concoct the idea to try out online dating and all find dates for to the end-of-the-year commencement gala at which Obama is speaking. However, Millie and her best friend in the group, Reid, have hooked up, and things become complicated between them when Millie’s fake dating profile catches Reid’s attention. Posing as this other girl, she continues messaging him as her actual relationship with Reid has other interesting turns.
Christina Lauren’s writing style and tendency to develop the narrator’s strong non-romantic relationships are always my favorite elements of their books (the name of the author actually represents two best friends who co-write their stories). This book was no exception, but the writing didn’t feel as strong or beautiful as other Christina Lauren stories I’ve read. Although I did love the scenes of Millie and Reid’s gang together, I did find Millie only having these four men as friends a little unbelievable. Her reasoning for it is later explained, but it felt contrived to me. I also had some issues believing that Millie and Reid’s romantic connection never took off before the events of the book, but Christina Lauren creates such enjoyable worlds to be in that I still had to give this one 4 stars.