Sarah's September 2022 Wrap-Up

Sarah's September 2022 Wrap-Up

Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up! This has been such an exciting month with the official opening of Prose and Paperbacks and I'm so grateful for all of your support. I know that some of these books may be listed for sale on the website, but I want to keep my reviews honest. We may not have the same taste in books and I encourage you to check them out regardless!

I read six books this month. Let's go!

1. The Women Could Fly - Megan Giddings - ⬤⬤⬤

Synopsis: Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother's disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behavior raises suspicions and a woman--especially a Black woman--can find herself on trial for witchcraft.

But fourteen years have passed since her mother's disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30--or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At 28, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more. When she's offered the opportunity to honor one last request from her mother's will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.

My Review:  I really loved this Salem Witch Trials meets Handmaid's Tale concept, but this book was a little too rushed to feel the satisfaction I was hoping for. I loved the representation in the book, the comments it made on women's rights, and Gidding's take on magic. It did feel, however, that the setting and history wasn't properly fleshed out, which left me with a lot of questions that took away from my immersion. I liked the first half of the book more than the second half, which seemed to have less direction and made me question our protagonist's motivations and character development. Not a bad read, but could have benefitted from some extra pages, for sure.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver - ⬤⬤⬤⬤〇

Synopsis: Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

My Review:  This one is a doozy and I'm not sure how to begin. This book is going to stick with me for a while. It's been a long time since I've had such visceral reactions to fictitious characters; Shriver does an incredible job of character development and makes you despise each and every person she writes. Everybody felt so three-dimensional and real. Although a little slow, especially at the beginning, the prose is wonderful and the topics and events are dark and engrossing. I was a little disgusted in myself at how I was so eager to keep reading. A fascinating examination of the nature vs. nurture debate that I don't think I'll ever forget.

3. The Comeback - Ella Berman - ⬤

Synopsis: Grace Turner was one movie away from Hollywood’s A-List. So no one understood why, at the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, she disappeared. Now, one year later, Grace is back in Los Angeles and determined to reclaim her life on her own terms.

So when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke—the man who controlled her every move for eight years—she knows there’s only one way she’ll be free of the secret that’s already taken so much from her.

My Review: This book had the ability to be incredibly heartbreaking and poignant and I think it just missed the mark. Berman covers a lot of difficult topics in this novel and does so in a tasteful and practical way. I really liked the character of Grace in all of her frustrating imperfections; I think she was a compelling and realistic portrayal of a traumatized child actor. In fact, I really liked most of the characters and their complicated relationships.

I do think that the prose was a little simplistic - I sometimes thought it was more in line with a young adult novel, before I remembered the subject matter I was reading about. I think this book's biggest flaw was its overly simplistic and unsatisfying ending. It always kills me when I like a book but lower my rating due to a poor conclusion. Here, the climax is built up for the entirety of the plot before occurring quickly and unceremoniously. Maybe that's more realistic, but I felt slightly let down. Overall, not a bad read, but I think there are some titles that have similar themes that may do it better.

4. An Unwanted Guest - Shari Lapena - ⬤⬤〇〇

Synopsis: It's winter in the Catskills and Mitchell's Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing--maybe even romantic--weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity--and all contact with the outside world--the guests settle in for the long haul.
Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead--it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic. Within the snowed-in paradise, something--or someone--is picking off the guests one by one. And there's nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm.

My Review: This is going to sound so mean...but this book feels like an Agatha Christie try-hard. An interesting idea and some well-written atmosphere ultimately fails with a poorly executed reveal. I think this book was supposed to be a blend of The Shining and And Then There Were None, but instead I just spent my time wishing that I was reading either of those books instead.

The cast of characters was initially intriguing but a little too large to feel attached to any one of them in particular. I was excited at first because the writing made it seem like I could deduce the killer from textual clues, but when the reveal came around, that wasn't really the case. There were a number of plot points that seemed like they would come back later or matter in the reveal, but never were discussed again. It came off like sloppy writing or maybe a writer who forgot to tie up her loose ends.

Two and a half stars for the claustrophobic winter snow-in atmosphere.

5. Daisy Jones & The Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid - ⬤⬤⬤

Synopsis: Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I always get giddy when a book makes my all-time favorite list. There are only ten books on it. I have two regrets with this book. One: that I did not read it sooner. Two: that I didn't listen to the audiobook. I'm typically not a big audiobook person, but I've heard this one has a cast of characters AND music. It's on my re-read/listen list for sure.

This book is beautiful. The format, the prose, the lyrics, the characters. It's all so detailed and well-rounded and real. And I loved it because nobody was perfect; in fact, nobody was really a good person. Did I actually look up if Daisy Jones & The Six was a real band? Shamelessly. I'm really just in love with this book. And now it's getting a TV show? Yes yes yes. I know this book made some people cry, and while I can understand it, a novel hasn't made me cry in a long long time. But I will hold this one near and dear and definitely come back to it again.

6. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright - ⬤⬤〇〇

Synopsis: Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology: its origins in the imagination of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard; its struggles to find acceptance as a legitimate (and legally acknowledged) religion; its vast, secret campaign to infiltrate the U.S. government; and its dramatic efforts to grow and prevail after the death of Hubbard.

My Review: Ugh, I was disappointed in this one! I think the information was really interesting and picked up in the second half of the book, but the first half was essentially an extended biography of L. Ron Hubbard. I don't really know what I was expecting, but as someone who dislikes biographies, I really struggled to make it through. There were a couple of moments that had me talking out loud back to the book in my car, but other than that it was a pretty standard read.

Listened to this one on Audible, by the way. It's narrated by Morton Sellers and I thought that he was okay. Pretty monotonous and I felt his voice droned a little, especially during the first half, but it certainly could have been worse.

That's all my reads for the month of September! Feel free to follow me on Goodreads to see my reviews as they appear during the month, or check back in at the end of October to see what I read!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.