September was a pretty good month for reading, and for keeping myself on track to hit my end of year target.
Factor in that I spent almost two weeks of September on holiday in Bali, as that definitely helped quite a bit – did you know it takes a 7-hour flight to Doha, and then a 10-hour flight to Bali to get there? Throw in a nine hour layover thanks to our first flight change and you’ve got yourself a lot of reading time.
There was a mix of library books this month along with books that I’ve had on my shelf for a very long time that I’ve been meaning to get around to.
Plus, it was the end of the summer reading so I had a few books to quickly get through before we head into October and the more spooky/dark academia-type books.
For those of you that are fans of the book reviews, there may be a little surprise at the end of this blog post and if you don’t want to read these reviews, you could maybe watch the reviews instead…
Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro
From the ‘Hitchcock of the River Plate’ (Corriere della Sera) comes Piñeiro’s third novel, a unique tale that interweaves crime fiction with intimate tales of morality and search for individual freedom. After Rita is found dead in the bell tower of the church she used to attend, the official investigation into the incident is quickly closed. Her sickly mother is the only person still determined to find the culprit. Chronicling a difficult journey across the suburbs of the city, an old debt and a revealing conversation, Elena Knows unravels the secrets of its characters and the hidden facets of authoritarianism and hypocrisy in our society.
My rating: ★★★★★
I picked this short novel up in my local library, after seeing it highly recommended by Jack Edwards (who else?) and was quite pleasantly surprised to find it in my library given that it’s translated fiction from South America. Not something I ever expected to find in my local library in East London. The short story follows a mother’s journey for answers after her daughter apparently takes her own life. The mother, suffering with Parkinson’s disease, goes on a journey to find a woman that she thinks will be able to provide her with the answers that she needs. A heartbreaking but beautiful story.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride. As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection. With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.
My rating: ★★★★
You might remember I quite recently read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang in the summer, and didn’t overly love it, but it was an easy chick-flick type book to enjoy. Since I’m classing September as still ‘summer’ due to going on my holidays at the end of this month, I thought I’d factor in some more light reading/chick-flick type book into this month’s reading, and because the books I borrowed from the library in September were quite dark. The Bride Test was exactly as I expected, although this time focusing on two main characters with forms of autism. I very much enjoyed, even though it was very much a typical cliche and I could see the ending coming a mile off. A cute book that I would recommend for some light reading.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
Cursed Bunny is a genre-defying collection of short stories by Korean author Bora Chung. Blurring the lines between magical realism, horror, and science-fiction, Chung uses elements of the fantastic and surreal to address the very real horrors and cruelties of patriarchy and capitalism in modern society. Anton Hur’s translation skilfully captures the way Chung’s prose effortlessly glides from being terrifying to wryly humorous.
My rating: ★★★
What a wild ride this book was. A collection of short stories with the first line of the first story reading, “She was about to flush the toilet”. Some of the stories were gruesome, graphic and quite frankly, horrifying. A weird-dystopia-type read would be a way to describe it. Not a book that I would be rushing to recommend, but I thought the stories at the beginning of the book were much better than those towards the end.
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbour clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smoulder before they explode into flame?
My rating: ★★★★★
I loooove a good murder-mystery and A Slow Fire Burning did not disappoint. This is also from the author of The Girl on the Train, which was obviously a best-seller and adapted to the big screen, so this one had a lot to live up to. Usually when a book opens with a map of an area and a list of characters, I tend to dread reading it as I imagine there are just too many characters to keep up with, but it did serve as a good reference. I loved that the book takes place around Islington/East London along Regent’s Canal as I’ve walked that area quite a few times and could imagine exactly in my head what it looked like. So many great twists and turns, although I did figure out who did it before the ending.
The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor
Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself. Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.” The more Jack and her daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest. But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.
My rating: ★★★★★
Another thriller-type book for September. I’m a little ahead of myself for the spooky reads as I’m hoping to get through a lot of those in October, but I couldn’t avoid this when I saw it in the library. The Burning Girls was more paranormal-spooky than a thriller I would say, but extremely enjoyable. Like A Slow Fire Burning, there were a lot of twists and turns and huge plot twists that actually had my mouth gaping at times. I loved this, and would totally recommend for some spooky reading in October.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She’s in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they’re trying for a baby – and she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.
My rating: ★★★
Eat Pray Love has been on my shelf for a very long time after I picked it up in a Little Free Library. It’s been that long that I can’t even remember what Little Free Library I picked it up from. But I knew that I wanted to read this before I went to Bali since part of the book is set there. I saw it as a pre-read of sorts, to educate me about Bali before I got there. I managed to finish it on the plane before landing at the airport and while I did enjoy it, it wouldn’t be a book that I would rush to recommend. I loved the descriptiveness of the book when it was set in Rome as I could picture the areas that the author was talking about, having been there this year. But when the book was set in India and Bali, I hate to say that it started to lose me a little as the author’s time was mostly spent at an ashram or in one place. I did learn a few things about Bali before getting there that actually stood to me, so it was educational in a way, and the book also made me realise how much I love books that are set in other countries that are super descriptive as it almost makes me feel like I’m travelling and exploring a new place via the pages.
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away. But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her. Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.
My rating: ★★★★
Another book that has been on my shelf for the longest time, and that I have seen highly recommended everywhere (mostly on TikTok), I took this with me to Bali as it seemed to be the perfect end of summer read. And it was. However, it definitely wasn’t one of my favourite reads ever and not one I would gush too much over in terms of great romance novels. It was cute, an easy read, and I enjoyed how it was told in the past and present tense with each chapter. A book perfect for the beach.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan? In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate? Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.
My rating: ★★★
I would read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s shopping list if I could. Because I absolutely adored The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six, I picked up Maybe in Another Life and One True Loves in Brick Lane Bookshop a few weeks ago, on my quest to read every TJR book ever written as soon as I can. I took both books on holiday to Bali with me, but only managed to get through Maybe in Another Life. It definitely wasn’t The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but like Love and Other Words and The Bride Test, it was pleasant summer-time reading. Each chapter of the book alternated between two different paths of the main character based on her decision of going home with her childhood sweetheart after a night out: how her life pans out if she does, and if she doesn’t. Not an overly ground-breaking story but enjoyable.
How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
I have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit. When I think about what I actually did, I feel somewhat sad that nobody will ever know about the complex operation that I undertook. Getting away with it is highly preferable, of course, but perhaps when I’m long gone, someone will open an old safe and find this confession. The public would reel. After all, almost nobody else in the world can possibly understand how someone, by the tender age of 28, can have calmly killed six members of her family. And then happily got on with the rest of her life, never to regret a thing. When Grace Bernard discovers her absentee millionaire father has rejected her dying mother’s pleas for help, she vows revenge, and sets about to kill every member of his family. Readers have a front row seat as Grace picks off the family one by one – and the result is as and gruesome as it is entertaining in this wickedly dark romp about class, family, love… and murder. But then Grace is imprisoned for a murder she didn’t commit.
My rating: ★★★
After seeing this advertised all over London during the summer, I thought this would be a good book to end my summer reading as it was the last book I read during my trip to Bali. While I did enjoy it, I just didn’t love the way that it was told. The book tells of how the main character kills each member of her family via a diary-of-sorts from prison. There was no suspense or who-dunnit approach and then finished with a very drawn out twist at the end. For me, it was too long and the ending/twist could have been much shorter.
SURPRISE!! AM I A BOOKTUBER NOW?!
Klaxon please as I have now started something that I have wanted to for the longest time… a YouTube channel focused on books.
This is probably the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done as I don’t even speak to my phone on Instagram stories yet here I am real-life vlogging on camera for the world to see on YouTube.
But I’ve been thinking about doing it for so long, and when having deep life chats in Bali, my boyfriend asked me ‘ten years from now, what do you want to be able to say when you look back on your life?’ and I said I wanted to look back knowing that I gave it a real shot and didn’t let the ‘but what will other people say/what if they laugh at me’ thoughts stop me from pursuing my passions.
So here I am, giving it my shot and knowing that I won’t regret this in ten year’s time because at least I will have tried.
So, drum roll please. Here is my first ever Book YouTube video: September Book Wrap Up – Bali Edition: