October was a really good month of reading. Eight books and a nice mix of heavy and light, happy and sad, fiction and non-fiction. My anti-racist read this month was Just Mercy and I will let you read my review but I learned a lot from it. On a lighter note I really really enjoyed a lot of fun fiction reads this month, particularly Pretty Things!
EVERYTHING I READ IN OCTOBER 2020
In October, I read eight books and am pretty proud of that. Work was hectic and I was having a hard time focusing especially with the stress of the election, watching COVID cases start to spike again, etc. etc. A big highlight for me was this past weekend where I just read and read and read some more. I finished Pretty Things, listened to a few hours of Just Mercy, and also read a few chapters of Joyful (which will likely be reviewed next month as I can really only read about a chapter at a time when it comes to more dry, educational non-fiction books).
TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE READING! I’m always looking for great recommendations… I love reading your comments!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past six years. The best part is that now you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, books by Black authors, etc!) Now you can also filter by GRADE to find exactly what you’re looking for or just peruse my top picks. If you’re feeling like you need even more book recs, check out last month’s list and everything I read in 2019!
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Oh wow this book. This was my October pick from my personal list of anti-racist reads. First of all, definitely watch the movie too (it’s excellent – it stars Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx) but read the book, too. While the movie primarily focuses on the Walter McMillian death row case, the book tackles so much more. And it really shows you how broken the justice system has been. It follows Bryan Stevenson’s career from his early days as a law student to his days as a young lawyer where he founded the Equal Justice Initiative dedicated to those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.
It will break your heart over and over again (especially the parts about kids – those really broke me) as he takes us through the different cases he’s fought, and the wins and losses along the way. I cried multiple times reading it. Bryan Stevenson seems like such an amazing man, dedicating his life to fighting for justice and equality. I really think everyone should read this book, especially if you don’t know a lot about the criminal justice system (to be honest, I didn’t) and the death penalty, or you have never really paused to think critically about either of those things. It’s been named one of the most influential books of the decade by CNN for good reason. I loved it.
- Overall Score: A+
Cobble Hill, by Cecily von Ziegesar
I really do hate dragging a book, but this one wasn’t for me and I am extra bummed about that as I had been SO excited to read it (Cecily von Ziegesar also wrote Gossip Girl)! Set in Cobble Hill (a wealthy Brooklyn neighborhood), it follows the lives of four married couples and their children. At first, I was getting Liane Moriarty vibes (a good thing, I love her) but I ultimately wound up very very bored.
There are Roy and Wendy, new to the neighborhood from London. Roy is a famous author and Wendy works for a magazine. Then there is ex-boy band member Stuart and his beautiful but lazy and depressed wife Mandy who is pretending to have MS. Then there’s the school nurse Peaches + her husband Greg, and strange, nerdy Tupper and his elusive wife Elizabeth. I was just so bored. I felt like the characters were interesting enough (this could even make a fine TV show), but the plot was boring. Nothing happened, I didn’t care about their lives, the book was just not for me. I kinda felt like it was a bit like Fleishman is in Trouble, which I absolutely hated. This was better than that, and if you liked that book maybe you will like this?
- Overall Score: B-
Memorial Drive, by Natasha Trethewey
This book. It was recommended to me by Traci of The Stacks when she came on our podcast. It is so good, but it will just wreck you. I put it down and was just… shaken. If domestic violence is a trigger for you, I would definitely recommend skipping this, but otherwise, read it.. it’s beautifully written and worth the sadness. Domestic violence isn’t a trigger for me and still just left me… crushed. And I realized from reading this book that I love dark, but I do best when it’s dark but… impersonal. Fiction, or a journalist’s account of a serial killer. This was real and deep and personal and it just… breaks your heart again and again.
When Natasha Trethewey (a Pulitzer Prize winning poet) was 19, her mother was murdered by her step-father. The book is a memoir of her childhood and her relationship with her mother, life growing up in the deep south, the torment she endured because of her father, and then (probably most upsetting) documents outlining conversations between her mother and her step-father, as well as her mother’s journal entries. My favorite part (it’s hard to call this a favorite) was a short portion of the book, written by her mother as she tried to escape the marriage. I read it while getting a pedicure and found myself crying in public: something I don’t ever do. This book is hard to read but please read it. It’s incredible.
- Overall Score: A
Invisible Girl, by Lisa Jewell
I am such a big Lisa Jewell fan. Her books are always haunting and disturbing, in best possible way. Well-written thrillers with twists and turns… and she’s not afraid to get dark.. really dark. I still think about Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs all the time. This one was not quite as dark as the others but I still really enjoyed it. The book follows Owen Pick: a 33 year old virgin teacher whose life is falling apart: he’s suspended from his job, living in his aunt’s spare room, and turning to online forums for solace. Across the street, there is the Fours family: Roan (a child psychologist), his wife Cate, and their two teenage children: Georgia and Josh.
We know right off the bat that Roan doesn’t seem like a very good guy, but more comes into play there. Last but not least is Sapphyre Maddox: Roan’s ex-patient, who develops an unhealthy obsession with following and watching Roan. But when Sapphyre disappears and all signs point to Owen as the culprit, a mystery ensues. There is some (minor) sexual abuse in this one so if that’s a trigger, maybe skip it, but otherwise I found it to be unputdownable. I loved it!
- Overall Score: A-
You Had Me at Hola, by Alexis Daria
This was our October Bad on Paper pick! Definitely check out our book club episode about it, as well as our bonus episode interview with the author, Alexis Daria. It was Becca’s choice, and romance is definitely more her genre than mine, but I enjoyed it! Jasmine Lin Rodriguez (still reeling from a messy breakup with pop star McIntyre) has landed her dream job, playing the lead in a bilingual romcom series for the leading streaming service, Screenflix – a thinly veiled Netflix.. She is determined to stand on her own, achieve “leading lady” status, and be happy alone.
Enter dreamboat telenovela star, Ashton Suarez. Ashton’s last character was killed off and he’s worried his career is over. They both need this. But on set, their chemistry is terrible. It takes 17 takes to nail the kissing scene. And so they agree to meet up to practice together and get to know each other… which leads to… steamy off-screen chemistry. But Ashton is hiding a secret, and Jasmine is tabloid fodder, so the two try to keep their distance. It does not work.
I liked this book. I did not love it, but I enjoyed it and found it to be light and fun and very cute… and also very feminist. It’s basically a romcom about a romcom and intersperses scenes from the telenovela into scenes from real life. And the sex scenes are incredibly steamy. I am only giving it a A- because I’m just not a huge romance person, but if you love romance novels you absolutely must read this!
- Overall Score: A-
My Sister The Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This is a book I had been “saving up to read” as I’ve had a hard time finding light fun thrillers/mysteries by Black authors (Tiffany D. Jackson is my fav, if you have any recommendations similar to her, please let me know!!!). It’s a great book but I was only medium on it, mostly because it’s more of a dark comedy than a thriller. This is the story of two sisters.
There is beautiful and charming Ayoola, and hard working Korede who works at the hospital. Ayoola seems to be a bit of a sociopath, making a habit of murdering her boyfriends. Meanwhile, loyal and practical Korede is her clean up woman. At work, Korede is secretly in love with a handsome and kind doctor, Tade. But when Tade meets Ayoola and immediately falls under her spell, Korede wants to protect him… while also protecting her sister. I read this in a day. It’s fast-paced and short… and definitely suspenseful, but it’s not a true thriller or mystery. There was no twists or turns and the ending just kind of… ended, but I still found it enjoyable enough!
- Overall Score: B
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes, by Elissa R. Sloan
This book is part Daisy Jones and the Six, part The Comeback. And when I finished it, I immediately passed it along to Becca as I think she will really enjoy it. I have a few issues with it, which we will get to, but I couldn’t put this one down – I really enjoyed it! Also: trigger warnings – eating disorders, abuse, and suicide. Back in 2001, Cassidy Holmes, aka Sassy Gloss is at the pinnacle of her career… the fourth member of a girl brand that is bigger than Britney, NSYNC, etc! I thought of them a little bit like The Spice Girls?
Fifteen years later, she is dead. The book alternates back and forth between the other members of the group (in present day) and Cassidy’s perspective (during her rise to fame). The band had broken up in 2002 and the girls are no longer close. Similar to The Comeback it examines the dark side of celebrity, but in this case it is the music industry. This is a quick, fun, distracting read and I loved all of the 2000’s references. Despite being 429 pages, I read it in a couple days. I liked the glimpse into the music industry, but I felt like so much was left unaccounted for and I finished the book still not really knowing what drove Cassidy to kill herself.
- Overall Score: B+
Pretty Things, by Janelle Brown
If you are looking for a twisty thriller to tear through in a day or two, go buy this book NOW! I loooved it. There are so many good twists and turns, and while I did guess one of the big twists (I was so proud of myself!) it got me good a few times. It’s a little longer (474 pages) but I still read it in a 24 hour period, which should tell you a lot about it how much I enjoyed it. The book is narrated by two women: there’s Nina, who grew up poor (her mother was a scammer), moving all around the country and Vanessa, an ultra-wealthy heiress/instagram influencer.
When Nina’s mom get sick, Nina begins to run her own scams. She and her boyfriend Lachlan move to Lake Tahoe with Vanessa (and her family’s estate) as their mark. It’s quite dark, alternating between the womens’ childhoods and very different upbringings. For a thriller/mystery, I thought that this was very well written, with excellent character development. You really feel like you understand the inner workings of both women. When I finished it I felt like I had been on a JOURNEY. I can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A
DISCLOSURE: IF YOU BUY SOMETHING THROUGH MY LINKS, I MAY EARN AN AFFILIATE COMMISSION, AT NO COST TO YOU. I ONLY FEATURE THINGS I TRULY LOVE HERE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
photo by Allie Provost.