Everything I Read in October 2020.

Everything I Read in October 2020

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 MercyEverything I Read in October 2020 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 HillEverything I Read in October 2020, 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-

Everything I Read in October 2020Memorial 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

Everything I Read in October 2020Invisible 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-

Everything I Read in October 2020You 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 BraithwaiteMy 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. SloanThe 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 BrownPretty 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
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photo by Allie Provost.

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Comments

  1. Peggy D says 11.5.20

    The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow may be my favorite book that I’ve read this year. Real feminism, (not just anger) woven into a dark fairy tale. Highly recommend. And thanks for the great recommendations. I loved Pretty Things, too, and the Lisa Jewell book is next on my list.

  2. Rachael H says 11.5.20

    I tore through Pretty Things in 2 days – so good!

  3. Kelly says 11.5.20

    Love your reading round ups! I really loved the BOP pick for this month, and after listening to your interview with Alexis Daria I’m super pumped for the next one. I’m currently reading My Favorite Half Night Stand by Christina Lauren. Definitely a fun, light read which is just what I need right now!

  4. Blythe says 11.5.20

    Adding Pretty Things to my cart today!

    Currently reading Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave.

  5. Berkley says 11.5.20

    This month I read The Heir Affair, American Royals AND Majesty – so lots of dishy royal goodness! I also read You Had Me at Hola so I was able to catch up on 3 book club BOP episodes and the bonus author episodes, which were a treat!

    I also read All Adults Here by Emma Staub which I thought was written beautifully but dragged a bit (I’m definitely more of a plot person than a character person), Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter which was gross and twisty in all the best ways, The Idea of You by Robinne Lee (finally, from Becca’s recommendation) which I demolished in a weekend and really enjoyed, and Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde which I absolutely hated! The story was sweet enough but the dialogue was terrible and I really struggled to get through it.

    I just started Anna K by Jenny Lee so that will be my first November book!

    • grace at the stripe says 11.5.20

      OMG soooo much royal fictions! I love it!!!! And so glad you finally read The Idea of You! The best!!!!!!

  6. miki says 11.5.20

    I’ll take my inspiration from here as soon as I finish my current book. I’m reading Norwegian Wood, do you know it?
    Miki x

    https://littletasteofbeauty.com/

  7. Here’s me in awe of how many books you read! Though, that shouldn’t come as a surprise by now! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  8. Stephanie says 11.5.20

    I always look forward to these posts! I just finished Betty by Tiffany McDaniel and thought it was fantastic. It started a little slow, in my opinion, but it was a devastating and beautiful coming-of-age story. I just wish I had finished it before this week, I needed more of a light read and I didn’t savor the end as much as I normally would have.

  9. Cy says 11.5.20

    Good list! I’ve just started Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson. It should be required reading in schools. So interesting! I really enjoyed her interview with Dax Sheppard on his Armchair Expert podcast. He gets great guests!

  10. Helen says 11.5.20

    Just Mercy is one of my favorite books! It makes me happy to see that you gave it an A+!

    Dear Edward, This Tender Land and A Woman is No Man were a few that I have loved over the past few months.

  11. mary says 11.5.20

    I think all the books I read this month were your past recommendations, Born A Crime, Lock Every Door and Little Fires Everywhere. They were all wonderful election chaos distractions. Thank you!

    • grace at the stripe says 11.5.20

      Oh so many of my favorites!!!! So glad to hear that – reading has been my safe space this election!

  12. Ashley says 11.5.20

    I look forward to this post every month!! Thanks for all the great recs!

  13. Missy says 11.5.20

    Ooh! Adding the Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes and Invisible Girl to my (never ending…) list of books to read. I read two books recently that I LOVED. They are the kind of books that I miss even after I finished them: The Witch Elm by Tana French and You are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks. Both so good, very detailed, and very different. Thanks for all the recs!

  14. Sarah M says 11.5.20

    Our Zoom book club is reading Friends and Strangers and it’s such a quick, light read for a mini escape!

  15. Elizabeth says 11.5.20

    I’m currently reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and loving it – it might be my favorite book of 2020 – I was on a roll and couldn’t put it down until election stuff happened…now I can’t seem to tear myself away from the news. But looking forward to finishing it!

    I also recently read and loved Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Bear Town might be my all time favorite book). This quirky book got better and better the more into it I got and the last page was just such a nice recap/general statement about people and life, it was so beautiful and written so wonderfully that I cried reading it.

    I also read Leave the World Behind recently. I was so excited to dive into this one given that it was just picked up for a movie with Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts. It wasn’t quite a thriller, but was definitely an unsettling and un-put-down-able read!

    Looking forward to reading You Had Me at Hola and Pretty Things soon!

  16. Mackenzie says 11.5.20

    Hi Grace! So many good books. Two books I really enjoyed this month:

    1. Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. I am a millennial and I am burnt out, so this book resonated with me. The book starts with millennials parents and then works it’s way through history to modern day and all of the political changes, different movements that happened, etc. to bring us to millennials and why millennials are so burnt out. I was speaking with a good friend about how back in the day only the father would work and could support a whole family, yet today both parents are expected to work and are just trying to make ends meet. She recommended this book to me and I thought it was well researched!
    2. The One Man by Andrew Gross: This is a world war 2 book. A young Jewish man escapes Poland at the beginning of the war and makes it to America. He joins the army when he gets to America and is a translator, but keeps asking if he can do more to help. The government sends him on a mission to go back to Poland, sneak into Auschwitz, and sneak out with a specific man that the US needs. This one man is a physics professor and has specific knowledge that the US needs. That’s the beginning of the book and in the summary. It’s crazy!!

    Happy reading!

  17. Adele says 11.5.20

    I couldn’t put down Pretty Things when I read it, and it had me on edge the entire time. And I adore Lisa Jewell’s books as well. Similar to you, I found Cobble Hill a bit meh.

    I read The Roommate by Rosie Danan earlier this month and I’m currently finishing White Ivy by Susie Yang.

  18. Sara says 11.5.20

    I read Head Over Heels, which I was medium on, and am just about to finish Leave the World Behind by Ruhmaan Alam. Wow. I feel like I need to read it again to really get it but it’s definitely worth reading. Tomorrow I get to pick up Pretty Things and Things you Save in a Fire from the library, so I’m excited for excellent weekend reading! I’m also making my way, very slowly, through “The Body Keeps the Score” about trauma. It’s fascinating but definitely… slow.

    • grace at the stripe says 11.6.20

      Oh funny, I loved Head over Heels and romance isn’t my usual genre!!! Hope you love Pretty Things!!!!

  19. Jess says 11.5.20

    If anyone happens to find themselves in Montgomery, AL in the future, the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and Memorial is a must-visit.

  20. Jane says 11.5.20

    I just finished all 4 of the novels from the My Brilliant Friend series by Elena Ferrante. I read all of them in under 2 weeks. Amazing. I highly recommend.there is also a HBO series tat came ou a couple of years ago covering the first 2 books. They are great also

  21. Kat says 11.5.20

    I’m reading The Holdout, I forget if you’ve read that one! It’s a legal thriller (I think!), and I’m enjoying it so far. Next up is Girl With The Louding Voice per your recommendation last year!

    • grace at the stripe says 11.6.20

      OH that sounds right up my alley! And loved The Girl With The Louding Voice 🙂

  22. Stephanie says 11.5.20

    I also recently read Cassidy Holmes and kind of felt “meh” at the end.

    I’ve been needing some lighter reading and Beth O’Leary’s “The Switch” was such a delight (even better than The Flatshare, which was also sweet). Twenty something London woman switches homes and lives with her 79yo small town grandma. It was great reading a romance with broader age diversity!

    The best book I’ve read all fall was “The Death of Vivek Oji” by Akwaeke Emezi. It’ll hurt but it’s achingly beautiful.

    • grace at the stripe says 11.6.20

      Yeah, I really enjoyed the book but wanted more! I still don’t feel clear on why she did it?

      Thank you so much for the recs!

  23. Joanna says 11.5.20

    I watched Just Mercy soon after reading The Sun Does Shine, which was similar and heartbreaking. I cried through both of them.

  24. Sarita Subramaniam says 11.5.20

    Just finished Friends and Strangers by J Courtney Sullivan. Really enjoyed it and currently engrossed in My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

  25. Amy Nicholson says 11.6.20

    Pretty Things was also excellent on audio! So good!

  26. Breanne says 11.9.20

    Loving the ‘Book Club’ format! I haven’t been on your blog for a minute because I am so behind on my TBR list. But I just wanted to say how great the Book Club page looks — easily searchable, still has the ratings on the main page, and how it expands for the description without going to a new page. I couldn’t find where to share this feedback, but figured a reading list page is as good of place as any. 🙂 Anyways, well done on the update!

  27. Tara says 11.9.20

    I think there’s a typo in the first sentence, and maybe you meant to say “October was a good month […]”!!! Love your content so much and I am always excited to support my blogger.

  28. Donna says 11.11.20

    Love your book posts so much! Currently reading Just Mercy and it’s definitely one of my favourites. Also, love Bryan Stevenson’s Ted Talk.
    https://youtu.be/c2tOp7OxyQ8

    Favourite recent reads:

    The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda
    The Other Mrs by Mary Kubica
    The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
    The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

    • grace at the stripe says 11.12.20

      OH thank you – I have to listen! And thanks for the recs!!! I have read all but the Megan Miranda, which is in my reading pile – seems we have similar taste!