Tuesday, October 02, 2018

What I Read | September

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread
I felt so off my game when it came to reading this month. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and because I was busy with other things, I didn't have time to pick up all the books I wanted to get through. I am giving myself grace though because life happens and I need to roll with the punches, but I love my books, yo! What book did you love in September?

Must Read

The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster  | ★★★★
Disaster-prone writer and reluctant dog rescuer Ken Foster finds himself adopting an ever-growing collection of stray dogs, from a beagle abandoned in a New York City dog run to a pit bull in a Mississippi truck stop. Their circumstances offer a grounding counterpoint to his own misfortunes: the shock of New York City after 9/11, the evacuation of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and the day his heart nearly stopped for good. - Goodreads description

This is an account of all the stray dogs that have come into Ken Foster's life, how they became part of his life, and how their presence affected him. His story is punctuated with many unfortunate circumstances, including his life in NYC when 9/11 happened and living on the coast in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. It's a harrowing tale, and the stories of the various dogs he has aren't much better, but they show how much joy you can find when there is a dog in your life, sometimes, and in the case of this book, when a dog finds you. I give it four stars not for its literary merit, but because of its heart.


Matilda by Roald Dahl  | ★★★★
Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half, she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters, she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because, in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings. - Goodreads description

Dahl is one of the greatest joys about reading children's books. This is one of my favorites, and although I was traumatized by the whole chocolate cake thing, it is one of my earliest introductions to the life of a bibliophile. It is a clever, funny, and heartwarming story that all children and adults should read.

Other mentions for the month of September:
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain  | ★★★★
I loved this book for two reasons and hated it for one. Bourdain is such a phenomenal storyteller. He could be talking about a brick and it would be fascinating. So, when he shares about how he got his start in the culinary world, including the downward spiral his life took during those years, you shut up and listen. This book plucked at my heartstrings because it reminded me of my own time spent in the industry, where no matter if you're flipping burgers at a chain restaurant, or creating artistic masterpieces for patrons seated at white linen-clothed tables, the culture is one and the same. Because Bourdain so honestly shares all the dirty (and downright disgusting) secrets of the food service industry, this book might make you wary of eating at a restaurant, but at the very least, you will think twice before you order certain menu items. The world certainly took a loss when the brilliant light that was Bourdain, went out.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy  | ★★★★
Wow. For this being such a short, fast read, I'm surprised with how immersed I became in it. It's a post-apocalyptic novel about survival, loyalty, and trust. The father and son who are the center of this story completely capture your heart. You are drawn into their world without needing much description and your heart pounds throughout their journey. I really wanted there to be another chapter or two at the end of this book because I needed to know what happens after, but alas. We are left to our imaginations, and that is indeed a scary thing.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner  | ★★★★
My favorite of Weiner's books, this is about the relationship between two sisters, both of whom seem to be stuck in life. Rose is a lawyer who appears to have it all, but her life is lacking what she most desires - a man who loves her for who she is. Maggie is the little sister, the screw-up who can't hold down a job, jumps from one man's bed to another, and relies on her good looks and shiny personality to get ahead, but lacks confidence in who she has the potential to be. The two girls butt heads throughout the novel, forcing Maggie to move away until the most unlikely of people is able to reunite them. This story deals with themes of sisterhood, family, and grief and I relate to it in so many ways. If given the choice, read the actual book instead of listening to the audiobook, since it's likely an abridged version and you will end up missing more than half of the good parts. (I give the audiobook two stars because of this.)

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin  | ★★★
I wanted to give this book four stars. From the first line of the first chapter, I was here for this book. I loved the characters and connected with them all. The plot was intriguing and it kept pace nicely. This was a very quick but complex read. That being said, I was disappointed with the ending, both with how the story was resolved, but also with the technical execution. Without giving away spoilers, I felt like the way Giffin ended things, it only perpetuated a status quo that we need to get away from. And maybe this was her intention. Perhaps she wanted to bring awareness to the fact that this happens all the time, but it would have been nice if she had taken a different path. *Advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe  | ★★★
When Will Schwalbe's mother is diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, they turn to one of their greatest loves for comfort - books. They sit in the chemo treatment room discussing books they are reading, so much so that he begins referring to these chemo infusions as book club meetings. The two of them deeply analyze what is on their nightstand and how the themes and lessons can be applied to their own lives. They don't always agree on which books deserve a rave review, and these disagreements often parallel some of their differences in character. Although it is sad to read and not very exciting in some places, it is a wonderful example of how books can be a solace right up until the moment you take your last breath.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson  | ★★★
This is the memoir of Mortenson's time hiking K2, and after meeting some of the locals and learning about the lack of education, particularly that of girls, his campaign to build schools in areas where the Taliban had taken up residence. I did a major U-turn with this book. I bought the paperback when it was originally released in 2007. I read it and fell in love with it. I loved all the characters Mortenson introduced us to. I loved learning about the culture of the people in the Karakoram mountains and surrounding areas. I loved the work being done by Mortenson and his team. For the longest time, this was one of my top ten favorite books of all time. It was a five-star book, in my opinion. The primary problem was, I hadn't read it with a discerning eye, rather for pure enjoyment only. Now that I've reread it several times, I'm ready to move it out of my top picks and kick it down the list. The problem I have with this book is how it is written. There are two authors credited with writing the story - Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It is my belief that when you are listed as an author on the cover of your own memoir, it should be written in first person narrative. Otherwise, the actual writer should be credited and "as told by" language should be included. This book is written in the third person, and as many other Goodreads users have pointed out, the word "Mortenson" appears in the text 1,943 times. When it's read, it comes off as a guy saying, "Tell them I went there, and tell them I did this," while another guy relays this information. It's annoying and it's a shame because the book would be so good if this was different. I will also mention that since the release of this memoir, it has been alleged that Mortenson fabricated some of the details of his experience, especially that of his capture by the Taliban and also about the number of schools his organization, CAI, had actually built in the region. All that being said, I'm calling this a three-star read. 

Redeployment by Phil Klay | ★★★
I didn't connect with this one, unfortunately. The writing was superb, but it all felt like the same story being told over and over again. I appreciated the effort, but I think it could be enjoyed more by an audience who had more of a military background than myself.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard  | ★★☆☆
I didn't care for this book at all and am beginning to think that maybe Annie Dillard isn't my cup of tea. This is a book about writing books, but rather than it being practical or even instructional, it's Annie Dillard rambling off a mish-mash of stories. There are no takeaways for me, except maybe a quote or two about writing or books. Womp-womp.

The Obsidian Chamber by Preston & Child  | ★★☆☆
I didn't connect with this one and I think it was because this was number sixteen in the series, and even though I was told I didn't need to read the previous books in order to appreciate it, I feel like it would have helped to know the characters and the authors' writing styles. The plot was interesting, so I think I might try to find one of the first books and see if I can get into that one.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb  | ☆☆☆
Detestable characters, a plot that does nothing for me, and an author who is writing a story about a subject that is impossible for him to relate to - a fat teenage girl. I mean, he compares her to a whale. That is the underlying theme of the book. Disgusting.

Possession by A.S. Byatt  | ☆☆☆☆☆ (abandoned)
I didn't have the patience to finish this book. It was so long and the writing was extravagant and I was over it after a few chapters. After trying and disliking dozens of selections, I am convinced that British romances are not going to mesh with me.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | September first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!


  1. I had to read Possession back in college - I think we skipped all the poems, but read the rest. LOL Definitely not my favorite. Oh, I love Roald Dahl books. I don't know if I ever read Matilda though - I really should. Love the movie!


  2. Lots of reads even if you didn't get through all the books you wanted to! Adding quite a few of them to my reading list. Also What the heck Wally Lamb!!?? That is awful! That one didn't make my list. I didn't read anything worth counting. Just a few fluff books while I was stuck in bed. LOL . I did read a book about Families with Tourettes and there was some great info in there to help me better understand my son. I need to shake up my books and this list will help do just that! Thanks love!!

  3. I remember reading Mathilda when I was in school - I love Roald Dahl.
    You read so many books in September. I managed 3 and am behind my Goodreads reading challenge at the moment.
    In her shoes and Kitchen Confidential sound really good.

  4. Kitchen Confidential is certainly on my list of things to read, hopefully before the end of the year. I always loved Anthony Bourdain's brash, no holds bared, style. He will be missed :-(

  5. So many good books here! I would love to read Kitchen Confidential. I liked In Her Shoes. And I loved Matilda back in the day!

  6. all we ever wanted is on my to-read list! thanks for giving a good review without giving away any spoilers! xo, easilyinspired-blog.com

  7. The Dogs Who Found Me sounds exactly like the book I need to read next. I loved Matilda (both the book and the movie.)

  8. I don'r read a lot of fiction! But these sound good.

  9. I love Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach is another of my favorites. :)

  10. Wally Lamb just pissed me off. It was such an insensitive book! I hope you enjoy the books you've added to your list! :)

  11. Dahl is one of my favorite children's book authors. James and the Giant Peach was another of my favorites. I think you'd really enjoy In Her Shoes!

  12. Kitchen Confidential was very good. I loved Bourdain, so it was interesting to learn more about him. :)

  13. Bourdain was one of my favorite people. Was so sad about that loss. :(

  14. Yay! It was TOUGH to express my opinion of the book without completely spilling all the details. I hope you enjoy it!

  15. You would LOVE that book! I enjoy reading anything about animals, so long as it doesn't focus on animals being abused.

  16. I usually read more non-fiction but changed things up this month. :)

  17. You should read The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian. It's made into a movie but that book is, and will always be, in my top 5 of all time.

  18. Oh, I've never heard of that one. I'll have to pick up a copy. Thanks!

  19. In Her Shoes was one of my favorite of Jennifer Weirner's books too. I just read Other People's Houses, and I really liked it. It was a fast, easy read mostly about relationships, and how you never really know what's going on behind closed doors.

  20. Other People's Houses is on my list. I'm waiting for my hold to come up at the library! :)

  21. Tobia | craftaliciousmeOctober 3, 2018 at 2:03 AM

    I put down “The Road” on my TBR and I will look into “Mathilda” if this might be something for my godchild for Christmas. Thank you for sharing your reviews.
    Happy Day to you, Tobia

  22. I am so impressed with all the reading you got in last month! In Her Shoes is on my reading list actually! I’m re-reading Anne Frank’s book because we were in Amsterdam last month. I’m also a huge book-to-movie fan so I’m trying to decide between Adrift and Crazy Rich Asians lol.

  23. Love Matilda! These books are so different from the ones I normally read but I love the detailed analysis you gave for all of them. The "abandoned" one made me laugh though lol.

  24. I never read the book Matilda but definitely seen the movie. I'll have to read it.

  25. Oh I loved The Road. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, there was no turning back. I also see that Matilda have new covers! I'd buy it just for that! Lol.

  26. Messy Cutting BoardOctober 3, 2018 at 2:12 PM

    I have read a few of these! But I really have been wanting to read In Her Shoes and The Dog That Found Me thanks for all the other recommendations!

  27. Wow, you've inspired me to read more! This is impressive for a month. I'm going to definitely put In Her Shoes on my to-read list. Thanks!

  28. Those both look like great books and movies!

  29. I have 3 cups in my to read pile. And I looooved she's come undone. But I read that many years ago and my tastes may have changed. But at that time, lol.
    Ive not got to read much aside from the occasional journal article about a topic a kiddo is facing. Ive started delving into the big purple book for my exams. The end is near

  30. Yay! So excited for you that the end is approaching. :) I hope you enjoy Three Cups. I really loved some of the characters I met in that book.

  31. You still managed to read a lot of books! Nice round-up!

  32. I really need to stop being so critical of myself for not reading 20+ books a month. Reading anything is a win!