September 2020: Recent Reads

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I’m sneaking in under the wire, getting this done on the 15th instead of before – happy #backtoschool to me!

Back to school season is always crazy and lasts far longer than non-teachers realize. I don’t know if this year is harder per se, but it is certainly a different kind of hard, which makes it feel harder because it’s…different. I find myself digitizing things I used last year while also trying my best not to reinvent the wheel. We’re 100% online at least through October, if not longer. I miss being with my kids, in our classroom. But I’ve still had some good moments over Zoom. It’s just not as good. I wind up feeling tired at the end of the day, but not in the same emotionally-drained way I do at school. It’s just like screen-time-tired + back-to-school tired.

In terms of my reading life, back-to-school tired means that if I don’t have books I’ve already planned on reading next, I don’t have the energy to find books to read next. So my list is smaller this month, but that’s okay. I still read some gems.

Adult Literature

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: 5 stars, PG13

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel by [Gail Honeyman]

Words fail me to describe how much I delighted in this book. I realized, as I read this book, that one thing that makes a book a five-star experience for me is the voice of the narrator. If the narrator’s voice is unique, cheeky, or makes humorous, insightful remarks directed at the reader, I tend to love it. This book deftly dealt with heavy topics like loneliness, childhood trauma, and severe depression, while not feeling overwhelmingly heavy and ending on a strong hopeful note without feeling contrived. Takes a skilled author to do that. Also loved the subtle nod to Jane Austen in the names of characters.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: 5 stars, PG13

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by [Kim Michele Richardson]

Another five-star read that took me completely by surprise. I saw it mentioned in a comment on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit post from last month, looked it up, it seemed like it would be harmless enough….you guys. I couldn’t put it down. It was an easy read, but also a sweet love story. And I don’t mean romance. Don’t expect any steamy-hot scenes in here. Just tender, devoted, faithful pursuit of a worthwhile woman. Also the historical facts part of this historical fiction book were fascinating. Who knew there were people with blue skin in real life? I sure didn’t. I thought they only existed in make-believe stories. The end of the story left me wanting a few more details, but…I guess that’s what imaginations are for.

In Our Backyard: 4 stars, all of humanity (maybe middle school up age-wise?)

I hope to devote an entire post to the topic of human trafficking and educating yourself on it eventually, but in the meantime, this is a book I think just about everyone should read. Or at least people from the U.S., since it specifically discusses the reality of human trafficking in the U.S.

I think this was an excellent introduction and a great place to start if you haven’t learned much about it. Plus, it lists great resources for further learning and for taking action. I also appreciated that, while honest about the realities, the author didn’t belabor the point or feel the need to make you feel what it is like…the stark reality is enough.

Children’s Literature

As usual, I have some middle grade picks that I enjoyed that are worth recommending to you (or your kids).

The Penderwicks – Series: 4ish stars, G

Amazon’s blurb describes The Penderwicks 5-book series as a “modern classic”. I must concur. It has a very wholesome feel, while dealing with emotions and topics universal to lots of children. The series focuses on a different Penderwick sibling each time, all about the time when they are in the age range of 10-12 years old. The first book involves the four Penderwick sisters and their widower dad on a summer vacation that changes their lives. I especially appreciated the beautiful symmetry with which the author concluded the series. The series made me laugh and was a good, easy read to escape somewhere pleasant where mischief that starts with good intentions turns out all right in the end. The use of a paper map dated the books a little, but otherwise there weren’t many indications of when these stories took place.

Inside Out and Back Again: 5 stars, G

Ever since one of my students read this book a couple of years ago, I’ve been intending to read it. Written in verse that matches the tone and voice of the narrator, it’s a heart-wrenching (in a homesick kind of way) about a family that immigrates to the U.S. from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It’s told from the perspective of the youngest child, the daughter and opens the reader’s eyes to how it might feel to be uprooted from your culture and language and country and move to another place that is bewildering in its different-ness. I’m not an immigrant, but having lived for three years in another country, I found myself relating to some aspects of her longing for her old home and country, where things weren’t as confusing or different.


Of Literature and Lattes: 3 stars, PG

Of Literature and Lattes by [Katherine Reay]

After reading several books by Katherine Reay last year which I really liked, I was looking forward to reading this one. It is sort of a continuation of The Printed Letter Bookshop.

I didn’t love it. It just seemed to be missing. . . something. Since it had been over a year since I’d read the first story, the introduction of an entire cast of characters in the first two chapters was confusing . . . I couldn’t even figure out at first who the main people were supposed to be. (maybe I was distracted?)

Furthermore, the love story seemed contrived and the main character seemed a bit underdeveloped. She was clearly torn up inside, but the author never seemed to cause her to really work through the mess she’d gotten herself into. I did appreciate how the tension between her and her mother didn’t disappear overnight; that seemed realistic. But the whole dynamic between the main man and his ex-wife and all of that was weird and…it just didn’t do great things for me like The Printed Letter Bookshop. So it was an okay read, but I didn’t love it.

And that’s all for now, folks! Hope you’ve had a good reading month, whether you’re in the thick of back to school or a pandemically-normal September!

Tell me what you’ve been reading in the comments; I’d love to hear some fresh ideas!

P.S. Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit for this month. Always lots of book ideas from readers over there, too!

4 thoughts on “September 2020: Recent Reads

  1. Great reviews, Christina! I LOOOOVED The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I definitely agree that the love story was sweet but that it was not a romance per se. There was so much more than just a romance. And yes, I was fascinated by the blue skin color as well! Who knew that was a thing! I have heard about Eleanor Oliphant for years but your review finally got me to add it to my Overdrive wishlist! I kept hearing how negative she is and that it is a depressing book, but you make it sound at least a bit hopeful, so I am more than willing to give it a shot!

    I have been wanting to read Inside Out & Back Again. Your review is a needed push!

    Here are my recent reviews, if interested!


    1. It’s taken me awhile to reply, but I was so glad to read your comment. Better late than never, I hope!

      Eleanor Oliphant is not “okay” so going into the book knowing that she has issues helped. Plus, the way the author approaches it from Eleanor’s perspective of not realizing how not okay she is helped mute some of the pain, if that makes sense. I think the author approached the topics of childhood trauma and adult loneliness in a deft, thoughtful manner, rather than just unendingly depressing and hopeless. It ends on a more hopeful note, too, which helps.

      Glad I could give you a push toward Inside Out and Back Again, and I’m glad you linked your recent reviews! I just finished The Water Keeper, recently too 🙂 I’ll be glad to look more closely into the titles you reviewed!


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