Happy Monday! I hope everyone is having a great start to their weeks. I’m back again with my list of books I read over the past month. As it turns out I was able to finish 5 books. That’s way more than I usually read over the course of a month!
In September, I set aside time to read every day, and I think this definitely helped me to finish more books. Reading is something that I really enjoy, and I’m glad that I’ve been making it a priority lately! It is so easy to get caught up with other things in life, but you can always spare a minute or two to do something you love.
First up on my list for September was The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. I found this book in a small local bookstore up in Wolfeboro this summer. I love finding books at thrift stores and Target, but there’s just something special about walking into a bookstore and being surrounded by books. I limited myself to two books on that visit, and let me tell you, it was so difficult to choose just two! I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to this book at first because of the beautiful cover, but the story itself is what made it really worth picking up.
Here’s the summary: “Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years– ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks– like the gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally.
After recruiting her two girls and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover– with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners– is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…”
I loved this book. I think the best part was the quirky characters. The main character Lilian is sassy and likable, and I liked the fact that Waxman gave a backstory for all of the other characters as well. It was easy to connect with the people in the story because you learn so much about them throughout the book.
A big theme in this book is working through grief. There are so many funny parts sprinkled in, but the majority of the book focuses on Lilian moving on from the death of her husband, which is heartbreaking at times. I think this focus on grief makes the book more meaningful though, and I liked the way that the author went about it.
Next up on my list is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had been wanting to read this one for a long time, and I am so glad I finally did! I’ve already read Big Magic by Gilbert, and I think she is such a talented, inspiring person.
As it turns out, this book also focuses on working through grief, but in this one, Gilbert decides to put her life on pause and spend some time traveling. I think that all of us at some point have wished that we could just go traveling, and I loved reading about all of her adventures.
Here’s the summary: “In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want– husband, country home, successful career– but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all of these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.”
Gilbert organized the book in 108 little stories, which is based on prayer beads used by Yogis called japa malas. Japa malas have 108 beads and help Hindus and Buddhists in staying focused during prayerful meditation. I thought this was such a unique and interesting way of structuring a book, and I loved that the structure ties in with the overall spirituality of the book.
I found it so easy to connect with Gilbert throughout the book, because she has a quirky, engaging way of telling her story. During and after Gilbert’s divorce, she went through an understandably painful period in her life. I loved how honest she was throughout the book. She wasn’t afraid to talk about things that were probably really hard to talk about. I thought this made the book more powerful, and I really enjoyed being able to see her journey and how she transformed throughout the book.
I also loved how Gilbert described everything she was doing during her travels. I really think she did a good job in painting a picture for readers of what each place was like, and who the people were. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew a lot about the cultures of Italy, India, and Indonesia.
I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about this one. I think that everyone should give this book a read, you won’t be disappointed! I think we can all learn something from Gilbert’s journey of finding herself, and I totally understand why it has been so popular over the years since it was first published.
After reading Eat Pray Love, I picked up The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls. In college, I had read The Glass Castle, Walls’ memoir, and really enjoyed it, but I had never read any of her novels. I saw this one sitting on the shelf at a thrift store this summer, and I figured it was the perfect time to dive into another one of her books.
Here’s the summary: “It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.
An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing odd jobs for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart– an inventor of word games, a reader of Edgar Allan Poe, a nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something bad happens to Liz.
Jeannette Walls has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.”
I liked that this book was really true to the time period that it is set in. It addresses heavy issues throughout the novel, including racism, sexism, and money. Some of the things that happen are pretty unbelievable though. It was shocking to me that a mother would even dream of leaving her children for such an extended amount of time without a second thought. It was also crazy to see how important appearances were in small-town Virginia.
I thought all of the characters were well-developed, but I did find myself wishing that Charlotte, Bean and Liz’s mother, would have been a little different, especially by the end of the book. Like I mentioned above, I was shocked that she would leave her children with just a little money and take off, but I was hopeful that she would be a little less selfish as the story went on.
That being said, I think that makes the book a little more realistic, because a lot of times, people don’t change. I thought this was an interesting take on what life was like in the 1970s, and I really liked learning the characters’ stories.
The next book I read was Something Blue by Emily Giffin. I think Giffin’s books are so fun. While they can touch on serious topics, they’re light as well, which makes them enjoyable to read. I can see myself taking one of her books on vacation with me, and I’m definitely planning on doing that in the future!
Here’s the summary for this one: “Darcy Rhone thought she had it all figured out: the more beautiful the girl, the more charmed her life. Never mind substance. Never mind playing by the rules. Never mind karma.
But Darcy’s neat, perfect world turns upside down when her best friend, Rachel White, the plain-Jane “good girl,” steals her fiance, while Darcy finds herself completely alone for the first time in her life…with baby on the way.
Darcy tries to recover, fleeing to her childhood friend living in London and resorting to her tried-and-true methods for getting what she wants. But as she attempts to re-create her glamorous life on a new continent, Darcy finds her rules no longer apply. It is only then that she can begin her journey toward self-awareness, forgiveness, and motherhood.
Something Blue is a novel about one woman’s surprising discoveries about the true meaning of friendship, love, and happily-ever-after. It’s a novel for anyone who has ever, even secretly, wondered if the last thing you want is really the one thing you need.”
I’ll be honest, I really was not a fan of the main character Darcy for the majority of the book. Her ideas about the world and how she went about her life left a bad taste in my mouth. I found her almost cringe-worthy. I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to finish the book, that’s how much I didn’t like her.
As the story went on, however, Darcy grew on me. I found her funny and began to realize why she acts the way she does. I also appreciated that she was able to realize how wrong she was about certain things and make an effort to change. By the end I was rooting for her and hoping that she would get the meaningful life that she was striving for. Even though Darcy was frustrating at times, I thought this was a fun book and it kept me entertained.
And finally, the last book I read during the month of September was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. I randomly came across this one on one of our bookshelves, and it seemed really interesting to me. According to Goodreads, this is considered a classic, and now that I’ve read the book, I can understand why.
Here’s the summary: “San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that one one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder.
In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man’s guilt. For on San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries– memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo’s wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense– but one that leaves us shaken and changed.”
Something that I enjoyed about this book was the haunting way it was written, and how things were described throughout the book. I thought the author did an amazing job illustrating the tensions between Japanese Americans and white Americans, even 10 years after World War II. It’s hard to believe that our government put people in isolated camps just because of the way they looked, and this book really shows how that affected our culture.
Many of the characters had tragic backstories, and it was hard to read at times. At the same time, I think this made the book even more interesting and kept me invested in what was going on. I felt like I really knew the characters, and especially in the case of Ishmael, I wanted to see them make the right decisions.
I hope you enjoyed seeing what I read during the month of September. I would recommend any of these books to you all, and I enjoyed being able to read them last month. Do you have any books that you have loved reading lately? Feel free to share, I’m always looking for more choices!