Monday, October 4, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: September 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

I read 19 books in September, which is the most of any month in 2021 so far. Interestingly, last September I read 18 books and it was my slowest month. Go figure. A good chunk of my reading during the month was taken up by series books because I participated in Series September on Instagram. I also listened to 10 audiobooks, because I just kept getting hooked on quick suspense novels. Here are all 19 books in the order that I read them. 

American Adventures, 1620-1945 by Elizabeth Coatsworth (4 stars)
I actually read most of this book in August, as it was our history read-aloud for our homeschool summer session. Each chapter is a story set during an important time period in American History, followed by an author's note explaining which parts of the story are rooted in real history. The stories were pretty long to read in one sitting, but I managed, and they really got my girls interested in the various events they covered. 

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (3 stars)
I borrowed this one from my sister. It was my second Ruth Ware book ever, after The Woman in Cabin 10. I liked this one better, but it was still only a three-star read. I enjoyed the fact that it was such a quick read, but I didn't love the way it ended.

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn (5 stars)
This month, I participated in Series September, hosted by Sarah and Krista, and this was the first of seven series books I read. I listened to this one on audio, and it is my favorite of all the Bridgerton books I've read so far. I loved that it was a Cinderella re-telling, and I felt I got to know the characters even better than the couples in the first two books. I did have to skip the sex scenes, but that wasn't that much trouble. 

Steeped in Stories: Timeless Children’s Novels to Refresh Our Tired Souls by Mitali Perkins (4 stars)
[reviewed on the blog]
I didn't agree with everything this author argues in this book, but I am pleased that a Christian (and Catholic, I think?) take on "problematic" books is out in the world. I think there is a lot of great food for thought in this book, even if Perkins does sort of miss the mark in her understanding of Tolkien and Lewis. 

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (4 stars)
This is another one my sister lent me, and it's my favorite Ruth Ware so far. I loved that the book was structured as a letter to a lawyer, and I didn't see the reveal at the end coming at all. I will most likely read more Ruth Ware based on how much I enjoyed this one. 

Come Back to Me by Carolyn Astfalk (5 stars)
I listened to this sequel to Stay with Me on Audible, and I absolutely loved it. I really care about the characters in this universe and could not put the book down. As much as I tolerate and even enjoy secular romance novels, there is something so nice about reading a love story with a Catholic worldview. There is a depth and substance to both books of this duology that has made them some of my favorites of this year.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (4 stars)
This was another fun read from this series, which answers a burning question: who is Lady Whistledown? I'm a little curious about how things will be in future books that we know her true identity, but I really like the way this reveal was done. 

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached (4 stars)
After several false starts (see the DNF section below), I finally settled on this book as my title about the Middle East for #WorldFullOfBooks on Instagram. It was pretty short and consisted of simple statements describing the author's childhood during the Lebanese Civil War with accompanying illustrations. I thought it was very interesting, but not especially educational about the war itself.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
After reading the two Ruth Ware titles, I wanted to read some similarly fast-paced thrillers or suspense novels. I borrowed this audiobook from the library and it wound up being the first of three Megan Miranda books I listened to this month. I liked that the story involved a cliquey HOA, and I enjoyed all the details of the neighborhood and the relationships between the residents. 

Seventeen Against the Dealer by Cynthia Voigt (4 stars)
I read the first 6 books in this series back in the 2000s, but somehow never got to this last one until now. Like the others, it's an introspective story, and it focuses on Dicey stubbornly trying to make her way as an adult without help from anyone. She makes a few missteps and must face the consequences. I love Cynthia Voigt's writing throughout this series and this book was excellent. 

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear (3 stars)
This is the fourth book in the Butternut Lake series. It took me forever to get to it because it's an ebook and not available to me on audio, but I'm glad I finally did. It was a pleasant story about two sisters working out their differences and then each falling in love with a good man. I read it in the Kindle app before bed each night and it was a very easy and undemanding read for that hour of the day. 

Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children’s Great Books and How to Experience Them by Cheri Blomquist (3 stars)
My husband bought a copy of this for me because I was excited about it, but it wound up falling kind of flat. The book lists are interesting, but I'm not sold on the whole reading program the author sets up. I think I was hoping for more discussion of the importance of reading great books and how exactly those books prepare kids to read classics later on. 

Light from Heaven by Jan Karon (3 stars)
After many months away from this series, I dove back in this month. This is the first book of this series that didn't totally wow me. I'm not sure if that's because I read 8 in a row last fall and kind of burned out, or if this book is actually less good. There were definitely things I enjoyed about it, and the setting is as charming and cozy as ever, but it was just not my favorite of the series.

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young (2 stars)
I should have DNF'd this romance set in a small English village. There was way too much sexual content, and I didn't like most of the characters, including the heroine. I was listening to the audiobook, though, and it just became background noise on my daily walk, so I decided to just listen to the end in case it got interesting. It actually did for a few minutes around the 80% mark, but that seemed like an odd time to introduce a new conflict, and ultimately, as a whole, the book didn't work for me. 

Tamar by Gladys Malvern (4 stars)
My husband found this author on a children's book list and I read this book aloud to him so we could get a taste of her writing. The story is based on the Gospel of Matthew and Tamar is the daughter of Jairus. I found it very interesting, and I think it does a nice job of immersing young readers in the daily lives of people who were on Earth at the same time as Jesus, which really personalizes the story of His Passion in a way that reading the Bible on its own may not. That said, I wouldn't have a child read this book until the child knows the Gospel pretty well. The author invents some details - it is historical fiction, after all - and to an unfamiliar reader, it might be hard to differentiate Scriptural truth from the author's imaginings. 

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
This was the second Megan Miranda book I listened to, and I just zipped right through it. I found the details about the main character's dad's health and his life in a nursing home very true-to-life, and that made me sympathize with the main character right away. I also love that the story is told in reverse, so that the characters are privy to information before it becomes known to the reader. It was a little hard to follow in the audiobook and some chapters dragged a bit, but it was really fun to readjust my expectations and predictions at the end of each new chapter, and I was only partially correct in my guesses about how it would end.

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda (4 stars)
My last Megan Miranda read of the month, this one had a fascinating backstory to it, involving a girl who was rescued as a child and her inability to escape from the publicity that followed. There were some good twists and turns in this one, too - some I saw coming and others that took me by surprise. 

Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin (2 stars) 
I was approved for this audiobook on Netgalley. At first I thought it was a straightforward police procedural, and I started out enjoying it, but then I found out on Goodreads that it's meant to be romantic suspense. A few chapters into the book, that finally became apparent in the text as well, and then the whole story just fell apart. The investigation at the heart of the story was pretty interesting, but the romance felt so forced and awkward. I also didn't like the way the female audiobook narrator did male voices, of which there were many.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross (4 stars)
I finished the month with this fun paperback about a Southern lady whose life is turned a bit upside down when it becomes known that her late husband had a secret lovechild. This had some elements of a cozy mystery, and the writing was really strong and at times, laugh out loud funny. This is the first of a series, and I plan to read some more at some point.  

DNF in September 

I had three DNFs in September. The biggest one was The Source by James Michener. It was just too long and I didn't have enough context to understand all that was happening. I still want to try Michener, but I think I need more familiar territory. I also DNF'd Waging Peace: One Soldier's Story of Putting Love First by Diana Oestreich solely because of the unpolished writing and All the Right Mistakes by Laura Jamison, which I got from Netgalley and which has too many characters with an unbelievable number of problems. 

As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished Knight Crusader by Ronald Welch and is currently reading Beneath the Hill by Jane Louise Curry. He is also reading aloud Polly and the Wolf by Catherine Storr to the kids after dinner. 

M. (7 years, 10 months) enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-Them-Yourself Mysteries, and then switched gears and started Martin the Warrior from the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.

C. (6 years), is still reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She is also reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola aloud to Gran on Skype, and she read Franklin Endicott and the Third Key by Kate diCamillo in two days after receiving it for her birthday. 

E, (4 years, 11 months), is starting to pick up random books around the house and look in them for words she can read. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw and the Sophie mouse series have been her favorites.

I'm currently reading aloud Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright to the three older girls at lunch each day.  

A. and R., (18 months), have both been enjoying Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo. R. refers to it as "Diggy" and A. repeats the refrain, "They can work all day." (Mostly it sounds like gibberish, but it's clear that's what she means.) They also like the Stanley books by William Bee. 

Up Next For Me

In October, I'm continuing with the Fall into Reading challenge on Instagram, since the categories are things I would most likely be reading anyway. The theme for the #WorldFullofBooks book club on Instagram is Spooky, so for that I'm reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink. I am also considering joining #Victober and reading Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. There is also a Month of Mystery Bingo challenge happening on Instagram this month, so I'm planning to throw in a few mysteries as well to fulfill some of those prompts. For book club, I'm reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. 

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