Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – September 2021

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Reviews of new 2021 books Girl A and We Are the Brennans, as well as backlist books The Boys in the Boat and The Kissing Quotient.

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump as summer turns to fall and school starts up.

While I enjoyed my reading this past month, only one truly wowed me, and overall I’ve just been spending less time reading.

I do love fall reading, though, as things get cooler and cozier. There are some exciting reads in my plans for the next few months, and tons of great things coming up on the blog (which has also been a bit quiet as I work behind the scenes).

I can’t wait to share these new things with you, and in the meantime, I hope you’ll share the books you’ve been loving lately.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

Girl A

Author: Abigail Dean
Source: Book of the Month
Publish Date: February 2, 2021

Lex’s mother has just died–in prison–and Lex has returned to England to handle the estate with her siblings. Included is the family home, known as the “House of Horrors,” where the six siblings were chained and starved until Lex was able to escape and find help. Her plans to do something good with the home force her reckon with the horrific past she left behind–and decide what it means for her future.

This is an extremely dark novel; because of the subject matter, it was difficult to read and took me a while to get through. The story is loosely based on a similar “house of horrors” in California, which an older sister escaped. It is intense and (thankfully) not overly graphic, but incredibly heartbreaking. Mostly well-written, but confusing and frequent switches between past and present knocked this down for me. 3.5 stars

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We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

We Are the Brennans

Author: Tracey Lange
Source: Book of the Month
Publish Date: August 3, 2021

After Sunday Brennan causes a drunk driving accident in LA, she reluctantly turns to her big, Irish-Catholic family in New York. They are glad to have her back, but still unsure why she suddenly left five years ago. She’s ready to help with family’s expanding pub business, and hopefully make some amends. But the past returns to threaten them all, and Sunday has to own up to the secrets she’s been keeping.

The Brennans are big and complicated and all wrapped in each others’ business. Maybe a bit much for real life, but I enjoyed being in their literary orbit. If you enjoy big family dramas with flawed characters that you want to root for, this is a great one. 4 stars

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The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

Author: Daniel James Brown
Source: Library
Publish Date: June 4, 2013

I just knew that I would love this book about the 1936 American crew team from the Univeristy of Washington that clawed its way to Olympic gold, but for some reason I put off reading it. Let me tell you: I’m so glad I grabbed the audiobook. It’s wonderfully narrated by the late Edward Herrmann (Richard from Gilmore Girls–which I also happen to be rewatching now for the millionth time).

The efforts of the scrappy but inexperienced rowers, coaches, and their boat builder mentor are inspiring and fascinating. The historical context only adds to it; you’ll definitely want to find the propaganda film of the Olympic race put out by Hitler’s favorite filmmaker after you finish the book.

Along with the story of the team, this book goes deep into the intricacies and highs and lows of the sport of rowing, including the physical and mental demands (arguably greater than any other sport I’ve done, including swimming). As a former college rower (though only for a year–I was sidelined by a bout of mono), it brought me back to the frigid early winter mornings, running through the streets of Minneapolis and gliding across the Mississippi River. I loved every detail. 5 stars

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient

Author: Helen Hoang
Source: Library
Publish Date: June 5, 2018

This romance novel is a bit of a twist on Pretty Woman, with some #ownvoices representation to put more of a spin on the relationship. Stella is a success at work but a failure at relationships; her autism makes it difficult to connect with men and she specifically wants to get better at sex. For that, she decides to hire a professional. Michael immediately knows Stella requires some care, and despite his reservations, he is intrigued, and soon they are both developing feelings.

This was a mostly sweet romance (and VERY steamy–just be aware if that affects your reading decisions). Michael’s caution with Stella drove home the concept of consent. At the same time, there were some conversations that seemed manipulative that took me out of the romance of it. 3 stars

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What have you been reading lately?

Books to Read - September 2021 Reviews