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Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – September 2023

Book reviews of new 2023 books Yours Truly, Last Dream Standing, Eating Dirt, The Other Year, Wine People, The Honeymoon Crashers, and The Followers.

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Happy fall! September has been a great month of reading, with lots of variety and multiple four- and five-star books.

I was able to enjoy a weekend in the mountains in September, with lots of elk sightings, some leisurely hikes, and early fall colors.

Now the colors are changing quickly, and I’m eyeing up all the best places in the local parks to settle in with a book, my dog, and the gorgeous weather.

In case you missed them, you might like these new posts:

Here’s what I’ve been reading this past month:

Print and E-Books

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

Yours Truly

Author: Abby Jimenez
Publish Date: April 11, 2023
Source: Book of the Month
Genres: Romance

Briana Ortiz is an ER doctor who is used to a certain amount of stress, but her brother’s kidney failure, her pending divorce, and the new doctor in the ER who might steal her promotion have amped it up. Dr. Jacob Maddox has Briana’s hackles up–until he completely disarms her by sending her a letter. Soon they’re writing back and forth and have formed a friendship. When Jacob signs on to donate a kidney to Briana’s brother, she feels she has no choice but to do him a favor–one that brings them even closer together.

This is the second Abby Jimenez book I’ve read, and the follow-up to Part of Your World, which I also loved (those characters appear in this novel). So far, Jimenez has proven to write books that keep me hooked with amazing characters (someone find me a better male romantic lead than Jacob!), cute setups (the letters!), and realistic obstacles–the major ones here being Jacob’s anxiety and Briana’s past relationship trauma. They each take responsibility for their own issues, while supporting one another. Jimenez goes big on all the romance tropes, usually with a wink-nudge. This could bother some readers, as could the extended miscommunication between Jacob and Briana, but I expect these things in romance. When they’re done this well, I’m happy to go along for the ride.

Last Dream Standing by Jill Anderson

Last Dream Standing

Author: Jill Anderson
Publish Date: 2023
Source: Author
Genres: Historical Fiction

In a coal-mining village in Wales, in the early 1900s, Stefan spends his days drawing–and his rigid and disappointed father, Garth, destroys his works of art. When Stefan’s brother, Howie, is born without arms, Garth’s dreams of a son following him into the mines are further shattered. He forces the family to keep Howie secret, in the attic, and Stefan and his mother try to make a life for Howie while their hearts break daily. That decision has devastating repercussions, and years later, they all need to come to terms with their choices and become the people they were meant to be.

Jill Anderson is an indie author who wrote Running from Moloka’i, one of my best books of 2020. Anderson again delivers historical fiction with a vivid setting and unforgettable characters. Every word is resonant and perfectly chosen; I couldn’t put this down. Keep your eyes out for this one; it’s not to be missed.

Related: 30 Historical Fiction Novels for Your Reading Bucket List


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2023 Books to Read: September Reviews. Book covers include Wine People, Yours Truly, Eating Dirt, The Followers, The Honeymoon Crashers, Last Dream Standing, and The Other Year

Audiobooks

Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill

Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe

Author: Charlotte Gill
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Nonfiction

Charlotte Gill spent two decades working as a tree planter in the temperate Canadian rain forests, doing the back-breaking work of replenishing the trees stripped by clear-cut logging operations. In this memoir, she recounts the brutal, mesmerizing work and her life with the “tree-planting tribe,”–the people inexplicably drawn to the seasonal work that wrecks their bodies and clears their minds.

Gill has a way of making the work sound (almost) appealing, despite the harsh conditions: the connection to the land, the sense of doing something worthwhile, and the camaraderie with her fellow planters. At the same time, she contemplates the logging industry and planters being a part of it–and how effective the planting operations are at replacing the complex old-growth forests. This was a fascinating look at a very particular–and important–niche in the tree canon, and Gill’s poetic voice adds insight and awe.

Related:

The Other Year by Rea Frey

The Other Year

Author: Rea Frey
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Publish Date: August 15, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

This parallel timeline story takes us through two different outcomes that hinge on one pivotal moment: when Kate’s nine-year-old daughter, Olivia, disappears beneath the waves. In one timeline, she emerges from the surf and life goes on as usual. In the other, she does not survive. Over the year that follows, we see Kate’s life with Olivia continuing as expected in one timeline–the daily annoyances, the small joys, the big and small decisions that affect their paths. In the other, we see Kate’s grief and how she tries to move forward, without losing her memories of her daughter.

This was a compelling listen and I appreciated the moments in the timelines that highlighted the things we take for granted and the things that upset us, that ultimately seem so trivial in the face of loss. There were times when Kate’s romantic choices felt like too much of the focus–who will she choose, and in which timeline?–but it did add some bright spots and hope in a book with such a sad theme.

Related: 14 Fast-Paced Contemporary Fiction Audiobooks

Wine People by Michelle Wildgen

Wine People

Author: Michelle Wildgen
Narrator: Christine Lakin
Publish Date: August 1, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Wren and Thessaly are both in their 20s and scrambling to make it in their dream jobs in a wine distribution company. They view each other as rivals until an international trip and impending shakeup in the company lead to an unlikely alliance.

I love books that take me deep into worlds wholly unfamiliar to me, and the world of wine distribution is exactly that. It’s a strange ecosystem of one-upmanships and a range of relationships forged with rural winemakers, upscale restaurants, and mass-market sellers. It’s easy for backstabbing to be the default, and I enjoyed this story of two young women who choose instead to support one another.

The Honeymoon Crashers by Christina Lauren

The Honeymoon Crashers

Author: Christina Lauren
Narrator: Jessica Marie Garcia, Harry Shum Jr., Lee Osorio, Cynthia Farrell, Deacon Lee, Adriana Sananes, Stephanie Németh-Parker, Inés del Castillo, Kimberly Woods, Tim Paige, Jennifer Aquino & Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Publish Date: August 1, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Romance

When Olive and her fiance Ethan go to Maui for a private wedding, her sister Ami knows that isn’t what Olive wants. Ami shows up with the family and is determined to plan the perfect wedding. She’s surprised to find that Ethan’s best man, Brody, has been tasked with helping her. Resistant at first, she soon finds that she enjoys Brody’s company–and that there may be more to this surfer guy than meets the eye.

This is the “1.5” series followup to The Unhoneymooners, which I haven’t actually read. I’ve wanted to give Christina Lauren a try and I figured a short audiobook was a good start. The story here is fine–cute couple, mostly uncomplicated, and I would try another book by this author duo. Where this really shines is in the full-cast production of this audiobook-only novel. The acting and production are excellent; truly a listening experience.

Related: The Best Romance Audiobooks to Get Your Heart Racing

The Followers by Bradeigh Godfrey

The Followers

Author: Charlotte Gill
Narrator: Tim Lounibos & Eileen Stevens
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Genres: Mysteries & Thrillers

Molly has made a career out of sharing her life online. Relentlessly positive, she loves sharing snippets of her days and moments of inspiration with her followers. She’s surprised when her fiance, Scott, is upset when she shares a photo of him. She quickly takes it down, but across the country, Liv has seen the photo. She recognizes Scott as the man who killed her sister years ago, then disappeared with her niece. She’s determined to track him down–and Molly is her way in.

The mystery drove this story forward, but it wasn’t the most interesting part. Molly’s strange relationship with her followers is actually pretty common now, and it’s worth considering how these parasocial relationships affect the followers, the influencers, and everyone in their orbits. Not the best “thriller” I’ve read, but a compelling listen all the same.

Related: 11 Twisty Mystery and Thriller Audiobooks that Will Keep You Guessing

What have you been reading lately?

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