What I’m Reading: October Book Reviews

October Book Reviews: Jayber Crow, The Four Tendencies, Young Jane Young, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, First Frost, As You Wish, Someone Else's Love Story

I am in the middle of about 6 books right now. Seriously, I need to stick with one at a time. But I’m usually listening to one, and reading a fiction and a non-fiction. At the moment I had so many non-fiction books I want to read I started a bunch and read whatever I feel like in the moment.

When I realized it was time for my October books post, I thought I might just have one or two books to talk about, since I’m in the middle of so many. I was happy to see I managed to read SEVEN in October. Not counting the six I started and haven’t finished yet. Yay for good books!

Unfortunately not all of my October reads were actually good books, I struggled to get through a couple of these but there were also some real winners, including one I’m all but bullying other people into reading.

I only finished two non-fiction books this month, both on audio, and both of which I enjoyed and can’t really name a favorite because they are so different from each other.

For my fiction winner, I have to go with my first Wendell Berry book. I am still starry eyed about his writing, and this story.

Read on for more good books!

Joshilyn Jackson, Someone Else's Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

 

My second Joshilyn Jackson, this book has been on my TBR for over a year. When The Almost Sisters came out it jumped to the top of my list (and I LOVED it, a LOT). I am glad I read it first, because it is much more “for me” than Someone Else’s Love Story.

I had a hard time with SELS at first, because I loved the characters in Sisters SO MUCH and maybe just wanted more of them? SELS has a younger protagonist and is more overtly a love story, which was harder for me to connect with. I had to really commit to finishing this book. I ended up switching to the audio book and finished it that way.  Joshilyn Jackson’s reputation as a fantastic reader is well deserved, and I love when authors read their own works.

Like The Almost Sisters is not completely about the sisters you think it is about, the love story in Someone Else’s Love Story is also not what you think it is. By halfway through I got hooked on the story, and I flew through the second half of the book. I liked this so much more than I thought I was going to from the first half.  SO GLAD I stuck with it.

As You Wish by Cary ElwesAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes

This is a great audiobook, narrated by Westley himself with each member of the cast reading their own quotes and contributions.

I was charmed by this book, essentially a love letter to one of my favorite movies. Not sure how interesting this would be for someone who has a light or passing interest in the movie, but I saw The Princess Bride in the theater when it was released (fun fact: I laughed so loud at the sword fighting scene my sister got up and moved to another seat), and it was a VHS favorite in my family for years.

I found this book more well written and touching than I expected, especially people’s feelings about the writer (William Goldman) and source material, and memories of Andre the Giant.

I also liked the behind the scenes aspect of hearing how a movie gets made. It was really interesting to learn about how Rob Reiner acted as a director, the stories of how each character was cast, and how the cast became like family.

When I first saw The Princess Bride there was one actor in the entire cast who was familiar to me (Billy Crystal), everyone else was and will likely always be “that guy from The Princess Bride”. So it was fun to hear about the long and varied careers of these actors, many of whom are brilliant in various fields but still get recognized regularly because of this little movie that barely made a splash when it was released.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen

 

My first response to this book was: Ugh. I loved this book so much! Someone please tell me there will be more Waverly Sisters books!!

This book is delightful escapist fiction, perfect for a relaxing fall Saturday.

Garden Spells was my first Sarah Addison Allen, and I am hooked. First Frost picks up with the Waverly Sisters 10 years later, introducing the next generation of Waverly girls. It also looking back on the stories of Mary and Loralai (Claire and Sydney’s grandmother and mother.)

I love these characters and I love this world, normal but also slightly magical. So much fun! I have several other Sarah Addison Allen novels waiting, but I’m worried that her other books won’t measure up to my love of the Waverly Sisters.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

 

This book was….not my favorite.

The parts of this I loved were 5 star enjoyment, but the parts that were harder for me were 1 or 2 star worthy…. For my Goodreads rating I settled on 3 stars to meet in the middle.

This book is told through the eyes of a young magazine writer who is surprised to find herself personally chosen by an aging superstar (think Liz Taylor) to write an authorized biography. Evelyn Hugo tells the story of her rise to fame and fortune and her seven marriages, answering the question, “You were married seven times, but who was the great love of your life?”

I loved the insider Hollywood elements of this book, the viewpoint on the changing roles and expectations on women and sexuality, and the gossipy aspects. That sounds light and fluffy, but you learn a lot about a society and culture from how it’s people respond to celebrity, the things that are shamed and the things that are celebrated. Evelyn Hugo’s story highlights this as well as the dangerous nature of fame: Fame seduces is into being people we are not, and the trades we make never get us what we really want. The “true story” behind Evelyn Hugo’s seven husbands definitely demonstrates the trades we are tempted to make. Evelyn as a character feels very real, I would not be surprised at all to learn that many aspects of her story reflect true events in the lives of real actresses and actors. 5 stars.

On the other hand, this was *considerably* more racy than I can handle, definitely more graphic and sexual than my usual read. It reminded me of the Jacki Collins trash I read when I was (too) young. And the moral compass is this book is very Machiavellian, with right and wrong defined by how actions affect those we love (rather than moral absolutes.)

I thought about abandoning this one during some of the seedier parts, but there were some mystery elements that kept me hooked, wanting to know how the story would end.

This was a well written and thought provoking story, one that will stick with me, and I’m not sad I read it. But I can’t recommend it without giant red flag warnings….it may not be for you.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

 

I really enjoy Gretchen Rubin, as a podcaster and an author. My favorite of her books is Better Than Before, about how to know yourself better in order to build better habits. By far the most interesting part of BTB for me was the section on the Four Tendencies. I’m not the only one: She was deluged with questions and responses to the Four Tendencies, inspiring her to write this follow up.

In her research on habit formation, Rubin came up with the Four Tendencies framework as a way of sorting how people respond to expectations. Do respond better to outer or inner expectations, both or neither? The truth of this resonated with me (I am a questioner, if you’re familiar with the four tendencies). I’ve found this framework super helpful both in understanding my own motivation and in working with others.

I’m not sure that you need to have read Better Than Before in order to enjoy The Four Tendencies, though I think it helps. It’s easy to confuse the tendencies with personality types and apply them broadly. But the framework is specifically about habit formation, and response to accountability.

I used our monthly Audible credit on this, knowing that I prefer to listen to Gretchen Rubin’s books, especially since she reads her own (and I’m familiar with her voice, since her Happiness Podcast is a favorite.)

Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young, by Gabrielle Zevin 

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry (same author) got a lot of buzz and was pretty good, I read it last year in my books-set-in-bookstores phase. But Young Jane Young is better. I loved this book.

Young Jane Young is the story of a young woman who interns for a Florida congressman and gets into a Monica Lewinsky style scandal. Aviva Grossman has reinvented herself and made a life for herself and her daughter in Maine as event planner Jane Young.

The story begins in the present, 10+ years post-scandal, and unfolds through 5 different perspectives. The opens with Aviva’s (awesome) Jewish mother, then you hear from Jane, Jane’s tween daughter Ruth, and the congressman’s wife. The final section returns to the scandal with a choose your own adventure style retelling of the actual event from Aviva’s perspective.

I loved the creative story structure, and I loved all the characters except the ones you’re not supposed to like (Wes West, ugh.) I also loved thinking about these sorts of news-making scandals, and who survives them (the man, usually) and who is destroyed by them (the woman, always.) I liked that everything isn’t wrapped up with a bow and there are several Aha moments that are revealed (or hinted at) in clever ways.

This was a fun listen 🎧, it’s free on Hoopla this month, in audio and ebook.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I saved the best for last.

Where has Wendell Berry been all my life? And how have I been reading for this long and I just discovered him?

Amazon tells me this was published in 2000, but it reads like a classic. Jayber Crow is a barber in a small Kentucky town, allowing the reader to see the unfolding of the 20th Century through his eyes, and its effect on the small town he loves.

This is a character driven novel, so if I describe the plot it’s going to sound boring.  I found this story anything but boring, it is engrossing, inspiring, and heart-breaking. Wendell Berry’s writing is so beautiful it hurts, and this story is just perfect. It made me wish I could sit down with my granddad and listen to stories I was never interested in when he was alive.

Jayber Crow is not a Christian book, but it reveals a better picture of Jesus and the Jesus Way than anything I’ve ever read. I love this book so much, I really want to force someone (everyone) to read it so we can talk about it. I listened to the audiobook, then checked the physical book out from the library because I need to hold this story in my hands, and I want to read it again from the beginning.

 

That was my October, what did you read last month?

By the end of November, I’ll hopefully have finished some of the many non-fiction books I’m in the middle of (including Brene Brown’s latest, which I’m LOVING, and a new Enneagram book which I’m loving even more.)

Fiction-wise I’m just about to finish the book The Princess Bride was based on, and I have checked out a bunch of Wendell Berry’s books because I’m obsessed. But the next fiction on my list is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, which I snagged at the library book sale last week.

 

3 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: October Book Reviews

  1. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful review for Wendell! I have yet to read anything (I think because I want time to SAVOR, and that feels unrealistic right now) but I have a few of his books. I keep finding them on thrift store shelves. Have you ever read Madeline L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals? They are 4 memoirs-all about different things- and that’s how I feel about them. I literally only allow myself 1 per year so they last longer. The things we reading nuts do!! LOL

    • I really need you to read Jayber Crow NOW Sarah!! But understand wanting to savor… it is a book you can’t help but savor, though… And yes, I have the Crosswick books too. I have only read The Circle of Quiet (which I LOVE.) So good.

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