Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Books I Read In October

And poof! Just like that it's November. Isn't November such a lovely month? I love November.

But we're talking about October. Specifically, the books I read in October. For the past few years I've been getting more and more serious about intentional seasonal reading, and October is one of the months I fixate on "getting this right." However, I don't do horror or anything too gruesome or scary, so it can be tricky finding new material. I really like classic Gothic horror, like Rebecca or Woman in White, so this month I was on the lookout for material like that. Creepy atmosphere with a dose of mystery. I can't say I found anything spectacular, but I made an effort.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

This one has been on my to-read list for a while now, but after reading a bunch of reviews, I went in with pretty low expectations. I was still intrigued by the heavy Shakespeare influence, but yeah, it's not necessarily one I recommend. The three sisters this book revolves around are all train wrecks, and I found I had little patience for the poor choices they'd all made. While there is a nice tidy dose of redemption in the end, and I did enjoy the Shakespeare stuff, this one is nothing special.

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

This was quite the fascinating little read about talent, how it actually works in the brain and how it's influenced and developed. If you enjoy Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hours pop psychology type stuff, this is a definite recommend. It was a good one for me to read as we begin this foray into Suzuki method violin with my son, but also for every other area of life too. It gets into some interesting nitty gritty about how best to develop any skill really well, and I think this will be generally useful information to have as my kids grow and keep trying more and more new things.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

My mom actually recommended this one to me a few weeks ago. Her book club had read it and really enjoyed it, so when I happened to see the audio book available through my library, I checked it out. And then proceeded to listen to the whole thing in about two days (maybe three, but this is actually a fairly long book for middle grade). Guys, this is such a FANTASTIC middle grade book. I can't recommend it highly enough. But I have to say, the audio book is really the only way this book should be consumed. Music plays an important role in the plot, and the producers of the audio book put a lot of work into doing the music justice. It was such a fun listening experience. If you like middle grade fiction with interesting plot structure, good historical fiction with a touch of magic, or just really good audio books, then you need to listen to this one.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Okay, this was one of my attempts at a good October atmospheric read. I remember this one getting a lot of buzz when it came out a few years ago, but with a dose of caveats that there was some disturbing content. Then my friend Amy read it (see her post here), and while she cautioned with all the same caveats, her praise was high enough that I decided I'd risk it. And it did make for good, Gothic, mysterious and atmospheric reading, though Amy is right. It's no Rebecca. The writing is exquisite, and even the disturbing content wasn't too much for me (it's disturbing, but not graphic), but I still found something lacking overall. It was good, just not amazingly good.

Still Life by Louise Penny

I do not think of myself as a murder mystery reader because I find it just a bit disturbing how much pleasure people seem to get out of reading about... murder. Isn't that just a little weird? But Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy recommends this series by Louise Penny all the time, and what better month to try a murder mystery than October? And this book actually takes place in October, so seasonal win all around. Okay, so yes, this book does center around the murder of a beloved and completely undeserving-of-her-untimely-death character, and yes, there is a twisted murderer who gets found out in the end. But in between those gruesome details, this book was mostly a delightful portrait of really interesting characters in a sweet and cozy country town in Quebec. I love books with really interesting characters, and this had them in spades (not least of which is the main Chief Inspector Armand Gamache himself), so I might be returning to this series in future.

I've done quite a bit of other reading too, books that I haven't quite finished up yet (and may not finish for a while) so I'm not marking them off yet. But, we finished up another family read-aloud this month:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

After our success with Charlotte's Web last month, I thought another book about talking animals might be a good idea. And while I personally didn't love it as much as Charlotte's Web, it was still an enthusiastic success as a family read-aloud. We still had to do a lot of reviewing and explaining and questioning to check for comprehension, but despite whatever lapses there are in understanding, my son was so excited to read this every night that overall it was a very positive experience.

Our latest read aloud has not been quite so successful on either the content-interest side or the age-appropriate level, so we will probably be abandoning it for now. It was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, which I didn't have high expectations for, it was just a stop-gap while we waited for some other options to come in from the library. However, reading those first few chapters as an adult was a wildly different experience for me than reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle as a child. I remember thinking these books were so fun when I read them circa 2nd grade, and I loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's "cures" for everything. As an adult, I not only recognize how terribly dated these books are (oh man, these mothers are 1950s housewives to the T, who actually cleans like that any more?) but was rather horrified at her "cures" (no, the cure for the child with too many toys is not to let them get so messy he can't get out of his room, the cure is to get rid of all the toys!).

But on this note, can I send out another plea for help with my Goodreads tracking of these read-alouds and other books? I created "exclusive" lists for DNFs and these Read-Alouds, and for a while that was great, but just last month it started counting these books in my totals on the stats page, and it's driving me crazy! I don't want these books listed in my yearly read totals! What am I doing wrong?


  1. I just love, love Louise Penny's books.
    And we laughed and laughed at Mrs Piggy Wiggle.
    Can't help you with Good Reads as I struggle with it too.

    1. Yep, I will have to read some more of Louise Penny, it was good stuff. And I think we will try Mrs. Piggle Wiggle again someday, when he's old enough to appreciate it more.

  2. Hmmm...that's weird about Goodreads. If you leave the date you started and finished the book blank, it won't count them. If the date's still important to you, just put it in the review itself.

    Also, you've convinced me to try some Louise Penny (although I can't say when...reading is seriously stressing me out right now).

    Sorry, one more thing: I felt similar to you with Mrs. Piggies Wiggle, but I will say that my kids have LOVED them, so you might want to keep try them on audio when Josh gets a little older.

    1. Sorry for the typos-- I'm writing this on my phone, and I'm having issues.

    2. Thanks! That tip about the date thing fixed it (although, still annoying, Goodreads is not perfect). And yep, we definitely will give Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle a try again, when he's a little bit older. I'm sorry reading is stressing you out right now, but feel free to save Still Life for next October, it'll keep till then. :)

  3. Natalie and I listened to Echo this month too! Ann-Marie recommended it to me and it's been on hold since July! But we loved it! And I hope it inspired Natalie to practice piano and flute (and harmonica) more. I loved the message that music brings beauty and hope during hard times. The structure felt like a middle grade "Cloud Atlas".

    1. I know, it had such a creative structure! Such a fun one, glad you guys listened to it!