Hi bookish friends! I hope you are all doing well. I took a sabbatical over the past few months; however, I recently sat down and wrote out my thoughts on all the novels I read during August, September, and October, a total of nineteen stories. From classics to thrillers and even a few movie novelizations, there are many books with multiple genres on this list.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Written by: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
I began the month of August by reading my first Vonnegut! Published in 1965, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater was ahead of its time in introducing the world to Eliot Rosewater, an eccentric millionaire who also happens to be a World War II veteran and volunteer firefighter. Eliot finds himself visiting small towns across America before making his home in Rosewater County, where his family has an estate. The constant theme within the story is that when one has privilege, how does one spend that privilege? I found portions of this novel hysterical; however, parts of the story seemed to drag.
Halfway through the novel, we are introduced to Fred Rosewater, Eliot’s cousin, who plots to slander Eliot’s name and use his mental health against him to steal the Rosewater fortune. I was not too fond of this portion of the novel the most. I felt the tonal switch of the book to be jarring, and by the time Fred was a little late in the game.
All that said, Eliot might be one of my new favorite characters.
Play it as it Lays
Written by Joan Didion
Play it as it Lays has been on my TBR for YEARS. Didion is a master storyteller, crafting such unique characters and narratives. Didion introduces us to Maria, living in 1960s Los Angeles. Maria has suffered a mental breakdown, and the story is ultimately about unpacking the trauma that led to her being placed in a psychiatric hospital.
As I stated, Didion is a master storyteller, and while I find myself entranced by her writing, I think it’s essential that I read her writing sporadically. I don’t know that it would be healthy for me to consume her work deeply.
Written by Nina Lacour
When I heard of Yerba Buena and saw the cover, I instantly thought I must read that book! Yes, I entirely judged a book by its cover; in this instance, I was right.
Yerba Buena was a rollercoaster ride. Told in two different timelines, our two main characters, the ones we are cheering for to unite, don’t encounter one another until much later in the story.
Sara Foster runs away at sixteen after her girlfriend is found dead in the river. Sara eventually finds herself in Los Angeles as a successful bartender.
Emilie Dubois is at a crossroads in her life, unable to figure out her next step. Emilie arranges flowers at a Yerba Buena, a high-end restaurant, while also having an affair with the owner, who is also married.
There are elements to this story that are incredibly beautiful and story arcs that are haunting. I loved Yerba Buena, and I’ll find my way back to this story again.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones and the Six all, which Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote.
I wrote about these reads in my blog Preparing to Meet Carrie Soto.
Numbers 68, 69, and 72
Rilla of Ingleside
Written by Lucy Maud Montgomery
After reading, Rilla of Ingleside, I concluded reading the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne is more present in this novel; however, her daughter Rilla is the primary focus, much like Anne in the original story.
This novel made my heart hurt for many of the characters. Especially Walter Cuthbert Blyth. I won’t give anything away now but stay tuned for a future blog.
Written by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham
Billed as Riverdale meets Stranger Things, Blackwater was pleasantly surprising. It’s creepy and kept me guessing, the art is exquisite, and it’s an LBTQ+ story.
Blackwater introduces the reader to Tony Price, a popular high school track star who begins to fall for Eli Hirsch, a quiet loner. While out hunting with a friend, Tony is bitten by a wolf, a werewolf. While reading and questioning everything, it’s also revealed that Eli is a transman with a chronic autoimmune disorder. I initially thought Eli had leukemia, a type of cancer with some symptoms he experienced.
Carrie Soto is Back
Taylor Jenkins Reid
To prepare for meeting Carrie Soto, I reread three novels written by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The Seven Husbands by Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones and the Six, and Malibu Rising. Carrie Soto makes a brief appearance in Malibu Rising. Spoiler. She is having an affair with Nina’s husband, Brandon. She is also the same woman Brandon left Nina for. Because the reader does not get Soto’s perspective, she isn’t necessarily presented in the best light and seems a little unhinged, which does intrigue me. I hope we learn more about her affair with Brandon and why she decided to pursue a relationship with him, although he was married. The novel doesn’t spend much time on that encounter. It’s just casually mentioned; however, it focuses on Carrie Soto’s career as a professional athlete.
Like all of Reid’s previous novels, the story is fast-paced and engaging. It’s hard not to love Carrie and equally challenging not to be swooped away on the rollercoaster that is Soto’s life.
I highly recommend it.
Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel
Written by A.W. Jantha
Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel was the perfect novel to put me in the spooky spirit. Fun enough, I’ve debated purchasing this book; however, I always decided against it. With the sequel’s premiere twenty-nine years after the original, I figured what better time to sit down and read this novel.
The first half of the book is a novelization of the original film. It was loyal to the original movie and didn’t provide any additional backstory. We meet Max Dennison, who has just moved from California to Salem, Mass., his sister Dani, and Allison as they embark on a journey to stop three evil witches they resurrected from hell.
The novel’s second half picks up twenty-five years later; Max and Allison now have a seventeen-year-old daughter named Poppy who comes face to face with the Sanderson sisters again! Unfortunately, Max, Allison, and Dani are sent to hell by the Sanderson sisters, which means it’s up to Poppy, her best friend Travis, the girl she has a crush on, Isabella, and resident mean girl slash the daughter of Jay, from the first story.
I think it’s worth mentioning that we also get to spend time with Binx, Emily, and Elizabeth, who happens to be the fourth Sanderson sister. I liked that twist and loved that the writer made this story their own.
Despite the negative reception, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The only comment I have, more of a question, is, had the audiobook narrator ever seen the original film? Like really! She didn’t do a great job. But back to the story, many millennials seem to have an issue with this story and the recent sequel released by Disney+, but it’s essential to differentiate this story and the new film from the original. It’s also important to realize that these new stories are this generation’s Hocus Pocus, which is fine.
Written by Ron Rash
“As if performing some violent salute, Serena thrust her forearm and the eagle upward.” – Serena, Ron Rash, Page 103
When I think of Serena, I think of this scene. Why? I don’t know, but it imprinted an incredible vision while living in this world.
Set in 1929, Serena is the story of George and Serena Pemberton, who recently married and relocated from Boston to Waynesville, North Carolina, where George plans to create a timber empire. The pair are ruthless, killing anyone who challenges them or even hints at being a problem.
The story also introduces us to Rachel Harmon, a woman with whom George has fathered a child. George initially chooses to have nothing to do with his young son, Jacob; however, when he realizes Serena might be after him, he focuses on protecting himself and Rachel.
Ron Rash beautifully crafts this story, and I love all the morally ambiguous characters.
Mercury Pictures Presents
By Anthony Marra
When I read the synopses for Mercury Pictures Presents, “The epic tale of a brilliant woman who must reinvent herself to survive, moving from Mussolini’s Italy to 1940s Los Angeles,” I questioned if this novel would be like Evelyn Hugo. Especially as I recently reread the book. While I was blown away, my initial thoughts were incredibly wrong.
Like A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Mercury Pictures Presents is a multilayered and multifaceted story told from multiple people’s perspectives. Maria Lagana has found herself in Los Angeles, working at Mercury Pictures after escaping to America from Italy. Her father, Giuseppe, is a gentle and caring man who finds himself imprisoned in Italy, separated from his loved ones.
Maria’s boyfriend, Eddie, is a Chinese American actor, and he feels that he has compromised his integrity and moral compass by portraying stereotypical characters to work.
Anthony Marra is, without a doubt, one of my favorite writers. His work is intricate, and his stories make you fall in love and rip your heart out.
The House Across the Lake
By Riley Sager
Another Riley Sager book that I found to be fun! Granted, I didn’t see the supernatural twist to the story coming and wondered if it was a last-ditch effort because he didn’t know how he would end it… Who knows? Not me.
Now the story is very familiar. Casey Fletcher, an actress who has recently been widowed, has retreated to her family’s lake house and witnesses a fight between her neighbors one evening. The following day the wife is missing.
This novel reminded me of the 2000 film Cabin by the Lake in many ways. Especially the visuals. I also enjoyed the ride the story took me on and constantly kept guessing. I also loved that this is about an actress and her mother, an iconic movie star. I kept envisioning Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; however, I can also see Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh in the roles.
October marked a first for me. I finally read a Baldwin! Which, if I do say so myself, was about time.
Giovanni’s Room introduces us to David, a young bisexual American living in Paris who is engaged to a woman named Hella, who is off exploring Spain. David’s denial of his sexuality is an interesting character study. His characteristics and behavior are troubling, and as a gay man and the reader, I was rooting for him to get it together, yet I found him to be a very self-centered character. I’ve stated before that when discussing Evelyn Hugo, the story made me take a step back and reevaluate my behavior towards bisexuals; however, this book is an excellent depiction of how those who identify as gay have some appreciation and prejudices against those who are bisexual.
That said, Giovanni, my heart will always break for you.
A Monster Calls
Written by Patrick Ness, and Siobhan Dowd (Conception)
Jim Kay (Illustrator)
Spooky, unnerving, and heartbreaking are among the words I would use to describe, A Monster Calls. In this novel, we are introduced to Conor. A thirteen-year-old boy who wakes every night at seven past midnight to find a monster lurking outside of his bedroom window formed from an ancient tree with healing properties. The monster has been visiting since Conor’s mother began treatment to battle a cancer diagnosis. The monster is presented as a scary and dangerous creature who wants something from Conor that he cannot give or will allow himself to comprehend.
Surviving leukemia, this story hit close to home for me as a reader. Especially during those chapters, we are with Conor’s mother, weak and sick. It took me back to moments when I had experienced similar symptoms.
I didn’t know at the time of reading this novel that Siobhan Dowd, whose story conception inspired the novel, had a premature death from cancer, which prevented her from writing the book. At least according to A Monster Calls’ Goodread’s page.
Halloween: The Official Movie Novelization
Written by John Passarella
Written by Tim Waggoner
Written by Paul Brad Logan
Typically reading movie novelizations isn’t my thing. However, during October, I did it quite a bit. First with Hocus Pocus, then with the David Gordon Green Halloween trilogy.
After watching Halloween Ends during the opening weekend, I both needed and wanted to spend more time with these characters. This naturally led me to purchase Halloween, Halloween Kills, and Halloween Ends.
When one adapts a movie into a novel, they are typically given the script for the film, meaning that scenes have been expanded and alternate scenes are included, which was the case for all three novelizations.
These novelizations added to the lore of Michael Myers and the trauma he inflicted not only on Laurie Strode but also on Haddonfield, Illinois; while also providing more context and plot points interwoven in the story, which, granted, when I go back and watch the movies, I can see now.
Shameless plug… If you like watching Youtube videos where explorers visit locations used in movies, check out my video exploring Halloween 2018’s filming location: click here.
The IT Girl
Written by Ruth Ware
When I first began my reading adventure, I read a plethora of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell. If I’m being honest, I read so much of their works that I burnt myself out on reading anything they produced. Recently, I met up with a friend who has been an internet friend since we were fifteen years old! Serious, no joke! And we had to go to a bookstore to discuss our favorite books. One of the many recommendations was, The It Girl, and because I had burnt myself out on reading Ruth Ware so early on, I hadn’t even considered reading this novel. However, when it came time to order my Book of the Month box, I included it. Friends! This book was fantastic. It has all the thriller vibes my little literary heart needs and elements of dark academia, which is one of my favorite genres. It also kept me guessing right up to the end! I even text Kristin, saying OMG (BEEP). I was shook!
Taking Shape: Developing Halloween from Script to Scream
Written by Dustin McNeill and Travis Mullins
“Silver Shamrock. Thron. White Horses. It’s all here.”
Taking Shape: Developing Halloween from Script to Scream is an excellent Halloween series documentation. Well, at least from Halloween 1978 to Halloween 2018. I appreciated the work both McNeill and Mullins put into creating this book. And I loved all the behind-the-scenes interviews, especially interviews with the authors of the novelizations. It’s informative, fun, and horrific at times.
And yes, I loved it so much that I TOTALLY bought the sequel.