September 2023 Reading Wrap-Up

Welcome, book lovers!

I hope you had a great start to the fall season.

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.

Well, this month went right off the rails with my reading plans. I didn’t expect the month to turn out the way that it did, and I didn’t get to a lot of the books that were on my physical TBR list that I spoke about at the beginning of the month, which was a little disappointing. But I own them, so no worries. I’ll be able to read them any time that I want. 

However, I had another incredible reading month and read an astounding 35 books! This has been my largest amount of the year so far. I read four physical books, listened to three audiobooks, read six graphic novels, and read 22 ARCs from NetGalley (14 of those were kids’ picture books). I will post a separate episode/blog for the graphic novels and NetGalley books.

I also finally experienced my first professionally produced audiobook because I finally signed up for a digital library card with my local library. So now I can use the app Libby on my iPad and read and listen to library books. I’m now addicted to audiobooks, and I’m checking to see if all the books that I want to read are in this format. Not all are offered through my library, but many are, which makes me so happy. Unfortunately, the waitlists for many popular titles are super long. I’ve used up all my holds, hoping some will become available next month or in November. I did check to see if any of the books I wanted to read this month were available and none of them were. So maybe down the road, I can tandem read and listen to those books.

But, I finally gave in to the library because my credit cards have been taking a beating these past six months, and I really need to slow down on the buying. It’s really an addiction at this point. But also, I really hate wasting my money on books that aren’t good. So it’ll help to test out some books via the library instead of buying them. I think with some of the titles that I’m really on the fence about, it’ll be good to get through Libby. Then, if I really like it and want to add it to my physical collection, then I can buy it down the road.

I also learned about the discount online bookstore, Book Outlet. They have some amazing deals on used and new books. I have probably saved 60%-70% of what I normally pay on Amazon, and they have a pretty wide selection of popular books. If you’re interested in checking them out, use my link HERE to save $5 off your first order of $25+.

September Reading Wrap-Up

These books are listed from my least favorite to my most favorite of the month.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

My GR Rating: 3
Genre: Horror | Thriller
GR Nominee for Best Horror (2020)
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

My Brief Review: This was my first Grady Hendrix book, and I know there is a lot of hype around this author, so I was excited to finally read one of his books. I thought his writing was top-notch. He’s very engaging with his prose. It’s not lyrical, but it is immersive and charismatic. The atmosphere was creepy and eerie. I did get those unsettling and slightly disturbed feelings while reading this book. It wasn’t very scary as far as horror goes though. I’ve seen many, many horror movies, and this was pretty tame, which was a bit disappointing. However, there is some gore and pretty gross scenes. If you don’t like rats, bugs, or blood, then you may get a bit squeamish while reading this story. There is also some body horror.  

Unfortunately, as for the story itself, it left much to be desired for me. I was pretty disappointed in it. I felt the title was a bit deceiving because I thought it was going to be about some badass women in a book club that fights vampires, almost like a more mature Buffy or something. But it wasn’t anything like that. I enjoyed learning about the women of this southern book club. They each had distinct personalities with their own voices. But I wish we got more of them together. We see them meeting for book club in the beginning, but then we don’t see the group much until toward the end. I wanted to see more of the friendships and dynamics between all the women. It all felt very surface-level from what we got, and I wanted more depth. 

The other big letdown was the vampire element. This is NOT a vampire story. It’s a story with a vampire in it. There is a big difference. We don’t see much of the vampire, and when we do, he’s just acting and behaving like a normal guy. We don’t see many scenes with him as the blood-sucking creature he is. It’s a more subtle vampire story, where he’s lurking in the shadows, being strategic with the victims he takes, and we don’t get a lot of vampirism. This take on a vampire was not at all what I was expecting, which was a big letdown. 

I enjoyed the southern setting, but couldn’t relate to it since I’m not from the south. But it had that southern charm we all think about when a story is set in the South. It’s also set in the 1990s, which was an interesting choice. I felt like the author had something to say about this time period because there is definitely commentary on race, gender, marital roles, housewife stereotypes, and economic status. It did feel a little preachy at times, which took me out of the story and made me roll my eyes. I don’t like being lectured in my entertainment. 

Overall, it was just okay for me. It felt a little long when it didn’t need to be. I never got that bored with it, but the pacing could’ve been a bit better because it did drag on for a bit in the middle. It is a slow burn, and the story didn’t go where I thought it would, so it was a letdown for me. There is also a time jump that feels out of place and disjointed. 

For my first impression of this author, I was not impressed. I hope his other books are a bit better, and I do plan on trying a couple more of his books.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy | Classic
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

My Brief Review: This is a rare case where the movie is far superior to the book. I watched the movie first and that may have been to my own detriment. Maybe I should’ve read the book first because the book is extremely different from the movie. However, I was expecting it to be different because I heard from other reviewers that it was. But I wasn’t expecting it to be as different as it was. 

That being said, it is a cute, sweet, and cozy story. The world-building was very immersive and engaging. I loved the concept of a moving castle. I also liked the door that led to different places, like a portal. The setting definitely gives off an eerie and unsettling feeling but in a good way. All of the different characters and creatures were interesting. I loved Sophie, Michael, and Calcifer, but didn’t really care for Howl. I thought he was a snobby, smug, arrogant wizard who was selfish, self-centered, and such a drama queen. He didn’t have many redeeming qualities to me, so I couldn’t understand why Sophie wanted to stay with him. But she had a kind soul and looked after everyone like a nurturing mother. I loved the found family element. I wished there was more build-up to the love story because we don’t really get that in the book.

However, it did drag on longer than I thought it needed to be. This took me almost an entire month to read because I was losing interest in it, and it was getting boring in the middle. But I powered through because I wanted to see how it would end, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a little anticlimactic, but it was still a sweet, satisfying ending. There is a lot of magic in it, which I appreciate. 

It is a very creative and imaginative but strange and bizarre story. At times, it was a little too weird for me, and I was confused. But it was pretty funny and endearing. 

It’s part of a trilogy. I’m not sure if I will read the other two. I may borrow the audiobooks from the library and give them a try. I am curious to read more from this author.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

My GR Rating: 4
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
GR Winner for Best Mystery & Thriller (2020)
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

My Brief Review: This was a solid mystery thriller book. It’s not been my favorite of what I’ve read in this genre so far, but it was good. I listened to the audiobook, and it was done really well. There was an entire cast to narrate all the different POVs because this is told from multiple characters. It’s also a past/present dual timeline. There is a murder on the wedding day, but then we get scenes from days before leading up to the event as well as pasts from the characters. 

This started off slow for me, so I will say it is a bit of a slow burn. There is a lot of tension and conflict built up between the characters, which adds a nice suspense and mystery to the story. For most of the book, we know someone was killed but we’re trying to figure out who died, who killed them, and then why. As the story unfolded and we learned more information about people and the things that happened in the past, I began to figure out what was going on. I had some good guesses that turned out to be true. So while I wouldn’t say this is predictable, it does fit a formula that I figured out as I was listening to the book. So the big reveal at the end didn’t take me by that much surprise because I had deduced it ahead of time. But it was still a good mystery to solve. With all the different characters, it felt a bit like the board or movie, Clue. We have all these suspects with motives to kill, lots of lies and secrets between everyone, and a mystery to solve, so that was fun. 

As for the characters, there were a few that were likable but many were not. There was also a lot of gossip, petty drama, and childish, immature behavior, especially from the groomsmen. I found it all a bit annoying. However, all of the main characters had distinct personalities and voices, so if I had not been listening to the audiobook and actually reading the book, I still would have known who was who. It wasn’t confusing to keep everyone straight. And by the end, it all makes sense and fits together perfectly, like a puzzle. We get glimpses of each character, but it doesn’t go too in-depth with each person, but overall, it’s a pretty rich description of every one. 

I also enjoyed the setting of this story. We’re on a remote Irish island that gave me gothic vibes. It’s eerie. It’s creepy and a bit spooky. The weather is bad, so that adds some stress and tension. There are rocky cliffs, caves, and difficult terrain, the electricity goes out, and the internet connection goes in and out. So the circumstances that everyone finds themselves in with these frustrating conditions add to the unsettling feelings that build throughout the book. It’s very atmospheric. 

One thing that bothered me was the amount of foul language used in this book. It felt like lazy writing from the author and unnecessary. There is also one steamy scene but it isn’t graphic. I don’t need this in my thrillers. Also, trigger warnings for cutting, thoughts of suicide, and abortion. I will try another book or two by this author.

None of This is True by Lisa Jewell

My GR Rating: 4 (4.5)
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?

My Brief Review: This is my second Lisa Jewell book, and I can now say that I’m definitely a fan and want to read her entire backlist. I think she may be an auto-buy author for me now. Even though I haven’t quite hit that five-star book from her yet, both of the books that I have read have come very, very close. She’s a brilliant writer and knows how to engage and immerse her readers into her clever and twisty stories. 

This is another mystery thriller that takes you on a wild ride through the London area. This is a dual-perspective book from our two main female protagonists, Alix and Josie. We see these two strangers meet and form this odd relationship with each other. Jewell writes this story in such a captivating way that we get an intimate look into the psyches of both of these ladies, and they feel relatable. I found myself with conflicted feelings about both of them because, on one level, I could absolutely feel compassion and empathy for them. We see their strengths and their vulnerabilities. But then on another level, I was disgusted and horrified, especially as more and more information was revealed to us. It definitely takes you on an emotional rollercoaster where you don’t know how to feel. But her writing draws you in where you feel close to the characters but you also get that dreadful, eerie feeling. It felt a bit atmospheric at times, and it definitely reminded me that I was reading a mystery thriller because there was always this underlying unnerving, disturbing feeling that crept up throughout it. 

The whole story is chilling and bizarre but in the best ways possible. You don’t really know what’s going on and try to piece the puzzle together as you read it. All of the characters are unreliable. The entire time, I kept guessing scenarios of what was really going on. There were many twists and turns, and at times, I didn’t know what to believe, who to believe, or what was really happening. It’s definitely a mindbender and will leave you pondering things even after you’re done with the book. 

Also woven intricately throughout the narrative is a fun, unique element of blending clips of a Netflix documentary with clips of Alix’s podcast. I felt like it helped to reveal more information to the reader, helped to foreshadow what was coming up next, and it helped to break up the narrative and keep the reader alert as well as entertained because it really did read like I was watching a documentary.  

If you’re looking for a riveting, unsettling psychological thriller that keeps you guessing and turning the pages until the very end, then you must pick this book up. Highly recommend it!

Dear Henry, Love Edith by Becca Kinzer

My GR Rating: 5
Genre: Modern Romance (clean) | Christian Fiction
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: After a short and difficult marriage, recently widowed Edith Sherman has learned her lesson. Forget love. Forget marriage. She plans to fill her thirties with adventure. As she awaits the final paperwork for a humanitarian trip to South Africa, she accepts a short-term nursing position in a small Midwestern town. The last thing she needs is a handsome local catching her eye. How inconvenient is that?

Henry Hobbes isn’t exactly thrilled to have Edith, who he assumes is an elderly widow, dumped on him as a houseguest for the summer. But he’d do almost anything for his niece, who is practically like a sister to him given how close they are in age. Especially since Edith will be working nights and Henry works most days. When he and Edith keep missing each other in person, they begin exchanging notes–short messages at first, then longer letters, sharing increasingly personal parts of their lives.

By the time Henry realizes his mistake–that Edith is actually the brown-eyed beauty he keeps bumping into around town–their hearts are so intertwined he hopes they never unravel. But with her departure date rapidly approaching, and Henry’s roots firmly planted at home, Edith must ultimately decide if the adventure of her dreams is the one right in front of her.

My Brief Review: THIS book!! It has my entire heart!! This is the first modern romance book that I have given five stars. It’s so sweet, charming, and heartwarming. It has been the BEST romance book I’ve read to date!

I loved the concept of two people misidentifying each other, yet they would see each other around town but never knew who the other person was…and they lived under the same roof! This was not just a cute story, it was also hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud many times. I loved the miscommunication trope that happens throughout the entire story. There were such funny situations that the main characters found themselves in. It is a dual POV between Edith and Henry, so it was fun to get each of their perspectives about the other, especially when they each thought the other was an older person. 

But overall, I found them to have great chemistry together. They are both likable, relatable characters. The banter was wonderful. The pacing of the story was perfect. I found myself grinning from ear to ear the entire time. It made my heart so happy. It’s a predictable romcom, but I didn’t care because I was having such a good time with it. I couldn’t put this book down and read it in about two days.

I also enjoyed how the town and its residents played a role in this story. You definitely get the small town vibes, which were so cozy. It reminded me of the town of Middleton from the TV series, Good Witch. We meet many of the nosy residents who start to meddle and gossip about their relationship. There are some quirky yet lovable side characters that make the story even cuter. 

I also appreciated that there wasn’t any language or spicy scenes. Yet, another writer who has proven you can write an amazing love story without the smut.

One thing that left me a little disappointed was the lack of faith elements in this book. It’s labeled as a Christian romance, but there is hardly any faith in it. I wouldn’t even know unless I saw the label. There were a few mentions of God, but we don’t see any spiritual awakening or change in their spiritual backgrounds. I wish there was a little more faith in it. 

I think this would make a great movie adaptation, even if only on the Hallmark channel. It’s so adorable, wholesome, and comforting. 

I highly, highly recommend this book!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

My GR Rating: 5
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
GR Nominee for Best Mystery & Thriller (2021)
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Think you know the person you married? Think again…

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.

Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

My Brief Review: This has been the BEST mystery/thriller that I’ve read so far. I listened to the audio by Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine, who both did a fabulous job of narrating this story. Now, I want to buy this book to add to my physical collection. 

At first, I thought it was just an interesting domestic thriller, but then it turned into an absolute mindbender of a psychological thriller. I did not expect or see any of the twists and turns, and there are a lot. I was quite surprised by how twisty it got. BUT, the big reveal….WHAT?!?! 

We are in three POVs – the husband, the wife, and a woman who lives in a cottage near the chapel where the couple is staying. So we are inside all of their minds and see the different perspectives each one has about the present and the past. This is a dual past/present timeline, and is very interesting to see things play out from the two time periods. Alice Feeney did an amazing job of weaving this web of lies, deceit, and betrayal, and we are taken on such an unexpected yet thrilling wild ride. 

At first glance, it seems like it’s just a couple having some marital problems, but there is so much more to their story and their pasts. The problems they were having as a married couple felt extremely relatable. The characters, especially the wife, also felt very relatable. She is a lonely wife who feels neglected by her husband and upset by some infertility problems they are having. When she lashes out, it’s because she’s severely hurt by his actions or lack thereof. She deals with anxiety and abandonment issues. But then, the husband sees her in a completely different way. He thinks she’s selfish and unsupportive, but really, it’s self-preservation from childhood trauma. They both have trust issues and feel resentment toward each other. They are definitely keeping secrets from one another, and trying to unravel this story was a lot of fun. 

I also liked how the wife writes letters to her husband every anniversary but never gives them to him. It’s more for therapeutic reasons she’s doing it as her frustrations toward him grow. We get more insight into their marital woes through these letters, which is interesting. The face blindness that the husband has is also a fascinating element. I have heard of this disease, but to see and understand how it affects someone was really captivating. Plus, it does play a part in the story. 

The setting of the Scottish highlands in a remote area during a snowstorm adds to the suspense and builds tension in the story. This old, rundown chapel is creepy and eerie with its own history. The atmosphere definitely leaves you feeling unsettled and slightly disturbed.

Everything comes together perfectly in the end. It’s so well-written and crafted beautifully. I highly, highly recommend this one!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

My GR Rating: 5
Genre: Historical Romance | Fantasy Romance
GR Nominee for Best Fantasy (2020)
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

My Brief Review: WOW! Just…wow! This was hands down my favorite book of the month. I think it may also be one of my all-time favorites, and it’s now vying for book of the year for me.  

This was also my first audiobook, and I was blown away. It has made me a fan of audiobooks now. I really think it comes down to the narrator. If you have a good one, then they are easy to listen to. Julia Whelan was AMAZING. Her voice was soft and silky yet sultry and alluring. I heard her voice in my head whenever I read anything long after I had listened to this audiobook, which was pretty long, around 17 hours, but it was SO worth it. 

The writing style is absolutely beautiful. If you enjoy lush, lyrical prose, you will fall in love with the author’s writing style. She knows how to immerse you into this world. There are a lot of descriptions and it immediately hooks you into her world. It’s so compelling and engaging. It was just a beautiful experience. 

This story is incredible. It’s clever and thought-provoking. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s depressing yet hopeful. It’s creative and captivating. It’s part fantasy, part historical fiction, and part love story. It’s such a fascinating journey of this woman spanning over 300 years and the things she had to endure because of this curse. We get inside her head and her heart and become connected to the character as she struggles through this immortal life. 

I really liked Addie and felt so much compassion and empathy for how she was feeling and what she was thinking. Many times, I just wanted to reach through the pages and give her a big hug. There were definitely some tears shed during this story because it is very emotional at times. It also made me more introspective, thinking about my own life and what I would do if I were in her situation. 

It is a long book and felt a tiny bit tedious at times, but I was never bored and it flowed very well. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next and kept wondering how this could possibly end in a satisfying way, which it absolutely did. It shows a very human experience and is very relatable. I think there are many lessons you can learn from this story. 

I would love to see this adapted into a series or movie one day. Though I don’t think the screen can capture as much of the emotions, thoughts, and feelings as the book, I still think it could be an interesting watch. 

I see now why this is a popular book and why many people are still talking about it, years after its release. If you haven’t read it, I highly, highly recommend it, especially via audio. It’s not just a story, it’s an experience!


Well, there you have it. That was my wild, highly unexpected reading month. Even though it went way off course from what I had originally planned, I still had some amazing reads and great experiences. But for October, I do plan to stick to my planned TBR list because I have some highly anticipated books that I really, really want to read. So watch for that episode coming very soon. And again, I will have a bonus wrap-up episode coming soon with all the graphic novels and ARCs that I read this month. 

I’m really excited to continue reading seasonal books for this time of year. It’s so much fun, and it just puts me in such a happy, giddy mood. I hope you find some great reads this fall season. 

Until next time, my story lovers, happy reading!

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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