Monday, October 30, 2023

Mini Book Reviews: October 2023

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I received an ARC of Resilient from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

Sometimes my book choices are dictated by what lands in my library inbox. Other times, I might get a NetGalley prerelease to review that I really want to read. Such was the case this month. My favorite read of the month was the eye-opening autobiography How to Say Babylon. If you've read Educated, The Sound of Gravel, or The Glass Castle, you'll find similarities in the telling of a tale of growing up in a dysfunctional and authoritarian household. It's been a while since I've read these books, yet they have stuck with me. I find it amazing how these authors have emerged from their childhoods as productive adults. 

Hopefully you will find something here to interest you!

As an athlete who does CrossFit as part of my fitness regimen, I have been intrigued by the CrossFit culture for years. The athletes I work out next to in the gym are some of the toughest people I know. Brooke Wells, a top CrossFit athlete, made a name for herself at age 19 by winning a competition. Resilient is the story of a horrendous injury and her journey back to the top of her sport. Her determination to return to competition after what should have been a career-ending injury was admirable. This is a quick read--I found myself having difficulty putting it down! Although there is a lot of CrossFit terminology, even non-athletes will find plenty of inspiration in her story. I wish her the best of luck going forward! To be released on January 16, 2024.

What a great premise for a story! A young woman, who tutors a popular guy in high school, ends up pregnant with his baby and delivers the baby on prom night. The baby dies and the nickname Prom Mom sticks with her as she is charged with murder. Fast forward to years later as you knew it would and yep, shenanigans are afoot. The story is all over the place and just when I thought it was moving forward in one direction, it veered off into another. The story was full of superfluous details about the pandemic and it almost felt like padding to me. To truly make this a page-turning thriller, I would have loved the narrative to be tightened up. It was just ok for me.

A young man returns to India to meet a young woman who plans to give up her baby for adoption; he and his American wife have been unable to conceive. Once he arrives, he learns that his estranged mother is very ill. He visits her in the hospital and over time, they reconnect. Family secrets unfold and the young man is forced to confront his past...and his mother. I've always loved Thrity Umrigar's books. While The Museum of Failures was not my favorite--it was a little melodramatic for me and kind of dragged in the middle--it was an enjoyable read.  

When you think of Jamaica and Rastafarian culture, what comes to mind? Tropical breezes, white sandy beaches, and good times? I admit I knew very little about what it meant to be Rastafarian until I read How to Say Babylon. The author shares her story of growing up with a devout Rastafari father who became more extreme as the years went by. He was opposed to all things 'Babylon', but wasn't too proud to take advantage of the benefits that came his way, including privileged education for his children. He was authoritarian and abusive. The saving grace was the author's mother, a kind woman who was a buffer between the father and the children. This is a coming-of-age memoir that at times was hard to read, but because of the author's beautiful poetic prose, was difficult to put down. Highly recommended.

A woman runs away to the high desert of California to escape her life. She checks in at a Best Western, which features prominently in this irreverent, weird, wild, existential novel. Death Valley is a short, quick read, but the story really picks up about halfway through, when she gets lost in the desert. She finds a giant cactus, enters it, and has an experience that sounds like an acid trip. When she later returns to find the cactus again, she travels down a trail deep into the desert, falls down a mountain, runs out of's quite the adventure. There's a lot to unpack for such a short book. This could be a good book club book for the right group of readers. So much to think about!

Have you read any of these books? What have you read lately? I have read a few different genres this month. What is your favorite genre of book?


  1. Always love this post... though this time I'm not sure anything grabs me.

    Just finished Did you hear about Kitty Karr? Not sure I liked it but I kept it up until the finish.

    I'm starting The secret life of sunflowers.

    I like mysteries, romances, historical fiction...

  2. Just put the Babylon book on hold at the library. I love a good memoir and Glass Castle remains one of my favorite books. Love your reviews!

  3. Quite an eclectic collection of books! Doesn’t sound like you really liked any of them. I just finished “None of this is true” so good if you like twisty thrillers. Currently reading “the exchange” which is the Grisham follow up to The Firm I am enjoying it.

  4. I do like the sound of "Resilient"! I'm always on the lookout for inspiring books and this Crossfit one sounds just right! (Especially after this morning's overhead squats....).
    Thanks, Wendy!

  5. Thank you for this interesting review.
    I like to know new books to read.
    Resilient sounds very inspiring.

  6. Resilient sounds like a super interesting read! I'll be on the lookout when it's released in January.

  7. Thanks for the review! This is a variety of books to add to my list. I had no idea what Rastafarian meant and had to look it up. I think How to say Babylon and Resilient are the most interesting ones.