What I read in August

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (★★★☆☆)

This book has really high reviews and I wanted to like it, but as so often with books that touch on a serious subject, it didn’t go deep enough for me. I was expecting something more, … different…? I don’t know. The story was a little disjointed and random at points and I had a hard time getting really invested in any of the characters, most of all Ruth’s father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, who should have been the person towards which I should have felt the most emotions.

Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple (★★★☆☆)

Another book that didn’t live up to the hype for me. Soooo many of my friends gave this book 4 or 5 stars, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. I honestly didn’t know, and still don’t understand, where this whole story was going or what the point of it was. Can someone explain? I did give it three stars, because I – apparently – finished it and was temporarily intrigued here and there, but overall? What was the point of this book?

Marlena by Julie Buntin (★★★★☆)

This was a captivating story about friendship between two teenage girls, Cat and Marlena, whose characters couldn’t have been more different. It’s a story about bonding, peer pressure, and coming of age. I really enjoyed the story, told in retrospect, by Cat as a grown woman as she’s trying to make sense of her unlikely and short-lived friendship with Marlena. The book touches on a lot of societal problems, especially such in rural America. Addiction, poverty, loss. The only reason that I subtracted a star, is that the narrator jumps back and forth between past and present and sometimes I was a bit confused or felt like I missed a piece of information that was eventually revealed in a later chapter, which made it tough to follow at times, but it’s definitely a book I would recommend you read!

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman.(★★★★☆)

There was a lot, a lot that I liked about this book, but there also was a lot of eye-rolling… and worst of all, I was suspecting the whole time that this book was about mental illness (which – spoiler alert – it didn’t really turn out to be) and it had me preemptively hold this grudge towards the story (because the whole time I felt it didn’t do such a heavy topic justice).
I also felt that Eleanor’s (mostly lovable) quirks seemed a little bit TOO unrealistic for this day and age. (Do foster kids really not know how to use a cellphone or a computer? Do they not know how to behave at all in a social situation, or when they go to a restaurant/bar? Eleanor also seemed excessively naive for a 30-year old woman who after all had navigated foster care, managed to go to university, and had already worked many years in an administrative job.
Oh, and did I mention she’s disfigured and has scars all over her face?  Do they not have counselors for traumatized foster kids? If they do, they didn’t do a very good job. She apparently figured out how to drink on weekends to shut out the outside world.)

Ok, I stop ranting or else you start wondering why I still gave this book four stars, because despite all that criticism, I ended up liking Eleanor’s character quite a bit and I was rooting for her and Raymond throughout the whole book. I was hoping she’d be able to change, to open herself up, to work through her issues, and come out on top. I was also relieved to find out that the book wasn’t supposed to be primarily about mental illness.

Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (★★★★☆)

I am not a huge YA literature fan, but some part of me really enjoyed this book, because it had such a positive message. Yes, it was a little bit ‘too good to be true’ and I felt like juxtaposing popular Jack’s prosopagnosia (face-blindness) and outsider Libby’s problems of being an obese teenager (each of which could have been the center of its own story and there would have been plenty to write about) almost a bit too much. The story was also riddled with common high school stereotypes. It was almost not believable that these two characters would end up not just finding respect for each other, but falling in love with each other.

Still, the way the story unfolded and how the lives of these two teenagers were interwoven from the beginning was heart-warming and gave me so much hope. I also thought Niven’s writing to be excellent.

What was your favorite book this month? Leave a comment, and then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch.

  1. I liked Bernadette but it wasn’t a favorite for me…. the story itself was just odd!

    1. Yeah, I mean… I obviously finished it, so I didn’t hate it completely… but I guess, I just didn’t get the point of it all.

  2. I went back and looked at my review of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and it turns out I gave it 5 stars! I didn’t remember loving it that much but I guess I did. I think I liked the quirkiness of the writing style. But it is definitely a bit ‘out there’ and not for everyone! I can’t remember why I liked it so much. But I haven’t read the author’s next book as I have heard it’s disappointing.

    I almost got “Goodbye, Vitamin” when it was a Book of the Month Club selection, but chose something else and now I am glad I didn’t get it based on your review. I am reading “Marlena” right now, as you know, and am really really enjoying it. It does not read like a debut novel IMO.

    My favorite book this month was Pachinko, which was another BOTM club selection. The rest of my reading was pretty ‘meh’ so here’s hoping September is a better month for reading (although I started off with a 2-star book – womp womp).

    1. I think I remember seeing that you (and some others) gave Bernadette 5 stars, so I was very intrigued to read it… but it was just all over the place for me. I didn’t know what the point was at the end.

      I can’t wait to hear what you think about Marlena!

  3. Marlena sounds interesting!

  4. So funny story, I read Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different and didn’t get the hype of that book either! Everyone says Bernadette was better, but I get the feeling that maybe her writing style is just not for me. I am in the middle of The Immortal Life of Henreitta Lacks and it’s fascinating.

    1. Oh, I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks at the beginning of this year and it was very fascinating indeed.

  5. The only one I’ve read on this list is the Bernadette one, and I didn’t understand the hype either. It was actually a bit annoying. I’m glad you found a few you liked, and I will be adding them to my list. I read Three Wishes and it was a great summer read.

    1. Glad I am not the only one who thought Bernadette was odd ;)

  6. Sounds like a diverse collection of books. It tends to bum me out when a book is three stars or less, but I’m glad you had some four stars in there, too! I’ve never read any of these.

    1. I know, I hate giving three (or less) stars to a book… but I just couldn’t justify more.

  7. I think that I am going to order Marlena for my niece. We are in our own little book club but I have a hard time finding appropriate books for a 16 year old that we will both like.

    1. That might be a good choice!

  8. Helpful reviews. I’m starting two new books soon and always look for more titles. Thanks.

    1. What are you reading right now? I am adding books all the time ;)

      1. I’m starting two novels by the same author (Alissa Nutting). Her latest book (“Made For Love”) was just raved about in last week’s New York Times. She also wrote an earlier book called “Tampa.” Nutting teaches creative writing at a university in Ohio.

  9. Bernadette has been on my list of books to read for awhile, but for some reason I haven’t picked it up. I’ve seen enough reviews like yours that I think I’m fine not reading it for awhile unless I run out of things to read. (Which will probably never happen!)

    I think my favorite book from August was Dark Saturday by Nicci French. I need to do a review on it soon, but I’ve been in the mood for thrillers lately so I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the best I’ve read and moved a little slowly at times, but it was still a good read.

    1. Who ever runs out of stuff to read??? ;)

  10. I am curious to read something by Jennifer Niven. I really love YA but I’ve never gotten around to her! Sorry you didn’t have too many WOW books last month, but thanks for sharing!


    1. Her writing is excellent. I haven’t read any more of her books, but I want to.

  11. I hate when I start a book because of the hype and it doesn’t live up to expectations. I’ve heard of a few on this list, but haven’t read any of them yet… Adding Eleanor Oliphant and Holding up the Universe to my must-read books list! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. I hate that too… but I’ve found that just because other people love a book doesn’t mean I will love… but you can only find out if you try ;)

  12. Aw, that’s a bummer that you didn’t like Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I adored that book and I loved the quirkiness of it. It’s one of my go-to recommendations, but I can understand that her writing style isn’t for everyone.

    My favorite book from August was Evicted – one of the most important nonfiction books I’ve ever read. It was a HARD read and not enjoyable in the least, but so, so important to understand the cycle of poverty.

    1. I think I saw that you gave Bernadette a high rating too. I just couldn’t get into the story I guess… there was too much “oddness” about it.

      I put Evicted on my to-read list… it’s one of those books that probably isn’t ‘fun’, but worthwhile.

  13. I wish I could explain why I liked Where’d you go Bernadette so much. I was just charmed by it, maybe? It was ridiculous and cute and I just liked it, I guess.

    I’m now reading A Little Life, and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a book that everyone seemed to love, but I’m not hooked yet and I’m 100 pages in, so we’ll see, I guess.

    1. I wish you could explain it to me, too *haha* I wanted to like it, but it was just all over the place for me…

  14. I loved Bernadette! I think her book touches on the thoughts I have very often, on how weird some things are.

    This month I loved Why we Broke UP by Daniel Handler.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Ana!

Comments are closed.