September 2020 Reading Wrap Up

September 30, 2020

September 2020 Reading Wrap Up

September 2020 Reading Wrap Up (a collage of book covers))

How was your September reading?

September was a fourteen book reading month with zero DNFs. I am happy to report five five-star reads, two four-star reads, four three-star reads, and three two-star reads. Find all my September reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books that were not for me. One star reads are usually shelved as DNF.

My favorite read of the month is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell simply because it made the greatest emotional impact.

Did we read any of the same books?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Titles are Amazon affiliate links and my available reviews are linked

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

4.5-5 Stars. Compelling, engaging, and emotional literary fiction.
My review of Hamnet here.

Transcendent Kingdom

4.5-5 Stars. An engaging and poignant family drama that reads like a memoir. My review of Transcendent Kingdom here.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

4.5-5 Stars. A mash up of light mystery, comedy, and drama in true Backman style. My review of Anxious People here.

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

4.5-5 Stars. Multi-generational heartfelt women’s fiction with likable characters and an inspiring theme. My review of The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett here.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

4.5-5 (MG) Stars. A reread of one of my very favorite middle grade historical fiction books (now I need to reread the sequel). Not yet reviewed.


Blog Audit Challenge 2020: September #blogauditchallenge2020

September 29, 2020

September’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions. Our county is off the state’s watch list due to a decrease in COVOD-19 cases. Hoping we can stay that way! Stay safe, blogging buddies!

September’s Challenge Focus: Developing Readership

Which is more important to develop readership, views or comments?

Over the last few months, the challenges have allowed me to improve content and design.

We looked at content gaps in August and now September’s challenge will focus on Developing Readership. We see our visitor and follower stats, but how do we know who is reading and engaging with our content? Is there a way to develop readership?

Our host for this challenge, suggests that comments help develop readership.

In my early days of blogging, I gradually grew braver in my ability to comment on the blogs I follow. I found that it started a conversation that was continued on my own blog as they reciprocated and commented on my blog. Gradually, I found blogs that I had a great deal in common with: 1. open to conversation, 2. enjoyment of similar genres, 3. perhaps in the same life stage/age group, 4. taking the connection one step further to share a post on Twitter, and 5. linking to each other’s content.

Commenting is one of the most practical ways to support your favorite blogger! Every comment brings me joy and is a tried and true strategy for developing readership and increasing engagement!

1. Optimize Comment System

  • In order for this to work, commenting needs to be easy. I’ve certainly experienced frustration in trying to comment on a blog post and it just won’t work for some reason. Commenting as a WordPress blogger on another WordPress blog is certainly the easiest. Although there is one WordPress blog I follow that I cannot comment on when I try and comment from the email notification. The comment appears to go through but it never shows up on her end. But when I comment from the WordPress Reader, my comment always goes through. I had about given up when I stumbled on the solution of using the WordPress Reader rather than my email for the point of origin.
  • Other times, I will enter all the required information to comment and the processing icon spins and spins and never seems to go through.
  • Sometimes, the blog will require you to sign in using FB, Twitter, or Google.
  • My tip for bloggers is to keep the commenting process as simple as possible! However, how do we know what the commenting process is like on our own blogs? Maybe an idea would be to set up a group of  ten random friends to make a comment on your blog and report back on the process.
  • If you have difficulty commenting on my blog, would you let me know?

2. Reply to All Comments


Hamnet [Book Review]

September 25, 2020

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (cover) Image: portrait of a young boy in a felt hat....a quill lies horizontally over his eyes

Genre/Categories: Historical and Biographical Literary Fiction, Family Life, Magical Realism

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

TW: Review mentions the death of a child.


Hamnet is set in 1580s Warwickshire, England and is the highly imagined story of William Shakespeare’s family, especially his son, Hamnet, and his wife, Agnes (Anne). It’s the story of a marriage and family. Shakespeare and Agnes had three children. It’s also a story of grief as we know from history that Hamnet dies. O’Farrell imagines that he might have died as a result of the 1550s plague. William Shakespeare is “off-stage” for the majority of the story and is never mentioned by name (referred to as husband, father, etc.). This centers Agnes (and the children) as the main character of the story and grief as the main theme. Agnes is a beautiful woman who has some supernatural gifts of healing with herbs, is entirely devoted to family, and frequently experiences glimpses into the future.

My Thoughts:


The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

September 24, 2020

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

A silhouette of two kids sitting in the branches of a large tree, one of them strums a guitar

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Music, Magical Realism, Fable

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by popular author Mitch Albom, a story about the power of music to change our lives…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

…in this life, everyone joins a band……

My Summary:

“Music is the narrator telling the story of Frankie Presto, a gifted guitar player and singer, who changes six lives with his six magical blue strings. Born under tragic circumstances, abandoned as an infant, and raised by a music teacher in a small Spanish town, Frankie is sent to America alone at nine years old with his prized guitar (and six magic strings). His life touches many famous musicians on his journey to become a pop star himself. Because Frankie is troubled by his childhood experiences and tortured by his biggest mistake, he drops out of sight to reconcile with his past. He reappears just before his death to change one last life.”

Continue here for my review of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

“I am Music. And Music is in the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words.”

QOTD: Have you read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto or is it on your TBR?

Fall 2020 TBR #toptentuesday

September 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2020 TBR

#TopTenTuesday Fall TBR (Image: white text over a background of colorful fall leaves)

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2020 TBR.

What is your most anticipated fall read?

With all the books that are on my radar on a given day, it’s nice to pick out a few for an official TBR. Ten still leaves room for library holds that come in, occasional ARCs, or some mood reading.

One question you may ask is “Are these spooky reads or thrillers?” Many readers have differing opinions of what comprises a fall read: some want spooky, some look for atmospheric, some seek out thrillers, while others like to tackle large tomes or serious content during the fall when they are spending more time sitting by the fire. It’s my opinion that any book you read in the fall is a fall read. For my fall reads, I look for the types of books I look for all year: memorable, thought-provoking, and unputdownable. So the answer to the question is NO….no thrillers or spooky reads because I just prefer not to read them.

The following two highly anticipated books were on my initial fall TBR list and then FOMO gripped me and I read them in early September! Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I highly recommend both of these 5 Star reads for your fall TBR.

Keep in mind that I’m not yet recommending the books on my fall TBR list…..check back often, though, because I will provide updates and links to reviews as I read them. For now, these are the reads that are on my fall 2020 reading radar.

I finished my Summer TBR just yesterday!

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

Fall 2020 TBR


Transcendent Kingdom [Book Review]

September 18, 2020

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (cover) Image: gold text over a light pink (top) and black (bottom) background

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Faith and Science, Drug Addiction, Ghana-American, Immigrant

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


While Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the multi-generational big picture of a family over three hundred years, Transcendent Kingdom is a microscopic look at one Ghanaian family in Alabama. Their son, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died from a heroin overdose as a result of being addicted to pain meds after an accident. Dad returns to Ghana and Mom becomes severely depressed. The beginning of the story finds the daughter, Gifty, at Standford Medical School studying depression and addiction as she desperately hopes to find answers that will help others in similar situations. At the same time Gifty studies the hard sciences she also questions her faith and the religious experiences of her childhood. This is a story of immigration, faith, science, questions, and family devotion.

My Thoughts:


The Music Shop [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

September 17, 2020

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop Review

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Music, Friendship

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of The Music Shop by favorite author Rachel Joyce, a story of friendship and music…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

…quirky character overcomes a difficult and turbulent past and takes risks to create a better life……

My Summary:

“Set in the 1980s on a run-down street in a forgotten suburb of London, there is a small indie music shop that is jam-packed with vinyl records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with the exact piece of music they never knew they needed, he welcomes the lonely, and he goes out of his way to help others. One ordinary day, a beautiful young woman in a green coat, Ilse Brauchmann, comes into his music shop and changes his life. Frank feels an attraction to her and yet he fears developing any closeness; in spite of his reservations, he begins to teach her about music and they develop a close friendship based on their common musical interests. Frank is terrified of his feelings for Ilse, yet he’s drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. It’s complicated because Ilse has secrets and Frank has a past that haunts him. Readers find out about Frank’s life with his eccentric mother through flashbacks; however, Ilse remains mysterious. While Frank and Ilse contemplate the risks of a relationship, there are events in the community that threaten the livelihood of all the small, independent shops including Frank’s music shop. A further complication for Frank is the growing popularity of cassette tapes and CDs while Frank cherishes the world of vinyl.

In The Music Shop, Frank’s greatest gift is the ability to listen, his greatest heartache is his devotion to and preservation of vinyl, and his greatest fear is having what he most wants…the love of mysterious Ilse.”

Continue here for my review of The Music Shop

QOTD: Have you read The Music Shop or is it on your TBR?

Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, an American Daughter [Book Review]

September 15, 2020

Family in Six Tones by Lan Cao and Harlan Margaret Van Cao

Family in Six Tones by Lan Cao (cover) Image: a mom holding a young girl

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, Refugee, Vietnamese American, Vietnam War, Mother/Daughter

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Thanks, #Netgalley #PenguinBooks @FSBassociates @AnnaSacca for a complimentary e ARC of #FamilyinSixTones for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lan Cao escaped Viet Nam (and the Vietnam War) as a refugee when she was a child. The sacrificial love of her parents and the hopes they had for her future caused them to put her on a plane alone to travel to America to live with a distant relative. Leaving Viet Nam was traumatic and adjusting to a new family and culture added to the trauma, especially since she thought she was going on a brief vacation. Lan endures extreme culture shock (it’s especially sad that she can’t figure out how to open her milk carton at lunch), completes school, becomes a lawyer, marries, and has a child. Her daughter, Harlan, navigates two cultures and rails against her mom’s overprotectiveness. In this memoir, we hear both perspectives. As we understand that Lan’s fearfulness for her daughter is the result of her own childhood trauma, we also sympathize with Harlan and her need to fit into her American culture and be allowed some freedom. This is an “own voices” story of loss, trauma, a mother/daughter relationship, and the refugee experience.

My Thoughts:


Books With Grandparents As Important Characters #grandparentsday

September 13, 2020

Books With Grandparents As Important Characters #grandparentsday

Books With Grandparents As Important Characters (Image: a young boy and a grandfather walk through the woods with backs to camera)

Do you have or did you have a special relationship with a grandparent?

I love family-centered stories and especially ones that include grandparents!

Several countries around the world celebrate Grandparents Day on a variety of dates….this Wikipedia post lists some of the countries and dates.

Happy Grandparents Day text with blue hearts

forget-me-not flowers

Forget-me-not flowers are associated with National Grandparents Day.

Today, September 13 is National Grandparents Day in the United States. To celebrate, I’ve collected several books which feature grandparents (or grandparent-like figures) as main characters.  Do you have a title to add to this list?

Call or write a note to your grandparent today!

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.


Anxious People [Book Review]

September 11, 2020

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a man and woman stand with backs to the camera on a balcony looking into the distance

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Literary Fiction

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Anxious People is the story of a bank robber and a group of hostages at an open house…a bunch of idiots, really (in the most endearing sense of the word). But the real story behind the circumstances is about a bridge and so much more.

My Thoughts: