One-Woman Book Club: October


It rained a few times during October, which made reading indoors even more fun and cozy than usual. I loved most of the books I read this month, but for the first time since I started this series, I have a couple less than glowing reviews to dole out.

Despite that fact, I hope you still find some inspiration to take from it!

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Glennon Doyle Melton is the woman behind the hugely popular blog Momastery, which covers life, love, relationships, and parenthood. Her book is no different. It’s a memoir where she talks about her upbringing, her early experimentation with bulimia, her later alcoholism, her unexpected pregnancy, and her lukewarm marriage.  

If that sounds depressing, well, it sort of is. But it’s also extremely inspiring and incredibly redeeming. Glennon writes beautifully, with simple, vivid descriptions and relatable yet profound insights. She’s a sharp, self-aware, highly sensitive, and very emotional person. If you tend to roll your eyes at those types of people and the epiphanies they have about life and love, this book may not be for you.

It explores the dark sides of ourselves we all struggle with, but also demonstrates — through the way Glennon overcomes her many personal battles and crises — how important is it to love yourself and rely on your own strength to carry you forward in times of difficulty.

I really loved this book. It was powerful and engrossing. How revelatory you find the message will, I think, depend on your familiarity with self-development concepts and your own personal history with practicing self-love and mindfulness. But regardless, I think there are beautiful nuggets of insight everyone can take from her story. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood to read a story about how a lost, broken woman empowered herself to become her own warrior. 

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

I picked this book because I was head over heels in love with Paula McLain’s first book, The Paris Wife, plus I love a good historical fiction novel.

This one tells the story of Beryl Markham, an English woman raised in Kenya. She was a professional horse trainer, mother, author, aviator, and certified badass, but what she’s most known for is her status as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. I assumed the book would focus mostly on her flying career, but it barely touched on that. Instead, it covers her childhood and young adulthood, exploring the ups and downs that shaped her into the person she was right before she developed an interest in flying.

The descriptions of Kenya are stunning, and the characters are intriguing, wild, and a bit Gatsby-like in that 1920s “Let’s spend our money on dressy clothes and booze and parties” kind of way. There’s also a fascinating love triangle that keeps you curious throughout the story.

But what I loved most, even more than McLain’s elegant, vivid writing, was Beryl herself. She’s independent, fierce, self-sufficient, courageous, and extremely smart. She makes some questionable choices with men under the pressure of society in that time period, but overall she’s seriously powerful and ambitious.

It was a lovely, compelling read and I highly recommend it.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

This book is about Joe, a college student struggling to pay his way through school and care for his autistic brother, who decides to interview a dying elderly man named Carl for an English assignment. The catch? Carl is a convicted murderer. Cue the dramatic music.

What follows is a twisted story about murder and sacrifice and redemption and the distances people travel to cover up their most shameful secrets.

It’s suspenseful, well-written, and compulsively readable. The only issue I had was with how soon the main plot twist was revealed, which was about a third of the way through the book, maybe even a little earlier. There are a few other twists and turns that happen afterward, but they don’t seem as shocking. I still couldn’t put it down, though.

The story takes place in Minnesota during November and December, so everything is snowy and bleak and freezing, which somehow made it more fun to read during fall in Southern California. If you want a good mystery to get into as you cozy up this fall or winter, pick this one.

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

Oh, Ann Patchett. I can’t quit you. I picked this book solely because I’ve loved the past few Ann Patchett novels I’ve read (see here and here) and I assumed this one would be no different.

Unfortunately, it was. I wanted so much to adore this book, but it fell flat for me. It tells the real life story of Ann’s friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy, who died in 2002 of a heroin overdose. Lucy is known, if not for her poetry and her memoir Autobiography of a Face, for her battle with jaw cancer and the subsequent grueling thirty-some facial reconstructive surgeries she underwent as a result.

The reason I didn’t love the book is because I didn’t really love Lucy or Ann — or at least the way Ann portrayed them both. Ann’s personality is seriously lacking throughout the story, and Lucy’s neediness, self-absorption, and co-dependence becomes tiresome around page 60.

There are some beautiful passages about vulnerability and friendship, however, but on the whole the book was a bit slow and difficult to get through.

If you’re a major Ann Patchett fan and want to read the book for a more complete picture of one of her most important relationships, go for it. Otherwise, I’d stick to her fiction novels, which are all gorgeously written and utterly compelling. 

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

I fell in love with Colleen Hoover’s fast-paced, emotionally driven books over the last couple months (exhibit A and exhibit B). Her content and writing style reminds me of what I’d find in a more mature young adult novel (even though Barnes & Noble doesn’t stock them there — I checked!), so her stuff definitely isn’t for everyone.

If you happen to like stories about love and heartbreak and sex, I think you’ll enjoy her work. Reading her novels feels like watching a 90-minute romance film with a bit of comedy tossed in there to keep it light and contemporary.

Ugly Love is about a nursing student named Tate who moves in with her brother in San Francisco to finish her degree. She begins a purely physical relationship with the sexy neighbor down the hall, but when he closes himself up emotionally, things get tricky. Does that sound like the plot of every rom-com you’ve ever seen? It kind of is.

There’s some heartbreak and serious emotion in there, but the cliches, lack of character growth, and rushed ending of this book didn’t quite do it for me. The protagonist is totally one-dimensional and only exists in scenes with the male character. That said, I still couldn’t put the book down and I finished it in a matter of a few hours.

It’s nothing groundbreaking, nor is it particularly empowering to women, but it was a fun way to pass an afternoon. Six stars out of ten.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? Any book recommendations for me? I love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. You can find the rest of my book reviews here.