Episode 77: Laura's September 2021 Reading

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, your host Laura shares her reading list from September 2021. She read a surprising amount of both middle grade books and nonfiction this month, as well as some more mysteries! Books from today's episode are on the Library Laura storefront on bookshop.org.
Come tell us what you've read in September or if there's a book Laura read this month that now you want to read on InstagramFacebookTwitter, or in the Podcast Blog comments. 
Also, this is an announcement that due to the upcoming birth of Baby Miller (and the busy holiday season) the podcast is officially moving to 2 or 3 episodes a month rather than weekly episodes until further notice. Thanks for your flexibility during this exciting time!

Middle Grade

A few weeks ago, I put up a post about some fall/winter releases that I'm really looking forward to in the middle grade category. I read a few of the books on that list this month, and I am about to pick up Room to Dream by Kelly Yang and Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick from the library this week, so looking forward to reading those next! 

Song for A Whale by Lynne Kelly - Iris is a 12-year-old girl who loves to repair radios and is named after a whale who was beached right before Iris was born. She’s also deaf. One day at school, she learns about a (fictitious) whale named Blue 55, who has never connected with a pod of whales because his song (or call) is at 55 hertz; much higher than the songs of other whales in the 20-something hertz range. This idea of a whale out in the ocean who’s never heard a song like his spurs Iris to action, setting off a chain of events and an adventure she can’t pull off without her grandma’s help. This is a beautiful and sincere story of people and animals born with differences who just want to be heard and included. I love the family and friendships in this story, especially her connection with her grieving grandma. I also love the representation of deaf and hard-of-hearing culture. The author is a sign language interpreter, which you can really see come through in her descriptions. It’s also a Schneider Family Book Award recipient. If you liked Show Me A Sign or The One and Only Ivan, you’ll enjoy this book. (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) 

A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks - (Bookshop Link | Amazon Link) I've been looking forward to this new release because I enjoyed From the Desk of Zoe Washington. It's so well written that I could have finished it in one sitting (if I had stayed up past my bedtime) and all of the characters felt real and relatable. Each of the kids we meet has their own backstory, which provides several points of connection for readers. This book does what Janae Marks does best, which is to take a kid-friendly dive into hard issues that impact families everyday. In the book, Joy says, "Yeah, sometimes I feel like someone took a slingshot and shot me high into the air, and now I'm waving my arms and trying to find a soft place to land. You know?" ...That's a great way to describe what dealing with a big life change feels like for all of us. In A Soft Place To Land, Joy is grappling with the fact that her family has just sold their home and moved into an apartment due to her dad's job loss. This book hits home personally for me in a few ways. First of all, we had to sell a house and move in with my grandparents when I was a teenager, and that was a challenging change at a pivotal time for me. I could relate to some of Joy's feelings and experiences. I also work with a ministry now (Crossroads Career) that provides resources for people in job transition, so there's another connection to my own life. The number of job losses and turnovers in the U.S. averaged 21.7 million annually, so think about how many kids are impacted by stories like Joy's each year!! And families have to move and make changes for lots of other reasons too. Kids need the message of this book. Ultimately, Joy learns that it's not a place that's the most important, but the people. She makes some new friends, learns some lessons, and gains some perspective on her family's situation. And I think readers of all ages will relate to her desire to find a "soft place to land." 

Willodeen by Katherine Applegate - “The earth is old and we are not, and that is all you must remember.” I loved reading Willodeen (Even if I did think that Willodeen would be the name of one of the magical creatures on the front, not of the main female human character!). If you’ve read anything by Katherine Applegate, author of The One and Only Ivan, Wishtree, and many more, you know she does animal characters exceptionally well. And I loved the human ones in this book to. It packs a message of “we need each other” as well as a conservation/environmental/bio-diversity type message. But in a fantasy setting, those themes didn’t feel heavy handed. Themes of loss, friendship, and found family are explored as well. Also I WANT a hummingbear! Cutest magical creatures ever! (Bookshop link | Amazon Link

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Illustrated by Carson Ellis -  I knew it was (past) time to read this book after it came on my radar at least three times. I saw it in a bookshop last year with my friend Rachel, then I found it in a little free library and picked it up. Then I talked about it with Ken Priebe on last week’s episode! If you like books with maps in them, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or Redwall, you’ll enjoy this story of a girl whose brother gets kidnapped by a murder of crows, who she follows into the “impassable wilderness." She stumbles upon a whole civilization of talking animals, border disputes, and a witchy dowager governess whose nefarious plans she must stop before it’s too late. The illustrations are gorgeous in this book. The writing is rich, and the plot is medium-paced with some interesting twists and turns. Also, I am really glad that I had this book simultaneously going as a library on my Kindle (for night reading) because when I got to the end of my physical copy, the last 6 pages are missing?! Don't be the person that puts books missing pages into Little Free Libraries. (Bookshop link Amazon Link)

One Kid's Trash by Jamie Sumner - (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) I gotta admit that I was a bit skeptical about the premise of this book when I heard about it. But Eden (who I interviewed on Episodes 5 & 6) loved it so I knew I probably would! And…it turns out this is a fun and compulsively readable middle grade story about a boy trying to find his place in the world while dealing with bullying at a new school and with moving and stressed out parents at home. When he lets it slip that he’s interested in “garbology” (a branch of psychoanalysis that studies people and culture through analyzing their trash) he becomes known for something other than being the “short kid” for the first time. But what happens when he lets it go to his head? Jamie Sumner also wrote Roll With It, which I've read and enjoyed. And she wrote the next book on my list! 

Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner - After enjoying One Kid's Trash, I realized I had missed this 2020 release of Sumner's. I checked it out digitally from the library, and proceeded to finish it in almost one sitting. Lou has been living in a truck with her mother, who picks up temp jobs to get by. Lou will every now and then get a singing gig to help make ends meet. They've been surviving this way for a while, until one day Lou gets in an accident on the way to pick up her mom from work, and is caught driving underage without a license. Child Protective Services gets involved and Lou ends up getting placed in foster care with some relatives. Around this same time, her new school teachers and social workers start talking about this thing called Sensory Processing Disorder, which might explain her aversion to touch and loud noises. All that makes this book sound super serious, but against the backdrop of zany new theater friends from school and your typical middle school drama, it's actually a light and hopeful book. I'm glad it exists and it's well-written just like the rest of Sumner's work! (Bookshop link | Amazon Link)

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Bookshop link Amazon Link) - Elizabeth C. Bunce is a a local author, who I first heard of on Stay At Home Book Tour with Anne Bogel last year. I love a good pun, and this title is no exception. I also loved the quirky footnotes throughout. My husband Ryan bought me Premeditated Myrtle for Valentine's Day this year, but somehow I didn't finish reading it until this month. But I've been on a mystery kick lately, so it turned into the right book at the right time. 

How to Get Away with Myrtle is the second book in the series, which I also read this month. (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) It's set on a train ride on the way to a seaside vacation town, and was also really enjoyable! I am now looking forward to the release of the third book in this series, Cold Blooded Myrtle in October. This series has a young, precocious amateur sleuth in Victorian England. It reminds me of a combo of The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie, Miss Marple, and Veronica Speedwell. 

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) - I found a copy of this at my local library while browsing, so I probably started reading the series out of order. Oops! This is a graphic novel type story of a girl in middle school who has typically hung out with the popular or "gossip girl" crowd. But when they kick her out, she has to figure out what she really values when it comes to friendships. These books are easy reading, but great representation of middle school life. That led me to pick up....

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) - I think this is actually the first book in the series. I enjoyed this one as well, about a quiet girl with an alter-ego who she uses to help her survive the trials and joys of middle school. There's boy crushes, girl drama, and homework woes in this super relatable graphic novel. There's also several more books in this series, which I'll probably read at some point, and I know that young readers often like having a series they can stick with for a while if they enjoy a book. 


I continue to be on a bit of a mystery kick this month! I enjoyed reading all of these. Bury Your Dead was probably the most fascinating/interesting of the bunch. 

Death Before Dessert by A.E. Radley (Bookshop link Amazon Link) - This was the cozy mystery pick for @LinesIUnderline's #hyggedunit book club on Instagram. I didn't know going in that one of our protagonists was lesbian, which I find uncommon for cozy mysteries. She moves in with her aunt, who is a murder mystery writer, right in time for an actual murder to happen nextdoor. These ameteur sleuths get in the way of the police and generally make a nuisance of themselves to get to the bottom of the murder. It was definitely cozy...so much tea!! And overall an interesting mystery. 

And Justice There Is None by Deborah Crombie (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) - I've been enjoying continuing on with the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James mystery series and this was the next book in that journey. I liked it better than the last one. I forgot to mention in the podcast that this book contains a pregnancy loss, which was hard to read about. So readers be aware. 

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (Bookshop link | Amazon Link) - Continuing on in the Inspector Gamache series, this book follows the detective when not everything is resolved from his last case as tidily as we might have expected. He's got to unpack the baggage from that situation as well as a hostage situation that didn't end well since then. He's also recovering from injuries.... This book does what Penny does well, of exploring the interior world and motivations of the characters through a murder mystery plot device. 

YA / Adult Fiction

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman - For some reason, I saw this book all over Instagram and was originally not interested in reading it because of the title (I guess?) so I wrote it off as a book I would want to read. It wasn't until Ronei Harden picked it for her book club this month and I actually listened to her read the description of the book that I realized I might actually be interested in reading it! I did enjoy both My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry and A Man Called Ove by the same author, and this book reminded me of both in certain elements! A bank robbery turned hostage drama allowed Backman to throw together a cast of characters and let us examine their idiosyncrasies and the way our lives are all connected.  Readers should be aware that there is discussion of suicide / suicidal thoughts in this book, similar to the way Backman handles such things in A Man Called Ove. Overall the book is funny and hopeful, but addresses the human condition in a real way. (Bookshop link | Amazon Link)

Blue Shadows Fall by Lenore Stutznegger (Coming November 2021) - I read this dark YA fantasy in preparation to talk to the author on an upcoming podcast episode. It's geeky, scary, and fascinatingly put together. This is a first book with a sequel (aka expect a cliffhanger ending) and wasn't a book I could read at night. But I loved the post-apocalyptic setting with a southern or Appalachian vibe to it. Fascinating. 


I read a surprising amount of non-fiction this month with knitting and parenting being big topics, but some other stuff as well. 

Dear Dory: Journal of A Soon-To-Be First-Time Dad by Tom Kreffer  - I enjoyed reading Dear Arlo (about Kreffer's first year as a dad) and interviewing him for an upcoming podcast episode. This book is profane and funny, with helpful information and touching anecdotes about a soon-to-be father's journey through his wife's pregnancy. As I'm expecting our first child right now, it was interesting to view another woman's experience through a husband's eyes. (Bookshop link | Amazon Link)

10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters: A Guide to Holistic Knitting, Yarn, and Life by Vicki Stiefel - I enjoy browsing the non-fiction knitting section in my local library once in a while, and this book came home with me. I read enough of it that it counted as an read book....it's a combo of essays and information along with knitting patterns. I enjoyed some of the authors insights, learned a few things about different types of fibers, and decided not to knit any of the patterns. That's about par for the course with me and library pattern books, ha! (Amazon Link)

The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn't, and Get Stuff Done by Kendra Adachi  -  I have several friends who have told me about this book and I finally got around to reading it. It was a pleasant read and I have some good takeaways from it! I love the idea of using values to decide what matters to you and to spend your energy mainly on that. Her ideas of batching tasks, deciding once, and simplifying expectations are great. She also has a podcast which I keep getting told to listen to, so maybe that will be next!  (Bookshop link | Amazon Link)

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch - I talked about this book with Rhi on the podcast episode I  created for International Podcast Month - check that out here! This is a book about internet linguistics, and if you've talked to me in person this month I've probably told you about something I learned from this book. Based on the age and time I came on the internet, there were already several layers of culture and meaning that are mystifying to me. McCulloch did a great job of diving into some of the stranger informal communication constructs of the internet and provided some fascinating information on things like memes, emojis, typography, and more that influence the way we communicate daily. If you want to hear me talk for like 5 minutes straight, ask me about how postcards relate to older people communicating on the internet....  (Bookshop link | Amazon Link)  

7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year by Dr. Robert C. Hamilton - this book about parenting and child development served as a great conversation starter for me and my husband this month. While every book has their own biases, this one did a great job of providing information, too. Dr. Hamilton is happily old-school and embraces that in the book. With all of the media telling us all the newest gadgets and gizmos we need to be good parents, his affirmation that we basically have what we need was welcome. He's also the guy who invented the Hamilton Hold for calming fussy newborns, of which there are now many youtube videos....see below! (Bookshop Link | Amazon Link)

Come tell us what you've read in September or if there's a book Laura read this month that now you want to read on InstagramFacebookTwitter, or in the Podcast Blog comments. 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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