There is nothing like being in the Bahamas with a napping baby and no wifi to knock out some serious reading!  My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Dog Island and Other Florida Poems – Laurence Donovan

Chatham picked up this book at the Midtown Reader when we went to Tallahassee back in January, and I finally got around to reading it.  Dog Island is a beautiful collection of poems and art vividly depicting the natural ecosystems of the Florida Panhandle.  I especially enjoyed reading this one aloud.

gods in Alabama – Joshilyn Jackson

After reading Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel, The Almost Sisters (reviewed here), I got so many recommendations from friends to read her first published novel, gods in Alabama, and I am glad I did.  Gods in Alabama is a page-turning mystery in which the reader slowly learns why the main character Arlene has made a promise to God that she will never return to her hometown of Possett, Alabama.  When a high school acquaintance turns up asking questions about her past and Burr, her black boyfriend, puts pressure on her to finally introduce him to her family, she breaks her promise to God for the first time in 10 years.  While gods in Alabama did not have quite the depth and  intricacies I loved in The Almost Sisters, it was a great read.  Jackson has a true talent for capturing the culture of the South without glossing over the ugly parts.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

My father-in-law shared this book with me when we were in the Bahamas last month, and I finished it in just a few days.  Beautiful Ruins is a deep and weaving tale about an ambitious and somewhat delusional innkeeper in a sleepy coastal fishing village in Italy.  As he daydreams about attracting American tourists by carving a tennis court out of the bluffs, a sick American actress arrives by boat to stay at his hotel.  He falls in love at first sight, and the story begins from there.  This tale is told from multiple perspectives by an assortment of characters whose personal stories overlap over the course of fifty years.  Jess Walter does an amazing job of  describing settings and emotions and weaving the storylines together.  This book has so much more depth than the “chick lit” style cover portrays.

Weed Man – John McCaslin

I purchased this book in the gift shop of Nipper’s in the Bahamas after seeing it around multiple times on our trip.  It is always fun to read stories set in places you are familiar with, and Weed Man did not disappoint.  This was an easy nonfiction read about  Bahamian Jimmy “Divine,” nicknamed as such because he did not drink or smoke and was a faithful Christian, who stumbled upon bales and bales of marijuana on a beach run one morning and was catapulted into a job in drug smuggling.  Weed Man is the story of how he became one of the most successful marijuana smugglers of the 1970s.  I think I finished this one in less than 24 hours.

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail – David Miller

I listened to AWOL on the Appalachian Trail on audiobook because hiking the AT is something I would absolutely love to do one day.  If you are not interested in hiking, this is not the book for you, because it is basically just a detailed account of the author’s hiking experience.  It was very informative and interesting coming from the standpoint of me wanting to experience what the author is describing, but it was certainly not a page-turner.

Little and Lion – Brandy Colbert

Little and Lion was one of my two August  Book of the Month Club picks (the other one was Eat Only When You’re Hungry, which I haven’t picked up yet) and while I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, I am glad I read it.  Little and Lion is a young adult fiction story about the relationship between Little and her stepbrother Lion.  Little is home for the summer from boarding school and trying to better understand her sexuality.  She had a girlfriend at school, but is finding herself attracted to a male childhood friend who hit puberty while she was away.  Lion was diagnosed with bipolar disorder right before Little went off to school, and he is trying to feel comfortable in his own skin again.  While I loved the diversity of the characters, I think perhaps this book tried to take on too many issues (racism, sexuality, mental illness, physical handicaps), and the short length of the book made it difficult to give all of those topics the attention they deserve while still developing a strong story arc (although I seem to be in the minority based on the Goodreads reviews).

How to Read Literature like a Professor – Thomas Foster

I had heard about this book many times in the past, but finally got around to purchasing it at Sundog Books, because I saw it was selected as a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for the Fall.  In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster walks the reader through the analysis of a text, emphasizing common symbolic elements in classic literature.   The author describes sometimes challenging topics in easy-to-understand language, using many, many examples from both classic and contemporary works, as well as movies.  Foster includes a long list of recommended reading at the back of the book.  This book reminded me of a film analysis class I took back in college, but Foster expanded upon those skills, making them applicable to any story, be it book, movie, or TV show.  After finishing this book, readers will feel a deeper understanding of symbolism and story.

Young Jane Young – Gabrielle Zevin

I started listening to the audiobook for Young Jane Young the day it came out, partly because it is Fall selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and partly because I wanted to write a review of it for the most recent Beachcomber.  This was one of those audiobooks that I could not press pause on – I just kept finding more chores to do as an excuse to keep listening to the story and finished in just a few days (which is fast for me).  The book centers around a South Florida sex scandal between a married Congressman and his bright, ambitious intern, Aviva Grossman.  After the scandal, the Congressman gets to continue his life just as before, but Aviva’s reputation is ruined – her past is revealed every time a potential employer performs a Google search of her name.  Seeing no other options, Aviva changes her name and starts fresh somewhere else.  Many years later, as a business owner and a single mother, she decides to run for office herself, but her reputation comes back to haunt her.  Young Jane Young explores themes of feminism and recovering from a scandal in the age of the internet.  The story is told in a whimsical fashion, from multiple viewpoints and includes a choose-your-own-adventure section.  Young Jane Young is a fun, funny, and thought-provoking read.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!