September 2017 Month in Review

October 1, 2017


September is over– and now we are starting my favorite season: Fall! Fall is amazing for so many reasons. I love sleeping with the windows open, wearing sweaters and scarves sans coat, all things apple, pumpkin, and root vegetable, the changing leaves, being outside and drinking warm beverages. Unfortunately, the start of fall seems to always be SUPER busy.

I am a practicing Jew and the chair of the music committee at my synagogue. Yesterday ended the Days of Awe; the 10 days celebrating the most important holidays of our year. And, shockingly, it’s REALLY heavy on the music. I love what I do, but as a volunteer, this ordeal is always exhausting. I’m glad to see it winding down (only two more holidays in the next 2 weeks!) and get some time back for myself. Hopefully, that means I’ll see you guys more around the blogs. 

Work is a bit of chaos. We’ve had a lot of turnover in my area. Some of the teams I support are really struggling. As we inch towards the end of the year, I’m finding more and more things teams have been hiding under the covers from me. The last quarter will be pretty intense, but I love what I do. I just need to be better about managing it.

While it is Fall, the weather certainly hasn’t been acting that way! We went to a wedding in Peoria, IL last weekend where it was 96 at the outdoor ceremony! I feel so bad for the groom… he was in a 3-piece woolen tuxedo. After all, September 23rd is typically fairly cool in Peoria…

Finally, our family is proud to announce we have a new member! Kurosh*, the all-American mutt joined our ranks on September 8th. He’s still acclimating to our pack, but we couldn’t be happier to have him.

*Kurosh — the ancient Persian pronunciation for Cyrus. Specifically: Cyrus the Great, King of Kings, King of Persia and Anshan, King of the 4 corners of the world.


List of Reads

September was a GREAT month for reading! I managed to read three 5-star books, which is AWESOME. Plus, I only had one dud in the bunch. Even the 3- and 4-star books led to some great discussion all month long. I hope that this streak continues through the end of the year.

September Books:

Read 11 total books


MUST READ this month:

Between Shades of GreyI know, I know. This is a 4-star review from this month. And I have three 5-star reviews! So, why Between Shades of Gray? This book was not what I was expecting. It’s a powerful tale of the forced deportation of Lithuanians during World War II into Soviet labor camps. It shocked me on so many levels. I literally closed this book in tears. Expect to see my review shortly!

Meh. I wasn’t into it this month:

How to Raise the Perfect Dog   As our family has now turned into a pack, David and I wanted to learn what we could about raising Kurosh. Cesar Millan has a few books, and this one seemed to fit our needs based on the description. Alas, synopses are often misleading. This book was spent almost exclusively on puppyhood and we didn’t get many concrete things we can do for Kurosh from this book. It might be more interesting and useful if I had a puppy, however, I doubt that. A lot of the tips had to do with already having a pre-existing well-adjusted pack of existing dogs to teach the puppy. So… that was a bit strange.

Challenge Updates

  • Overall Reading Challenge: 104/110 (94%)
  • Listopia Challenge: 14/15 (93%)
  • PopSugar Reading Challenge: 34/52 (65%)
  • Read Harder Challenge: 18/24 (75%)
  • The Great Newbery Challenge: 27/95 (28%)

After publishing my Great Newbery Quest post, I decided I should add this challenge to my reading challenge. But, it’s worth noting that my goal is to finish reading all 100 Newbery Award Winners by 2022. Check out the post for more details!

I have also come to terms with the fact that I probably won’t be finishing either the PopSugar or Read Harder challenge this year. I just don’t have the bandwidth for this and I’m not motivated to finish them both. Any suggestions on which one I should push to finish? I like the Popsugar reading prompts more, but I’m further along with Read Harder.

Regardless, you can follow my Yearly Reading Challenge updates more regularly here.


Tsundoku Life

It wouldn’t be tsundoku if I didn’t have a gigantic pile of books and bookish things going on in my life!

On the Blog:

This month was a fairly busy month for my blog. I managed to get at least one book review and one additional post published each week. That’s my goal– and it feels good to make it!

Book Reviews


Top Ten Tuesdays

Other Posts

October TBR:

  • Our Shared Shelf  – Hunger by Roxanne Gay
  • Kids LitThe Legend of Buddy Bush by Shelia P. Moses
  • West Side Stories – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Brunch Books – The Stone Sky by N K Jemisin
  • VACB Book Club –TBD by TBD (I hope we select soon!)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Club: Ringworld byLarry Niven
  • Popsugar Challenge – Stuart Little by E. B. White
  • Read Harder Challenge – Roll by Darcy Miller
  • The Great Newbery ChallengeThe Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
  • #AnneReadAlong2017: Anne of Ingleside by LM Montgomery
  • Empty Pages Writing Club – Finalize submission review and schedule posts!

Blog Projects

There are so many projects happening on the blog right now! I’m wrapping up my work for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Those posts should be appearing close to the end of the month; it’s been even more rewarding this time around and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with the world. It’s been a very different journey this go around, for sure. I hope that the members of the Empty Pages Writing Club feel like my work is helpful and useful in their journey to become better writers.

#AnneReadAlong2017 is going well! We had our first giveaway winner, and I can’t wait to see what else we have in store. For this second half of the read along, Jane and I have a few additional posts scheduled outside the usual. I hope these will enrich everyone’s Anne reading experience.

As you’ll see tomorrow, I’m working on my first blog buddy read with Evelina @ Avalinah’s Books! I’ve really loved working with her. This has inspired me to jump into more buddy reads and even a few additional guest post ideas I’ve been tossing around in my brain for a while. Hopefully, this means my blog will start to become a bit more collaborative. Suggestions are all welcome!

Finally, we are getting closer to Thanksgiving, so it’s time for Ottavia @ Novels and Nonfiction and me to start working on our Thanksgiving readathon! I can’t wait to see what we are able to put together. We hope you’ll join us!



What I love most about my blog are the relationships I cultivate through sharing a love of books and the discussion around those books. It’s been extra rewarding this year getting to know so many amazing bloggers, writers, and advocates. I hope that I can continue to cultivate and grow those relationships over the years. I hope that you will be part of this journey with me! 

Happy Reading,

Jackie B.

Jackie B Forman

What do you think?

  • How was your September? What were your favorite reads? What books should I avoid?
  • I will be only striving to finish EITHER the PopSugar or Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge for the end of the year. Which one do you think I should stick with?
  • Are you interested in my blog becoming more collaborative? What do you think of when you hear that phrase?
  • What are you most excited to read for October?


  • Annemieke October 2, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Kurosh looks like such a cutie. Great to see you giving Obelisk Gate 5 stars. It might motivate me to pick up Fifth Season haha.

    • Jackie B October 6, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      You definitely should pick up The Fifth Season — This is really complex fantasy/sci-fi. I love that the lines are blurred between these genres, that Jemisin treats her readers like intelligent human beings, and that both the readers and the characters are completely in the dark. It’s incredibly engaging! If you like fantasy or sci-fi, I would definitely pick it up.

  • ichabod2014ic October 2, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Congratulations on your new pack mate! I love doggies! Good luck with the pack assimilation.

    Too bad Cesar Milan was not more help. The main thing I take from him is to think from a dogs perspective, instead of a humans.

    Oof. As a dog lover, I could not read ‘Sounder’ or ‘Call of the Wild’. You are brave.

    Have a Splendid Fall Season!
    Your pal,
    ~Icky. 🙂

    • Jackie B October 6, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks, Icky! Pack assimilation is making steady, if slow, progress. I think he might actually be listening to us a bit more. The proof is in his pouting.

      I am with you on trying to think from a dog’s perspective. Kurosh is soooo different from the other dogs I’ve had in my life that I don’t really know how to relate to him yet. And he’s SUPER smart. At this point, if he is whining at me and I can’t figure out why, I cock my head to the side like I’m a confused puppy. He seems to get that I don’t understand him, and he tries another communication tactic. Pretty freaking smart.

      Fact: I did not expect Sounder to be sad. Big mistake on my part. Kind of like I never read the synopsis to Where the Red Fern Grows before reading it. ALSO a big mistake. That said, I fell completely in love with Call of the Wild; specifically Jack London’s writing style. I’ll definitely be pursuing more of his works.

      Thanks, as always ,for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it, Icky!!!

  • KrystiYAandWine October 2, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    OH MY GOODNESS!!! YOUR PUPPY!!!! I am in LOVE! Holy cuteness! I adore dogs. My heart is so happy for you and your new addition.

    It sounds like you had a crazy busy month, my friend! I hope October slows down a bit for you. You did get in some amazing reading though! Can’t wait to see what you pick up in October. Happy reading!

    • Jackie B October 8, 2017 at 7:35 am

      Thank you, Krysti! We’re still getting to know each other– but I have hope this will be the start of a beautiful relationship. 🙂 Kurosh is a smart cookie. Sometimes we just aren’t smart enough for him. O_o

      Thanks! I hope October calms down a bit, too. So far, eh? But isn’t that how all our lives go? Maybe I’ll catch up eventually. 😉

      • KrystiYAandWine October 9, 2017 at 9:42 am

        Awww, I’m so glad! That’s so exciting. Dogs are the absolute best! At least when they’re not being the worst. LOL.

        Hahaha. It’s so true. I’ve given up on catching up. ‍♀️

  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel October 3, 2017 at 11:29 am

    You have had a great month. I am glad to see that Anne is very much on your list. Between Shades of grey sounds like a very important book

    • Jackie B October 8, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Thank you, Resh Susan! It was definitely a great month for reading and blogging– it was less great for blog hopping, but we can’t get everything to work out well all the time. 😉 I am looking forward to posting my Between Shades of Grey review– I really affected me. I’d love to hear if other people have read books around this subject matter.

  • Evelina October 4, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Time left before I teach a class? Well of course, let me navigate towards Jackie’s blog. Time well spent.

    I also love fall! Best season ever. The colors, the moods… The sweaters and warm socks. I love it. But I also don’t really love how busy it is! It’s been a tough fall for me too.

    Heh! I’ve realized I’ve been on your blog twice this month! Buddy read and win 😀 totally awesome!!! Anyway, dropping off cause my break time’s over…

    • Jackie B October 8, 2017 at 10:36 am

      D’aw. Thank you! What class are you teaching?! Can I take it?! It’s probably not in English, it is…

      Fall is THE BEST. I wish I had more free time in fall. I’d love to snuggle up in some warm clothing, sit outside with a mug of tea, and read all day while the colorful leave flutter around me. Plus, I adore winter squash, apples, and cinnamon– the flavors of fall! Nom nom nom.

      You should be on my blog more often. 🙂 I’d love that.

  • theorangutanlibrarian October 7, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Whoa- I had no idea you were a practising Jew- cos I’m actually Jewish and my family are religious- small world!! 😀 And yes it’s been mad busy with everything on right now!! Been using the scheduling button like there’s no tomorrow 😉 Hope things ease up in the work department! Aww your dog is so cute!! Glad you liked Between Shades of Grey- it was less shocking for me for the simple reason I’d read A Day in the Life of Ivan Densovitch not long before and they’re very similar- but it’s such a powerful book and a really important topic, I hope everyone reads it! Awesome post!

    • Jackie B October 9, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      !! What a small world, indeed! Religion doesn’t come up often in the book blogging circles… I only know the religion of one other blogger. I wonder if that’s just because there are fewer people in the world who practice religion? It’s taboo? Who knows. But yes– things are always super busy around the High Holy Days. Simchat Torah is being celebrated for me on Wednesday and then I am taking some freaking time off!!!

      Thank you! Kurosh does have a sweet face. I just wish he was a bit more obedient. 😉 Some day we’ll be on a more similar page, I know it.

      Oooh, I just read the synopsis for A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I haven’t heard of it before, but now I’m requesting it from the library! I want to learn as much about this period in history as I can. I’m shocked at how little I know. I’m also a bit shocked that I’ve never heard of this book, considering it seems to be a Russian classic. Here goes nothing!

      • theorangutanlibrarian October 10, 2017 at 8:45 am

        hehe I don’t know- I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on my blog, but very rarely 😉 hehehe yes, there’s *a lot* on right now and it’s surprisingly labour intensive/time consuming (my brother put up a Succah which basically blew away… so that was fun 😉 )

        hehehe you’re welcome!

        Excellent!! Solzhenitsyn is such a big deal and I really wish more people would read his work now! His book Gulag Archipelago, which I’m slowly slowly going through now (cos it’s 3 lonnng volumes), basically explains the nature of the Soviet Union (and is largely credited as one of the causes of its eventual collapse). According to my mum, Ivan was a big deal when she was in school, but it’s been a bit neglected since then (in my opinion) I think Ivan’s one of the most striking books I’ve read on the period! And it’s nice and short!! 😀

        • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 10:26 am

          We had an awesome Succah progressive dinner in my community. I’m surprised at how many people put them up and how diverse they are! I’m looking forward to some quiet time for sure. …In fact, now that you mention it, I think I might have read that you’re Jewish somewhere in your posts before… Hm. I am so forgetful. 😀

          I’ve been paying attention to your progress on Gulag Archipelago. I struggle to pick up tomes MUCH smaller than this, so I am definitely living vicariously through you in this case. I’m really fascinating that a book might be one of the causes of the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. I look forward to your eventual review(s?)!

          This is why Ivan appeals to me– it’s short enough I’m not intimidated! XD

          • theorangutanlibrarian October 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm

            That’s cool! hahaha no worries!

            Ah thanks! It’s hard for me to do a full post on it, but I keep trying to nudge it at people haha! I flipflop on whether I’m actually gonna review it to be honest- it’s a bit of a tricky one.

            hehe yes!! That’s great!! And what’s amazing is he condensed so much of his experience into it! XD

            • Jackie B October 16, 2017 at 9:32 pm

              Well, I can imagine with a tome like that it will be quite a challenging book to review! But I’d still love to read it. Perhaps break it up into chunks? Or focus on a specific theme or two?

              • theorangutanlibrarian October 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm

                hehe I might do- it might be one of those things I do very far in the future though, cos I really don’t feel like I know enough! That’s a good idea!

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer October 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    You had such a great month Jackie… honestly I’d go with the pop sugar challenge because if you like the prompts better you’re more likely to do it… I CANT wait to read about your buddy read (heading there next!) And I’m looking forward to what you’re readathon is about?! My November is amazingly open (deliberately so) so help me plan it!

    I too didn’t know you were Jewish! One of my bosses was raising two Jewish daughters so I know some about it and all the boards she was on… YOU CONTINUE to impress and wow me with ALL you do Jackie! And now you’re a doggie parent too! Love his name ♥️ Actually I find watching Caesar MUCH more accessible than his books… I’ve learned SOOO much from his visits to other families…

    • Jackie B October 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      I’d love to help you plan it!! Our Thanksgiving Readathon doesn’t have a set theme, so to speak, but I hope that Ottavia and I can put some awesome reading challenges together to help get people through it. We’re not fancy– we just want to encourage people to take a week which is typically very stressful and high-engagement with others and ensure there is some ME time in there. Read a book! Set a goal! Read many books! — Anywho, I’m open to challenge ideas. 🙂

      Thank you. I never feel like I’m doing enough, and I don’t know why not. It’s some weird psychological thing. I’m sure of it. I have never watched The Dog Whisperer, it sounds like I should! Any particular place I should start, or does it not really matter?

  • Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons October 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Great wrap-up. Kurosh is so cute!! I’m so impressed by the number of books you read!! I haven’t read Between Shades of Gray, but I have read Salt to the Sea by the same author and it was also a really good YA historical fiction read, and I highly recommend it. It tells the story of 4 teenagers from different backgrounds in WWII all headed to a ship named the William Gustloff and tells a story of a little-known disaster. I cried a lot, but it was really good–and I’m always a sucker for alternating viewpoints.

    I’m struggling with a lot of my year long reading challenges–including Read Harder. I’m really going to try to finish it, because I’ve finished it every other year I’ve tried it, but it’s hard with so many Netgalleys & other things to read. I’ve pretty much accepted I will fail the other year-long ones I’ve tried. I think you should finish whichever you’re most motivated to finish!! 🙂

    • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 9:33 am

      Thank you so much Sarah! It was definitely a book-heavy month, which I really love. The only down side is now I’m behind on my reviews. Oops! 😉

      I’ve heard great things about Salt to the Sea. Between Shades of Gray was her debut novel, so I only expect her writing to improve. After my experience with tears in this first book of her’s I’ve read, I don’t expect the waterworks to slow down. I’ve got tissues! 😉

      It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one struggling to complete my reading challenges this year! Thank you for sharing your story. I dig the advice to focus on whichever one I am motivated to complete. I’ll ponder that one.

  • Laura Purdy October 10, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Yay! Checking in on the blog, like I do. Personally, I’d stay far away from Milan’s books and teaching tactics… he’s famous because his philosophy translates well to a TV Show, but isn’t really based on good data or anything peer-reviewed. Since this is a book blog, may I make a few dog behavior book suggestions?

    1) Anything Patricia McConnell, she’s THE expert on dog behavior and has been researching for years and years, plus she’s local and lives in Southern Wisconsin! I really want to read her memoir, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Any of her books will be super helpful: The Other End of the Leash is a great one, but for getting right to the nitty gritty her little booklets are really lovely. Her blog is also a nice one to follow.

    2) Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor is also what I would consider “required reading” for understanding dog behavior:

    I also like Sophia Yin but she’s angled more towards veterinary professionals than pet owners. Just my two cents!

    I’ve been obsessed with Outlander the last month or so, I’m about halfway through the third book and basically can’t stop. 🙂 Glad to have found a book where I’m so emotionally invested I’ll stay up late just to find out what’s on the next page. I missed that feeling. <3

    • Jackie B October 13, 2017 at 11:56 am

      I adore you. Thank you so much for these wonderful recommendations! One month into having Kurosh, we are still figuring out a LOT. I’m glad to have additional reference options. I have never seen The Dog Whisperer, but it was frustrating to walk away from Millan’s work with almost zero applicable techniques. I’ll certainly check those books out. Conveniently, the library has copies for both The Other End of the Leash and Don’t Shoot the Dog. Looks like I’ve got quite a bit of reading ahead of me. We’re making progress as a pack, but I want to do things the right way if I can!

      I’m so glad you’ve found a book series you’re addicted to. It’s been a long time since I’ve forced myself to stay awake at night to read– I just haven’t been as addicted to the books I’ve selected lately, I guess? I should fix that.

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