Everything I Read, Watched, and Listened to in September 2021

October 5, 2021

I’m Michelle.
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If you’ve loved the book reviews I’ve shared in the last year, I hope you’re excited about the new format. The decision to include movies, television, podcast, and music is one that has brought me a lot of joy. There is no topic I’d rather discuss!

I’m also thrilled to share that I’ve created a new platform called Film and Paper Club, which is specifically dedicated to books, television, and movies. If you are a creative who loves these mediums, appreciates a good movie night, and chatting about books, I’d love it if you joined us!

Film and Paper Club


The Paper Palace, by Miranda Cowley Heller (Fiction)

This is a tough review to write. The Paper Palace was sold to me as “A story about Cape Cod,” but it is completely void of the New England charms I know and love. 

It follows Elle, a married mother of three who sleeps with her childhood friend, Jonas, and decides whether to stay with her husband or pursue a new life. The story flashes back through her entire family history, riddled with many, many characters and stories that all lead to the reason that she and Jonas have a complicated relationship.

The good: author Miranda Cowley Heller is a master. Her words were exquisite, the descriptions were rich and I enjoyed the dual timeline structure (with the exception of the last section).

The bad: this book made me incredibly uncomfortable. I prefer to experience stories that are joyful, inspiring, or that make me laugh. I can handle dark stories, but they need to be beautiful.

I should have done my homework beyond the cover and the book jacket. This story included rape, incest, child abuse, and many descriptions that I felt were unnecessarily disgusting (there is way too much peeing in this book).

The author wrote a great story, but it wasn’t for me.

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, by Dr. Wayne Dyer (Non-Fiction)

A short and sweet book that encourages you to find peace by changing your inner state, rather than to place that responsibility on the world. It was written on the basis of several different religious teachings, with a great focus on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which fosters, love, service, and harmony.

I listened to this audiobook over the course of a few mornings and it set such a wonderful tone for the day. It reminded me of the messages I need to hear over and over again: to slow down, be present, and appreciate.

This would be a great read/listen for anyone who is feeling particularly overwhelmed and is seeking a peaceful reset. 

Bringing Down the Duke, by Evie Dunmore (Fiction)

I enjoyed this modern book about 1879 England and a suffragette named Annabelle. While she’s supposed to be convincing a disgruntled Duke to champion her cause, they find themselves unavoidably attracted to one another.

Author Evie Dunmore’s writing is delightful. She has a wonderful way of maintaining the integrity of the era without making the language overly stuffy.

I loved some scenes, but there were parts of the novel that felt a bit repetitive. It left me wishing that more of the book was shared with the secondary characters. Still, I respect the author’s decision to give them their own dedicated stories as a part of this series.

It’s not at the top of my favorite books from this year, but I’d still recommend it!

The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave (Fiction)

After reading this book, It became easy to understand why I kept seeing this book all over social media. To start, it has a great cover (and just happens to be designed by my friend)!

What’s inside is equally vibrant and engaging. This fast-paced mystery follows a woman whose husband disappears, leaving her with explicit instructions for her to protect his daughter (her stepdaughter).

I appreciated that this was a mystery that was very clearly solved, without reliance on tired tropes or over-complication. I never quite connected with the protagonist, however, the very last sentence was just such a beautiful way to end the story and put a big smile on my face.

This book lived up to the hype. I look forward to checking out more titles by Laura Dave! 

The Third Door, by Alex Banayan (Non-Fiction)

This book was a rollercoaster. Specifically, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios. You go from zero to sixty out of the gate.

It’s technically a business book, but reads more like an autobiography of author Alex Banayan—and that’s the thing that makes this book so special.

Through his many ups and even more downs, you follow Banayan’s journey as he attempts to connect with the brightest minds of our time.

I listened to this book on Audible, and it was one of the best, entertaining narrations from an author I’ve ever listened to. It truly left me wishing that they might create a television show about Banayan’s quest.

If you’re looking for a business or self-help book that’ll give you all the answers, this book isn’t that. However, you will find a heartwarming tale of a guy who refuses to give up and I know it’ll inspire you to take more chances and to be brave enough to use that third door.


The Pursuit of Love, 2021, Prime Video

The story of cousins and best friends, Linda and Fanny who are growing up in the English countryside in the years between WW I and WW II. Based on a book of the same name by Nancy Mitford, this series was adapted by Emily Mortimer and was beyond delightful.

The tale was heartwarming, the style was inventive, and the costumes were exquisite. I wish I could go shopping in the wardrobe department for this show.

As a three episode mini-series, The Pursuit of Love made for a perfect weekend watch.

The Dirty Dozen, 1967, Prime Video

I’m so glad to have finally watched this classic for the first time. A WW II story about a rag-tag group of twelve criminal soldiers didn’t sound like the most appealing plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

There were a few parts that dragged, but overall I found it to be funny, and the ensemble cast and mission reminded me a lot of Ocean’s 11 (one of my favorite all-time films).

What’s up Doc?, 1972, HBO Max

After absolutely devouring TMC’s The Plot Thickens Podcast (below), centered around director Peter Bogdanovich, I was anxious to explore his catalog of films. I’m so happy that I started with What’s Up, Doc?

Set in San Francisco, it’s a romantic screwball comedy about a serious researcher, his uptight fiancé, and a strange woman who begins to disrupt their lives. I loved this movie because it clearly paid homage to Bringing Up Baby (another of my favorites). 

Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal are both so attractive in this movie. I must have sent a dozen texts to my sisters while I was watching about how cute they were. Also, the 70s outfits. It’s all so fun, and I look forward to watching it again.


Frank and Ollie, 1995, Disney+

I’ve slowly been making my way through the documentaries on Disney+, and finally got around to Frank and Ollie.

As far as documentaries go, it doesn’t have the flash of some of their more recent productions. However, this simple exploration of two of Disney’s oldest animators was as sweet as the guys themselves.

If you love Disney and heartwarming stories, this one is a must-watch.

Indiana Jones (and all of his films)

We’ve seen them countless times, but my husband and I spent a week revisiting the four Indiana Jones films this month. It was one of our better ideas.

It was fun to see the progression of Spielberg’s directing style, the repeating themes, and of course, you can’t beat John Williams’ epic score.

The White Lotus, 2021, HBO Max

I had mixed feelings around this limited series about a fictitious upscale resort in Hawaii, its wealthy guests, and eccentric staff. Stylistically, the show is stunning and includes lots of gorgeous footage of surf, beach, and hotel life.

There were a few likable, interesting, characters but they didn’t make up for the annoying ones (in which there are many). The “murder” plot really fell flat and felt unnecessary for the story that I think the show was ultimately trying to tell.

It was entertaining enough, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of my recommendations.


I listen to so many podcasts and will spare you from listing all of them. Here are the two that I particularly enjoyed this month, plus a new Broadway find.

The Plot Thickens Podcast, Season 1

My favorite of all of the books, movies, podcasts, and songs I consumed in September.

Produced by TCM and hosted by Ben Mankiewicz, this podcast series is an in-depth look into the life and work of director Peter Bogdanovich. The episodes were entertaining, educational, and Mankiewicz’s storytelling is exceptional. I knew very little about Peter Bogdanovich or his films when I began listening. By the time I finished the final episode, I felt strangely endeared to him.

I did start Season 2, but couldn’t get into it. Season 3, focusing on Lucille Ball begins October 12th and I will absolutely be tuning in!

Unspooled Podcast

A recent discovery that features a deep catalog of episodes that cover the films on the AFI Top 100, plus many popular blockbusters. I love the in-depth conversations, explorations, and behind-the-scenes tidbits, all of which have been inspiring my content for Film and Paper Club.

Groundhog Day The Musical Soundtrack

This is probably the most random selection you’ll find on this list, but I listened to this one track so many times this month, that I needed to mention it. This show ran about four or five years ago, and I never saw it. If I’m being honest I’ve been a little annoyed that they’ve turned so many 90s films into musicals, so there was a part of me that was avoiding it.

However, the soundtrack popped into my Amazon Music feed, and I instantly fell in love with a few of the tracks, namely One Day, the closing number in the first act. If you’ve been missing Broadway, give it a listen! 

If you buy something through the links in this post, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!

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