November 2019 Wrap-Up

OOPS. This is 10 (!!) days late. Life, especially around this time of year, just gets so hectic! Between work, Thanksgiving travel, & getting everything done, I’m just settling in now to reflect on my November reads.

  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: This absolute brick of a novel was a well-written, end-of-the-world novel that was reminiscent of our current political climate taken to the extreme. 4.5/5 stars. (More in-depth review here).
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. It was gorgeously written but I’m not entirely sure I understood what I read. I definitely felt this way with her first novel, The Night Circus, the first time I read it too, and I’ve now read & re-read it about 6 times — and it’s one of my favorite books. The Starless Sea will definitely be getting re-read at some point in 2020, but my initial rating is 4/5.
  • Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things: This book is sort of cute. It will be popular in the romance section of high school libraries. But if you’re looking for a thoughtful romance about class & privilege, you won’t find it here. Edie is…a fine main character. Her cousins and aunt are the worst. The girls at her school suck. I found myself doing a lot of skimming & scanning as I read because I wasn’t super thrilled with anything happening. *Shrug* And because I am a Masshole, this is nothing like the REAL Mansfield, MA. I have family that lives there that we visit often. If you’re going to use a real town name, at least research it a little bit. The author made her version of Mansfield more like somewhere in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, and this just isn’t it. DNF.
  • There, There by Tommy Orange: This book was an absolutely stunning read, and an important one. Tommy Orange is one hell of a writer, and you can feel the pain and the weight of the injustices against Native Americans in his prose. Each character had a heart-wrenching story. The prologue took my breath away. The ending was a bit confusing and I wasn’t a fan of the last 30 pages. Otherwise, Orange is a brilliant talent of #ownvoices fiction and I cannot wait to read what he writes next. 4/5 stars.
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman: This has been a popular book on my library shelves and I was so excited to finally get into it myself! This was an easy-to-understand dystopian world where no one dies, unless they are murdered by a professional scythe. It’s a fascinating moral question: who lives & who dies, and who gets to choose that? It’s fast-paced and a gripping start to a trilogy. 5/5 stars
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James: This was a weird and crazy YA sci-fi thriller. A little too long, but the action REALLY ramps up in the final act. A fun, quick read. 3.5/5 stars.
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates: This book was an important look at slavery from the perspective of a slave. It was written in the vernacular of the day, however, making it harder to follow than I thought it would be. 3.5/5 stars
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: This was a wonderful story about Depression-era librarians who went house to house on horseback with books. It was a great tale of friendship, and touched on issues of race, poverty, domestic violence, and loss. I really enjoyed this one! It was also my November Book of the Month pick 🙂 4.5/5 stars
  • Bunny by Mona Awad: This book was a wacky mix of Mean Girls and The Secret History. Strange but fun read. 3.5/5 stars.

What was the best book you read in November?

Goodreads Best of 2019 Nominees I’ve Read

  • FICTION:
    • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood A beautiful follow up to one of my all-time favorites, The Handmaid’s Tale. Review here.
    • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane This novel follows two men who were NYPD beat cops and then how their families intertwine when they happen to move into the same neighborhood. This was a well-written examination of family dynamics, mental health, love, and forgiveness. It was really hyped up on #bookstagram, and was a BOTM selection for June. I gave it a 4/5 stars because it was a little lengthy for me, but very well done.
  • MYSTERY & THRILLER
    • The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth This book was an absolute surprise to me! I was expecting a thriller but it was much more of a family examination. It ended up being a heartfelt story that showed that there are always many, many sides to the truth. There were multiple perspectives which really underscored that you need to see the world from someone else’s point of view, and it was an astounding look at trying to understand one another. 5/5 stars
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager This was an AMAZING thriller set in the fictional NYC hotel The Bartholomew. Sager did a phenomenal job of not only creating a creepy setting, but also creating a twisty book that completely blindsided me. 5/5 stars!
    • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen An interesting thriller about a professor running a psychological study and the person she uses as a subject…and how the study isn’t what it seems.
    • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim I wouldn’t have put this one in the thriller category, personally. This read like a courtroom drama with a lot of family dysfunction. It was certainly well-written, but I wasn’t in love with it like many people were. 4/5 stars.
    • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides This book BLEW MY MIND! I read it in less than 24 hours! The author’s writing style was compulsively readable and impossible to put down. The twist was PHENOMENAL! I really don’t want to blow it, but it was just so, so great. The writer uses some different, slightly unconventional writing strategies in order to create the twist. I’ve seen others say that the twist was too predictable for them, but honestly, I felt blindsided. Absolutely worth all of the hype! 5/5 stars
    • The Whisper Man by Alex North The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4/5 stars.
    • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
  • HISTORICAL FICTION:
    • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book holds a special place in my heart as my first ARC. I wrote a review article about it for Candor Magazine — check it out!
    • The Huntress by Kate Quinn This was a wonderfully written historical novel about Nazi hunters and a mysterious woman who enters the life of a Boston teen. 5/5 stars!
    • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert  I LOVED this novel of 1940’s New York City! Our main character Vivian takes on a job at her aunt’s low-budget theatre after dropping out of college. She meets a lively cast of characters at the Lily Playhouse and this novel is all written as Vivian looks back on her past and how she learned what life was all about. 4/5 stars
  • FANTASY
    • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Quite possibly my favorite book of 2019. I am so looking forward to the rest of this creepy, gothic series about ghosts & the occult at Yale. Review here.
    • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern Her first book, The Night Circus, is one of my favorite books EVER. This was written just as beautifully, but I just…don’t understand this one. Definitely need a re-read, but initial rating is a 4/5.
  • ROMANCE:
    • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren I am sad to report that this is my first CLo book, but it will NOT be the last! This was a hysterical enemies-to-lovers tale filled with wacky characters, a little bit of steaminess, and lush descriptions of tropical locales. 4/5 stars for me!
    • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang A cute, steamy, #ownvoices novel that gave a voice to characters with autism and the Vietnamese community. Esme & Khai have great chemistry and it was an adorable read. The fact that Esme was chosen by Khai’s mom felt strange to me, but only because it’s really not part of my culture. It was a little far-fetched and over-the-top, but sometimes the best romances are. 4/5 stars
    • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center A cute, but somewhat predictable, romance novel. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by Katherine Center and they’re always enjoyable & lighthearted. I like the ‘twist’ at the end and everything is resolved. 4/5 stars.
  • DEBUT NOVEL:
    • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I loved this debut novel that took you in and out of other worlds & doorways & stories. Beautifully done and a pleasure to read. Review here.
  • YA FICTION:
    • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo This book will resonate with SO MANY teens. It examines family dynamics, teenage parenthood, poverty, race, and sexuality, to name a few. Gorgeously written descriptions of all of Emoni’s cooking were the icing on the cake — pun intended! Review here.
    • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Ruta Sepetys has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. 5/5 stars
    • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas Angie Thomas is the queen of realistic YA fiction. She has yet again created such vivid and authentic characters and a book that is compulsively readable. Her books should be required reading in late middle school/early high school! 5/5 stars
  • YA FANTASY/SCI-FI
    • Wilder Girls by Rory Power I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. 4/5 stars

End of the Year Book Tag!

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