I’m celebrating another gangbusters month for me, friends! Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share on her QuickLit post, where we share short, sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately. Here are my reviews for the NINETEEN books I tackled in November. Some classics, some shorties, some super fun reads! Scroll til you see something you want to hear more about!
|Bird Box by Josh Malerman
It’s been a while since I did an “in one day” book binge of this nature, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t finish this book before bed. Eesh. Edge of my seat for hours on this one. Your imagination just completely steers the show, and I loved it. Malorie lives in a post-apocalyptic terror-filled world where people go insane and kill themselves if they SEE something outside and is raising her two children alone. Buckle up and take some Xanax, you’re going to need it.
|Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna
Now, this was gripping. Alice Vega is called in as a PI to investigate the disappearance of two young girls, who went missing from their mother’s car while she ran into Kmart to grab a birthday party present. When Vega gets into town, she slogans herself with Cap, a disgraced police officer who resigned from the force and became a PI himself. His connections through his previous job prove invaluable as they attempt to track the girls down. This novel is plotted so well with so many twists and turns and plenty of action. Definitely some trigger warnings for those who need to know about such things. This book would be great for fans of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).
|The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy
I enjoyed this one on audio (even though I’ve owned it in paper for 6 months and haven’t touched it), but wouldn’t call it “gripping” like the flap copy suggests. Instead, I’d call it a touching investigation into what it means to be sisters and what it means to lose a mother. Mary and Hannah lose their mother Diane when Mary is 18 and Hannah is 4. Mary is now Hannah’s legal guardian, and they spend their time crossing the country, looking for a new place to call home. Sarah Healy writes well, and the story is compelling and readable, but if you’re looking for something gripping, I’d move along.
|Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This was just great. My first Agatha Christie, but not my last. Dan Stevens’ narration (and his voices and accents!!!) is just completely spot on. He’s phenomenal. I love the way this comes together right at the very end. Just fun. But seriously, get the audio, because Dan Stevens.
|Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
You guys, I can say that I’ve been firmly removed from the anti-Celeste-Ng train by this book. Her characters are so well-developed, I can see them in my head, I feel like we are friends. I love each of them in their own ways. No one is fully good or fully bad, they are all real people. The book starts with a fire at the Richarson home, burning it to the ground. Then, we back up: The Richardson family comes into contact with Mia and Pearl Warren when they rent their little duplex out in the picture-perfect community of Shaker Heights. Pearl becomes friends with each of the four Richardson children in different ways at the high school. Throughout the book, the allusions to fire and burning are artfully sprinkled throughout. The theme is so strong without being pushy. I just loved this entire examination of friendship, and motherhood, and community, and neighborliness, and art. It’s just great. Read it.
|Theft By Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris
Five months later, I finally get to put this on my “read” shelf! This is just what it sounds like: a collection of diary entries from David Sedaris, starting in 1977 and ending in 2002. His short, daily (but whittled down… we are not reading every single day) observations of the people and society around him are at times funny or poignant. At other times, it’s fun to see him develop as a writer as he becomes more well known in the literary world. I actually cried at one point (real tears, not “laughing so hard I cried” tears), something that Sedaris has never made me do before. I chose to read this one a year at a time rather than sit through it all at once. At the beginning, he says he pictures it as a book that you just flip open and read an entry, but I did enjoy the slow, sure development of him as a person, from young adult to 40 years old. So, I would read a YEAR in between other paper books, and highly recommend that simmering pace for this collection. If you’re looking to bust a gut, as you can regularly expect from his other works, this isn’t that book. UNLESS you listen to the audio version. I got to see him speak in mid-November after I had finished this one, and he read some of the stories aloud… I busted a gut.
|To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I thought this novel was fun, but ultimately, forgettable. The premise is sweet: Laura Jean writes letters to the boys she has crushes on when she is “done” with that crush. Somehow, those letters are discovered and mailed to each of the boys, and Laura Jean finds out when they start approaching her to ask about them. She is mortified and tries to deal with it in such a 16-year-old way. There’s so much angst and drama in this one, it felt like a fun binge read, but I cannot imagine that I’ll even REALLY remember the details in six months. Pick it up if you need something fun and sweet, but don’t expect much more than that.
|The Fifth Doll by Charlie Holmberg
Not my favorite of hers. I’d put so many characters and worlds that Holmberg has created above the ones from this story. the premise itself is definitely interesting, but I think it would have made a better short story. Matrona lives in a village that’s perfectly ordinary with perfect weather and lovely neighbors. There’s the odd madwoman and the drunk, but otherwise, it seems just fine. But it’s all an illusion, and as Matrona figures that out, we get rather dragged along on the journey. Charlie can do and has done better as an author. I will continue to seek out her books in the future.
|Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
This novel is about Elvis Babbitt and her family as they suffer through the loss of her mother, from suicide or accident, we don’t know. Her sister Lizzy is a sleepwalker, just like their mother, and often gets into tough or scary situations while asleep. Elvis and her father deal with their grief as well through the course of the book. In all, I thought it was very well done. Elvis is definitely aged in the middle-grade timeframe, but the themes and language in this novel disqualify it as a middle grade read. I do recommend this one, even though parts were a bit tough to listen to (I did the audiobook).
|The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
This book. Wowzers. Took me a while to get through but not for lack of wanting to read! Sheriff Cal Cooper helps run the town of Caesura, known locally as The Blinds, where no one knows their own history, but everyone has one. And as far as we know, very few are Innocent. Fran Adams, Cooper, and 6 other residents make up the original 8, the people who started the town 8 years ago. There are now quite a few more residents and a lot more drama, as we are faced with a suicide and a murder within just a few weeks of each other. Sternbergh’s plotting is tight and fast-paced. His characters are mysterious and interesting. As a reader, you’re not sure who to trust or where things are going next. Just how I like it.
|Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Niel deGrasse Tyson
I may be in a hurry, but I’m also amazed. Our universe is big, diverse, and astounding. Tyson describes it from the smallest atomic particles to the largest planetary scales. You will feel infinitely miraculous while acknowledging at the same time how incredibly tiny and insignificant we all are. I thought this was a great listen (narrated by the author) and would recommend it wholeheartedly.
|Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Can my review of this classic just be lots of smiles and heart eyes? I’m pretty sure I’ve never read this one before, even though it kind of feels like it should be required kid reading! I read a few chapters out loud to the boys, but not the whole thing, because I’m also doing a read along with friends, so I can’t wait for those slowpokes! Anyhow, can’t wait to move on to the next one and read more about Laura and her family.
|Geekerella by Ashley Poston
This was super fun geekery in fairy tale format. All the Cinderella elements are here, but with movie stars and remakes and fangirls and food trucks. The whole thing is just super fun and sweet. It was a quick audio listen and I’d listen again (if my TBR weren’t as out of control as it is) to catch all the fun details. Recommended for fans of fairy tales or other nerds like me. 🙂
|The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Although I do see why this one is a classic, it didn’t strike me as something one MUST read in order to fully comprehend the beauty of classic literature. It’s plenty fun, but I’ll stick with Anne and Tom and Huck for my childhood hijinks and leave Mr. Toad on the Disneyland ride where he belongs in my memories.
|Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
This was a quick but powerful listen about the true story of an unlikely friendship, told from the point of view of the two friends. I will warn you that I was a teary disaster face for the last 15% or so of this story. Highly, highly recommended social justice read. Shocking to me how little I knew/ know about the modern-day slavery that was sharecropping, but not shocked at all by how it plays into the current African American experience. This is simply a short but heartwarming and heartbreaking read, all stuffed into 240 pages.
|Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Although I seriously enjoyed this book, just like its predecessor, it was definitely hard to read in parts. I didn’t read these as a child, so I don’t have the nostalgia factor to carry me through the charged descriptions of interactions between the white-settler Ingalls family and the native Americans they aim to displace as they move west to the Prarie. It was a different time, of course, and I recognize that. But it’s just hard to consider reading this aloud with my kiddos without some serious discussion. However, all that being said, the descriptions of Prarie life and settling a new homestead, and the seasonal way of eating and living are just enchanting to me. Of that, I could not get enough.
|Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Reading challenge category: a book that takes place in New Mexico.
I read this book to check off a reading challenge category, and oftentimes I felt like I was kind of slogging through it. but I’ll tell you what: no one loves NM like the readers of this book love New Mexico. Every time Cather describes the landscape, the world slows down and you get a little taste of the beauty that is this state. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book where the setting is as much of a character as any protagonist. This is the book to read if you’re wondering why someone would wish to live a mile high in the desert in a land where no one shows up on time anywhere and it hardly rains. The slower pace of life in the 19th century means it takes 2 days to get from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, instead of today’s hour, and you get to enjoy the landscape the whole way there.
|The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell
Good thing I liked this book and ordered my own copy because I accidentally set my coffee mug on the open page and I’ll have to replace the library copy anyway. Oops.
This goes right along with the neighboring/ hospitality bug that has bitten me over the past few years, ever since reading The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pashak. I envision a neighborhood that feels like community and Schell has great suggestions for ways to make that happen on a small scale instead of relying on the big parties and movements that happen occasionally but don’t change the everyday that much. Coffee and cookies and conversation around the table. Being present, Front Yard People. It’s on my list!
|I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
I had some serious highs and lows reading this book. some chapters seemed SO petty and ridiculous and like filler, some were SO vitally important and I found myself not just highlighting but tearing up and amen-ing my way through those chapters. I have to say that I wasn’t already familiar with Luvvie Ajayi, so I didn’t come into this with any preconceived notions about what this book should or shouldn’t be. The cover and introduction did make me expect slightly more humor and sass than I found herein. Which is fine! Do be aware that you (we) will be judged from everything from racism to social media oversharing to homophobia to desiring fame to misogyny and rape culture. There are zero punches pulled in this collection of essays.