November was a busy month. Don’t ask me what I was busy with because I genuinely cannot remember but it was BUSY. Because of that, I didn’t read too much until the middle of the month. Once I did start reading regularly, I read quite a bit.
I finished 12 books in November. The part I’m most proud of is that 5 of them were paperbacks. I’ve been good at reading more paperbacks lately and I’m so happy about it. Reading and annotating paperbacks is enjoyable on a level that ebooks cannot reach.
Anyway, onto my November reads! I have a lot of thoughts on them.
girl, woman, other by bernadine evaristo
- 1 girl, woman, other by bernadine evaristo
- 2 bloody spade by brittany m. willows
- 3 my dark vanessa by kate elizabeth russell
- 4 refusing compulsory sexuality by sherronda j. brown
- 5 heartless by elsie silver
- 6 ex-appeal by cathy yardley
- 7 fahrenheit 451 by ray bradbury
- 8 pen pal by j. t. geissinger
- 9 smart girl summer by kristin rockaway
- 10 six crimson cranes by elizabeth lim
- 11 a war of swallowed stars by sangu mandanna
- 12 make time by jake knapp and john zeratsky
I received a copy of Girl, Woman, Other as a secret Santa gift last year. I participated in one with my book club and the person who gifted it said that it sounds like a book about strong women and as I’m a strong woman, it would be perfect for me. The sentiment was so sweet that I would remember it every time I saw the book on my shelf.
Since it is a thick book and is literary fiction, I expected to take a while to read it but I didn’t. It was surprisingly easy to read. Once I got used to the writing style, I was flying through the pages. I think I read it in two days. The writing style keeps things interesting and fast-paced.
The book takes us through the lives of multiple women. We see their lives from the beginning to (in some cases) the end. The writing has to be fast-paced to fit it all in. Although it read like an anthology and I don’t like anthologies, I didn’t have an issue with this because all the stories were interconnected. We would see them interact with each other and find different perspectives of the same character before reading from their own perspective.
I loved how the book had a variety of characters across different points in time and with very different lives. I couldn’t help but root for them all despite some big flaws.
Overall, a solid read. Not one that would stay with me for a long time but a great read.
bloody spade by brittany m. willows
I got this as an ARC from the author quite a while back but was never in the mood to read it. After reading Girl, Woman, Other, I was scrolling through my Kindle library and accidentally clicked this. Since it opened, I decided to go ahead and read it.
Bloody Spade is a YA fantasy set in a mildly futuristic world which has magic. The world-building is a mixture of two things but, in my opinion, not a great mix. It’s something. I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to care about world-building because of the characters and writing style.
It was a predictable young adult fantasy with no thrilling twists or edge-of-your-seat aspects. I saw the two big reveals coming pretty early on. I really did not care about the romance between the main characters. I appreciated two characters being on the asexual spectrum but that’s where my appreciation ends. The characters (except one) felt surface-level too, with not much depth.
Overall, not a book that I was impressed by. I would say that it could be better for younger readers but I’ve read middle-grade books with more depth and intrigue than this.
my dark vanessa by kate elizabeth russell
This book has been on my radar because I’ve seen many people talk about it but it was never actually on my TBR. When a friend mentioned that his book club was reading this next, I decided to join them. I knew that the only way I would read this book is through a book club.
My Dark Vanessa was a frustrating and disturbing book to read, in the best way. It is supposed to be disturbing and downright disgusting at times. And I believe that it is meant to be frustrating as well. Reading from Vanessa’s perspective was highly interesting because she’s a very smart girl who picks up wrong things quickly but she also gets led away from her instincts so easily. When she is groomed and is basically brainwashed, it is so hard to read her thoughts.
The book club listened to the audiobook which was streamed centrally so we couldn’t read at our own pace. This was an interesting experience and it made me pay more attention to the words. But because we were listening to the audiobook, it was harder to not skim through the uncomfortable parts.
The story felt dragged out after half point. I kept waiting for the book to end or for some logical step forward. It was like we were going in circles. But towards the end, there were a few really good chapters. I loved discussing the ups and downs of the book with others.
Overall, a really good read. The writing style was great and didn’t mince words. The story was disturbingly realistic. As idealists, we didn’t want to accept it but it does reflect real situations. The book didn’t have the ending I wanted but I understand why it ended that way.
refusing compulsory sexuality by sherronda j. brown
I’ve been reading at least one non-fiction book every month this year and November’s pick was Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture. I received a physical ARC of this book (so happy about that, especially since I’m outside of the US!) and was waiting to be in a good mood to pick it up. November felt like the perfect time because it was also non-fiction November (even though I didn’t participate and read-only non-fiction for the month).
Right off the bat, the book does not bother to simplify anything. It revels in its complicated terms, complex string of words, and blunt truths. The writing is NOT easy to read. If I was anywhere close to a reading slump, this would have sent me straight into it. It reads quite like a long research paper, honestly. If I wasn’t very interested in the subject, I might have stopped reading partway.
The writing is a shame because the content is riveting. I loved every single aspect that the author discussed and broke down. The book touches on the different parts of Asexuality and deep-dives into each part by going through history, how other types of discrimination partake, how people often reject the truth, and more. I couldn’t help but annotate a ton. Many of the sentences spoke to me. The book introduced me to new facts and truths too.
My main criticism of the book is that—despite going deep into topics—it has a narrow view. As the title says, it is a Black Asexual lens. I will also add that it is a non-male lens i.e. looking from strictly non-binary and female perspectives. There was so much that could have been said in each section about other experiences but this book has instead focused on one perspective.
As someone who is not Black and does not in the USA, the narrow view was much more evident. I couldn’t relate to a lot of pop culture references or breakdowns, I did not know background knowledge on some of the facts mentioned, and I wasn’t invested in some topics that the author focused on.
Overall, a great book. But I have to say that the people who should be reading it are the ones who won’t put in the effort to stick through the hard writing.
heartless by elsie silver
I needed a light book to read as a break from Refusing Compulsory Sexuality and picked this up because of the praise for it on social media.
Heartless is a small-town romance book about a single dad and his temporary nanny. It also has the grumpy x sunshine and age gap trope. It felt like any other romance book with these tropes, honestly. It wasn’t a great read for me.
I liked Willa because of her personality and I was annoyed with Cade because of his. He’s a blueprint grumpy male lead and I couldn’t find anything new or interesting in his character. The supporting characters were pretty similar to the ones in other small-town romance books as well.
My main issue with the book was Cade. I also wasn’t a fan of the age gap trope. I didn’t know that the book had it before picking it up. I can generally tolerate the trope as long as the “oh she’s/he’s so younger than me!” monologue does not come up more than once. Here, it came up several times and it annoyed me.
Overall, an alright read. I wouldn’t recommend it.
ex-appeal by cathy yardley
I’ve read and loved the first two books of the Ponto Beach series so, of course, I picked this up soon after its release.
Ex-Appeal is a second-chance romance through a necessary partnership. Vinh has been a corporate machine ever since he landed his first job and being that good has caused him to get targeted by an attack. When a huge amount of illegitimate money goes missing while he is the only one who can access it, he is forced to ask his ex-girlfriend to help him.
Emily has had a very different life ever since they broke up. She was on her way to fulfilling one of her dreams when her dad passed away and suddenly, everything in her life was up in the air. She dropped out of university to keep her family together.
She agrees to help Vinh because she needs the money and wanted the satisfaction of making his life a little miserable in return for the pain he caused her during their breakup. But of course, new truths emerge, feelings resurface, and not everything goes according to plan.
I really liked the character growth in this book. Especially how Emily realized her past flaws without anyone explaining them to her and accepted them. Both of them grew during the book and were accepting of new information and criticisms. It was nice to see.
Overall, a solid read. It’s not my favourite Ponto Beach book though.
fahrenheit 451 by ray bradbury
Although I’ve known of this book for a long time, it wasn’t on my TBR because I’m not a classics person and this didn’t stand out too much. But recently, I saw a review on Instagram that made me want to read the book. I got it on my next bookstore run and didn’t wait long before reading it.
Fahrenheit 451 is unlike the other classics that I’ve read. Mainly, I loved how it stood relevant even decades after its publication. Some aspects were outdated like the characters having only earbuds and TV as technology but the point that was driven home using them is even more alarming taking newer tech into account.
The book features a society where books are banned—and burned–and people have stopped having interesting conversations or thinking too much. The main character does not question his job as a book burner until a few events force him to. Once he begins to question things, he unravels.
Although it was a classic, I read it in one evening. I couldn’t put it down. Check out my full review to know all my thoughts on the book.
pen pal by j. t. geissinger
After Fahrenheit 451, I felt like picking up a very different book to switch things up. While looking through the romance books available on kindle unlimited, I came across Pen Pal and it sounded interesting. So, I got it and immediately started reading it.
Firstly, I thought it was a dark romance about a widow finding love. But it soon turned into a ghost story. That was weird because there was nothing about ghosts or a haunted house in the premise of the book.
I didn’t mind it, though. I was looking for a book different from my previous read so I went along with it. There was some romance but most of the book was about the main character dealing with a suddenly haunted house and being scared out of her wits. There was also some smut thrown in at random times which felt very out of place and I skipped almost all of them.
The revelation at the end of the book was quite interesting and it was a satisfying twist after all the jumpscares.
Overall, a really interesting book. I give it all the points for intrigue and creativity. I would have hated it if I went in wanting a romance, though. It shouldn’t have been marketed as such. It belongs in the mystery or thriller sections.
smart girl summer by kristin rockaway
Although Pen Pal was interesting, I felt cheated out of a romance. So I picked up another romance book from Kindle Unlimited. I didn’t know much about Smart Girl Summer. The premise looked alright so I just dove into it.
The book is about a PhD student whose mentor stole her work and published it under his name with zero credits to her. The authorities refuse to side with her due to lack of evidence and she decides to take a break from studying to formulate a plan and not make rash decisions. Through her tutoring agency, she gets a full-time summer tutoring job for the daughter of a billionaire. When she learns that she will be travelling with them on a yacht through super cool destinations, she jumps on the chance.
I only liked one thing about the book which was Abby’s dilemma about leaving academia and growing to accept that her current path doesn’t make her happy. That growth was nice and I would have liked to see more of it.
Otherwise, the characters were super dull and I felt no enthusiasm for the romance. There was no chemistry between the characters and the relationship development and conflict felt plain. It didn’t evoke any emotions in me.
Overall, a subpar read. I gave up on reading romance after this.
six crimson cranes by elizabeth lim
I bought a really pretty spray-painted hardcover edition of Six Crimson Crows last year and it has been collecting dust on my shelf until now. I am a little ashamed that I picked the book up after the second book was released but oh well. Honestly, the thing that prompted me to finally pick it up was seeing the matching custom spray-painted hardcover edition for book 2. I decided to read book 1 and buy book 2 only if I liked it.
It’s been a while since I read a fantasy like this one. Six Crimson Crows is purely escapist fiction. It is meant to transport you into a completely different world and help you forget your problems by focusing on the problems of fictional characters. It is also super easy to read and get lost in. I finished the book in two sittings.
Despite all of that, I didn’t love the book. I liked it but I didn’t like it enough to read the sequel on priority or keep it in my mind. It is a simple young adult fiction. It was great but somehow, nothing stood out to me. No plot device packed a punch and none made me gasp. Basically, it didn’t move me. And I like to be moved by the stories I read.
Overall, a good read. Not a memorable one, unfortunately.
a war of swallowed stars by sangu mandanna
After Six Crimson Cranes, I thought, why not pick another fantasy book? A War of Swallowed Stars was already on my Kindle so I opened it.
Earlier this year, I read the first two books in this trilogy last year and didn’t like both of them. The concept is interesting to me but I somehow could not like the plot or the characters. I found it to be a regular young adult fantasy and found the twists predictable. I still gave book 3 a shot mainly because I wanted to see how the story ends.
Although I was a little bit lost when I started book 3, I quickly remembered the important parts of previous books. And I quickly realized that this book wasn’t going to turn things around for me.
I found this book to be quite predictable as well. My biggest complaint in this is how the characters focused on a completely different “quest” for a while instead of the war. It would have been fine if it didn’t feel like a filler. The whole thing did not make sense to me.
And then, the ending. I expected it because the author alluded to that solution for a while before it happened and wasn’t satisfied with it. The “twist” on the last page was pretty predictable because of the way this story clearly caters to a specific type of YA fantasy.
Overall, a meh ending to a meh series (for me). It just wasn’t for me.
make time by jake knapp and john zeratsky
I needed a complete genre switch after reading two fantasy books so I picked another non-fiction book. Make Time has been on my radar for a while. I actually gifted it to a friend a few months back and borrowed it from him to read it haha.
I expected a lot from Make Time. It has been praised well and the front cover includes a blurb from Charles Duhigg. The beginning of the book looked promising too. The introduction was nice.
Unfortunately, the book wasn’t impressive to me. After the introduction, the book is basically a super long list of different ways to “make time” and is broken into multiple sections according to their intent. Sections are further divided into subsections based on related points.
Essentially, the book is a list of tips that we can try out in our daily lives. Many are common, some are extreme, and quite a few are specific to the authors’ lifestyles.
The authors clearly say that different things work for each of them and they may or may not work for the reader—and we have to figure out what works for us through experimentation—I didn’t find it enough of a preface. A huge portion of the tips is based on what the authors believe and what works for them.
For example, there are several examples based on email. Not everyone has their work emails on their personal phones (like me) so tips to curb that are out the window. There’s an entire subsection on caffeinating properly but 1 out of 10 people are hypersensitive to caffeine (including me). And the book will mostly not work for people whose livelihoods are online like influencers.
There isn’t a lot of generic advice that anyone can apply. There were a significant number of tips that were extreme that wouldn’t work for most people. The ones that would work for most were ones that are commonly shared online. They’re not new.
The authors freely refer to other points within a point. While it is good to create connections, too many of them also create a disconnect because it doesn’t have a good linear flow. The book is meant to be one that readers flip through randomly and try things instead of one that makes sense in a linear fashion.
Overall, it was a disappointing book for me. I understand the way it is useful but it is not very useful to me. I felt like I could have gotten the same amount of actually useful information from a good blog post online. I don’t like such books but they might work for others. I suggest flipping through it in a bookstore before deciding to buy it.