Welcome back to my monthly wrap-up! We are fast approaching the end of the year and boy do I need to pick up my pace if I'm going to meet my goal by the end of next month. Phew! I feel like I've been slowing down. Anyways! I know that some of these books may be listed for sale on the website, but I want to keep my reviews honest. We may not have the same taste in books and I encourage you to check them out regardless!
I read six books in November: three physical books and three audiobooks. Let's go!
Go as a River - Shelley Read
⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | audiobook | synopsis here
My Review: Every time I finish a book, my husband will always ask what it was about. This is one of the few books where my answer is "How much time do you have?"; it's near impossible to give an easy synopsis of what I read here, but I do know that I enjoyed it.
This was a book about many things: family, love, loss, motherhood, perseverance, survival. It made me think about a lot of big questions without posing them directly or giving me an answer. The prose was wonderful to listen to (I enjoyed the audiobook), and the atmosphere felt like a dappled summer day, which is a nice change given that it's snowing outside.
Pacing here was medium-slow, especially because it was hard to tell where the plot was going at times. But I was always interested in listening and I felt like I really cared about our protagonist. I also really, really liked where this book ended. Perfect choice.
I'd definitely pick up something else by Shelley Read and will look out for future releases of hers! Give this one a read if you like historical fiction and heavy slice-of-life, introspective novels.
content warnings: hate crime, racial slurs, racism, death of parent, murder, pregnancy
The Star and the Strange Moon - Constance Sayers
⬤⬤⬤⬤〇 | e-ARC | synopsis here
My Review: Thanks to Redhook and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feedback are my own.
I've read a few horror books about media gone awry recently (Silver Nitrate, Mister Magic, etc.), but I've never heard of one with this exact premise. And I really did like the premise. I thought the concept of having to act your way out of a horror movie in a Groundhog Day-type manner was riveting, and the fact that the film with the new additions was shown every couple of years was very eerie.
For the most part, I enjoyed the execution! I loved the Gothic atmosphere, the slow burn, the twists that the audience was given. I will say it was probably 50-100 pages too long. However, the thing I liked most was the evolution of the relationship between Christopher and Gemma. It felt reminiscent of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue for a couple reasons (and I loved that book).
The biggest disservice to this book is marketing it as a horror; it is absolutely not. This is a fantasy historical fiction with a touch of romance. The backdrop / inciting incident is the filming of a horror movie, but I feel like describing it as a horror book closes it off to a potentially wider audience who would enjoy this book. While there are certainly a few horror/Gothic elements to the plot, I wouldn't let that characterization dissuade you from looking into this book.
Overall, an interesting premise executed very well, and I look forward to seeing what Sayers comes out with in the future.
What Moves the Dead - T Kingfisher
⬤⬤⬤⬤⬤ | hardcover | synopsis here
My Review: YESSSSSSS! The last time I had a 5-star read this year was mid-August and I just KNEW I could count on T Kingfisher to knock it out of the park. The atmosphere is eerie and Gothic and delightful and oppressive. The prose is just the right amount of descriptive and beautiful.
I felt doom. I felt gloom. There were a couple sequences that had me genuinely squirming and on the edge of my seat. It was just the right length, which is something I don't often say about novellas (T Kingfisher always does wonderful with her pacing and length of books this size though). I thought the worldbuilding was interesting but not overbearing, and I got approved for an ARC for the sequel YUM YUM.
Classic Kingfisher W, can't wait to nosh on more reads by her.
content warnings: ani
Ripe - Sarah Rose Etter
My Review: I guess I should start by saying I don't think this book is for everyone, and if you hate it, I can totally understand why. Much like Go as a River, which I also read this month, this book doesn't feel like it has much of a plot to it. More of a hard-hitting slice-of-life. I just happen to really relate to some of what's brought up here due to my career as a woman in tech.
I enjoyed the prose and the audiobook narration, and I was eager to know what would happen next even if I couldn't discern what the conflict was, if there even was one. I just felt like in another life, it could be me, and that was a captivating thought.
The *gimmick* of this book that I'm not totally sure I understood was the black hole. I can appreciate it as a metaphor and motif and its purpose thematically - in theory - but it felt like it didn't play enough of a role in the story. I was just expecting more, so that was a bit of a let-down.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised here. I probably wouldn't recommend it to most folks, but I appreciate it for what it is.
content warnings: abortion, drug use, suicide, mental illness, pandemic
Yours for the Taking - Gabrielle Korn
My Review: Thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feedback are my own.
Let me begin by saying this is a queer science fiction book with great rep and an interesting premise of a climate dystopian world. I feel like all my sentences about how I feel after reading this book follow the structure of "I really wanted to like x, but y...". To prove my point, a list:
- I really wanted to like the sapphic romances, but they felt too shallow and poorly developed for us to value them as much as we were seemingly meant to.
- I really wanted to like the premise of the elite leaving the planet behind and living on space ships, but the science seemed too poorly thought-out (How are these people going from space to earth to space to earth? Where are they getting the fuel? I have too many questions.)
- I really wanted to like the plot twist about Jacqueline's Inside development strategy, but it seemed a little too mustache-twirling evil and obliviously ignorant to be believable.
I could keep going. Some things were certainly done well and I enjoyed myself enough overall. This book just needed another two or so passes by an editor to tighten up some character development and motivations. I liked the questions and thoughts the themes of this book provoked, and the concept was pretty different from most things I've read recently. Pretty 50/50 on this one, but would be interesting in reading Korn's sophomore novel for sure!
content warnings: transphobia, confinement, grief, drug abuse
The Night Parade - Jami Nakamura Lin
My Review: The speculative/metaphorical memoir genre has led to some of my all-time favorite nonfiction: In the Dream House, How Far the Light Reaches among them. So I am devastated when a book written in a similar style falls relatively flat to me. It's still a good memoir, but allow me to explain.
First: a personal bias: I was not expecting death to be such a prevalent theme. I figured it would be mentioned, but it was very pervasive and that topic often gives me anxiety and existential dread. This book was a lot sadder than anticipated and if I had known that I probably wouldn't have picked it up.
The premise of combining a memoir about mental illness and pregnancy and grief with a Japanese four-act narrative structure is brilliant. I enjoyed learning about yokai and other figures of legend from various cultures and I think I probably missed out by listening to this as an audiobook and not seeing the illustrations in the text.
However, some of the allusions to mythology and folklore seemed to fragment and confuse the memoir narrative. At times I felt like I wasn't drawing the proper comparisons between the memories presented and their legend/storytelling counterparts. I really wanted to stay engaged in the story, but I felt like I lost the thread a few too many times.
There's definitely something here to learn and reflect on, and this format is unique and thought-provoking. I might just not be its audience.
What was your favorite book you read this month? Let me know!