26 Quick Lit Reviews: November 2020 Novel Ideas
November was a roller coaster of a month. With Covid cases suddenly on the rise, school has been canceled once again which means more time at home with the kids. For me, that means more books of the feel-good variety to intersperse with some of the heavier reads. For Kirsten, whose been virtual all year, it means lots and lots of audiobooks so she can listen while playing lunch lady, mom, and teacher. In November 2020 Novel Ideas, you’ll find quick reviews of all the books we read this month. Which books will make your TBR stack?
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November 2020 Novel Ideas – Kirsten’s Stack
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Thanks to Gallery Books for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Do you love Christmas movies? Are you obsessed with Romance books? Do you need to swoon? If you answered yes to any of those questions, stop everything and order In a Holidaze. I FREAKING LOVE THIS BOOK. Like possibly my favorite Christmas novel of all time.
I adored Mae and Andrew’s love story. It’s set up like Groundhog’s Day with Mae repeating the same Christmas vacation until she gets it right. And man… does she get it right. Peppermint Kisses, Sexy Sledding, Snowball Fights, Christmas Tree trimming… this book is oozing with cheer-filled holiday goodness with a few scenes that are steamier than a cup of cocoa. 4.5 stars
Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory
Thanks to Atria for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Philippa Gregory is known for her historical fiction novels set at the Royal Court of England, but in her latest Fairmile series, she exposes us to the grittier side of English life. Set 20 years after Tidelands leaves off, we are reunited with Alys and her family. Its a new location, with new threats, and devious people. While parts of the novel were predictable (I had Livia figured out IMMEDIATELY) this was a story about the journey. I loved seeing New England, Venice, and London through the eyes of Aly’s family. I hope there are more books in this series. 4 stars.
The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson
Thanks to Melissa Ferguson for my review copy. All opinions are my own. What an adorable enemies-to-lovers story! I loved seeing the prank war unfold between these two neighbors. They were worth rooting for from the beginning. If you are looking for a charming, light-hearted tale that ends with a kiss, then this is the story for you! 4 stars.
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Thanks to Libro.fm for my review copy. All opinions are my own. Wowza. We are not from here is the book American Dirt should have been, an own-voices tale of the migrant journey into the USA. This tale doesn’t give erroneous detail to lighten the load of the harrowing, impossible journey to the north. Instead, it delivers staggering truths of how and why migrants risk their lives for the possibility of a better life. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to learn more about immigration in America. 5 stars.
Cobble Hill by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Thanks to Atria Books and Libro.Fm for my review copy. All opinions are my own. It’s hard not to compare this book to the Gossip Girl series, but I urge you to try. This book explores families in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn and is a more mature look at NYC. The families and their stories are interwoven in a gossip girl like way, but the similarities end there.
The struggles these families experience range from eccentric to serious, but they all feel very real and relatable. These could be your neighbors or friends and that’s what makes it so enjoyable! I hope this book becomes a TV series because we could use an ensemble series with characters as quirky and lovable as this crew. I thoroughly enjoyed this escapist fiction! Also, it was excellent on audio!
Beautiful Wild by Anna Godbersen
I wanted to love this YA romance, but sadly it was a bit too young for me. YA can be hit or miss for adults and while my adult self didn’t love it, I could see my teenage self ADORING it. As a 36-year-old, the emotional depth of the characters left something for me to be desired, but with ballgowns, a love-triangle, and a story set on a stranded on a desert island, I can see the appeal for younger readers. If you are an adult that likes YA, I’d say skip it, but if you are a teenager – dive right in! 2.5 stars.
Long Live the Queen by Bryan Kozlowski
Thanks to Bryan Kozlowski and Turner Publishing for my review copy. All opinions are my own. I absolutely adore this non-fiction look at the Queen’s life. Told in 23 chapters each about a rule the Queen lives by, it’s one of the most unique looks into the Queen’s life I’ve ever read. Instead of a boring biography, we are treated to moments and stories of the Queen’s life relevant to the “rule” being discussed.
When looking at why one’s life needs order, we see the various influences which created structure for the Queen throughout her life. Or on the section about defending the honor of the crown, appropriately called Off With Their Heads, we read about tidbits of the Queen’s tough love philosophy. I took a few life lessons of my own out of the book. I can’t recommend this quick read enough. It’s easily one of my top picks on this list! 4.5 stars.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruth Sepetys
I know people who adored this historical fiction novel about Spain set during its years under dictatorship, but I had trouble connecting with the story. By the time I found myself getting invested in the story, we had jumped 20 years and hit the ending. It just never had me hooked. 2 stars.
We like to listen to books as a family when we are in the car together or doing a puzzle. The standout book for me this month was Winterhouse.This middle-grade mystery was as enthralling to me as it was to my boys. I loved the slight bits of magic in the story and the captivating setting of an expansive ski hotel on a snowy mountain at Christmas time. If you love a cozy mystery, pick this one up! 5 stars.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
I read this book in a few short days after finding out I would be interviewing Lori Gottlieb for a local charity event. I was so intrigued by the concept of a therapist talking about her own experience in therapy and how it relates to her clients. It was fascinating and filled with insight that is relevant to how we all live our lives and how we relate to the community around us. Lori was a pleasure to interview and I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next. 4 stars.
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
I don’t even know how to process my feelings on this book. On one hand, the writing and plotline were fascinating as a psychologist tries to unlock the memories of a girl who received “the treatment” to forget about her rape.
On the other hand, there were multiple in-depth, brutally accurate depictions of the rape itself that were deeply disturbing. It felt wrong and uncomfortable to be investing in a story that used such a brutal act for entertainment. It left me uncomfortable. 3 stars.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
I adored Bennett’s debut book The Mothers so I was nervous to read her sophomore novel. Sometimes the next novel doesn’t live up to the first, but The Vanishing Half totally does. The premise is so unique. Two black sisters, so pale they can pass for white. One embraces her black heritage and her hometown, the other disappears into white suburbia. When they meet up again 20 years later through their own daughters, the result is a stunning portrayal of the ties that tether us to our families. 4 stars.
Finally, my library hold for the last book in the Caraval series came through! This book series needs to be made into a movie. The final book in the trilogy answered all the questions and left me with a giant smile on my face. If you love The Night Circus, you need to read this magical tale… preferably before it becomes a movie! 4 stars.
Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
The next book in the Maisie Dobbs series was as charming as the first. I love that Maisie is a smart, fearless female detective who isn’t afraid to use her woman’s intuition to give her insight into a case. This particular mystery reminded me a bit of A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie in the best way. I can’t wait to read another Maisie book next month. 3.5 stars.
The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull
I always love a good royal read (have your seen our books to read if you love The Crown post,) so it should come as no surprise that I was eager to learn about a lesser-known woman in royal history. Lady Thelma Furness was the woman before Wallis Simpson. History remembers Wallis as the woman for whom King Edward VIII giving up his throne. In this book, we get to see King Edward’s relationship with Thelma and why it unraveled leading him into Wallis’s arms. Thelma is herself the aunt of Gloria Vanderbilt and great-aunt to Anderson Cooper. There was a lot of juicy info in this historical fiction. It was also great on audio! 4 stars.
HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes
I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this book since Elizabeth announced she was writing it. I’m an avid follower of her account (you should be too) where she explains the significance of the Royal Family’s wardrobe. The nuance and attention to detail the Royals use when dressing is fascinating to me. Elizabeth breaks it down in an accessible and understandable way. I’m thrilled that her book delivers everything I’ve come to expect from her and more. This in-depth look at The Queen, Diana, Catherine, and Meghan is informative and beautiful. This is the perfect coffee table book for any fashion lover! 4.5 stars.
November 2020 Novel Ideas – Jackie’s Stack
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black man by Emmanuel Acho
I admit that I do not listen to podcasts but I heard so much about this book that I could not wait to listen to it. Thank you so much @McMillanaudio for my copy of this book. It did not take me long to listen to this book but it is full from beginning to end. I love Acho’s straight forward voice. There are no accusations. Rather, here are answered questions from someone who has the answers. I learned a lot from this book like the origins of the term “grandfathered in”. Acho has a unique and powerful voice. This book is a must-listen! 4.5 stars
I love the idea of this story and there was so much about it that I loved. The exploration of a multi racial identity from a teenagers point of view is unique and powerful. However, there were also things I felt were missing from this coming of age story. There were key moments that were skipped over that took away from the emotional nature of the story. I wish there was a little more. Even though this story is YA I think the story could have had a little bit more. 3 stars
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I loved Matt Haig’s Last Book (How to Stop Time) and I was so excited to read this book. I loved it even more- it is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. This is a library that has books filled with the infinite possibilities of the lives not lived. Have you ever wondered about a choice, or a path not taken? When Nora finds herself in the library she is forced to face the choices that she made in her life- relationships, education, profession…This is a magical book and I loved every minute of it. 5 stars
White Ivy is the latest book pick from the Read With Jenna book club. I normally love her picks, so I eagerly picked this story up. It didn’t live up to the level of her other picks for me.
Ivy is a Chinese American who from a very young age learns to steal and take what she wants. She grew up in a poor family who sent her to a fancy private school where she met Gideon, the boy who would forever represent the epitome of perfection and success. And while the writing is good and there is an element of thrill to the book, the characters fell flat for me and there was never an element of surprise.
There was nothing about Ivy that I could relate to which would have worked for me if there were surprising elements to her character. I felt like the characters we stereotypes of characters rather than characters with depth. It affected the way I felt about the book and for me, it missed the mark. 3 stars
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth
I started Plain Bad Heroines and I did not know what to think. I was debating giving up on the book for a little while because I just wasn’t sure where the book was going. Fast forward. I loved it and I am glad I stuck with it. This book is unlike any other book I have ever read. It has all the makings of a cult horror. It is scary, complex and so well written. The lines of reality and fiction are perfectly blurred. It is a book about a book and making a movie about that same book. ( follow that? Lol) The story intertwines the lives of all those that read the book and the mystery and supernatural that follows them 🐝. I don’t usually read horror but I loved this book. Thank you to @librofm for my copy! If you’ve read this I have to talk to someone about it!!! 4.5 stars
What a cute book. This was the perfect, book to read for a pick me up. Eileen is almost 80 and regrets a life half lived. She is recently single and is looking for love but cannot seem to find it in her small English village. Leena, her granddaughter, is ordered to take a two-monthbreak from work. She is overworked and in need of a break. Leen comes up with the perfect plan- to switch places for two months. This is an adorable, feel-good read. 3.5 stars
Clap When you Land By Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and counts down the days until her father comes to visit every year from New York City. Yahaira Rios lives in New York city and her life changes forever the day she finds out her father has been killed in a plane crash on his way to the Dominican Republic for his summer trip. The book is emotional, poignant and beautifully written. 3.5 stars
Cobble Hill by Cecily Von Ziegesar
There is something about the crazy characters in this book who are so full, eccentric, and entertaining that I loved. The book is about four married couples in Cobble Hill and their crazy antics that bring them together. I loved that the characters had depth. They are not insipid, vapid characters whose every actions are a foregone conclusion. Rather, I found them hilarious with their cluelessness. This book was completely entertaining and would be an amazing move as well! Thank you to NetGalley and Atria for my copy of this book! 4 stars
Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
This book started out fun and easy to read but I wasn’t sure what the hype was about. Then, it became completely messed up with a serious stalking issue and a completely messed up situation. This book was fun and creepy. It was the perfect thriller for November. 3.5 stars
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
All I can say is wow. This book is absolutely illuminating. I cannot believe the laws in this country that were created to systematically segregate America. More than just redlining, banks and the government created a system in which there were completely different sets of rules depending on the color of your skin. I did not know anything about these laws prior to reading the book and it left me flabbergasted. Please join Kirsten and I on December 14th when we have the privilege of talking with Richard Rothstein about this book.
Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston
This is the third installment in the series about Xanthe who is a spinner of time. As objects sing to her, she feels compelled to follow them so they can her their story. In this book, a wedding dress is calling to her but, Mr. Fairfax, an enemy from the past, will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Xanthe realizes that she must go back to the 1800’s and confront Fairfax in his own time if she is to have a chance as stopping him. This book will leave you hanging- argh. I cannot wait for the next one! 3.5 stars
Clap When you Land By Elizabeth Acevedo
Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and counts down the days until her father comes to visit every year from New York City.
Yahaira Rios lives in New York City and her life changes forever the day she finds out her father has been killed in a plane crash on his way to the Dominican Republic for his summer trip. This is one of the most emotional and poignant books about sisters.