November Reads

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Hey, fellow Bibliophiles! There went November. What did you finish reading this past month? I’d love to hear!

I’m Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (***) – This is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce series and we find Flavia at Christmas time putting up with a big surprise from her father. They are in financial trouble and he hires out their historic home to a film company. Flavia, of course, always has something up her sleeve, and this time is no different, as she hatches a plan to trap Santa. After a famous actress is found dead, she is on the case. I found this book a bit  predictable with a heavy dose of cheesiness.

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (*) – This book rubbed me the wrong way. You’ve been warned.  Spoiler alert and long review/rant here if you are interested.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (*****) –  Magic realism fascinates me, but I suspect with this one, I really just love the story of justice for the little boy who’s family is murdered. The quintessential battle between “good” (as good as dead people in a graveyard can be) and “evil”. The creepy, fantastical elements make for just a simply good story to me. I really love the relationship with one of the graveyard characters, Silas and the boy, Nobody Owens. I think there is some metaphor here maybe, deeper things, but I just see it as a good story.

Ourselves by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – This might actually be my favorite so far (I haven’t finished Formation), of Charlotte Mason’s works. I can’t articulate why yet, still mulling over it, but I absolutely loved it. I especially found Book 2 to be challenging and beautiful!

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeleine L’Engle (*****) – I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. Madeleine looks back over life, marriage, parenting, and the creative life while walking through her husband Hugh’s cancer diagnosis. Such a beautiful look at life through the lens of faith. I don’t agree with L’Engle on all elements of faith, but her refreshing outlook on God’s character really blessed me. 

The Lighted Heart by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – Elizabeth Yates is probably best known as the author of Amos Fortune, Free Man, although she has written many other beautiful stories. In this lovely memoir, she walks us through her life with her husband Bill as he is going blind. I just love how she describes this from an outsider, yet close relation to someone struggling and how she tries to understand what he is going through. A beautiful story of how different a life of hardship can be if you choose the path of beauty and don’t shut out others, life, and the world around you. So very challenging and heart-warming.

Take Your Characters to Dinner: Creating the Illusion of Reality in Fiction: A Creative Writing Course by Laurel Yourke (****) – A sweet, online friend mailed this to me as a surprise! I savored it slowly and found this to be a fun way to learn how to write deep fictional characters. This is a book you can go back to over and over and work on small parts of it slowly. Very in-depth, detailed instruction on building believable people in your stories.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (****) – Over Halloween, the Bookstagram community (yes, that’s a thing) on Instagram, were digging into creepy classics, so I decided to try one. This is nothing like what you expect…no teen romances with vampires, or vampires struggling to be good and loving humans. (I haven’t read any modern vampire stories, just FYI) This is deep, creepy tale of good versus evil. Easy to read, engaging setting with gorgeous, haunting descriptions, much of this was written in the form of letters and journal entries between the main characters. I found myself tense and disturbed by the Professor and his friends having to find, track, and “kill” the un-dead, all victims of a centuries old vampire, Count Dracula. They then team up to end his generations of terror. Occasionally, I felt like parts were a bit redundant, like didn’t we just go through this exact situation, but overall, fascinating. Stoker’s use of vampire lore/legends was a bit “cheesy” at times, like garlic being a talisman against vampires etc. (An online friend mentioned that these might have originated WITH Stoker!) Overall, I found this adventurous and interesting.

On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King (****) – Other then the excessive swearing and general crassness, I really enjoyed this book and felt like it was inspiring and practical. It wasn’t overly technical, which I appreciate. I’ve never read ANY of Mr. King’s fiction, just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea (he hates clichés, btw. Ha.), but I’m really glad I picked up this title. It makes me feel hopeful, encouraged, and gives me a place to start at with writing.

P.S. I found his attitude towards his wife refreshing and wonderful.

The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier (***) – Beautifully written, informative fictional story based on true people and events during the English Civil War. The immortality and lack of any redemptive characters was disappointing to me. Honor was intriguing, but I could never like her very much. Overall, I felt sad and disappointed at the end. A lot of the situations are probably what it WAS truly like but I was hoping for something a bit more hope-filled in the lives of the characters.

Thoughts Afield: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter by Harold E. Kohn (****) – This took me a very long time to get through because I wanted to read the sections in the corresponding season. These were beautiful short devotionals/essays touching on humanity, faith, and nature. For the most part, I found these just so gorgeous and lovely with bits of stark beauty jumping out. A few were a bit moralistic, but overall, I loved them. I see that Mr. Kohn has a large back list and I can’t wait to read more of his quiet essays and observations.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (*****) – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into this title. For me, this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. I really think I’m probably missing a lot in it’s vague undertones, but I came away with much to think about and ponder. I really appreciated the approachable prose, it’s beautiful, yet simple. Yet the implication of what Ishiguro writes is complex. Can’t wait to read more by this author.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – Christian fiction title that I’ve been anticipating. A longer review here if you are interested, a bit of a spoiler alert.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (*****) – The middle dragged a bit for me, but the story was wonderful and full of delicious book-lover’s dreams, characters coming alive, real power in reading out loud, writer’s ink bringing life to characters – my oldest and I really enjoyed reading this and talking about it! We are looking forward to the other two in the series.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I just love those names, don’t you? I finished reading through for the year. However, I’ve started the Gospels again and read Matthew in November also.

Here are a few titles I forgot to include in other month recaps!

School Education by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – I recently finished rereading this as part of my CM Book Study Group and it is so fantastic. Read here for an overview!

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner (**) – Spoiler Alert! Everything happens too fast (boom – a best friend, boom – a Christian, boom – love at first sight, boom – engaged & married. The End.) The story idea was an intriguing one, but just very little character development.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon (***) – A modern retelling of the story of Esther. I loved the setting, detailed and richly woven life with a Bedouin clan. I liked that the romance wasn’t just physical-attraction driven, character was important. However, the romance situation was hard to swallow. Overall, this was a light, interesting read.

Mr. Write (Sundaes for Breakfast #1) by Chelsea Hale (**) – The title (not to mention the cover art) should have clued me in, what can I say? This was very predictable, eye-rolling plot, annoying, inspirational romance.

 

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16 thoughts on “November Reads

  1. Quite a diverse selection of books here, Amy, & I appreciate your commentary on each one.I finished a couple of Australian Classics this month. I join in with a yearly AusReading challenge during November @ Brona’s Books for this. I have a couple of SLOW reads that I’m taking my time over: Norms & Nobility & Life Under Compulsion. I also finished a book for the Back to the Classics Challenge (The Forgotten Daughter) and also one I read after picking it up 2nd hand the other day – The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carré, which I really enjoyed despite its bleakness & the sad ending. Not that you’d expect anything else in a Cold War espionage & I surprised myself that I could follow the storyline as I never can when I watch a movie about that sort of thing.

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    1. I know, Carol, I noticed that too. I’m kind of all over the place with genres! 😛 Ooooo…love hearing what you are reading. My 10yo Sam and I loved The Magic Pudding recently! I’m going to check into The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, it sounds intriguing. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing! Amy

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  2. We’ve just finished the audio version of The Graveyard Book, and I’ve also read Dracula during Spooktober. I enjoyed them both immensely. I’m very sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy The King’s General, as that’s on my TBR. Oh dear…

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    1. Uh oh. Sorry about TKG! Yeah, it didn’t have a lot of redemption, I’m a sucker for SOMETHING redemptive in books. I mean, it can be a sad story, or whatever, but just PLEASE have something hopeful. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Graveyard Book and Dracula also! NEAT! 😀

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  3. I completely agree with you about needing and enjoying books with a redemptive element…I look for those as much as possible. And I have so much respect for someone who can critically read and review a Christian book (like Life Creative) without fear of giving low-star reviews. There are just too many good books to read that I appreciate honest reviews that help me decide where to place my reading energy. 🙂 I’m excited to say I finished Emma in November and am actually rereading parts 🙂 it was SO good! I started listening to Frankenstein on Audible and is better than I expected! I’m also in the middle of Fahrenheit 451 and it’s very intriguing!

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  4. I love your list! I am always reading a book. Currently I am reading In the Wilderness by Sigrid Undset. It’s part of a series of four books and this one is the 3rd. So far, its the least interesting of the series. I hope it finishes up well. It’s taking me “forever” to get through it. I also ordered and received (today) The Big Sky by AB Guthrie, Jr. I have a goal of reading all the pulitzer prize fiction novels and he won for another of his novels, but this one had rave reviews. I really want to read your numbers 5 and 6 especially. I read Dracula a few years ago, free on my kindle.

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    1. Oh yes! I think I read a few of those in the Undset series…Kristin Lavransdatter? I haven’t heard of Big Sky! Neat! I’m really not up on modern books at all, is it recent? That’s a really great idea about the Pulitzer!!! I highly, highly recommend Two-Part Invention and The Lighted Heart, so glad those caught your eye.

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  5. Amazing titles, some of which I’ve read. I love seeing you concur with me in the grading you gave to Ishiguro, Du Maurier, and Dracula, I’ve also enjoyed that Flavia de Luce’s title, and I do seriously want to read The Graveyard book. I agree with your 3 stars to The King’s General, it was OK, but a one time read to me.

    Kudos on reading not one but two of Miss Mason’s books. I too have to read Ourselves, (maybe I should choose it for the Back to the Classics title in the written by a woman’s category.)

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  6. I’ve not heard of most of these books! My husband read Dracula and was really surprised by it. He described it as frighteningly good. It’s on my list to read and I will probably look at reading in this coming year in October. 🙂

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