November Reading Wrap-Up

What a month, right?!

What a wrap-up post this turned out to be! I discovered several VERY promising new authors (new to me, at least) this month and didn’t read a single dud! Hooray! Let’s jump right into it then, shall we?

Image Description: a flat lay featuring the book Winter Counts: A Novel by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Th cover of the book is red with a vertical image of a bison imprinted behind the large white text that reads the title, and smaller yellow text in which the author’s name is written. In the photo, the book is cocooned in two brown faux-fur blankets that emote very wintery vibes. Sarah’s arm can be seen coming into the frame from the bottom right and gripping a mug of black coffee which rests to the top right of the book.

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

☕☕☕☕☕ (five stars as rated in cups of black coffee)

This book was just sensational! Thrillers so rarely surprise me but Winter Counts got me GOOD! I really was not expecting the ending, even though, maybe I should have been!? Either way, I am delighted. 

Prose-wise, this novel reads so emotionally at some times and like an action flick at others; minus the problematic narrative of masculinity for masculinity’s sake, of course. And good riddance to that! It is fast paced and vivid and yet maintains suspense without resorting to cheap tricks. Also, while the story is indisputably very bloody (most action/thrillers are) and is certainly VERY dark as well, the violence is never exploitative? Meaning, while it is difficult to discuss something as tragic as the phenomenon of MMIW without exploiting the memories and experiences of thousands of stolen girls and women for something as frivolous as shock factor, DHWW speaks to the shared trauma of Indigneous communities (such as this one) as only someone who has been personally affected by them can; with the kind of perspective that punches you in the face for having ever existed even remotely indifferent to it. And I know I’m not the only white person who needs to be confronted with that reality from time to time. Also, we get to see the main character beat the crap out of a racist. And, I’ll be honest, it was beyond satisfying.

Content warnings for this book: death of an infant, death of a parent, drug use, alcoholism, neglect of a child, vigilante justice, torture scenes, general violence, racist language and behavior, vivid depiction and remembrance of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, time in prison, the prison industrial complex, missing and murdered Indigenous women

Image Description: A flat lay featuring the book, The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune as seen in e-book form on the screen of a white iPad. The iPad is situated on the right half of the square frame of the photo. The background is bright blue and a silver, vintage film camera sits casually beside to book at the top left. The shadows of palm leaves hang over the image, coming into the frame at the bottom left and top right.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

🌻🌻🌻🌻 (four stars as rated in Linus’ Sunflowers)
The following review is copied from my previous post about this book.

What a delight this little book is. Listen, I know I am a total sucker for sweet, sappy stories, but this thing reads like a dang Disney movie and I… *wipes happy tears away* … I just enjoyed it so much! It really is almost more adorable than it has any right to be. Loved the characters, loved the concept, and loved the dose of snark behind every little idiosyncrasy. To me, the book feels much more like preteen fic than YA. It’s very, VERY family friendly. And any complaints I have are that it may have at times been a little TOO sweet for my taste (which is saying something indeed because this girl’s sugar tolerance is high.) Hence the four stars (sunflower) instead of five. I did cry, but I think I just wanted to cry even more?
I don’t know. It’s very possible that I’m a monster. Read this if you want your insides to feel fluffy and covered in powdered sugar because THAT is what this book will do to you.

Content warnings for this book: child abandonment, child abuse, neglect of a child, the implication of sexual misconduct with a child, mob mentality, profiling, prejudiced behavior and language 

A flat-lay featuring The Girl with the Silver Star by Rachel Zolotov. Surrounding the book is an old suitcase with period appropriate clothing spilling from it. There are skeleton keys on a ring and a string of pearls to the right of the novel as well. There are also bits of lavender strewn about and a bunch of the little purple flowers peeking in at the top right corner of the frame.

The Girl With the Silver Star by Rachel Zolotov

🎄🎄🎄(three stars as rated in NEW YEAR’S trees because it turns out those are a thing I’d never heard of!?!?)
𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘢 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘣𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘳 𝘪𝘯 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸.

I really love Russian literature and so getting my hands on an advanced copy of this book was an absolute treat! This story is packed with references to holidays, landmarks, and culturally significant events which, real talk, is just about my favorite thing. I love when a story sends me down half a million Wikipedia rabbit holes, looking up places and customs I’ve never heard of! I think if you are at all curious as to the Russian (and for whatever reason lesser known??) perspective of WWII then this is an excellent starting point. It reads easily and the story certainly moves. Perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Content warnings for this book: antisemitism, vivid descriptions of war, religious profiling, suicide, death of an infant, death of a spouse, bullying

Image Description: A flat lay featuring Only Ashes Remain, book two in the Market of Monsters series by Rebecca Schaeffer. The book is red with burnt looking black edges and a pile of ash in the center. In the ash is the outline of a knife. The book is seen in the photo on a weathered wood surface. There is a hand on the right side of the frame seen to be holding a match that burns precariously above a number of discarded, extinguished matches.

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer (Market of Monsters #2)

 🔥🔥🔥 (three stars, as rated in fire because, BURN IT TO THE GROUND!)
The following review is copied from my previous post about this book.

Oh my. This book is just deliciously dark, isn’t it? My two favorite anti-heroes are BACK in the second installment of the Market of Monsters series and in book two we are sticking our little toesies into the world of full blown governmental conspiracy theories!!! AH! Let me tell you, folks, I was NOT emotionally prepared for this giant turn in the story but boy, OH BOY, do I dig it! I actually think the concept gives the whole thing a level of believability that it was lacking before. There was a whole new depth and sophistication to the plot that I genuinely wasn’t anticipating from a young adult horror/fantasy popcorn read. So, bravo!
Rebecca Schaeffer got even bigger and, naturally, even bloodier with book two. I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating that (just in case anyone reading this is the kind of sociopath who starts a series in the middle) these books are super gross. Strap in for casual bodily dismemberment and abhorrent acts of violence pretty much on the reg. This book involves even more torture than its predecessor (though, like, is anyone really surprised? One of the characters literally EATS people’s pain…). I am not usually so partial to gore, but for whatever reason, I am loving every bit of these books. And, as with the first novel, I wholeheartedly appreciate the moral dilemma faced by the characters about what they are and do. If I want for anything with this series, it is to keep raising the stakes on that conversation. And, given the way the story is going, I have a sneaking suspicion that I will not be disappointed on that account! Waiting for book three on pins and needles!!!

Content Warnings: explicit and sometimes gratuitous violence, bodily dismemberment, cannibalism, abuse, torture, kidnapping, discussion of human trafficking, sociopathic behavior, corruption of police officials, death of a parent, psychological manipulation, organized crime

Image Description: A flat lay featuring the audio book for Becoming by Michelle Obama. A screenshot of the audio book being played through the app Libro.fm is visible on a phone, with blue and white headphones snaking out from it and to the bottom left of the frame. Multicollored yarn is being knit into a thin scarf to the bottom right of the phone and there is a skein or the same yarn to the top left.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

🌟🌟🌟 (three stars as rated in…stars? But glowing stars so they’re still fancy!)

I’ll be honest; I have no idea how to review a memoir. Saying what I liked or disliked about someone’s own perception of their OWN lived experience is a little odd, isn’t it? That being said, Michelle Obama is a very good writer and, having listened to her narration of the audio book, I can attest to the fact that she is a skilled narrator as well. My one gripe is that she (and Barack as well, interestingly enough) speak verrry sloooowly. So I had to speed the playback up to x 1.25 to get through the 19 hours of it. Whoosh!

Political opinions aside, I do rather enjoy the memoirs of First Ladies. There really is nothing quite like the official unofficial role as the president’s spouse and I think the majority of our First Ladies have at least tried to make some sort of a difference for the better in their time with that title.

Content warnings for this book: references to war and some of the more disturbing news events that took place during the course of Michelle Obama’s time as first lady, references to systemic racism and racist behavior

Fable by Adrienne Young (Fable #1)

💰💰💰💰(four stars, as rated in bags of loot because PIRATES! ARRRR!)
The following review is copied from my previous post about this book.

Oh this book is a slow burn! I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into here, but did I ever enjoy the hell out of it! There is so much build up to the first 60% of this story that I was honestly worried I was going to be let down by the end. But, ALAS, I was not! Not in the slightest! I can genuinely say that I feel fully satisfied with the way the plot knotted itself together in the end while still leaving enough possibility hanging about for the next book. Consider me fully invested in this character, this series, and, frankly, this author. She has crafted a magnificent cast of characters, all equally flawed and yet dripping with charm, while still maintaining their believability. Her writing flowed serenely and from page to page. And, while I have absolutely no idea what a nautical life of “dredging” would legitimately entail, I never felt out of my depth (pun intended) as full chapters of diving jargon were thrown around me like cannon fire. My one hope for the second book is that the hints at the supernatural which graced the subplot of this first installment are explored further in its sequel. There is so much potential there that would be a shame to waste! Fingers crossed!

Content warnings for this book: child abandonment, death of a parent, abuse, general violence, kidnapping, murder

Image Description: A flat lay featuring the book And Now She’s Gone: A Novel by Rachel Howzell Hall as seen on a white iPad with a screen that is cracked as if a violent confrontation has just taken place. The iPad is perched on the brown cement around a swimming pool filled with bright blue water. In the water, to the left of the iPad, there is a cloud of blood dispersing in the water. There are several large pools of blood on the the cement to the right of the tablet.

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall

🍸🍸🍸 (Three stars, as rated in dirty martinis sipped in secret by moonlight…)

This book is…. convoluted? Is that the right word? I have to admit I was rather confused for full sections of it. And I’m not entirely sure that wasn’t the intention; to convey to the reader just how out of her depth the protagonist felt? If so, mission well accomplished? Because I genuinely had no idea what was happening at times.
I enjoyed the premise of this mystery a lot. And I actually have no qualms with *how* things turned out, which is fairly rare for me. But I really do wish I’d been given more from the ending. The personal arc of the MC that parallels the overlying “thriller” aspect felt unfairly neglected by the conclusion. (Or lack thereof, tbh.) And that really caught me off guard given its importance to the REST of the story. My fingers are crossed for a sequel to satisfy the conclusion that was teased at. Because otherwise this book is just being mean. Bhaha 🤣 All in all, the thing was about what I expect from a thriller. I really love Howzell Hall’s writing style and she is indisputably skilled at crafting intrigue in a mystery format. I also know she’s going to just keep impressing me as she settles further into her groove. This book felt like the more seasoned older sister to They All Fall Down. Though, as far as mysteries/thrillers go, they are both enjoyable in their own rights. And you will 100% find me on the pre-order list for basically anything she writes going forward. 

Content Warnings for this book: spousal abuse, child abuse, stalking, miscarriage, missing person, framing of an innocent person, insurance fraud, murder, psychological manipulation, death of an infant, drug distribution, drug use, sexually predatory behavior

Image Description: A flatlay featuring the book, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, the cover of which showcases a muscular man and curvy plus-size woman embracing with the faded streets of San Francisco in the background. There is a clear glass bowl of popcorn peeking into the frame of the photo at the left side, with kernels scattered around the book. To the top right is a black ps4 video game controller, to corresponding cable snaking off and out of the frame to the right of it.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (Spoiler Alert #1)

🎮🎮🎮🎮 (four stars as rated in video game controllers because this book is absolute fandom PERFECTION)

What a treat for a novel to celebrate fandom culture without painting anyone who subscribes to it as unhinged. Seriously! Not one person! *high fives everyone in the room* We are talking well rounded, vibrant, healthy characters, here!! In other words they’re, you know, REALISTIC. 😻😻😻 Be STILL my trekkie heart. 🖖 At first I held mixed feelings about the format of the story in that it jumps between the present narrative and previously written message boards, forums, fanfics, group chats, etc that help give context to the characters. I, admittedly, skimmed the first couple of AU fanfics because, let’s be real, they are absolutely bananas. BUT, having realized their merit halfway through and, subsequently, the error of my ways, I went back and read every single one. The outrageous-ness of the fanfiction is honestly part of what makes the story so much fun. And the ending really pulls that all together. Also, the sex scenes were hot AF, so there’s that as well. 🙃 Pro-tip; if you’re not familiar with web-lingo (i.e OTP, PWP) then prepare to do some serious Googling while reading this book.

Content Warnings: fat shaming, fat phobic behavior, cyberbullying, internet trolling, intolerance of a learning disability, family conflict, estrangement from a parent

Image Description: a photo of Sarah in a white t-shirt with fruit on it. She is standing before a backdrop of green drawn palm leaves and is holding five hardback books in front of her face. Their spines are turned toward her and hidden from the viewer so that only the edges of their pages are visible.

What a month, right!? Have you read any of these books or are they already on your TBR? Wishing you all a glorious December!

Much love,

Sarah

Published by girlonbooks

My name is Sarah and I can't imagine my life without books. Actually, I can and it's terrible. I'm also into climbing, video games and bothering the nearest cat.

2 thoughts on “November Reading Wrap-Up

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