Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
One more month until 2022 is over. Are you feeling the pressure? Because I sure am.
Every year, I feel like I’m on top of my reading list until November hits. Then I suddenly realize that there is no way I am going to finish all the books I wanted to read in the year in just two months. It’s always a race to see how far I can go before the holidays hit.
November turned out to be a fantastic reading month for me. I read some superb new releases and cleared out a few books from my backlist that were fantastic. Even better, I read the best book of 2023! That’s right, I’m already calling it. I was completely blown away by a March 2023 release, so I am letting you know now that I will be singing its praises for the next year, at least. Probably longer.
November Reading List
In an uncertain world, former First Lady Michelle Obama teaches strategies to help you find hope and balance. Instead of cliche affirmations, Obama digs deep into the conversation about difficult topics and finds practical wisdom to help readers cope. With insightful stories and usable tools, Obama hopes to empower readers to find connections in an ever-changing world.
I was not interested in Michelle Obama’s newest book, fearing it would be another cliche celebrity self-help book. However, I wasn’t going to turn down a free copy, and to my surprise, I found I had completely misjudged Obama’s book. First off, Obama is an excellent writer and completely relatable, which I should have known since I loved Becoming. Instead of tips and tricks, Obama shares wisdom as if from an aunt – life lessons that have helped her cope with life’s uncertainties.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crown Publishing. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In a dystopian America, libraries are heavily censored and authorities can relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian descent. For years, Bird has disavowed the work of his mother, a banned Chinese American who left years ago. When he receives a drawing in the mail, Bird sets out on a quest to search for his missing mother, leading him to an underground network in New York and a new act of defiance.
You know that quote about the Holocaust from Martin Niemöller: “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Our Missing Hearts embodies this sentiment where a pro-American values bill has resulted in any murmur of protest being listed as anti-American and heavily punished. Unlike her other books (Everything I Never Told You, Little Fires Everywhere), Ng’s latest is very literary and flatter, with less depth to the story as a whole. Although I enjoyed it, it felt more like a thought experiment than an emotional read.
When she was six years old, Margot’s next-door neighbor and best friend, January, was murdered in their small hometown. Now a big-city journalist, Margot returns home to help care for her uncle when another girl disappears. Convinced the two cases are connected, Margot begins to wonder how well she knows her neighbors as she searches for the truth.
I was completely captivated by Ashley Flowers’ debut novel; it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. Every time I thought I had figured something out, a twist would come and catch me all over again. With excellent pacing, plenty of red herrings, and believable characters. All Good People Here was easily the best thriller book of 2022.
On New Year’s Eve, Eve’s husband Q dies by suicide. While you learn more about Eve and Q’s relationship, Nwabineli’s debut novel focuses on Eve’s complicated emotions after her husband’s death. From shock to anger to depression, Eve navigates her grief with the help of her Nigerian family and a group of loyal friends in this powerful story. Nwabineli does an excellent job with such a heavy topic, delivering a powerful but not emotional read. I felt like an outside observer of Eve’s grief, appreciating its complexity and ever-shifting tone without being drawn in myself.
In the conclusion of Novik’s spellbinding dark academia trilogy, El must deal with the aftermath of her grand graduation breakout. Though she escaped the Scholomance, she grieves Orion who was left behind. However, a brewing enclave war threatens the lives of everyone they saved and El must return to the Scholomance when she begins to uncover the true nature of the enclaves. Although Novik ties up the series well, the slower pace and elaborate world-building weren’t my favorite.
While protecting a judge getting death threats, new US Marshal Andrea Oliver can’t resist investigating a cold case connected to her father. In 1982, the judge’s daughter Emily was part of a close-knit group of friends, until she is raped and becomes pregnant. Not knowing who the father is, Emily suspects her closest friends but is killed on prom night. Now Andrea is determined to use her powers to find out what happened to Emily.
In a sequel to her domestic thriller Pieces of Her (which the publisher conveniently forgot to advertise as a sequel), Andrea Oliver gets her first assignment after graduation. The mystery itself was solid, keeping your interest with chapters reflecting Emily’s backstory. However, Andrea’s bizarre relationship with her “boyfriend” set my teeth on edge. I feel like there will be a third book coming soon.
Although they were inseparable growing up, Emily and Chess have begun to grow apart in their 30s. Now Chess is a bestselling self-help author and influencer while Emily is going through a nasty divorce. They hope to reconnect on a girls’ trip to a gorgeous Italian villa that was the setting of a celebrity murder and the inspiration for a bestselling horror novel and a platinum album. The further Emily tries to solve the long-ago murder, the more Chess becomes uncomfortable and their hidden secrets come spilling out.
Though the luxurious Italian setting was utterly perfect, The Villa didn’t have the same unputdownable factor that made Reckless Girls a bestseller last year. The beginning is slow, going light on suspense and heavy on drama. Although I enjoyed the past timeline, the unlikeable characters made this an easy-to-read, yet forgettable mystery.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
A year ago, Aaron Falk traveled to the South Australian wine country to celebrate the christening of his godson, his friend sheriff Raco’s son. But the event was canceled when Raco’s sister-in-law vanished that weekend, leaving her baby asleep in the stroller. Now Falk has returned for the rescheduled christening, noticing cracks in this once well-knit group prompting the disclosure of long-kept secrets.
Although I loved the first Aaron Falk mystery, the second book in the series had almost nothing to do with Aaron Falk’s character. Not so with this third book. Aaron Falk is front and center as he gets caught up in the mystery and reexamines his own life. I will say, the beginning of Exiles was a struggle. I had a hard time getting into the setup and was often confused by the initial flashbacks. However, once I was into the mystery, I thought it was perfectly executed, slowly peeling away clues layer by layer.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
After a childhood of being ignored by his family, William Waters finds refuge playing basketball in college. When William meets Julia Padavano, a lively girl extremely close to her parents and three sisters, he quickly becomes a part of the close-knit Padavano family. Although cracks start to appear in the family, William never imagined he’d be the wedge to drive them apart.
I think I might call it already. I think I’ve already found the best book of 2023. I liked Dear Edward, but Hello Beautiful is on a completely different level; it’s just that good. Ann Napolitano’s March release is the ultimate book club book. She hits on so many different themes, but in completely relatable and realistic ways. The depth of the characters in Hello Beautiful was astounding; you feel the characters come to life. A homage to Little Women, Hello Beautiful gorgeously describes family and sisterhood, mental health, and forgiveness, in such a way that you will never forget this story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House Publishing through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
Lori Nelson Spielman
Two hundred years ago, Filomena Fontana cast a curse on her sister and, ever since, no second-born daughter has ever found love. Now two such cursed daughters head to Italy with their great-aunt to help her find love on her eightieth birthday and finally break the curse. Much more fun than I was expecting, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany was a cute family drama perfect for a book club choice, discussing self-fulfilling prophecies and complex family dynamics while luxuriating in the glories of Italy.
Ten years ago as a college student, Quincy Carpenter and her friends went on a vacation and the group was slaughtered, with only Quincy surviving. Although dubbed by the media as one of the “Final Girls,” the sole survivors of mass killings, Quincy, Lisa, and Sam have never met. When Lisa dies by suicide and Sam seeks her out, Quincy questions Sam’s motives. Now Quincy must finally dive into her missing memories of the past to keep it from repeating. Perfect for readers who want scary books that aren’t too scary, Final Girls is a solid thriller with slasher vibes throughout, but Sager saves the full-on action sequence for a big bang at the end.
How well do we really know our mothers? Andrea thought she knew everything about her mother – who lived a quiet life in their small beachside town. Until a trip to the mall erupts in violence and shatters everything Andrea thought she knew. Before she was Laura, her mother was someone else, and, on the run, Andrea must piece together the clues of her mother’s past.
Pieces of Her starts with a bang, immediately grabbing your attention with a stunning opening scene. Andy made an interesting heroine, her constant internal monologue made her realistic, but also drags the pace down. However, I thought the mystery was entertaining and left me pondering what I would do in Andy’s situation.
Too many books and not enough time? Kam Knight explains the tools and tricks you need to begin speed reading. With short chapters and practice exercises, Knight teaches you how to retrain your brain to read faster without sacrificing your reading comprehension. Although I’m a naturally fast reader, I would love to be able to read even faster. Knight’s book was a perfect explanation of how to read faster – usually by focusing on space or chunks of text and removing sub-vocalization. His methods definitely work and I could see an immediate improvement. Unfortunately, the book won’t automatically make you a speed reader – you have to actually practice the skills over time.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from BooksGoSocial through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Gabriel García Márquez
As a teen, Florentino and Fermina fell passionately in love, but Fermina went on to marry a well-respected doctor instead. After her husband’s death, Florentino returns after almost sixty years to declare his love to Fermina once again.I get why One Hundred Years of Solitude was a bestseller, but I can’t understand why anyone likes this book or how it was an Oprah book club pick. I listened to the audiobook and the struggle was real; it was so long and boring. For every step in the overarching plot, we took two steps back meandering into extremely long backstories of each character. It’s supposed to be a story of a grand love, yet my only thought was: That’s not love. Maybe it got better in the last half of the novel, but I wasn’t willing to stick around to find out.
In the late 19th century, Anna lives on a farm telling her brother Caleb tales of their mother, who died in childbirth when he was born. When their father sends out an advertisement for a bride, he is answered by Sarah Elizabeth Wheaton of Maine. When Sarah comes to visit, Anna and Caleb immediately fall in love and are desperate for her to stay. A sweet little tale, Sarah, Plain and Tall made the perfect audiobook for a road trip, coming in at only an hour long.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in November?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book List to Enjoy: