After a lot of mediocre and/or disappointing reads in October, I had an AMAZING reading month in November. I finally broke free of my months-long 5-star book drought with not one, not two, but THREE 5-star reads that absolutely blew me away. (I’m very relieved, as I was honestly at the point where I was really starting to question my reading choices.) Two of those 5-star reads were also on my Top Ten TBR for 2020, and I’ve now finished 7 out of those 10 books, which is honestly better than I think I’ve ever done. (For unknown, possibly mood reading-related reasons, I’m always really terrible at sticking to my Top 10 TBR lists.)
I’m keeping the reviews short and sweet this time, since there are so many reading and blogging things happening in December, and I’m going to try not leaving everything until the very end of the year/beginning of the new year!
Number of books read: 8
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (5 stars) – Machado wrote one of my all-time favorite short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties, so I had a strong suspicion that her memoir would also blow me away, and it absolutely did. She focuses on abuse in queer relationships by telling the story of her abusive ex-girlfriend, and dissects her relationship and her concept of the Dream House in so many different and unique ways. It’s endlessly creative and fantastically written, while delivering emotional gutpunch after gutpunch. Highly, highly, highly recommend.
Melmoth by Sarah Perry (5 stars) – This book is what I like to call an unexpected 5-star read: it’s from an author I’ve never read from before, I really didn’t know much about what the book was about before I started it, and for awhile I really didn’t know where things were going with the story. But then it absolutely blew me away and crushed me emotionally, which is honestly what I want in a book. Our protagonist Helen is living in Prague wracked by guilt from a mysterious past when she stumbles on the folktale of Melmoth the Witness, who is said to haunt those who have done wrong–and particularly those who have stood silent while evil was being committed. It’s a beautifully written book that gave me goosebumps multiple times.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (5 stars) – This is a very strange book that probably won’t be for everyone; I wasn’t even completely sure of its genre until later in the story. It’s much stranger than Clarke’s more traditional historical fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I also loved, but just as excellent. Clarke’s writing is extremely strong, and she weaves such an interesting mystery from a fascinating world.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (4 stars) – I was impressed by this debut essay collection that discusses everything from pop culture to intersectional feminism within the framework of a memoir. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author, and would definitely recommend it.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (4 stars) – This feel-good contemporary fantasy has been raved about on every bookish platform in 2020, and as the beginning of November was quite stressful with election-related things, it was a great choice to pick up. It wasn’t a 5-star read for me, but I can definitely see why people love it–it’s such a sweet story about friendship and love and acceptance in a world where people hate you just for being born different. I definitely plan to pick up more from Klune in the future, particularly if I need a mood booster.
Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (4 stars) – This atmospheric, lightly fabulist YA contemporary was a dreamlike surprise for me. I listened to the audiobook and would highly recommend it; we’re following a protagonist actively haunted by her past trying to find a place for herself after a traumatic childhood. This year I’ve really been finding that YA contemporary (especially with a lightly magical or fabulist element) has been working for me a lot more than YA fantasy; I’m still not sure why that is.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (3 stars) – I loved the Netflix miniseries Dash & Lily so much that after I finished watching it, I immediately started listening to the audiobook. This is a very cute contemporary YA holiday romance, but I ended up liking the Netflix series much more than the book.
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller (3 stars) – This dark YA fantasy romance was a disappointment for me. I never really felt like I had a handle on the love interest’s personality, and the writing style seemed very young for the subject matter. I did, however, like the power-hungry female protagonist and her very interesting-sounding fashion designs.