This month was non-fiction November, and I found myself consciously choosing to read more non-fiction books because of it. I ended up reading five non-fiction books, and none of them were the type of spiritual or self-help books that I tend towards in non-fiction, so I was pretty pleased with myself.
I ended up reading fourteen books this month, which is about my monthly average for 2020. I feel really good about the results because I have a nice mix of backlist and new books on the list.
- Books Read: 14
- Re-Reads: 3
- Goodreads Challenge Progress: 164/200 (17 books behind schedule)
- New Books vs. Backlist:
I started my month with a fantasy/satire novel by Jasper Fforde called The Constant Rabbit. In this book, rabbits and a few other animals were anthropomorphized and grew to human size in an unexplainable event that occurred a little over 50 years before the start of the book. A family of rabbits moves to a sleepy English village that does not want them there and trouble ensues as the families in the village are forced to take sides as to whether they are pro-human or pro-rabbit (no one can be seen as both). This is a really good story, and the way Fforde uses it to explore modern issues of racism, in-groups and out-groups, policing and mass incarceration is quite masterful. I thought I would be reading a light fantasy, but found myself reading something very heavy and weighty. There are a few times where Fforde is a little heavy-handed with the morals, but I did not find that to be a detraction from the story. In fact, I bought the audio version for my hubby not long after I finished this book.
The next book I chose was Spoiler Alert. This was a romance with all the good stuff. There was an actor/fan relationship. There was fan-fiction, cosplay, a convention, hot romance, body positivity, and even a fat heroine. I’m not sure I could have asked for anything better out of a book I was reading. This was great! It is also very open door, so if you’re not into that stuff, you should stay away. I plan to read a bunch more from this author in the future, including maybe trying some of her self-published works.
The next book I read was Bill Bryson’s The Body. I bought The Body last year during one of Amazon’s 3-for-2 sales, and it’s been sitting around my house, waiting patiently for me ever since. (It’s nice that books do that, isn’t it?) Bryson starts with the skin and hair and traces the body all the way through its decomposition after death. Bryson’s tone is so conversational that it is easy to forget that you’re actually reading science. Because of that, I decided to annotate this book with YouTube videos, opportunities to draw diagrams, etc., and use it as the spine of an anatomy course for my 13-year-old. She thinks she hates science, but I don’t think she’d hate it this way. In fact, my suspicion is that she would learn far more from this book than she’d learn from a traditional middle or high school science curriculum. I know I certainly learned things.
Next, was the third book in a series that I really love. I was anticipating Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow, and it was a book that did not disappoint. There’s not much that can be said to set up this book, since it is the third one in the series, but we continue to see Morrigan’s schooling, and she really seems to hit her stride here. There’s also a disease called Hollowpox going around that effects wunimals (or sentient animals), and that’s the inspiration for the cover image shown. I think it’s kind of funny because I don’t like animal books and this is the second sentient animal book I read this month. This was was really good, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
The next book I chose was a buddy read for the Currently Reading Patreon group. This is indigenous peoples’ month, so we read An Indigenous People’s History of the United States. This was a really revealing look at history from the perspective of the Native Americans. It was really jarring to think of things that I had thought of American triumph as being invasion, attack, and genocide. I emotionally pushed back against it a little, but overall, I agreed with the author’s perspective and found this to be an illuminating work.
The next book I picked up was a book that I read aloud to my nine-year-old. This book, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, is the second book in the Babysitters Club book series. Ellie’s been reading the graphic novels, but they didn’t make a graphic novel version of this book, and she wanted to experience it. While she has the skills to read it on her own, she still finds long books to be daunting, so I read it to her. She says it’s a four-star book, but I have to say that it is probably not my favorite of the books, even though Claudia may be my favorite character in the series. It’s kind of got the edge of spookiness and mystery to it, but the mystery is tiny, and the solution is frustrating to me. Not that we let that stop us from picking out another book in the series for me to read aloud to her at night.
Another book I read this month was Haunted Histories. This book was aimed at middle grades, and I read this one with my 13-year-old. We were hoping for romance, intrigue, and ghosts. We got history and medieval life instead, so it was kind of a disappointment. It was good at what it did, but it didn’t do what we felt like it promised from the cover and jacket copy.
The next book I chose for this month is What Were We Thinking?. This book is an intellectual history of the Trump era traced by the books that were published. The author read over 150 non-fiction books published in the last four years, and then he divided them into categories and used arguments from the books to trace the trajectory of thought during the Trump era. This made for very good reading if you’re into current events and that kind of thing, and it also completely exploded my TBR.
The next book I picked up was a buddy read with a couple of other ladies in the Currently Reading Podcast’s Bookish Friends Group. We Read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. This book was about a period of history that I knew nothing about. In this case, it was about a group of people who were murdering wealthy Indians and steading their rights to money off the the oil wells that were pumping on their reservation. Fascinating. Far too many names, but a lot of great pictures and description.
I’m obviously on an indigenous American streak this month because I read The Game of Silence aloud to my ten-year-old and nine-year-old. We’ve already read The Birchbark House, and this is the second book in the series. It has the same charming focus on Omakayas and her family’s daily life and the tribal customs of the Ojibwa. Unfortunately, the white settlers are beginning to interfere in their lives in a way that may cause them to have to move from their ancestral land. That impending sense of doom permeates the book, and so we were all left with a feeling unhappiness for what was happening to Omakayas’ family.
The next book I read was the ninth Babysitters’ Club book, The Ghost at Dawn’s House. This one focuses on Dawn and her family, specifically on the old farmhouse that Dawn and her mother and brother moved into when they moved to Stoneybrook. Dawn is convinced that there’s a secret passage and that there may be a ghost. I liked this one a little more than my daughter did because I’ve always had a love of ghosts and ghost stories.
The next book I picked up was definitely not reading material that you can share with a child. Assigned a Mate is the first book in Grace Goodwin’s Interstellar Brides series of erotic romance. Eva witnesses a murder and must enter the brides program. She’s assigned to a mate on the planet Trion, where women are supposed to submit to their mates in all things, especially in the bedroom. This was not literature, but Goodwin proceeds at a good place, and if you’re interested in the erotic part, this book starts out strong and continues ramping up as it goes. There’s enough romance that it feels romantic too instead of just smutty.
While I was reading books that were low-brow, I turned to the first book in a new YA fantasy series that caught my eye at the library. I must confess though, the part that really caught my eye about The Kinder Poison was the big golden scorpion on the cover. This was pretty typical YA fantasy. Huge stakes. Almost certain death for the protagonist. Difficulty choosing between two boys. Magical powers and cool world building. I really enjoyed the story, and I felt Zahru was a pretty rich character. I also liked that the fantasy world seemed like a play on ancient Egypt. I felt like, given the moral complexity of the characters, that Zahru played it safe in a way that made for a little less satisfying story than it would have otherwise been.
Another book that I’ve been highly anticipating is Ring Shout. I saw it on the new materials shelves at the library, and snatched it right up (I have so many holds on books that I wanted to read that came out this fall.). Ring Shout is a short, tightly-plotted novel. My library had it listed as a fantasy, but I really thought it leaned more to horror. At any rate, I found it confusing and a little overwhelming at times. I wished that the story weren’t quite so tightly plotted and that the author had allowed a few more pages of setup or backstory to be sprinkled it. I felt that by the time I reached a place where I was really enjoying the book, it was almost over.
I ended up having two standout favorite books this month. The first, Spoiler Alert, was a great romance, richly textured and body positive. It was exactly what I needed, especially during the long, fraught election week during which I read it.
The second standout book was Hollowpox: The Search for Morrigan Crow. I really like this series. I floated the idea in front of my children that I might like it better than Harry Potter, and none of them were totally scandalized, so I think the kids who have read it really like it too. This is the third book in the series, so if you choose to read it, start with Nevermore: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. This is great middle grades fantasy!!