I’m a week late with this post because I wanted to share my 2017 Reading Challenge last week. Be sure to check that out and consider joining.

Now, let’s look back at November. My goal:

“For November, I’m going to plan on 4 books, including a challenge book and a book by a new-to-me classic author.”

And reality… (Link to my Goodreads 2016 shelf where you can find individual reviews that may or may not differ from what is posted here.)

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch – 4* – (Nov 11):

Despite not being a huge fan of sci-fi, I found this to be an engaging read. It’s a compact book, fitting in a lot of story thanks to Blake Crouch’s sparse writing style. There were no words that didn’t move the story forward.

I tried not to dwell on the premise of the book, lest I fall into overthinking possible issues with multiple timelines. But it left me with questions after I finished that, while probably better off not answered, will keep the book in my mind for awhile.

A Certain Age – Beatriz Williams – 3* – (Nov 18):

This is the second book I’ve read by Beatriz Williams. Once again, she does a beautiful job of painting the picture of another era. In this case, it’s the Roaring Twenties in New York City. The settings and the interplay between classes and varying levels of the NYC Elite are fantastically delivered.

What fails for me in this book are some of the primary characters. Two of the main characters, siblings, are horribly unlikeable. And without giving it away, there’s a huge plot point/surprise that I actually realized early on and then dismissed as being just TOO much. Too bad it was exactly what the author intended all along.

Good as Gone – Amy Gentry – 3* – (Nov 20):

After almost a decade, their missing daughter shows up back at their front door. It’s only natural that she’s changed during that time, but some of the details don’t make sense. Anna, the mother, starts questioning whether or not this is actually their daughter, which leads into a back-and-forth of “is she or isn’t she” that feels it will never end. At one point, I remember thinking it had been definitively resolved, and then the verdict changed again.

The tone and point of view/timeline are done well and in a way that should’ve left me enjoying the process of puzzling out the truth. Something about Anna’s indecision left me a little cold to the overall experience.

Faery Tales – Carol Ann Duffy – 3* – (Nov 21)

I’ve been obsessed with owning this book ever since I first saw the beautiful cover. The beautiful purples and blues, the silver glimmers, the faces peeking out, and the spelling of “Faery” all begged me to buy it. And so I did.

But as they say, you really can’t judge a book by its cover and that’s very true in this case. The problem may be more that my expectations were incorrect. When it was advertised as “retellings” of classic tales, I expected drastic differences. Instead, many of the stories seemed almost line-by-line the same as the versions I’ve heard a hundred times before. There were plenty of new stories, but I never felt the magic I expected when I first glanced upon its cover.

Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children – Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson – 4* – (Nov 23):

I skipped about 25 pages I felt weren’t relevant to me. Otherwise, some interesting ideas and concepts about looking back at our childhood and understanding how it affects us as adults.

Nothing else to say here about this one except that
a) it fulfilled the self-help challenge category and
b) no, I’m not pregnant.

The Perfect Girl – Gilly Macmillan – 4* – (Nov 20):

Not your typical “whodunit” – which I appreciated. The story is about a teenage girl who is living her second chance at life after being convicted of killing three of her friends by driving drunk. However, her start at a new life goes awry and her mother is murdered.

The story is split into two sections. The first is primarily told by three characters and jumps around in timing between the original accident and the present. The second section takes place completely in the present after her mother’s death and includes additional POVs.

Zoe, the principal character, is 17 in the present story but 14 during the original crime. Unlike a lot of teen characters, she doesn’t act too old for her age. She’s experienced in things that some never learn regardless of years due what she’s been through, but she’s also appropriately unable to handle certain situations due to emotion.

I didn’t see the end coming and really enjoyed it. It fit with the characters and called back to earlier action well. If this is indicative of Macmillan’s writing, I look forward to reading more of her work.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise – Megan Mayhew Bergman – 3* – (Nov 29)

I wanted to love this after having read one of her later collections, “Almost Famous Women.” However, I never connected with it. The women in these stories all seemed to be lacking something in their lives and most of them filled the holes with babies, animals, or men. Often, two of these were in conflict with each other – the man didn’t want a baby or the man didn’t like her animals. Her writing is lovely but I just wasn’t feeling this collection. Probably why it took me nine months to finish reading it.

I have three reading goals this year:

  1. Read 50 books: – Somehow, I finished 7 in November, for a total of 53. Done!
  2. Complete the PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge: There are 40 categories, and I’ll count no book for more than 2. I also decided not to count re-reads (unless the category specifies it must be a re-read). Numbers below are new/add’l categories completed. Done!
    1. January – 4 (blue cover, murder mystery, set in Europe, takes place in summer)
    2. February – 3 (culture unfamiliar with, translated to English, library)
    3. March – 10 (autobiography, political memoir, graphic novel, over 600 pages, satirical, guaranteed to bring joy, poetry, finish in a day, NYT bestseller, under 150 pages)
    4. April – 2 (road trip, published in 2016)
    5. May – 4 (YA bestseller, recommended by someone you just met, written by celebrity, protagonist with your occupation)
    6. June –  2 (Oprah’s book club, science fiction)
    7.  July – 4 (becoming a movie this year, 100 years older than me, takes place on an island, book and its prequel)
    8. August – 4 (recommended by family member, dystopian, future romance, home state)
    9. September – 3 (written by a comedian, Nat’l Book Award, first in bookstore)
    10. October – 2 (20th century classic, not read since HS)
    11.  November – 2 (self-help, based on a fairy tale)
      1. (Total = 40)
  3. Read at least 3 classics from new-to-me authors: 
    1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Diversity? Short stories, fairy tales, suspense thrillers, and self-help.

Star ratings: I base this on the flat stars Goodreads displays in list-view, not the quarter-star system I assign in my reviews.

  • 5 stars: 4 books (1 re-read)
  • 4 stars: 25 books
  • 3 stars: 20 books
  • 2 stars: 3 books
  • 1 star: 0 books
  • 0 stars: 2 books (both books I started and abandoned)

Pages read:

  • January – 1608
  • February – 1420
  • March – 2521
  • April – 1258
  • May – 2197
  • June – 886
  • July – 549
  • August – 2433
  • September – 807
  • October – 1003
  • November – 2304

I didn’t read any new-to-me classic authors and I’m beginning to wonder if I will. But it feels good to have completed both the PopSugar Challenge and Goodreads Challenge this month, even with a final exam. I’m not going to set a December goal. I’m just going to read what I want to read and enjoy the season.