We’re on the home straight to the end of the year and I’m not exactly on track to end the year with 100 books.
After a not-so-good reading month in October, we only slightly improved in November with eight books read in total.
December is going to have to be a hefty month of reading to reach my final target of 100 books, but I’m determined and I believe that I can get there.
Anyhow, here are the ratings and reviews of the eight books I read in November and there were a lot of good books this month!
It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover
Lily and her ex-husband, Ryle, have just settled into a civil co-parenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. After nearly two years separated, she is elated that for once, time is on their side, and she immediately says yes when Atlas asks her on a date. But her excitement is quickly hampered by the knowledge that, though they are no longer married, Ryle is still very much a part of her life – and Atlas Corrigan is the one man he will hate being in his ex-wife and daughter’s life. Switching between the perspectives of Lily and Atlas, It Starts with Us picks up right where the epilogue for the bestselling phenomenon It Ends with Us left off.
My rating: ★★★★★
Ah, Miss Colleen Hoover. I’ve read a good few of her books by now, but nowhere near the number that she actually has published. However, when I saw this in Stansted Airport when I was flying to Copenhagen, I had to pick it up because I had read It Ends With Us and was as obsessed as everyone else in the world, so had to know what happened next.
I will say that It Starts With Us is much more tame than the first book, It Ends With Us. We see what happens next for Lily and her love life and ultimately, this book is the closure that we were all looking for to see Lily live her happily ever after with Atlas. Definitely worth the read if you have read It Ends With Us.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
My rating: ★★★★
I picked this up simply because Jack Edwards has said nothing but good things and I spotted it in a bookshop in Angel for £5. It’s a very short book, detailing a boy’s letter to his mother who can’t read, telling her all of the things he wish he could say out loud and what he wishes she could understand about him and his life. I can’t say that it was one of my favourite books ever, but it was very beautiful in the way that it was written. A solid 4-star read for me, but I wouldn’t rush to recommend it.
The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman
A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, a.k.a. “Maman,” smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way. But when Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Even as Violaine and her sister long for their mother’s return, once she’s back Maman’s violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries soon turn their home into an emotional landmine. As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.
My rating: ★★★★
The Book of Mother is told in three parts: the first part from the perspective of the daughter about her unstable mother, the second part is more about the mother and her upbringing/life/career etc. and the final part again from the perspective of the daughter about the end of her mother’s life. The first and last part were very slow for me and I much more enjoyed the middle part learning about the mother in more detail.
Another book about a mother/child relationship which I think tainted my experience of reading as I had read something similar just before. A beautiful story, but one I might have enjoyed more if I had read it at a different time.
The Editor by Steven Rowley
After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript. Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…
My rating: ★★★★
I picked this up from the library thinking it was going to give me Devil Wears Prada with the cover image and the New York skyline on the back, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is about a writer whose editor turns out to be Jackie Kennedy/Jackie O. The book James is writing turns out to be about his mother and the relationship they have – the third book in a row I was reading about a mother/child relationship which I think again tainted my enjoyment – and how Jackie Kennedy helps him to find the real plot of his story.
I enjoyed the book as it gave me slight Taylor Jenkins Reid themes with the celebrity element, but there were plot twists involved that I felt were skimmed over and not delved into which could have made the book a five-star read.
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park
Love in the Big City is an energetic, joyful, and moving novel that depicts both the glittering nighttime world of Seoul and the bleary-eyed morning-after. Young is a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student who pinballs from home to class to the beds of recent Tinder matches. He and Jaehee, his female best friend and roommate, frequent nearby bars where they push away their anxieties about their love lives, families, and money with rounds of soju and ice-cold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer. Yet over time, even Jaehee leaves Young to settle down, leaving him alone to care for his ailing mother and to find companionship in his relationships with a series of men, including one whose handsomeness is matched by his coldness, and another who might end up being the great love of his life.
My rating: ★★★★
The title of this book and translator name were the two reasons I picked this book up in the library. I recognised the translator’s name as the same translator for a book I read previously, Cursed Bunny, and the title sounded fun for a city girl like myself.
The book followed a young guy living in the city in Korea, going out, having fun, having some turbulent relationships and then finally letting himself fall in love. It also touched on a health condition in a truly lovely way, giving it a new name and showing how he continued to live his life despite the condition that he had developed.
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak
In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore… For Leila, each minute after her death recalls a sensuous memory: spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of a yearned-for son; bubbling vats of lemon and sugar to wax women’s legs while men are at prayer; the cardamom coffee she shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each fading memory brings back the friends she made in her bittersweet life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her…
My rating: ★★★★★
I adored The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak when I read it during the summer, so jumped at the chance to read another book by her. Be that a Booker Prize Winner book too. Elif Shafak writes characters so beautifully and gives an insight into every one’s history and back story without it adding a slump to the book’s flow. Each character was as eccentric as the next, and although the plot of this story wasn’t incredibly page-turning, and I will say, I felt like I was lacking closure at the end, the story was marvellous and I will be picking up anything that Elif Shafak writes without a second thought.
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure. On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness. That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves. Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?
My rating: ★★★★
I’m slowly making my way through Taylor Jenkins Reid’s full book catalogue and added in One True Loves to this month’s reading, hoping to get through Malibu Rising and her most recent release, Carrie Soto is Back in December. The blurb was giving extreme romance novel cliche, so I didn’t have high hopes, but by the end I was very much rooting for the underdog, and engrossed to see what the main character, Emma’s decision would be. I was also finding the storyline very relatable (not the husband lost in Alaska plot) but where Emma was torn with the life she thought she wanted – living in LA, a travel writer, living in the big city – versus the small-town life with the family bookstore, cats and simple things that she was slowly leaning towards. I’m starting to miss living in a small town and London is growing ever more unappealing.
Forever Words: The Unknown Poems by Johnny Cash (Gifted)
Since his first recordings in 1955, Johnny Cash has been an icon in the music world. In this collection of poems and song lyrics that have never been published before, we see the world through his eyes and view his reflection on his own interior reality, his frailties and his strengths alike. In his hallmark voice, he pens verses about love, pain, freedom, and mortality, and expresses insights on culture, his family, his fame, even Christmas. Forever Words confirms Johnny Cash as a brilliant and singular American literary figure. His music is a part of our collective history, and here the depth of his artistry and talent become even more evident.
My rating: ★★★★★
When this book came through my letter box I may have let out a little yelp because if you don’t know, I’m low-key a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Mastermind specialist subject could probably be the life and times of JR Cash, so I was overly excited to read this collection of his unknown poems and safe to say I read it in one single sitting.
The book features poems, song lyrics and thoughts from the iconic Man in Black that have never been seen before as the book is put together by his son, John. This is the perfect gift or purchase for any Johnny Cash fan to get even more of an insight into this very private, mysterious man.