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November Reads 2017

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While November wasn’t an impressive reading month in terms of number of books, it was a good reading month for quality of books (or at least, I read 3 books I loved, so you can read my reviews and guess which ones), so I’m still happy with it. As long as I manage to read at least 11 books in December, despite how chaotic it is, because I want to meet my yearly 100 book goal!

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in a new DC Icons series including upcoming stories about Batman (Marie Lu), Catwoman (Sarah J. Mass) and Superman (Matt de la Pena). I’m not particularly superhero-obsessed, so I hadn’t even seen the Wonder Woman movie, but I was definitely intrigued by the idea of a young adult retelling. In Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Princess Diana saves a mortal, Alia, who turns out to be destined to bring about an age of war. Together, the two struggle to find a way to save Alia, and the world. I haven’t read any of the comic books, so I’m not sure how well Bardugo adheres to the mythology, but I definitely enjoyed the story.

Wonder Woman is a book filled with powerful female characters and a great team dynamic. I just loved how all the characters interacted with each other, and Barugo really brought depth to them and their relationships. Unlike what the title might indicate, this is not a story just about Diana, but rather one filled with a rich cast of characters. There are some hilarious moments as Diana experiences the mortal world though, I would love to see that in movie form. I was surprised there wasn’t a little more action for a superhero book, it definitely had a slow start that took a little while to really get into, but by the end there were some intense moments. Although Wonder Woman: Warbringer was my first book by Bardugo, I will be going back to pick up some of her earlier works now. I’m also curious to see how the rest of the DC Icons series goes, and after loving Warcross by Marie Lu last month, I’m especially excited for Batman in January!

I’m definitely disappointed about The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares. I absolutely adored her Traveling Pants series when I was a teenager, and I want everything I read by her after to recreate that magic. Unfortunately, nothing, including her latest release about a very complicated and large family that share a beach house, has managed to quite recreate the spark the Traveling Pants books had for me.

In The Whole Thing Together, Ray and Sasha share a room, but never at the same time. Their parents used to be married, and they share three half sisters in common, but they have never met. Also, they are not actually related. This is stressed a lot in the book because of the bond that forms between them, but it’s still awkward. I really thought that this book was going to be about Ray and Sasha, but it’s actually also about their sisters, so there ends up being 5 storylines, told in third person omniscient, which honestly, I didn’t really like. Maybe I would have liked the book more if it just focused on Ray and Sasha, but there was way too many stories and some of them were pretty dumb, like one sister is in a secret relationship with a decent and respectable guy. Yeah. Then the way that the book ended just felt really sudden, rushed, and too much like a plot device. Also almost everyone in the book is really selfish and not very nice.

Overall, even though I enjoyed Brashares’ writing and some moments in The Whole Thing Together, it was ultimately really frustrating in a lot of ways. Next time I’m tempted to pick up her latest book, somebody remind me to reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants instead.

One of the spooky books I picked up for Halloween but only managed to finish in November is Burntown by Jennifer McMahon. I’ve actually read a bunch of McMahon books in the past, but it’s been a few years and I was excited to pick up her latest release. Burntown is the story of Eva, whose father had the blueprints to a secret invention by Thomas Edison. After her father and brother die in a terrible flood, Eva and her mother change their names and disappear. But years later, when Eva (now Necco)’s boyfriend is murdered, she knows the past is catching up to her. Necco is joined on her journey to find out what happened the night of the flood by two other women, also searching for something. But will any of them find what they are looking for? Or will somebody else find them first?

Burntown has a slow start and it took me awhile to get into, it took until about 1/3 in for the excitement to build, and it was really only in the second half the action started. It is definitely a quiet book, I really thought it would be more of a mystery/thriller, and there is a mystery element, but it’s about the characters as much as the plot. There are some very strange characters and I did enjoy everyone’s perspective. While there is a supernatural element to the story, but I actually thought it would be much more important than it was. The ending is one that’s a little too perfectly tied up. Overall, Burntown was enjoyable but not my favourite McMahon, although I look forward to reading more by her in the future. I’ve heard The Winter People (which I already own) is excellent.

I loved the Promise Fall Trilogy (See my reviews of Broken Promise, Far From True, Final Assignment and The Twenty-Three) so of course I was going to pick up the bonus fourth book in this “trilogy”, Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay. This book picks up once again in Promise Falls, featuring Private Investigator Cal Weaver and Detective Barry Duckworth. They are each on their own case: Weaver is hired to protect Jeremy Pilfword, a young man who ran over a girl while intoxicated, while Duckworth is tracking down the perpetrator who kidnapped a man and left a vulgar tattoo on his back.

While there are a few mentions of the events of the earlier books, Parting Shot can definitely stand on its own. I actually wish there were more visits from previous characters like Randy Finley, since some of the new characters are a lot less interesting. I also wish Promise Falls featured a little more in the book. That said, Barclay’s writing is excellent and I loved the tension and pacing of the book, as well as Weaver and Duckworth’s voices. I didn’t want to put the book down, the story was expertly plotted, and there were plenty of great twists. Barclay has easily become an “autoread” author for me going forward. In fact, I can see myself going back to read some of his previous books while I wait! That said, with an intense ending like the one Parting Shot had, is it too much to hope for another book in the Promise Falls lineup? I’ll be waiting…

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi is a middle grade fantasy novel I only just learned about with the release of its companion book, Whichwood. Before this, I’d never read anything by Mafi before, but when a Booktuber I love (Books and Lala, check her out here) called Furthermore her favourite middle grade ever? I had to pick up the series, and I am so glad I did. This is the story of Alice, a girl without colour in a land where colour means magic, and magic is everything. She is on a quest to find her Father, who disappeared three years ago, and her only companion is Oliver, who she cannot trust. It is a quest heavily inspired by Alice in Wonderland (that name is no coincidence) and it is full of twists and turns and danger.

I listened the audiobook of Furthermore, which is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who I mention only because he was excellent and I would certainly listen to more audiobooks narrated by him in the future. Mafi’s writing is very descriptive and it’s told with an omniscient narrator, which in this case is a lot of fun and works excellently. The book is jam-packed with whimsical elements, and more about the magic is constantly being revealed, which could be confusing but I just loved getting swept away in it. I also really loved the character of Alice. The journey storyline had some unique characters (especially that paper fox) but the ending of the book seemed to happen really suddenly and left everything wrapped up a bit too neatly. That said, I absolutely adore the story overall and I’m definitely looking forward to picking up Whichwood–and it may be a companion book, but I definitely hope Alice shows up again!

I actually also learned about A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite because of Books and Lala, she had a video where she bought books that were advertised to her and said the beginning of this read like a thriller, not a memoir. I was intrigued so I borrowed it from the library, and Lala was absolutely right. In A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, Waite details the beginning and the end of her marriage in back and forth sections taking place “before” and “after” she discovered her husband is lying to her.

I really enjoyed A Beautiful, Terrible Thing when I first started it, but by about halfway the tension had faded and treating a memoir like a mystery had lost its thrill. Also, despite Waite’s husband doing things that are awful but not unheard of–cheating on her when she has a newborn baby–she is really convinced he is psychopath and even finds a therapist to agree with her, despite having never actually met him. I’m not saying Waite is wrong–I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not going to start making diagnoses–but it just seemed hard to believe that a therapist would give that diagnosis based on Waite’s stories, and Waite diagnoses him herself based on the internet. So I ended up getting frustrated by the book as well as bored by the second half, which involves a lot of online stalking, and what started off really promising I had a hard time finishing. While A Beautiful, Terrible Thing isn’t a terrible book, if you’re in the mood for a thriller, I recommend you stick to a fictional one instead.

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Have you picked up any of these books? What is your favourite book you’ve read lately? I have a massive TBR stack at the moment, but I generally still find time to get distracted by other titles…

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