Reading Lately: November 2019


Can you tell I'm desperately sprinting towards my 100-book goal? This month was filled with short, easy reads, many of them Christmas-themed since I was feeling festive. I've also been inspired by 'Read Like the Wind', a newsletter from Molly Young at Vulture about books, to try to do more with these posts...we'll see what shape that takes, but it's got me reenergized for reading and writing!

Hope you had a great month off, and a restful December ahead!

Waking the Witch: 5/5

Pam Grossman

To say I was skeptical going into this book is an understatement. I've never been the least bit spiritual, disbelieving everything from western religions to burning palo santo, and certainly don't believe in witches or know very much about paganism. This book isn't trying to make you believe anything though - it reframes what the term 'witch' means, and traces it's history through western culture, from it's beginnings in Paganism to the Salem witch trials to portrayals of witches in modern media. The thesis is that a 'witch' isn't a green hag with a wart on her nose, she's an independent and self-sufficient woman who is close to nature and understands things most people don't, and that's what makes her scary. That hit home for me, and made me completely rethink my conception of what witches are. I also loved the exploration of witches through culture, and learned so much about witches relationship with Christianity that I was immediately able to connect to my real life (mostly because we're currently watching the new 'Sabrina', and 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'). The prose is incredibly well written, the author's points are nuanced and well rounded, and the topic is enchanting (forgive me). A must read!

RIYL: The new 'Sabrina' series, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', tarot cards, crystals

Brokeback Mountain: 5/5

Annie Proulx

Hot damn. I can't wait to watch this movie after reading the novella. Much like Elio and Oliver's attraction in Call Me By Your Name, Ennis and Jack's romance is inevitable and preternatural. It's intense and irresistible and sexy, the kind of connection I'm sure I'll never experience but like to think still exists. And the landscapes. Ugh. I'm dead. Honestly this book is so short, I'd recommend reading it whenever you're in the need for a pick-me-up.

RIYL: Call Me By Your Name, thinking you'll learn French some day, sex scenes

One Day in December: 4/5

Josie Silver

This book was not what I expected at all, but was a delightful detour from the typical rom-com novel-scape. Laurie and Jack's romance is anything but typical, starting with a fated glance on a bus and following them through romances, engagements, friendships, breakups, huge life changes, and drama...mostly with other people. What I liked most was that all of the characters were three-dimensional, all likeable and unlikeable in their own ways. Everyone was fallible and human, without being annoying or unrealistic. A lovely seasonal read!

RIYL: Love, Actually, When Harry Met Sally, slow-burn love stories

The 13th Gift: 3/5

Joanne Huist Smith

I read this in an attempt to scratch the Christmas-itch I caught early in the month, and it almost did the trick. The true story is at once sad and heartwarming, and while the prose reads more like a news article than a novel (not surprising, considering the author is a journalist!) it's simple, factual descriptions are surprisingly expressive. I thought I'd like this more than I did, but I can't put my finger on what I didn't love about it. In the end it was just ok.

One Snowy Night: 2/5

Jill Shalvis

I've never been a huge fan of Shalvis' books, but I wanted a short and steamy Christmas-themed romance. This delivered, but also reminded me how much I don't like tropey hate-to-love, heavily-gendered romance novels ( most of them). Would not recommend unless you're really into that sort of thing.

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery: 3/5

Jenny Colgan

Colgan's novels are consistently like popcorn: light, airy, easy to eat by the handful, but not terribly satisfying. I read this during a stressful week and it was nice to have it on as background noise, but as with her previous novels the characters are only sort of likeable, and the conflicts were contrived and silly. It held my interest until the end, but I think if I had been having a better week I wouldn't have even picked this one up.

Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: 3/5

Sofija Stefanovic

I didn't know the author, so while this was an interesting perspective on life growing up in Yugoslavia I found it hard to be invested in the author's story.

Baby It's Christmas: 3/5

Susan Mallery

A Christmas candy read, this was a tame romance with a weird premise. The hero talks a woman he knocked up into keeping the baby, with no desire to marry her, and then when she gives the baby up for adoption he take the baby instead. I generally liked the idea of a newly single-father with a baby as the hero of a romance novel - so vulnerable! - but the way we got there was unsettling. That aside, I like the main characters, and the conflicts between them, and the 'hate' bit of hate to love was minimal so even that tired trope didn't bother me as much as usual. As romance novels go it was enjoyable but forgettable.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: 2/5

Heather Morris

For me, this book was ill-fated from the start. I read it for a book club right after getting engaged, and was resentful of having to read such a sad book during such a happy time in my life. I heard after reading it that it was originally a screenplay that was meant to be a movie, but didn't make the cut so got turned into a book, which makes complete sense. The characters are flat and somewhat simple, while the scenery descriptions and plot are more rich. Honestly...I'd recommend about 10 other concentration camp books before this one.

Read instead: Night, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Book Thief, The Nightingale