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For the Love of Reading: November 2023

It’s a new month and that means it’s time to take a look back at what I read last month.

Murder at a Cape Bookstore by Maddie Day
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A cozy mystery is just the ticket for me after finishing a big and wonderful book (Wellness by Nathan Hix) and this latest entry into the Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery series did not disappoint. I love the Cape Cod setting, the yummy recipes that are shared, and the characters who embody the community surrounding Mac’s bike shop and the other businesses that make up a small town on the Cape. Recommended for readers who enjoy the genre.

Absolution by Alice McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This utterly compelling novel tells the story of American women living in Saigon in the early 1960s. Seemingly without power, these corporate wives have a pecking order and support system that is as dangerous as any minefield to navigate. Their lives may appear simple and charmed on the surface but behind all of the cocktails and dinner parties are the untold stories of loss, heartbreak, repressed feelings, and drama. McDermott reveals the story layer by layer, stripping away the glamour and altruism to reveal a world that is full of poverty and disease in which powerless women tried to do some good despite the consequences. Highly recommended.
I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I first read this book in 1975 when I was 10 years old, but I recently watched the movie and it made me want to read the book again and see if it was still as enchanting now that I’m in my late 50s. And it was! I cheered along with Margaret as she navigated secret clubs, bra shopping, awkward pre-teen parties, and the betrayal of a friend. I loved it as much as ever and think it’s as relevant now as when it was first published. Three cheers for Judy Blume!

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am not someone who generally reads fantasy but this book was recommended to me so many times that I finally gave in and read it and I’m very glad I did. While I don’t particularly enjoy world building (all those places names and such to figure out how to pronounce and remember!) Yarros makes it pretty straightforward and creates a magical world which feels very accessible. It’s like a grown up Harry Potter setting, combined with dragons from Game of Thrones, and great sex from Outlander and it’s definitely an entertaining and exciting story. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

Day by Michael Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“How do you, how does anyone, know when they cross over from working through this to it’s too late? Is there (she suspects there must be) an interlude during which you’re so bored or disappointed or ambushed by regret that it is, truly, too late?”
This quiet and beautifully written book tell the story of a family and their closest companions on one day in April in the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. It’s a truly unique approach that proves to be quite powerful given what we know about how the world changed over the course of those years. Cunningham is so subtle in how he reveals his characters, he creates epic backstories and complex personalities with the barest of prose and it all feels authentic and packs an emotionally gut-wrenching punch. Highly recommended.

Maybe Next Time by Cesca Major
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In a nutshell: a very compelling and heart wrenching story that would have benefitted from stronger editing. I mean, I get that we’re doing a version of Groundhog Day here, and some things are going to feel repetitive, but this felt overly so. Still, there’s a strong message here about slowing down and being present and looking up from your phone to enjoy your life and the people you love. I just think it could have been made in about 100 or so less pages.

Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy by Beth Kempton
The most valuable part of this book for me is the beginning, where Kempton talks about the different “stories” of Christmas, covering everything from religion to magic to heritage and in between. That section helped me understand what my own priorities are when it comes to this holiday and it showed me that I already approach the season with those priorities in mind. After that it became repetitive and unrelatable. The author clearly writes from a place of privilege, referencing house guests and long walks in the country side, a childhood of Christmas magic without any upsets, she disdains plastic presents, all while foraging for decorations in the nearby forest. I found it rather pretentious and I rolled my eyes. A lot. One last criticism: I listened to the audiobook and there is a link to a pdf for the journaling portions of the book, however, the link does not work and I could not access those pages.

As always, I hope you found something that interests you.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I was surprised at how entertaining Fourth Wing was for me! I am not in a rush to read Iron Flame, but maybe someday. Absolution and Day are wonderful, and I felt the same about Calm Christmas. I picked up the book from the library, sat down in one of their comfy chairs to read a bit, and after 20 minutes I returned the book. I also rolled my eyes a lot.

  2. I also loved Day and Absolution…so much! And now you are the second person after Bonny who enjoyed Fourth Wing… I think I need to put this on my reading list! XO

  3. I’m so glad you liked Absolution! I really, really loved it. XO
    (I was too old for Are Your There God, It’s Me Margaret when it first came out, but I read it when I was a 5th grade teacher and LOVED it.)

  4. I am so happy you reviewed Absolution because I had completely forgotten about it! I’m not sure about “Day” – it has had so much hype that it almost makes me want to NOT read it – LOL. Always enjoy your reviews Carole and the Cape Cod cozy mystery sounds like it might be perfect around the holidays (not want to immerse myself in something heavy with all the holiday stuff going on).

  5. I very much want to read Absolution, but would you believe it’s not available from my library on either Libby or Hoopla? I guess I will have to see if there are hard copies available or buy it. And you’ve convinced me to put Fourth Wing on hold; I’ve got a long wait, but it’s not like I don’t have plenty to entertain me until it’s my turn.

  6. I love seeing what others are reading, especially devoted and discerning readers like you. I recently read are You There, God, having been too old for it when it was published. Now I must add Absolution, Fourth Wing, and Day to my TBR list. Thanks!

  7. Carole, while my personal life has been totally out of control for quite some time, I dropped in to see what was going on here. As usual, you never disappoint with book recommendations! I appreciate them so much. I hope to be able to dip back in more often as I always enjoy your posts.

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