November 2019 Reads

I can’t believe the year (and the decade!!) are almost over. This month, I re-read the Percy Jackson series as well as a bunch of other great books. Check out my reviews in this roundup.

november 2019 reads honeybeejoyous

Stats

Number of books read: 13 📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘
(but I DNF’d two of them!!)

Print books: 7 📚📚📚📚📚📚📚

Audiobooks: 6 🎧🎧🎧🎧🎧🎧
(DNF’d two)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 star books: 5

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 star books: 3

⭐⭐⭐ 3 star books: 2

⭐⭐ 2 star books: 1

1 star books: 0

😍 Favorite book: The Sea of Monsters

☹️ Least favorite book (not including the two I did not finish): Small Great Things

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

the lightning thief by rick riordan book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from October 28, 2019 – November 2, 2019.

This book held up impressively well to re-reading, even though I haven’t read it since I was a kid. Still a great story, lovable characters, and so funny. But, I will say I find Percy hilarious when it’s my own voice in my head reading, but just pretty funny when it’s an audiobook narrator.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

the sea of monsters by rick riordan book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 2, 2019 – November 6, 2019.

I think I like The Sea of Monsters even more than I like The Lightning Thief. I’m a sucker for Odyssey retellings and this book has some of the best parts of the Odyssey. I also love Tyson and the developing friendship between Percy and Annabeth. There’s some great character development, surprises, battles, emotional moments, ethical dilemmas, and a lot of laughs in this book. It’s awesome how well this series is holding up so many years after I first read it and I’m excited to keep reading.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

fledgling by octavia butler book cover honeybeejoyous

No rating — Did Not Finish

Read from November 3, 2019 – November 4, 2019.

No rating because I only made it 7% of the way through before deciding to DNF. It’s a creepy story that’s supposed to make you feel unsettled and uncomfortable, but pedophilia is just not the right kind of creepy/unsettling/uncomfortable for me. If you can handle discomfort while you read better than I can, you might like this book, but I couldn’t even make it through a couple chapters.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

what the dead know by laura lippman book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 4, 2019 – November 7, 2019.

If a book’s premise sounds like the summary of a Criminal Minds episode, it’s a pretty sure sign I’ll enjoy it. What the Dead Know was no exception. A woman gets into a car crash near Baltimore and flees the scene. When police apprehend her she is disoriented, has no identification, and says she is one of the Bethany sisters, who disappeared from the city around thirty years ago. As the story unravels, the readers and police try to figure out if this woman is really Heather Bethany, and if she’s not, what she has to gain from impersonating her.

I really enjoyed this book and it kept me on my toes the whole time I was listening. I managed to guess the big twist really early on, but it didn’t become clear that my hunch was correct until almost the very end of the book. The story wove throughout decades and between points of view, which is something I usually love in a book. In this one, it was slightly difficult to keep track of, if only because the characters’ various aliases made it tricky to keep names straight. Laura Lippman’s story was creative and compelling and she told it well. However, one aspect of Lippman’s writing that I did not love was all of the various comments on people’s bodies and sex appeal, especially in the parts told by Detective Infante. It never added to the plot or helped tell the story at all, it just made me feel like Infante was kind of a creep for thinking so constantly about women’s bodies. This would have been useful if the reader was not supposed to like or root for Infante, but instead it took me out of the story every time he would mention how his coworker gained weight, how attracted he was to the subject he was interviewing, or whether he thought other characters were lesbians or not.

Overall, the story was really quite good and the way it unfolded one piece at a time going back and forth throughout the decades kept me intrigued the whole time, even after I had figured out the twist. But, I wish I didn’t have to be in Kevin Infante’s head to hear this story and he is what took it from a 4-star-read to a 3-star-read.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

the titan's curse by rick riordan book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 8, 2019 – November 9, 2019.

It’s ridiculous how good this series of books is. This is the third book in the series and the third book I’ve given a 5-star rating to in the series. When I finished this one, I was on a trip and I made the mistake of not bringing the fourth book with me. I had forgotten that The Titan’s Curse ends on a bit of a low note where our heroes have won the battle, but the war has only just begun.

The Percy Jackson series is a coming-of-age series, which means that Rick Riordan commits to extensive character development in each book. In The Titan’s Curse, Percy and Annabeth continue to mature as they have more and more responsibility thrust onto their shoulders (literally). I can’t wait to keep re-reading this series.

I never read any of the spinoff series, but I’ve heard such great things about them, I think I might pick one up once I finish the original Percy Jackson books. What are the best books to read next?

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

the family upstairs by lisa jewell book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 7, 2019 – November 11, 2019.

When she turns 25, Libby Jones gets the shock of her life when she finds out that she has not only inherited a mansion, but that it’s happened under sinister and mysterious circumstances. She was adopted as a baby after being found as the last living soul in a nearly empty house. Downstairs, three barefoot adults clad in matching black robes were found alongside a suicide note. The news reported a cult, a suicide pact, and the possibility of other children on the run, but the trail went cold and Libby was adopted into a happy family, where she lived peacefully until getting that letter on her 25th birthday. When she goes to explore the house, she gets the feeling that she’s not alone and as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened in her childhood, she meets others who may or may not have her best interest at heart.

The Family Upstairs was a good thriller featuring some of my personal favorite elements: multiple perspectives, a story that unfolds across multiple timelines, reveals and twists of various shock levels peppered throughout the story, and some deeply unsettling dark characters. I absolutely loved the dark chapters about what happened in the house in the late 80s – early 90s and I enjoyed Libby’s chapters as well, when she was trying to solve the mystery of where her life began. However, I didn’t love Lucy’s chapters and had a hard time feeling connected to that character throughout the book. I think all the twists were done well, even though I was able to guess most of them. The ending at first seemed like it was going to be perfectly rosy and ignore some loose ends, but Lisa Jewell wrapped the very end of the story in a way that was unsettling and matched well with the tone of the rest of the book. There were still some loose threads and things I wish the author had either not included or had spent more time on (particularly in Lucy’s story, which might be why I felt it difficult to connect with her), but overall I thought the novel was quite good and I enjoyed reading it.

Content warning for rape/domestic abuse about midway through the book. Lucy’s marriage to Marco’s father was physically and mentally abusive and there are several descriptions of things that he did to her in the chapters where they interact. It serves to show the reader that Lucy has been through a great deal of hardship, but does not really advance the plot, so you’re definitely able to skim or skip those parts.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

deep dish by mary kay andrews book cover honeybeejoyous

No Rating — Did Not Finish

Read from November 8, 2019 – November 12, 2019.

I decided to DNF this book at 46%. No rating because I have a policy of not rating books I don’t finish, but I am not happy with this book at all. I really liked the premise of the story — two TV chefs in a battle to determine who gets the primetime spot, along with a little romantic tension. One chef is Southern Belle Regina who loves to use fresh, organic ingredients and the other is rugged fisherman Tate who cooks what he catches.

I really wanted to love and finish this book, but some of the side characters made it impossible to enjoy. First was Dijon, Regina’s hairdresser. (I listened to this as an audiobook so I’m not sure if that’s how his name is actually spelled.) He was an absolutely ridiculous caricature of a gay black man. His dialogue was not ideal, but what made it absolutely horrendous was the terrible accent and speech mannerisms the audiobook narrator decided to adopt. That bugged me but since I was enjoying the overall story and Dijon is a minor character, I decided to keep going. But then, our cast of characters traveled to an island where they were served and catered to by subservient black women who are portrayed as poor, deferential, and uncivilized. Once again, the voices the audiobook narrator used for these characters was stereotypical and, frankly, racist. Since I don’t have this book in print, I’m not sure if the author typed out a dialect that the narrator was simply trying to read aloud or if these dialect choices were made by the narrator, but either way it was uncomfortable and unacceptable. This could have been a great story, but there was no need for the stereotypical and offensive portrayals of black people in this novel.

**Read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

battle of the labyrinth by rick riordan book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 11, 2019 – November 12, 2019.

I can’t believe I’d forgotten about how this series sucks you in and just gets better and better. I literally couldn’t put this book down. Fast-paced, dark turns, more prophecies, and battle after battle. I wish they’d been able to do these movies right because this is one I would have loved to see.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

the last olympian by rick riordan book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 13, 2019 – November 15, 2019.

I remember not liking this book quite as much as the other four the first time I read the series, but that opinion held true upon adult re-reading. Don’t get me wrong, this book was excellent, it just wasn’t quite as good as the first four books in the Percy Jackson series.

One thing I adore about these books is the humor and while there’s still some humor, this book is much more serious than the others (which makes sense because most of the book is a potentially world-as-we-know-it-ending battle). There are also a couple of moments in the book where Percy mentions something that happened in the previous school year and then brushes it off as “oh that’s a story for another time,” which is fine, but it’s not consistent with the narration of the rest of the series and made me feel almost like I had missed a book in between Labyrinth and this one.

Overall, this was a great book, I’m just nit-picking because of how much I love this series as a whole. I can’t wait to read some of the spinoff series.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

small great things by jodi picoult book cover honeybeejoyous

2 stars ⭐⭐

Read from November 12, 2019 – November 20, 2019.

I thought Small Great Things was going to be a story about a black nurse who was discriminated against at her job. Then, I got worried it was going to be about the redemption of a man who calls himself a proud white supremacist. But in fact, this was the story about how a white liberal woman came to terms with her white privilege and realized she had biases and racism inside her all along AND the story of a redeemed and reformed white supremacist.

I had very high hopes for this book after reading Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult earlier this year. However, I quickly realized I would not love this novel nearly as much, if at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good messages in this book and it is most definitely important that everyone who considers themselves “not a racist” examines their privileges, etc. However, this particular novel was didactic, preachy, and overly simplistic.

The trouble with writing a novel that tries to tackle a topic as big as systemic racism is that you either have to choose a realistic ending where your character might not “win” and will continue to experience racism, or you choose a happy ending where everything is tied up in a neat little bow and you lose any sense of realism or message you were going for. In this novel, Jodi Picoult decided to go for the neat bow happy ending. Everyone gets a happy, successful ending, the white supremacist sees the error of his ways, and everyone lives happily ever after. I wasn’t a fan of the ending or of the big “plot twist” right around the end.

Overall, this book was a big disappointment to me. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re educated on social justice and systemic oppression because it will feel didactic and simplistic. I also wouldn’t recommend it if you need to learn more about oppression because I don’t think it sends the right message in the end.

If you’re a liberal white woman who sees yourself as “not a racist,” you should definitely examine your privileges and think about the role racial inequality plays in your life. But, I don’t think Small Great Things is the best thing for you to read in order to have that self-reflection. If that sounds like you, I’d start with “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. It’s a classic essay that definitely has its own problems, but McIntosh was addressing the same things from the same perspective in 1988 that Picoult tries to address in this 2016 novel.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Six: Lauren by Samantha March

lauren by samantha march book cover honeybeejoyous

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐💫

Read from November 25, 2019 – November 26, 2019.

I ordered The Six: Lauren the second I saw Samantha March post that her latest novel was available. I don’t read tons of books classed as “chick lit” but I reliably enjoy the novels in “The Six” series. I really liked The Six: Kristy and The Six: ScarlettThe Six: Lauren is the same caliber and yet another solid story in the series.

I think I like the characters of Kristy and Scarlett more than I liked Lauren, but that’s nothing against the story — more about who I relate to. This novel linked well to the previous two in the series, but does a great job providing a new perspective on the drama going on in the friend group and extending the storyline in a new way. I can’t wait to read Breely!

Find my review on Goodreads here.

Murder at the Mill by M.B. Shaw

murder at the mill by m.b. shaw book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from November 20, 2019 – November 28, 2019.

I chose this audiobook from my library because I was in the mood for a cozy, Christmas mystery. Murder at The Mill exceeded my expectations. This mystery had far more twists and turns than I expected and was full of likable characters and layers upon layers of storytelling. I figured out the whodunit pretty early on, but the way the story was revealed and the extra layers of mystery kept me interested and surprised throughout the whole 13 hours of audio.

Iris Grey is a painter who decides to move away from the city (and from her husband) to take on the commission of painting famous mystery author Dom Wetherby. Iris loves the peace of living in the countryside, but it’s not peaceful for long. The Wetherby family has secrets upon secrets and somehow it seems Iris is the only one willing to dig deeper and find out the truth.

I didn’t love the portrayal of Lorcan, the youngest Wetherby son who has Down syndrome. It was kind and respectful, but still felt dated somehow. (It was also totally not necessary to the story for him to have Down syndrome, which made it more irritating to me.) And, since I was listening to the audiobook, I got the distinct pleasure of listening to the British narrator attempt to do an American accent to portray one of the characters. Other than those complaints though, I greatly enjoyed this book and would consider picking up the next Iris Grey mystery.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

the test by sylvain neuvel book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read on November 28, 2019.

Wow. This was a hard-hitter.

Idir is taking the British Citizenship Test in hopes of helping his entire family become citizens and fully escaping the violence they fled in Teheran. However, during his test, things turn violent and tragic and Idir ends up with more power than any man should be given.

I burnt out of dystopian fiction at some point in high school (I was in high school from 2010-2014, so I don’t think it was just me that felt exhausted by the genre). But I’m so glad I picked up this novella from Sylvain Neuvel. I love the Themis Files series and wanted to see what else Neuvel had to offer and The Test just left my mind reeling.

In ninth grade, we did a unit on dystopian short stories and honestly this book left me feeling the same way I felt after reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” and the other stories we read in that unit. There’s something about the packaging of a dystopia into a short format that makes it even more chilling and shocking than it would be in a longer novel. Sometimes world building isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I guess.

I’ve loved Sylvain Neuvel since I read Sleeping Giants, but this story solidified him as a must-read author for me. Wow.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

I read some fantastic books in November! What did you read this month? Leave a comment down below and let’s talk books.

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