November was quite the reading month; I made it to nine books, including my first audio book! A huge thank you to Ian and Jen, my bookstagram friends who recommended I try out audio books. Definitely going to keep at it, I’ve been bitten by the audio book bug! I have been trying to choose easy, light, and/or exciting reads in an attempt to achieve my Goodreads challenge for this year. At the time of writing (so the end of the month of November), I still have 12 books to go. Quite honestly, I don’t think I’ll make it, but I am definitely going to try. December will just have to be the Kindle-glued-to-palm month.
Review of ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’, by Jeff Chang and Dave Cook—Must Read
An incredible read about the history of hip-hop, all the way from its emergence in New York in the 1970s to its most recent iterations. Written in a conversational and easy tone without dilution of the messages behind hip hop, shedding an honest light on sometimes very difficult topics in an uplifting and inspiring way. It is quite a feat, in my opinion, that this historical overview of hip hop and its relation to social justice was such an easy read. I sliced through it in no time, and am planning to reread it much more slowly while watching select episodes of “Hip Hop Evolution” on Netflix and listening to the songs the book references (perhaps even creating a playlist on YouTube and/or Spotify).
Review of ‘Apples Never Fall’, by Liane Moriarty—Recommend
Do I even need to review this book? It’s basically everything that a Liane Moriarty book is. When their mother disappears, four adult siblings are left reeling and trying to figure out if their father could be as guilty as the police think he is. The waters are muddied by the father’s reluctance to share anything with the police and the couple’s relationship with an unknown young woman they housed for some time over a year ago who may not be who she claimed to be. What makes Moriarty’s book all the more appealing to me is that not only the mystery at the centre of them are intriguing and their denouement is satisfying, but there is so many great insights on the nature of humans and their relationships to unpack.
Review of ‘Never Tell A Lie’, by Gail Schimmel—Recommend
Domestic abuse can look very different from one case to the other; Gail Schimmel touches on some of the ways it can look like. What gave this book an extra layer of meaning is that the main character was herself in an abusive relationship, yet has trouble seeing the truth about her former high school classmate’s marriage—a truth that, quite honestly, isn’t very clear until the very end of the book. One of my main conclusions is that building a strong and vibrant community is the best way to both prevent domestic abuse, as well as to be able to identify it and deal with it. If the couple with the domestic abuse problem hadn’t been as isolated as they were, perhaps the issues at the heart of the abuse could have been dealt with before said abuse occurred, or, at the very least, the abuse would not have gone on for as long as it did. A book in the “mind-opening” category.
Review of ‘Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets’, by Chelsea Ichaso
When her little sister falls off a cliff, everyone thinks its an attempted suicide, but guilt-ridden Savannah knows it’s something else. The main suspects are all going on a survival trip in the same area and so Savannah decides to join them and investigate things on her own. This book offered nuggets of exploration into relationships, including an exploration of toxic dynamics. Granted the exploration was superficial but then again, a YA thriller isn’t necessarily the best place for in-depth reflection. I particularly enjoyed trying to weed through the actions of the potential suspects and try to pinpoint who was the guilty party. I preferred this book over Ichaso’s Little Creeping Things, which was included in last month’s round-up and am looking forward to her next titles.
Review of ‘Good Girls Die First’, by Kathryn Foxfield
If you liked Stephen King’s It, and wonder what would happen if Pennywise got a bunch of teenagers on a deserted island, then this is the book for you. I don’t think it’s quite at the level of King’s book, but it does make for an interesting read. The character development got interesting at certain points but a horror novel doesn’t really lend itself to deep character development, I guess? The setting was phenomenal and the descriptions brought the creepy, abandoned amusement park on an old pier to life. I hadn’t realised, when I picked up the book, that there was a paranormal element to the book, and the ensuing confusion was kind of fun, quite honestly. I wasn’t horrified as much as puzzled and on the edge of my seat, always wondering what was going on, who was going to die next and how. I couldn’t put it down as it was an easy read—and as mentioned above, I am trying to make my Goodreads goal for this year!
Review of ‘Space is Cool as F***’, by Kate Howells
This was my first foray into audio books, and only moments after I got a copy to review from NetGalley I realised that swear words might be harder to skip in audio format than when I’m reading a book. But my love for space prevailed, and I’m glad it did. This book is a lovely overview of some of the biggest questions about space, that manages to present some of the most complex questions asked by physicists in a way approachable for this rusty nerd. There was also a wonderful, long interview with Bill Nye, who is always a pleasure to listen to. As for the swearing, there was some interspaced throughout the entire book, but it was easy to ignore. It just meant that I couldn’t listen to this book while my little one was around, which had been my initial intention when requesting a space-related audio book from NetGalley. What can I say… I’m one tired mama.
Review of ‘Lock the Doors’, by Vincent Ralph
It always takes a bit of time getting used to a new home, and it doesn’t help when one doesn’t really want to move in the first place. When Tom moves into a new home, he notices some chilling details about the house that no one else seems to mind, namely that there are locks on the outside of two-bedroom doors, and that the wall under the paper in his bedroom is covered in handwriting, all spelling the same thing: “Help me.” The ultimate dénouement is pretty incredible in that I highly doubt it would ever happen (please?) but the lead-up is an intriguing exploration into the dynamics of a blended family. Ralph sure knows how to set a steadily creepy mood without repeating himself, which as a writer myself, I find pretty awe-inspiring.
Review of ‘This Might Hurt’, by Stephanie Wrobel
All the ingredients for a great mystery were present in this book: an isolated island with no phone reception; a sister lost to a cult; and a mysterious parental figure seemingly pulling all the strings. But although eerie, Wrobel also manages to do some pretty insightful exploration of family dynamics, especially those between siblings and those between father and daughter. Some parts were extremely hard to read—namely those depicting the emotional abuse by a parent. I didn’t see the end coming, which is an extra point in my book, as I tend to guess endings quite easily. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t obvious, or perhaps it was because I was so engrossed by the web weaved that I got distracted. Either way, it made for quite the delicious read and jaw dropping ending.
Review of ‘Long Story Short’, by Serena Kaylor
This book slips into the category of “mind-opening but still fun” reads. It was very interesting to see things from the perspective of someone who doesn’t quite agree with the mainstream way of doing things, and see how differences are bridged. It was also interesting to read a book from the perspective of someone whose thought process in general is different from the usual more mainstream kind of thought process. I also quite like that the main character doesn’t just accept everything at face value; when told that certain things are just part of “the teenage experience”, she questions why more often than not. I do have issue with the concept of “the teenage experience”, as if one experience is the true teenage experience. I kind of wish the main character had said something about that more clearly, although the thoughts interspersed here and there were quite insightful and could make for great book club conversations.
Thank you to Raincoast Books and Simon & Schuester Canada for ARCs, to Orca Book Publishers for review copies, and thank you to all the publisher who sent me electronic ARCs through Netgalley!
1 thought on “Book Review Round-Up: November 2021”
Sahar, do you remember me from Blogcritics?
I’ve been trying to get in touch with your for ages.
I have a new book out called “Soundrise” and I’m sure you’d love it. Do you want me to send it to you.
I’d just need your email address and street address.
Love to talk because it’s been too long since Blogcritics!