Dec 19

November Books For Which To Give Thanks (Or Not), Part 1: 2021

OK remember last week when I was being SO COOL and decided to talk about the last half of the books I read in November first?

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Well, you’re never going to believe this but it’s time to talk about  the first half now. Wow, who could ever even see that coming?

  1. Halloween Fiend – C.V. Hunt

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This is a novella about a small town held hostage by some creepy monster that comes around every night to claim the sacrifices that each resident leaves for it on their porch: cats, Guinea pigs, etc. So right away, I hated this book.

But then every year on Halloween, an actual townsperson is chosen through a lottery to be sacrificed to the monster.

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There was this one dumb bitch who gleefully presented a cat as a sacrifice every night and then watched from the window as it was devoured, and I really wanted to get dead. Stupid effing bitch.

It was a fast read but also kind of dumb. I don’t know, this is the first book I read in November coming off a shitty month of October reads and I was feeling pretty jaded.

2. Mary Jane – Jessica Anya Blau

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…but then came Mary Jane, a book I was not expecting to fall so hard for.

Mary Jane is a 15-year-old (I think) girl with extremely conservative parents who takes up a summer job nannying the 5-year-old (I think) daughter of a psychiatrist and his eccentric midlife-crising wife. Their family is VERY unconventional, affectionate, progressive, and also extremely scattered and unstructured. Mary Jane quickly finds herself not just nannying the little girl, but organizing the home and lives of the parents as well. She even starts cooking their dinners for them every evening when she discovers that most of the food in their fridge is spoiled and that they eat out for basically ever meal.

Things heat up when the dad’s super famous patient and his equally-famous wife come to live with them for the summer. Mary Jane starts learning A LOT about life, is convinced that she’s a sex addict, and really finds her own voice for the first time in her life, amidst all the dysfunction and chaos.

I saw a lot of reviews about how terrible it was that Mary Jane was put in this situation, how she had to be the adult while the actual adults where trashing the house, cheating on each other, smoking pot, how Mary Jane’s actual parents didn’t react the way that they should have upon finding out what their daughter was actually up to all summer, but I thought it was a very emotional and endearing coming of age story. I love found family tropes so much and this one had me so invested, that I wanted these people to be real and I was rooting so hard for Mary Jane and everyone under that roof. I sobbed when this book ended! It was such a beautiful story and I laughed out loud so many times too (the sex addict part is hilarious).

I’ll be reading more from Jessica Anya Blau, that’s for sure.

3. Dear Laura- Gemma Amor

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This is a novella about a girl – OMG LAURA, MAYBE? – whose boyfriend is kidnapped when they are both in high school and then the kidnapper starts sending Laura a letter every year on her birthday saying they he will tell her the location of her boyfriend’s body but she has to give him something first. It starts out as a pair of her unwashed underwear and gets progressively worse. Every other chapter goes back to present day, which finds a middle-aged Laura trekking through the wilderness.

There was a lot of hype around this book in the horror book circles but it didn’t hold up for me.

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It wasn’t terrible but I also was neither shocked nor awed. By the end, I’m pretty sure my reaction was to close the book and say, “ok” and then promptly wring its memory from my brain to make room for better things.

The cover is fantastic though.

4. The Burning Girls – C.J. Tudor


My first CJ Tudor novel and will definitely not be my last. I was shocked at how much I really liked this, from the conversational and often humorous writing to the fleshed-out characters and believable, easy dialogue. There is a great mother/daughter dynamic going on here that felt very realistic and while the plot was a bit over the top (when aren’t they though, in thrillers) I loved the small British town setting and the mystery. Also, I kept picturing the daughter as a young Winona Ryder, for sure.

A certain point late into this story had me like OMG! which doesn’t happen very often with thrillers (I’ve been getting stuck with so many duds lately!). It was just wildly entertaining from start to finish, and the creepiness was extremely well done. Also, this book cover gives me sick tattoo vibes, bruh.

5. Under the Whispering Door – T.J. Klune


It pains me to say this and if my blog had an actual readership I am sure I would get some hate for this opinion, but I absolutely fucking HATED this book and could NOT wait to finish it. First, I started to read the physical copy and literally couldn’t get through the first chapter. It was so boring and dry but I refused to accept this, having loved Klune’s previous book, House In the Cerulean Sea. While this isn’t a sequel, I expected to still love it because of Klune’s descriptive writing and ability to craft unforgettable and lovable characters – even the curmudgeonly ones.

I thought maybe getting the audio would help get me into the story but I think it actually made me hate the main character even more?

I knew going into this that it was a book about death. The primary setting is a tea shop run by a man who assists the recently deceased into, I dunno, Heaven I guess. There’s a grim reaper whose character was one of the better parts of the book, and the ghost grandfather and dog of the year owner. Then we have the main character, an ego-centric lawyer who dies young of a heart attack and refuses to accept his fate.

It was so heavy-handed. Conversations between two characters that dragged out for entire chapters, ALL OF THE DEATH TALK, and the fact that we rarely left the cafe just made it feel very claustrophobic and stifling. It was so long and repetitive and also we get it, Klune: you love the word “cerulean.”

But honestly, get over yourself.

Really hated this book a lot.

6. Skinship – Yoon Choi


Oof, I went from one book about death to another book full of short stories about death but this one was so much better. Each story was a glimpse into the Korean American experience. It ran the gamut of many emotions, but depressing was the big winner here. It was often frustrating to read about these intimate struggles with cultural differences, the act of “settling,” the sacrifice some of these characters made in order to come to America for a “better life.”

For me, picking up this book was a no-brainer because I am perpetually on the hunt for Korean literature and for more doorways into Korean culture and history. But I truly think that if you enjoy reading short stories about strained, complicated, and complex interfamilial relationships, then this collection might be something of interest to you.

And also, can we admire that exquisite cover together for a sec? Dang.

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