November was a good month! I read a diverse bunch of books this time: one teen fiction, one mystery, one historical novel, and two memoirs — one that takes place in Paris and one that takes place in prison. Without further ado:
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I read Landline last month and didn’t love it, so several of you told me to try Fangirl. It’s the story of a college girl who writes wildly successful fan fiction in her spare time, and there’s a sweet love angle in this coming-of-age story. I breezed through the book (easy to do with Rainbow’s novels!), but in the end I was left with a flat taste in my mouth. This typically happens when I don’t end up admiring or wishing I knew any of the characters. Fun to read but not much substance. Eleanor & Park still wins. — 3 stars
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. Harry Potter for grown ups! J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith’s real name) has got a good thing going. Her flawed hero, Detective Cormoran Strike, feels real enough to walk off the page, and Rowling paints layers of detail and intrigue with her trademark skill. I loved the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and this second one did not disappoint — although the premise of the murder was more disturbing than the first. I’m not much of a mystery reader, but and I’ll be reading every installment in the series. — 4 stars
- The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes. If I’ve talked books with you this year, you know I love Jojo Moyes. Me Before You broke my heart and One Plus One stole it away completely. Therefore I was excited to learn that some of Jojo’s earlier novels were being reprinted in the States. I loved the premise of The Ship of Brides: the journey of the British soldier’s new wives from Australia to their new home and husbands after WWII ended. However, despite the alluring title, it was a dull disappointment. I felt like I was wading through a mud of research and inexperience with the author, and even the most intense parts of the novel felt heavy-handed and underwhelming. Skip it and focus on her later novels. (Although I am trying another of her first novels — Silver Bay — in December and will report back!) — 2 stars
- The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz. Simply delicious, but unexpectedly so. It started off slow: David Lebovitz, a famous chef I had never heard of (my bad!), recounted his rise to fame in Alice Waters’ kitchen and eventual decision to move to France. Blah blah blah. But then the memoir took a fascinating turn as David arrived in Paris and began the all-too-familiar journey of making a foreign land his new home. I laughed out loud at his fascinating cultural observations, delighted in his transformation into a true Frenchman, and took note of restaurants and shops to visit on my next trip to Paris. (A girl can dream.) Refreshing and beautifully written, and includes recipes! — 4 stars
- Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman. Fascinating premise: a successful New Yorker with a handsome fiancé suddenly finds the Feds on her doorstep, charging her for a 10-year-old drug offense from the days when she was living in Southeast Asia with her drug-dealing lesbian lover. I kid you not. It’s all true, and Piper is real, honest, and just the kind of girl you want to know in prison. She’s adaptable, kind, cautious, and observant. Her experiences in both minimum- and maximum-security women’s prisons provide an unparalleled look inside the U.S. prison system. I hope most Americans read it, if only to start a grassroots movement to improve the terrible state of our rehabilitation system. — 4 stars
Which of these books would you like to read? Or have you read them already and agree or disagree with my reviews? Please share, or tell us what you read in November!
See all my book reviews and recommendations here.