On Becca’s Bookshelf // November Edition

beccasbookshelfnovember

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 Bayin 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 fiancΓ© 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.

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13 Responses to On Becca’s Bookshelf // November Edition

  1. Emily December 5, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Now I want to read Orange is the New Black! I know that the Netflix series went viral, and I never could get that interested (I tend to shy away from overly dark or depressing work), but I think I may need to give it a try after giving the book a go!

    • Becca December 5, 2014 at 12:37 am #

      I don’t know about the show… I saw a trailer for it and it looked fun, but I don’t think it’s that true to the book. The book is much more of a memoir and a commentary on the justice system; the show seems to be more shock factor and entertainment. Definitely start with the book. :)

  2. Christine December 5, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Love your book review posts, Becca. I’m always looking for good recommendations, and I think yours are really on-point.

    100% agree with you on The Silkworm — not as good as The Cuckoo’s Calling, but a good read nonetheless. Detective Strike reminds me a bit of Hagrid, and is a great protagonist.

    I’d highly recommend 2 books that I read this past month:

    The Boys in the Boat: It’s a true story of the University of Washington’s crew team that went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It’s rich in content on a rowing, Seattle in the 1930’s, and the Nazi-planned Olympics — topics I knew very little about, and also a very digestible story.

    All The Light We Cannot See: This one is a novel about two children coming of age during WWII in Europe — one in France, one in Germany. What I liked most about the book was the actually format — each chapter is only a few pages long, so you can easily pick it up for 15 minutes at a time — I call this “subway friendly” reading :).

    I also read The Husband’s Secret in November, which I know you’ve read too, Becca. I liked it. It was a fun book that I’d put into the “good beach read category”, though reading it in 28-degree New York worked well too.

    Looking forward to the December reviews!

    • Becca December 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

      I just added both your recommendations to my reading list. I’ve actually been wanting to read both of them but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thank you!

  3. Sarah December 5, 2014 at 6:46 am #

    Love your list and reviews! Inspiring me to pick up a few new reads in my free time :). Just finished “The Dinner” by Herman Koch…interesting, twisting, surprising.

    • Becca December 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

      Sounds fascinating! Thanks for your recommendation, Sarah!

  4. Andrea December 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    I love JoJo Moyes too, and your review of The Ship of Brides has forced me to admit that it’s not a very good book–I’m about 3/4 of the way finished and I just. can’t. make. myself read more. I have to admit defeat on it.

    Liked the Lebovitz book as well, though I am a total home-body and armchair traveler.

    I read Orange is the New Black (and loved it) just before I got summoned for federal Grand Jury duty. Seeing the judicial side of our federal system–after reading what had happened to her–has been eye-opening as well.

    –longtime librarian lurker in Pennsylvania

    • Becca December 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

      I loved reading all your thoughts on these books! It seems like we enjoy the same ones. :)

      I think if you’re 3/4 of the way through “The Ship of Brides,” you should just finish it. It won’t impress or amaze you, but there is resolution (slightly cheesy but still satisfying). That’s just my twice cents, though!

      • Andrea December 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

        Well, I will admit to being curious as to back-story of the quiet nurse (Frances?), so I may push thru and finish it during our upcoming Christmas Break. Doesn’t help that it’s an e-book on my Kindle … still don’t love the Kindle.

  5. Laura December 9, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    Hi Becca, I love reading your blog and especially love your book recommendations. I am a big fan of Jojo Moyes too, and loved “The Girl you Left Behind.” It is one of the best books I read this year! Just thought I’d share since you seem to enjoy her books just as much as I do! :)

    • Becca December 19, 2014 at 3:14 am #

      Laura, I’m sorry I’m just now replying! Yes, I loved “The Girl You Left Behind” as well! I think I read it in September, right before I started this series. If you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

  6. Alise G December 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    I just finished reading JoJo Moyes “Me Before You” and “One Plus One” and I have to agree with you, they both completely took my breath away! I keep thinking of Me Before You this week…the character seem so real, like I could meet them next week at the grocery store. And I don’t even know how to describe how heartbroken I was at the end of it; like I was mourning the loss of a very dear friend. Thanks for the book recommendations!

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