The Monthly Round-Up: November

23 books read this month, although the beginning of November seems so long ago that I basically don’t remember reading at least 5 of these. I’ve reached 284 books on my Goodreads challenge (originally set at 151 – I may have set this deliberately low to maximise my sense of achievement); 300 books read in 2016 is looking very doable. I am proud.

Here’s what I’ve read in November.

  1. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
    As my daughter and I continue to plough through Dahl’s works on audiobook, I am struck by how bloody weird this one is. I have read that he enjoyed a G&T with his lunch before returning to his writing shed; I can only assume The Great Glass Elevator was written after a really large glass.
  2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
    This was very strange too; the strange dialogue and focus on setting gave it much in common with We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which I loved. I didn’t connect with this to the same extent, but it still served as a good, post-Halloween read and I’ll be continuing to read as much Jackson as I can.
  3. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
    I’ve read really mixed reviews of this and I had quite conflicting feelings. I loved the premise (every generation, triplet queens are born, only to fight to the death when they come of age), but the execution was too plodding for my liking.
  4. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
    This was excellent; set in 19th century Ireland and focusing on what’s really going on with an 11 year old girl who is said to have eaten nothing for 4 months. It’s a really good mystery as well as being very twisty.
  5. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
    This was extremely weird; twins, a creepy house, psychological problems and chalk eating kind of sums it up. The chalk eating thing made it an interesting book to read after The Wonder, which was about not eating at all.
  6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
    I read this to see what all the fuss was about. It’s definitely compelling (I read it in one sitting, staying up way past my bedtime to finish it) but I guessed the plot twist so it wasn’t as shocking at the end as it might have been.
  7. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    Another audiobook listened to with my daughter, James is a very strange but sweet book, with lots of themes shared with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator but less of the social judgement. I liked the earthworm.
  8. The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla
    I really recommend this; it’s a very recently published anthology of essays by BAME writers about what it means to be an immigrant in Britain today. God only knows what this book would look like if it was published a year from now; post-Brexit, there’s some disturbing madness happening over here.
  9. Deadpool Killustrated, Vol 1 by Cullen Bunn
    This was the first Deadpool I haven’t really enjoyed; although I thought the concept of Wade traveling through the world of fictional characters to kill them all and, hopefully, bring about his own end interesting, the story just wasn’t as well-executed (haha, hilarious pun) as the other Deadpool comics I’ve read.
  10. Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor
    I’ve not seen much talk about this rather lovely YA series-started; it’s set in 1950s America, focusing on a young girl who wishes to escape her abusive father, and a homeless boy who cares for a group of orphans in a subway tunnel. It sounds far more miserable than it is.
  11. Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr
    Sigh. I’ve been looking forward to reading this for months, having pre-ordered it about 6 months before its release. Sadly, it didn’t really live up to my hopes; when I read a music autobiography, I probably already like the artist, so I don’t really need them to so frequently proclaim the greatness of everything they’ve ever done.
  12. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
    This is set in an Australian refugee camp and was really quite heartbreaking. Told mainly from the perspective of a young boy who was born in the camp, it’s a really strong indictment against the system in Australia and how refugees are treated.
  13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
    A late contender for best book I’ve read this year, this ticked some key boxes for me: firstly, it’s partly set in Africa and, secondly, it follows generations of a family over the course of 200 years. I absolutely loved it.
  14. More of Me by Kathryn Evans
    I think I may have misread a synopsis somewhere, because this book was not what I was expecting. Sixteen year old Teva lives with her mother and a dozen younger versions of herself, none of whom ever leave the house. It seemed to be about one thing, then seemed to be about that thing but with a twist, then turned out to be about something else entirely and was very weird.
  15. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
    Another audiobook listen with my daughter: this is the point when Dahl’s presentation of parents really started to worry me. Seriously, Danny’s dad leaves him alone at night, makes him work in a filling station and then allows him to be an accomplice to an actual crime? Oh bravo, those are parenting goals right there.
  16. Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
    I’ve had this in my sights for ages and I was so disappointed. I thought I was going to be reading something adventurous and pirate-y and what I got was a vaguely boring bodice-ripper. Boo.
  17. If You Look For Me, I Am Not Here by Sarayu Srivatsa
    I can’t decide how I feel about this book; having given birth to twins but seeing one of them die soon after, a mother treats her son as a daughter, giving him serious identity issues. Parts of it were excellent, but it did drag a bit.
  18. Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest
    Tempest’s latest poem is another masterpiece of the modern age, skewering the concerns of life in the 21st century. There are some bits in it so good I shrieked.
  19. The Blazing Star by Imani Josey
    Gloriously demented time travel, ancient Egypt craziness. I didn’t always understand it, but I did enjoy it.
  20. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
    I’ve been reading this with a class at school and got to the end this month. I really love this play, especially the potential it has for spawning brilliant theories and the opportunity to teach 15 year old boys about toxic masculinity.
  21. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
    I’ve wanted to read this for ages and it was so worth the anticipation. It’s a brilliant depiction of mental illness that all people should read.
  22. The Outside Lands by Hannah Kohler
    Something else I’ve had my eye on for a while, this is an excellent take on the Vietnam war, from the perspective of an enlisted Marine with anger problems and his sister in California left to try and deal with them.
  23. In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass
    I was very disappointed with this; I was expecting some seriously dark and disturbing weirdo religious stuff, and actually what it offered was more in the realm of adolescent drama. Boo.

I’m having a very bad spell at the moment with starting books I’ve been wanting to read for ages and then finding it impossible to get into them. I don’t know if it’s that the books aren’t great or whether the amount of work I have to do is distracting me. I have also spent an inordinate amount of time this month stressing about my daughter’s birthday cake, which is ridiculous and should not be distracting me from reading.

My plan for December is to finally get to all the books I’ve bought this year and not read yet. So, hopefully, December’s round-up will include Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, Darkness Follows by L.A. Weatherly and Armada by Ernest Cline. I might even go crazy and finish The Mill on the Floss.

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