November was a good reading month. I finally settled in my routines and, with the days becoming colder and darker, I spent a good amount of time on the sofa reading. 8 books in total. Also, I liked them all and recommend all of them. My two favorites were Elif Shafak’s non-fictional discourse and Chloe Gong’s YA fantasy novel. I had ordered the latter as my book of the month and must say that they pick amazing reads every month. Book of the Month is definitely my favorite subscription at the time.
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Elif Shafak: How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division – Ours is the age of contagious anxiety. We feel overwhelmed by the events around us, by injustice, by suffering, by an endless feeling of crisis. So, how can we nurture the parts of ourselves that hope, trust and believe in something better? And how can we stay sane in this age of division?
In this powerful, uplifting plea for conscious optimism, Booker Prize-nominated novelist and activist Elif Shafak draws on her own memories and delves into the power of stories to bring us together. In the process, she reveals how listening to each other can nurture democracy, empathy and our faith in a kinder and wiser future.
I first heard about this book when a friend posted her own story of belonging on Facebook. Shafak talks about her belonging to different countries and cultures (there is a beautiful declaration of love to Istanbul in there). I particularly loved how she writes about our behavior during this Covid crisis when, at the same time, we are also confronted with a seeming demise of democracy. Moreover, she offers solutions how each of us can deal with the situation.
Jill Murphy: The Worst Witch to the Rescue – Mildred Hubble has always been the worst witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, but she knows this term will be different. She’s done the best holiday project ever and she’s sure that her form teacher, the fearsome Miss Hardbroom, will be impressed. Even her arch-enemy, Ethel Hallow, is being friendly! But is it all just too good to be true?
Jill Murphy: The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star – Mildred Hubble may be the clumsiest witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, but as a senior student she’s been assigned the important task of lighting lanterns and candelabras each evening. Inspired by this responsibility, Mildred tries to stay out of trouble. But there are many opportunities for mayhem when a wish on a star leads to a lovable stray pup who, unlike Mildred’s timid tabby, loves to fly on a broomstick. Can Mildred keep Star a secret and avoid setting fire to the school despite an impending talent competition, the disapproving Miss Hardbroom, and her ever-spiteful classmate Ethel Hallow?
The Worst Witch novels have gotten better and better with the stories becoming more elaborate and the characters developing. I love how Mildred always seems to end up in some horrible mess up. Fortunately she has her two best friends to help her – and most of the time she also finds ways to help herself.
Chloe Gong: These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) – The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
This is such a great novel. Initially I thought that it could end up as a bad copy of “Romeo and Juliet”, but it isn’t at all. Juliette and Roma are much rounder characters and already young adults. Even though they were in love as teenagers, they then started to hate each other. But now they have to unite to figure out where the madness comes from. The story is thrilling and I couldn’t put the book away. Even the setting, 1920s Shanghai is exciting because it is such a different world – with or without fantasy elements. Besides, I loved that most of the story is told from Juliette’s perspective. But every now and then the perspective changes to Roma’s or one of Juliette’s cousins. Since the novel ends on a cliffhanger, I can’t wait for the next part to be published.
Rick Riordan: The Tower of Nero (The Trials of Apollo #5) – It’s time to face the final trial….
The battle for Camp Jupiter is over. New Rome is safe. Tarquin and his army of the undead have been defeated. Somehow Apollo has made it out alive, with a little bit of help from the Hunters of Artemis.
But though the battle may have been won, the war is far from over.
Now Apollo and Meg must get ready for the final – and, let’s face it, probably fatal – adventure. They must face the last emperor, the terrifying Nero, and destroy him once and for all.
Can Apollo find his godly form again? Will Meg be able to face up to her troubled past? Destiny awaits….
I think at this point I have read all of Riordan’s YA fantasy novels, this one being the latest. Apollo is still a more or less annoying teenager, who needs to rescue the world and himself. Riordan succeeds once more in connecting all the different worlds he has created – or more they all find a place in one world, like Roman and Greek gods. There are, of course, many mythological elements, but, since this book is the last of the Apollo series, the plot with its final climax is more important. I highly recommend all Riordan novels and thus also this – because the stories are always well thought through and entertaining, and it is such a fun way to learn or be reminded again of the different pantheons.
Amanda M. Lee: Mayhem & Misteltoe (An Avery Shaw Mystery #17) – Avery Shaw has the world at her fingertips … and a pile of dead Santas near the railroad tracks. Interestingly, she’s more focused on the Santas than her personal life, but only because she’s been warned that a proposal is imminent from her live-in love Eliot Kane and she needs to look somewhere else – anywhere else will do – rather than accept what he’s trying to offer.
Avery never pictured herself married but it appears it might be happening … no matter how she tries to dodge and weave. The Santas make an enticing distraction, so Avery throws herself in with gusto.
I love how self-absorbed and annoying Avery is – and how she grows with time and with every murder she has to solve. This is another great cozy mystery and I enjoyed reading how Avery with the help of Eliot begins to search for the murderer. I am not sure that it necessarily had to be about Santas since that doesn’t play a big role. But it also didn’t particularly bother me.
Amanda M. Lee: Caffeinated Calamity (A Two Broomsticks Gas & Grill Witch Cozy Mystery #2) – The only witch in the world? It might feel like it to Stormy Morgan but she knows better.
Twenty minutes away, in a town called Hemlock Cove, witches have taken over. Sure, the bulk of the town is made up of frauds looking to shore up their tourism industry, but there are real witches, too. There’s a family, last name of Winchester, and they’re notorious. Stormy wants to meet them but she has a myriad of problems darkening her doorstep.
The first is Hunter Ryan, her childhood love who is back in her life and ready to take the next step, which is formal dating … just as soon as he’s given proper respect to his previous relationship. While Stormy is waiting for that to happen, she runs to the aid of customer at the family diner when the older woman collapses as she’s leaving after breakfast. Before Stormy can offer even a dollop of help, though, the woman is dead and there are more questions than answers.
This cozy mystery is a little different as Stormy has only realized that she is a witch. The story follows different threads: first, there is Stormy still settling in her new old life. Then her doing more research about witches. And finally the murder case. In general it is quite entertaining and I can only imagine that the village I grew up in would be exactly the same if I ever moved back (not that that has ever been the plan). I also like that, while Stormy searches for the murderer, the book contains some excellent false trails.
Agatha Frost: Black Cherry Betrayal (Claire’s Candles #2) – Claire Harris is excited to get the keys to her candle shop finally. A foul smell coming from the attic, however, turns her excitement into a living nightmare. There, she finds the body of Jane Brindle, the owner of the tearoom, which had stood in the heart of the village for decades.
Jane’s eventual retirement at eighty after years of fruitlessly hounding her daughter, Em, to take over the tearoom sent her to the south of France, or so everyone assumed. Jane never left Northash, but nobody is admitting to knowing what happened to her. Accusations fly everywhere, with many fingers pointing at free-spirited Em, and even some at Claire for daring to change the status quo.
The third cozy mystery that I read in November is set in a small town in England. Claire is a character I can quite relate to because she is so normal. She just happens to stumble over murder cases and ends up helping friends to clear their name. This series has only just started and I am looking forward to more mysteries – and also to see how the maybe relationship between Claire and Ryan pans out.