Recent Reads, November 2022

I got in a little bit of a rut this month, and so I did some re-reading of favorites that I’ve already shared here before. Sometimes, just like a comfort TV show, I reach for the comfort of a book I know that I love and can get totally lost in. But I did read some new-to-me books, too! Here’s what I read in November.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Content warning: gun violence I flew through this book in about a day – It was incredibly good, both beautifully written and a super engaging story. Sam Masur and Sadie Green meet as kids in the hospital – Sam as a patient, Sadie visiting her sister – and the two bond over playing video games together while Sam recovers. They grow apart and meet again years later randomly at a subway station in Boston. The two reconnect and decide to work together to design and create a video game. Their lives go from there – sometimes as friends, sometimes as partners on a game, and sometimes not speaking, but always connected in some way. You don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy this book at all, because at it’s core, it’s really a book about love and human connection. Sam has a disability and uses different mobility aids throughout the book – I don’t know about the author’s own relationship to disability, but I thought it was handled really well. I highly, highly recommend this book.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

I really loved Hamnet by the same author, but this book fell a little bit flat for me. Just like Hamnet, this story takes a look at historical figure – Lucrezia, who marries into the Medici family. She’s young girl who has mostly been left on her own throughout her childhood, and then finds that she is to marry a man much, much older than her. She’s naive and uninformed about what her new status as a duchess means, and has to learn to live with her husband’s incredibly mercurial nature. The story is told in two different timelines that just back and forth, and as someone who doesn’t know much about the Medicis, it made the plot difficult to follow for me. I just never felt like I really connected with Lucrezia. It did make me curious to learn more about the Medici family, though, and the way Maggie O’Farrell writes is incredibly beautiful.

The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake

This is the sequel to The Atlas Six – basically, six of the most powerful magicians are chosen to be considered for initiation into a very secret society, but have to go through a year of “training” together first. I don’t want to go into a full recap of the first book, but want to say STOP HERE if you haven’t read it yet, because it ends with a major cliffhanger that I’m going to talk about! SPOILER WARNING for The Atlas Six – it ends with one of the six, Libby, being abducted by her ex, who has a vendetta against the secret society. This book picks up right where the first left off – the five remaining magicians are continuing to train and research, but some are struggling to keep going without Libby. Libby, on her own, is trying to figure out how to get back to the society. It was a little slow at times – lots of each of the six magicians on their own, and not much of the whole group together – but it ended, again, on a cliffhanger that had me wanting more!

The Cloisters by Katy Hays

This book has been compared to The Secret History, which is a dark academia classic, and I think it’s fitting. lt’s a moody, atmospheric read – Ann is running away from a tragedy in her past by working a summer internship at the famed Met Cloisters. She finds herself becoming friends with her wealthy and sophisticated coworker, Rachel, who seems to know anyone and everyone. Ann starts to work with Rachel on her research about tarot cards, and finds herself being pulled into a mystery and wrestling with the eternal question of fate vs. free will. There’s also a love… triangle? Quadrangle? too. It’s a suspenseful thriller that I didn’t want to put down.

Better than Fiction by Alexa Martin

I love a rom com, and one that’s set partially at a bookstore? Even better. When Drew finds out that her grandmother has left her her bookstore in her will, she’s surprised and, honestly, a little bit disappointed. She’s not really a big reader, and feels stuck and tethered, but also doesn’t want to let her grandmother down. The bookstore comes with a meddling book club made up of her grandmother’s friends, who decide invite famous author Jasper Williams to the bookstore for a reading and signing…. and maaaaybe to set up Drew and Jasper, too. But can someone who thinks the movie is always better than the book ever really get along with an author? It was a fun read with some deeper moments, too. I really enjoyed it.

Babel by R.F. Kuang

I read Babel with a group of friends, and honestly…. if I had been reading alone, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. It’s getting a lot of hype right now, and just didn’t live up to the expectations for me. It takes place in a fictional version of Oxford, where the world runs on magic silver bars. Robin is brought to London by Professor Lovell with the understanding that he will one day enroll at Oxford to learn to work on silver bars himself. Professor Lovell is far from a father figure, and Robin soon learns at Oxford this his understanding of the world is a very limited one. It has a lot of elements that I’m typically interested in – magic, academia, coming-of-age… but it just never really went anywhere, and the ending was extremely anticlimactic.

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