Recent Reads, November 2023

This was definitely not my best month for reading! I started out strong, but by the end of the month I found myself feeling pretty burnt out, wanting to mindlessly scroll through TikTok instead of reading. I think I’m going to go easy next month and fit in some cute holiday romances to get me back in the reading mood and into the holiday spirit. Here’s what I read in November.

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

This was a cute YA romance from Ali Hazelwood – it’s her first YA, and it was a strong debut! Mallory has just graduated high school and is working in a mechanic shop, having given up a promising future in chess to stay near home to take care of her mom, who has MS, and her younger sisters, since their dad passed away recently. She agrees to play in a charity chess tournament for a friend, and ends up surprising everyone when she beats chess’s current hot commodity, Nolan. Even though she’s told herself she’s never going to play chess again, the promise of a big payout (and maaaaybe the chance to cross paths with Nolan again) is something she can’t pass up. As she tries to keep her chess playing a secret – and her budding friendship with Nolan a secret, too – things get more and more complicated, until everything comes to a head. There were a lot of very cute, squeal-worthy moments in this! The only thing I didn’t love was her mom’s chronic illness as a plot point rather than a fully-fleshed out, nuanced character trait.

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

This story takes place in the same fictional universe as Firekeeper’s Daughter by the same author, which I read last year and loved – this was a perfect follow up! This story also takes place at Sugar Island, and is a YA, coming-of-age mild thriller. Perry Firekeeper-Birch has always been the troublemaker twin, and is content to spend her summer fishing while her sister has a spot in their community’s prestigious internship program. But Perry finds herself being forced to join the internship too, and is placed with the slightly-kooky museum curator, who takes her along on a trip to a local university as he works to reclaim the remains of their ancestors from the Anishinaabe tribe. Then things start going badly – women start disappearing, something seems off about the remains being returned – and it’s up to Perry and her friends to figure it out. The end was maybe a little too tidy, but the story was really compelling!

Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

I really enjoyed Fourth Wing – I didn’t think it was a literary masterpiece, but I loved the disability representation and found it really fun to read! If you also liked Iron Flame, I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it was not a good sequel for me. It picks up right where Fourth Wing left off – Violet is healing from being attacked, she knows (one of!) Xaden’s secret(s), and has to decide what to do with what she knows now. (I’m trying to keep from spoiling if you haven’t read yet! But so much happens in Iron Flame – there are real pacing issues, it’s just one thing after another after another – that nothing really has any emotional impact, because it’s nonstop! I had fun while reading it, but overall I didn’t really enjoy, and it didn’t have the amazing tension that Fourth Wing did. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book or not – maybe I will eventually, but a lot of the shine has worn off for me.

The Woman in Me by Britney Spears

It’s hard to even review this book – I’m so glad Britney had a chance to tell her own story, in her own words, but it is incredibly tough to take in at times. She seems incredible naive and innocent, and taken advantage of over and over and over again – it’s really sad, and distressing, to think about. I listened to the audiobook – narrated perfectly by Michelle Williams – and Britney recorded a short note at the beginning basically saying that things were still too raw for her to talk about, so someone else would be narrating. She went through so much, and I can only hope that she’s able to heal. I do recommend this, but be prepared!

Better Hate than Never by Chloe Liese

This is the second in Chloe’s Wilmot Sisters series, but it can be read as a standalone, too – it’s a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. Kate has been away from home working overseas for years, but decides to come back home to heal from an injury… and to figure out what she wants to do with her life. She runs into her family frenemy, Christopher, and they get into things once again. But when Christopher learns Kate is only mean because she thinks he hates her, he decides it’s time to start making it up to her. Kate has to decide if she is willing to open up and trust this new version of Christopher, too, or if she wants to keep going with the same old dynamic. It’s really cute!

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