November 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

Is this wrap-up late? Yes. Have I fallen behind on other blog posts I want to write? Also yes. My bad. In my defense, I have no defense. November was a wild ride, I guess!

I mean, my country had an election that lasted nearly a week, Destiel went canon but only in Spanish (thus thrusting me back to the days when I watched Supernatural), rumors about Putin stepping down swirled, and a bunch of other things happened that I can’t think of right now. None of that explains why I only read four books, but it was really crazy, right?

So yeah, I read four books in total. I read one YA fantasy, one adult fantasy, one adult horror, and one poetry collection. The lowest rating I gave was 4 stars. At least two of these books are definitely favorites of the year.

Unfortunately, I also DNF’d one book. And it was one of my most anticipated of the year. That was a bummer. I had also read part of another book that I set aside to read the last book on this wrap-up, so that book will be on my December wrap-up.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on everything I read in November!

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Summary: A highly imaginative and original horror-comedy centered around a cursed New England boarding school for girls— a wickedly whimsical celebration of the art of storytelling, sapphic love, and the rebellious female spirit.

Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever— but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled— or perhaps just grimly exploited— and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.

My Thoughts: This book was a journey and it took work, but it was worth it. I loved the horror (once we finally got to it) and the overwhelming sapphism that drenched this story. It wasn’t what I expected, and yet it worked so well. I loved Harper, Audrey, and Merritt, even when I didn’t like them. I also loved the relationship that formed between them (was it polyamory? It was certainly something.) While I enjoyed the writing and all the backstory, this book definitely didn’t need to be as long as it is. Either way, this is definitely a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Summary: Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.

2) Marry him.

3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen— all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My Thoughts: This was a whole lot of fun! Could it be a bit anachronistic? Sure. Does it occasionally require a particularly strong suspension of disbelief? Yeah. But there’s just something so delicious about watching two villains fall in love. Check out my discussion post featuring this book here!

I Would Leave Me If I Could by Halsey

Summary: In this debut collection, Halsey bares her soul. Bringing the same artistry found in her lyrics, Halsey’s poems delve into the highs and lows of doomed relationships, family ties, sexuality, and mental illness. More hand grenades than confessions, these autobiographical poems explore and dismantle conventional notions of what it means to be a feminist in search of power.

Masterful as it is raw, passionate, and profound, I Would Leave Me If I Could signals the arrival of an essential voice.

My Thoughts: This is the kind of book you can read over and over and get something new out of every time. I’m skeptical whenever I pick up a celebrity-written book, but I had high hopes for a poetry collection written by a songwriter like Halsey. I really enjoyed this collection, even the poems that use lyrics from her songs. She does something different with them here, so they feel fresh. Halsey delves into some difficult topics here, so trigger warning for mentions of drug use, abusive relationships, and sexual assault (including CSA). I also love the cover (which was painted by Halsey herself)!

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

Summary: After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much— the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges— and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?

My Thoughts: Honestly, I’m still recovering from this one. I loved every second of it, but it destroyed me emotionally. Okay, so I don’t love the ending, but I see why Kuang chose to go that way. And damn if it didn’t make me sob! For that alone, it’s one of the best books of the year.

Beyond the Ruby Veil by Mara Fitzgerald

Summary: Cunning and unapologetic, Emanuela Ragno is a socialite who plays by her own rules. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to marry Alessandro Morandi, her childhood best friend and the heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia. Emanuela doesn’t care that she and her groom are both gay, because she doesn’t want a love match. She wants power, and through Ale, she’ll have it all.

But Emanuela has a secret that could shatter her plans. In her city of Occhia, the only source of water is the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses magic to make water from blood. When their first bruise-like omen appears on their skin, all Occhians must surrender themselves to the watercrea to be drained of life. Everyone throughout history has obeyed this law for the greater good. Everyone except Emanuela. She’s kept the tiny omen on her hip out of sight for years.

When the watercrea exposes Emanuela during her wedding ceremony and takes her to be sacrificed, Emanuela fights back… and kills her. Before everyone in Occhia dies of thirst, Emanuela and Ale must travel through the mysterious, blood-red veil that surrounds their city to uncover the source of the watercrea’s power and save their people— no matter what it takes.

My Thoughts: I pretty much DNF’d this book for one reason and one reason only: I could not stand Emanuela. She falls into every pitfall of being a poorly written unlikeable female protagonist. She’s not interesting or well-rounded— she’s just frivolous and mean. Even to her supposed best friend! I keep hearing nothing but good things about this book though, so maybe I’ll give it another chance. We’ll see. Check out my discussion post featuring this book here!

What did you read in November? Tell me about it in the comments!

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