November 2019 Reading Round-Up

A Midnight Clear * by Various Authors ★★★☆☆ Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A Brief synopsis: This anthology shares s...

A Midnight Clear* by Various Authors ★★★☆☆

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Brief synopsis: This anthology shares six not-so-spirited holiday stories. The stories range from more realistic to very fantastical - from mysterious meetings at The Stanley Hotel (yes, that one), to a wolf in human's clothing, to Santa's elves on trial for murder. These aren't merry, wonderful holidays stories. Instead they're quite dark.

Overall thoughts: This anthology of spooky holiday stories was fine. That's truly the best way to describe. It wasn't bad, but neither was it exceptional. I went in expecting dark, terrifying stories that made me uneasy, but this read more immature than I was wanting. The stories were cute. There were a few that stood out to me, but more than not were forgettable. It's a cute, quick read for anyone looking for a different type of winter book. Full review here.

Unpregnant* by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan ★★★★★

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Brief synopsis: Veronica is a straight-A student, a goodie two-shoes, the precious and perfect daughter and student. She's set to go ivy league in the fall, but her plans may be set astray by the test she just passed - a pregnancy test. Determined to remove any hitch from her plans, she plans a trip halfway across the country with her ex-best friend to get an abortion in the closest clinic where parental consent isn't required. What follows is a misadventurous weekend of giant cows and elephants, strippers, ferrets, and stolen cars.

Overall thoughts: Oh geez, this book was well-written, laugh-out-loud funny, heart-wrenching, and smart all at once. I figured the book would be pretty good, because it's been optioned as an HBO film already. But I truly wasn't expecting the story I stumbled into. This is absolutely a book to read! Full review here.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus ★★★★★

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title (utilizing "stars" as an astrology term, there's also heavy astrological focus within the book)

Brief synopsis: Audre is heartbroken after her mother sends her from her home in Trinidad to live with her father in Minneapolis. Luckily she makes a friend in Mabel, the daughter of her father's best friend. Though Audre likes Mabel, she tends to struggle with her belonging in a new place and doesn't want to share a truth about herself - she's a lesbian and that's why she was sent to live with her dad. Mabel is confused in her own right. She's had a boyfriend, but has felt more for a girl in her class and is developing complicated feelings for Audre. All of this is interspersed with flashback/dreams of Audre's grandmother, Queenie, as a young woman, and a book written by a Black man who's been in prison since he was a teenager.

Overall thoughts: More than anything, I'm pissed this book isn't receiving all the hype. I follow a lot of bookstagrammers, and I've seen this on virutally no one's radars. This novel is exceptionally well-written and is absolutely heart-wrenching. By the end of the book, I knew each of the characters as if I was part of their story. This book is relevant, smart, and a bit magical. I'd recommend it to literally anybody. Full review here.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon ★★★★☆

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Brief synopsis:Frank Li is first-generation Korean-American. His parents, alongside many of their friends, immigrated to the States from Korea before Frank was even born. They built their American lives from the ground-up. But Frank's kind of stuck in this weird limbo between his Korean heritage and his American upbringing. But here's the thing - his girlfriend in not Korean, and his sister was basically disowned for dating outside of her ethnic group. So Frank has to come up with a way to keep his love life hidden from his parents, but it's proving much harder than he expected.

Overall thoughts: I really loved this book and how it brings to light a lot of issues and concerns in terms of dating outside your race. I connected with Frank's story and the characters, and who doesn't love a fake-dating trope? But I was saddened and shocked by the lack of queer characters in a book that's otherwise fairly diverse. I also had some issues with the sexualizing of Black women. There are definitely some improvements to be made in Yoon's story-telling in terms of representation and Black feminism, but overall this was a pretty good debut novel. Full review here.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo ★★★☆☆

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book set on a college or university campus

Brief synopsis: Galaxy Stern goes by Alex. She's a bit rough around the edges. An addict from a not so pretty background. Oh, and she sees ghosts - or grays, as the secret society members at Yale call them. Because of her special skill, she's recruited to serve as a member of the House of Lethe, the governing body that watches over the secret societies (like Skull & Bones). Her recruitment also lands her a spot at Yale, somewhere she could never afford or get admitted to on her own. Hell, she didn't even graduate high school. But to oversee ancient societies is much darker than she could've ever imagined, especially when a local girl is found dead on-campus, and things just get worse from there. 
*I think it's important to note that the novel has multiple rape/sexual assault mentions and scenes, which would likely be triggering for some folks. Please be mindful when reading this book.

Overall thoughts: After more hype than I can even begin to recount, this book fell incredibly short for me. I absolutely loved the premise - secrety societies, ghosts, magic - but the build-up was incredibly slow and I had a difficult time visualizing the world being built. I highly disliked the protagonist and felt the story's execution failed in a lot of ways. But about 300 pages in, I got pretty hooked, began to connect with the characters, and was finally wrapped up in the world. By the last page, I was sold and will definitely read the next book in the series. Full review here.

Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi ★★★★☆

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: N/A

Brief synopsis: Pablo is a college drop-out and works the overnight shift at his local bodega. His mom's a doctor; his dad has a new hobby-job every week; his younger brother is in trouble for his questionable side hustle; he is in massive debt. When Leanna Smart, an ex-Disney star (and basically Selena Gomez meets Ariana Grande), enters the bodega in the middle of his night shift, they hit it off quickly and he soon gets wrapped up in the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, leaving his regular-guy life behind.

Overall thoughts: This book was a bit corny and over-the-top at times, but honestly, I really loved it. Choi's writing is so much fun to read. I appreciated the deeper themes within this book in terms of financial literacy and mental health, though I wasn't a fan of the story's protagonist. I would definitely recommend Choi based off this book. Full review here.

What did you read in November?

* denotes book was received free in exchange of an honest review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own. 

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