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My Great November Reads❣️✨

My Great November reads!

A quick rundown of the titles in the order read, bottom to top:

 

THE VILLAGE HEALERS BOOK OF CURES, by Jennifer Sherman Roberts

THE SPY COAST, by Tess Gerritsen

BRIGHT YOUNG WOMEN, by Jessica Knoll—may be my favorite book this year❣️

IRON FLAME, by Rebecca Yaros—I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it; I do appreciate the set up for next book!

THE SISTERHOOD: THE SECRET HISTORY OF WOMEN AT THE CIA, by Liza Mundy— Also may be my favorite book of the year❣️

THE MADSTONE, by Elizabeth Crook

THE HELINSKI AFFAIR, by Anna Pitoniak

THE WOMAN AT THE WHEEL, by Penny Haw

THE GENERAL AND JULIA, by John Clinch

OUR WOMAN IN MOSCOW, by Beatrice Williams

THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR, by Nina de Gramont

 

The Nitty Gritty:


 

THE VILLAGE HEALERS BOOK OF CURES, by Jennifer Sherman Roberts

 

This book is about a witch hunt In Elizabeth times. I believe that's the era. It does begin in a village with a main character a female main character who is a healer and who has to Watch her village Be changed by an outsider who comes in and begins making everyone question each other as they search for witches. It is entertaining somewhat of a come of age story that I enjoyed all the way through.

 

Full disclosure, I met Jennifer at a writing conference and she’s just a delightful, humble soul. Really happy for her— well done, Jennifer! Readers, if your book club would like to zoom with her, I bet she'd be happy to and I know you'd enjoy her.


 

THE SPY COAST, by Tess Gerritsen

 

This kind of reminds me of Killers of a Certain Age, by Deanna Raybourn, except it’s not all females. Super fun. This time it’s older spies who have retired and, all of a sudden, their retirement village of choice in Maine has been infiltrated—dead bodies abound. They must figure out what's going on before it figures them out and kills them.



 

BRIGHT YOUNG WOMEN, by Jessica Knoll

 

I really didn't mean to read so many books about killing but that seems to be what gets published and talked about! So, I grabbed Bright Young Women, from Book of the Month Club, thinking, oh this is probably a book I need to read. After five years as a young attorney representing battered women, I don’t love reading books that glorify this. I thought I’d hate it. So hard to get right.

 

BYW is based on the Ted Bundy murders of college-age women. It was amazing! I still have vivid pictures of the story—namely the survival and aftermath. Loved Knoll’s choices. As a reader it is a book about a young woman, Pamela, who survives a strange, serial slaying in her sorority house. And then we travel with Pamela as she navigates the aftermath, including when another woman practically shows up on her doorstep and volunteers help, in odd or suspicious circumstances. So, it is somewhat of a mystery within a mystery: Is her new friend a true friend or foe, can she believe what she's being told, can they figure out who and where the murderer is? Excellent, page turn.

 

But so much more than that. And here’s where the writer in me comes out as there were a couple of the things that really made the book other. One: Knoll shows the violence. I know that there's a lot of outcry about showing violence against women. And I do get that. We don’t want it just as a standard trope. Still, this is a book with the theme being women’s random choices, and how those choices caused their deaths. Not the things they did, as in going on a date with the wrong guy, but things like—the hairspray they used, or the time the went to bed, or even just the decision to turn left instead of right. It’s about how violent men make women victims; women don’t do it to themselves. And about how society needs to believe that these things happened. And stop it! And not twist every detail into a reason not to believe it.

 

So, yes, violence happens mostly against women. When the theme of the book is as above, it does no one any good to skip showing it. We must believe it. So, we must know. We must honor victims and look at them. Here, if we don’t look, we only insulate the perpetrator/killer.

 

Does that make others want to copycat for fame? Maybe.

 

But that's why Knoll’s choice as to the perpetrator, the killer is so fantastic. She refuses to name him, so it is told from the vantage point that the killer has already been convicted and how. So he’s called “the Defendant “ throughout. Nothing else. Brilliant. No glorification here. No copycat fame! Well, well done, Jessica Knoll.

 

IRON FLAME, by Rebecca Yaros.

 

This was the highly anticipated sequel to Fourth Wing that everyone's been anticipating. Yay, dragons! Boo not enough dragons! But I was not upset with the ending. It was exactly exactly right. And I can't go into why without spoilers but if you know me and want to talk to me about it feel free to say, Hey, let's talk about that ending, or message me and I'll explain my point of view. But I do believe this is one of those middle books that mainly does the job of getting us to the third book. My hope is that they spend a little more time editing the third book, like they did the first book, with no words wasted, so much stronger.


 

THE SISTERHOOD: THE SECRET HISTORY OF WOMEN AT THE CIA, by Liza Mundy

 

Another favorite of the year. Before I choose my most favorite, I'll let these books sit for a little bit, and see which ones I'm still thinking about.

 

But I loved this book. It was so fun to get to hear about spy women. Also, I’m discovering that history books written by women interest me in a whole other way. The particular details! I love that this genre is opening up to women now, so, publishers, please keep more of them coming.

 

News cast: women spies are real. How fantastic is that! And you know the CIA is such a secret agency 😏, keeping things so mum, that we've not really been sure of all this, and certainly not to the detail that's been provide in SISTERHOOD. There’ve been a lot of books lately about women's spies, making one think, Gosh, all the authors and publishers falling into this category are just doing it for sales, a thing of the moment. But it's fantastic to learn that it actually did happen. Yes, my mind is swirling with new book ideas, enough that I sort of wanted to keep SISTERHOOD secret. But I loved the book, so I can’t do that.

 

Bottom line: If you like history and nonfiction at all and want to read about bad ass women which you should then read this book. And if you think women didn’t do things in the past, read this book. And if you’ve ever struggled to get someone to listen to you, read this book and find out what horrible act of terrorism this kind of misogyny caused. It’s also perfect timing with the Israel/Hamas war and will teach or remind you of many things leading up to it. I could go on, but I conclude with: Read the damned book.

 

THE MADSTONE, by Elizabeth Crook

 

This has been compared to a lot of other fantastic Texas literature, and I did think it was very good. It is a worthy literary offering and should get a lot of attention because of how well it is executed. And it is a good story, about a young man who goes on a journey and discovers a lot of things about himself and the people inhabiting his world, people he’s basically met on the road. I love a good odyssey story— where someone goes on a journey and makes discoveries, as much about themselves as anyone else. Just remember, every good odyssey is about the journey! Without giving anything away, I'll just say that the themes explored are loyalty and the cost of love. I’m glad to know about Elizabeth Crook.

 

 

THE HELSINKI AFFAIR, by Anna Ponak.

 

This book went hand-in-hand with THE SISTERHOOD and the Israel/Hamas war because it is about a CIA agent, Amanda Cole, who realizes that not everything in her life was what she thought it was. Indeed, her father may or may not be all caught up in it. It's a fun spy, Cold-War-heating-up-again read. Another Book of the Month find.


 

THE WOMAN AT THE WHEEL, by Penny Haw

 

I read Penny Haw’s first book about a woman veterinarian last month (THE INVINCIBLE MISS CUST), and enjoyed its historical feminist themes, so went for Haw’s new book. WHEEL is a side look at the Mercedes-Benz—in particular Benz—creator of the horseless carriage (ultimately the automobile). But it’s true subject is indeed about Bertha Benz, the wife of Mr. Benz who encourages him all the way and, in fact, drives. I was glad to find out that so much of what Haw wrote is true. Of course, mush is also  imagined, which is this is why we read historical fiction, for a close rendition of history along with the likely emotions of what the subject went through in their struggle. Haw is a new author for me and I've read two of her books in the last two months so I would say I'm a fan! I'm looking forward to the next book. I'm acquainted with Haw on social media and wouldn't mind helping your book club hook up with her and Zoom, If any of you like. You can always ask!


 

THE GENERAL AND JULIA, by John Clinch

 

I was a little surprised at some of what I learned via this novel. It is really more about General Grant than Julia. Well written, we follow objects as Grant sees them while writing his biography at the end of his life (so those objects are springboards for the particular memory into which each chapter reviews). A cool way to write the book, but I wanted more of Julia, since the title promised it. I was sad to learn that while Grant didn’t ever own slaves, and actually impoverished himself to help some, Julia kept “her father’s” slave as her personal maid. I’m glad that the author showed the end of that relationship and how. Ultimately, the book helped me realize that we should be better at remembering what Grant did for the country, and for the fact that he was a leader in the right time at the right place. A particular train scene is exquisite.


 

OUR WOMAN IN MOSCOW, by Beatrice Williams

 

Another spy type book in the Cold War. I really loved the book that came out this summer by Beatrice Williams (THE BEACH AT SUMMERLY) and so I I grabbed this and enjoyed it as well, though BEACH remains my favorite.


 

THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR by Nina de Gramont

 

A book from my TBR stack, and I’m so glad I picked it up! Of course, this is about when Agatha Christie disappeared. I had read Marie Benedict's book on this and felt like that was enough, so I wasn't interested in reading this one, but it keeps being mentioned, so I rescued it from the stack. It’s so different from what I thought it was going to be and I just love the voice, especially as the mystery is revealed.  I kept thinking, there's something she’s not being truthful about! Sure enough, I was right but you’ll need to discover the hidden twists yourself. Delightfully told so rescue it from your TBR, too!

 

And that's it for the month of November!

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