November was a ride. It was truly a journey and I felt it, but it was also a huge reading month for me. We started the month with the election. Honestly, the election anxiety was very real and I spent most of the month recovering from it. And of course, we ended the month with Thanksgiving which switched us over into the holiday season. I read 18 books this month, which is a ton of books. I’ve been reading a lot more this year in general, but I average probably closer to 8 to 10 books this month. Probably because I read so much, this month also had the worst book I read this year and the best book I read this year. I also read an embarrassing amount of super trashy “hot garbage” books as I like to call them because they were one of the only things I could get into with the election stress.
💩 = Hot Garbage*
😢 = I shed a tear**
😭 = I ugly cried**
🍆 = Some steamy scenes (Rated R)
💎 = A gem
💘 = Warmed my heart
👻 = Scary!
*I loving refer to these books as hot garbage. I want to be clear that just because it’s hot garbage, doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable read. It just means it’s not particularly enriching or fine literature. Sometimes you want a hot garbage read and that’s okay.
** I’m a pretty easy crier, so take that with a grain of salt.
This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️/5
Beneath This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️/5
This Man Confessed by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️/5
So I actually read the entire This Man series by Jodi Ellen Malpas over the course of the month. I started these books because the election gave me some pretty bad anxiety and I had a hard time getting into a new book and needed something easy. These books are not excellent works of literary fiction. Nobody's going to study them in English class. Okay, they were a hot mess. Pretty much everything you’d imagine happening in a soap opera plot probably happened in this book. They are very steamy, very easy to read, and honestly, they were the perfect books for decompressing during the election. I’m going to spoil a lot of plot points in the next paragraph, so if you are planning on reading these, you may want to skip ahead.
I don't remember the difference between all these books, so I’m just going to tackle them all together, except the fourth one because, although it's the same characters, it’s a pretty different plot. There's this guy and this girl, I don't remember either of their names, but this guy decides that he is obsessed with this girl, who’s an interior designer. So, he decides he is going to date her, and then they fall in love, and then they have the most toxic relationship I've ever seen in any book. It turns out the guy, whose name I don't remember, owns a sex club and he's really rich, but he's also super controlling, which is not particularly surprising. He tries to keep the sex club a secret, but she finds out about it. They break up 47 times and get back together 48, over the course of the main trilogy, but eventually, they get married (I think at this point they’ve known each other for like 2 months). He’s been stealing her birth control pills (the reddest of red flags, if I ever saw one) and she gets pregnant with twins. Turns out her now-husband had a twin that died, also he had a secret daughter. There’s a lot I’m sure I missed, but you get the gist.
With this Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
I separated this book from the other three because although it follows the same couple, it takes place twelve years in the future. Honestly, I felt like this book was my favorite of the four total books, mostly because in the twelve-year time jump, the main guy was significantly less toxic. He still has his moments of being a legit psychopath, but it isn’t every moment. The basic plot is that the main girl loses her memory of the last thirteen years in a car crash (ala The Vow with Rachel McAdams) and he has to try to help her get her memory back while also helping her fall back in love with him. It’s shockingly sweet and I even shed a tear. Not quite as raunchy as the first three books, but it has its moments. Overall, quite enjoyable.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐✨/5 (aka 4.5)
🍆←(sometimes involving Bill Clinton)
I had actually started this book in October, pre-election, but had to take a break during election week because it was just too much. If you aren’t familiar with this book, the basic premise is it follows Hillary Clinton from her time in college through 2016ish, but in this fictionalized version of her life, Hillary never married Bill Clinton. I have a lot of thoughts about this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was a strange feeling to be reading essentially Hillary Clinton fan fiction. She’s a real person who is still very much alive and I just couldn’t help feeling that it felt very invasive, even if it wasn’t true. That being said, I thought, above all, it was an interesting exploration of the challenges of being a woman in politics.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix ⭐️⭐️⭐/5
I picked up this book, because I read The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, also by Grady Hendrix’s earlier this year, and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I didn’t love this one quite as much. Horrorstor is essentially the story of this oddly haunted IKEA knock-off. Most of the story takes place on one night when several of the employees are tasked to stay overnight to monitor the store. It was a very very weird read, but fun nonetheless.
One Night Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️/5
One Night Denied by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️/5
One Night Unveiled by Jodi Ellen Malpas ⭐️⭐️/5
I read another trilogy by Jodi Ellen Malpas this month and I’m embarrassed about it (stop judging me, it took them a really long time to count the votes). I was still struggling to get into any books and I just wanted easy reads! Despite how much crap I gave the This Man series, I had an enjoyable time reading it and I wanted more. I didn’t enjoy this series nearly as much as the This Man series and I actually didn’t really enjoy the first book much at all and only carried on because there was a cliffhanger ending (and the next one was available at my library). It’s essentially the same plot as the first 3 books in the This Man series, except instead of a sex club, the love interest is a male escort.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
🍆 💘 😢
This book follows Bea, a plus-sized fashion blogger, as she becomes the first plus-sized Bachelorette (well the show isn’t called the Bachelorette, but it’s pretty clear that’s what it’s intended to be). I really enjoyed this book! There aren’t a ton of books out there about plus-sized women, especially books about them finding love, so I was particularly fond of that aspect. It was the perfect breezy read that also tackled some important topics around how we represent diverse bodies within the media.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas ⭐️⭐️⭐/5
The Catherine House was a weird book. It wasn’t quite as strange as Horrorstor but had a pretty out-there concept. It follows Ines (whose name made me sing Taylor Swift’s “Betty” more than once) through her three years at a secretive elite university. What’s unique about this school is that once you’ve started you can’t leave campus at all for the three years you’re a student and you have very limited communication with the outside world. Also, there are some weird experiments that are going on that were never fully explained and I didn’t totally understand. Thomas does an excellent job building a very creepy atmosphere in the school, but I felt like it was missing that big climactic moment, so it ended up falling a little flat for me.
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon ⭐️⭐/5
It pains me to give this book only two stars because I loved the first 3 books in the Outlander series so much, but this book felt so incredibly boring to me. In fact, it actually took me a full 10 months to finish, because I keep putting it down. I think there were a couple of factors in this. The first being, a lot of the book felt like just Jamie and Claire go camping in America, which just isn’t as exciting as them plotting against the monarchy at Versailles. The second, this book spent a lot of time focused on Brianna and I just don’t give an eff about Bree. I will probably read the next book still because I’m hopeful we’ll get back to something more like the earlier books.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐⭐️⭐/5
💎💎💎💘😭 😭 😭
I loved this book so very much. This has been on my to-read list for a long time, but honestly, it just didn’t sound interesting to me. Essentially the book is about Evelyn, an aging movie star, telling her life story to a young journalist, Monique. I’m not super interested in Old Hollywood or celebrity memoirs, so even though this book has gotten a lot of buzz, I had never actually read it because I didn’t feel like I’d be interested. I absolutely loved Daisy Jones and the Six by the same author, so I decided this book was worth a shot.
I’m so glad I read it. I think it might be my favorite book I’ve read this year. I became so attached to Evelyn and her story. I think Reid did such a brilliant job of creating the character of Evelyn as so human and flawed, but also so resilient and self-aware, that you can’t help but fall in love with her and root for her. I cried A LOT while I was reading this, I sobbed at the end of the book, and honestly, I still cry a bit when I think about it. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
I do want to mention my one major dislike of the book. There’s a secret that connects Evelyn to Monique, it’s hinted at pretty early in the book, but it isn’t revealed until the end. I figured it out pretty quickly and I didn’t find it all that impactful. Honestly, I really didn’t care much for Monique at all, I was just here for Evelyn’s story. The fact that I didn’t care for the twist or Monique, did not really impact my overall enjoyment of the book, but I did want to mention that particular element fell flat for me. I feel like my favorite part of both Daisy Jones and Evelyn is that you frequently forget these narratives have an author at all. I wanted to listen to The Six's music, I wanted to google Evelyn's red carpet gowns. Reid completely disappears for most of the book, as they don't really even feel like fiction at all. This "twist" felt a little too calculated, like I could see her toes peeking out from beneath the curtain.
Freeform has bought the rights to this book and I’m very nervous about how they’ll handle an adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, I love Freeform’s shows like The Bold Type and Pretty Little Liars, but I worry that it will focus more on the glamour and drama of the story, rather than the heart. I think it would be far better served by a limited-run series like Queen’s Gambit or Normal People, where there isn’t pressure to extend Evelyn’s story into multiple seasons. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll tune in if it ever gets made.
The Troop by Nick Cutter ⭐⭐️⭐✨/5
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren ⭐⭐️⭐/5
Christina Lauren are one of my favorite romance authors! I typically love their books, but this one wasn’t my favorite. I found it kind of boring and I didn’t fall in love with the characters the way I usually do. It follows the will-they or won’t-they romance of two friends who are both professors. It was still an okay read, but I expected more from Christina Lauren.
After by Anna Todd ⭐️⭐/5
After We Collided by Anna Todd ⭐️✨/5
💩💩💩 🍆 🍆
I apparently didn’t get enough trashy romance books this month, because I started the After series at the end of this month. If you aren’t familiar, this series is Harry Styles (and the rest of One Direction) fanfiction that went viral and then was picked up by a traditional publisher and recently turned into a movie. It follows the story of Tessa and Hardin (Harry Styles) and their college romance. Tessa is a good-girl, college freshman, who is away from home and her controlling mother for the first time and Hardin is a bad-boy from England. They fight and break-up and then get back together in these books hundreds of times (this is only a slight exaggeration). Hardin is incredibly toxic; most notably he participates in a horrifying bet in the first book and is constantly punching everyone in the head. I sort of enjoyed the first book, but things just got more repetitive and less interesting the further I got in the series. At least in the Malpas books, there are kidnappings and mob bosses and some other interesting plot elements, these books are just the gross antics of asshole college students.
I’m still (regrettably) going to finish the series because I feel I’m in too deep now to leave.
Luster by Raven Leilani ⭐️⭐⭐️⭐/5
I had to finish another book by the end of the month, so I didn’t leave things with those After books. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Luster, which is Leilani’s debut novel. It reminded me of a lot of Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which I read last month because it fits well into the same category of millennial listlessness and angst. Luster follows Edie and a young millennial black woman who is struggling to make her life work in New York City. She starts dating a married man and through a series of events ends up living with him and his family. I think the plot is secondary to Leilani’s writing style, which is full of very evocative metaphors. It contains my favorite line from a book this year which is "I chased them down the hall with a bottle of Listerine, saying, I can be a beach read, I can get rid of all these clauses, please, I'll just revise.” I checked out my copy from the library, but if I had my own copy it would be full of tons of highlights of lines like this that I absolutely loved.