Read in November 2022

November was a busy month and therefore a rather fractured reading month, but I still managed to read quite a bit. Not so much the books I had put on my TBR for the month, or at least not all of them. I did finished my 100th book of the year and completed a new favourite series.

In total I read 7 books in November, good for 3140 pages, which makes the average November book of 449 pages/book. This is quite a high number, in fact the second to highest of the year!

It was also a month of highish ratings. No book got less than 3 stars and I gave my 12th 5-star-rating of the year. This puts the average November book at 3.7 stars

In terms of target audience, I stuck mostly to my own age category, with only 1 Young Adult and 6 adult books.

As always, I also varied in reading format, with 1 ebooks, 2 audiobooks, 1 borrowed book, and 3 physically owned books.

For the genres I switched between 5 genres, namely graphic novel (1), sci-fi (1), romance (1), mystery (1), horror (2) and fantasy (2).

For the language I stuck to English again and I didn’t read a single book in my native tongue of Flemish/Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in November and my star rating.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially when it comes to sequels in a series!

  1. Chiang, Ted – Exhalation 🎧 ★★★
  2. Cleese, W.M. – The Haunting of Las Lágrimas ★★★
  3. Kingfisher, T. – What Moves the Dead 🎧 ★★★★
  4. Smythe, Rachel – Lore Olympus: Volume Three (Lore Olympus #3) ★★★★
  5. Galbraith, Robert – The Ink Black Heart (Cormoran Strike #6) ★★★★★
  6. Marillier, Juliet – Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grimm #3) ★★★★
  7. Atwater, Olivia – Half a Soul (Regency Faerie Tales #1) ★★★

🎧 Chiang, Ted – Exhalation ★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.

In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.

Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.

Exhalation is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang that I started listening to because I thought it included “Arrival” which inspired the movie of the same name, but I was wrong, lol
Nevertheless, a very interesting collection, which certainly makes you think a few times and delivered a few shocking moments. It has a very Black Mirror quality to it, in the sense that it often builds on events that could happen if we go on like this. I didn’t like a few stories, but all in all a good read.

Cleese, W.M. – The Haunting of Las Lágrimas ★★★

Genre: Horror

Argentina, winter 1913.

Ursula Kelp, a young English gardener, travels to Buenos Aires to take up the role of head gardener at a long-abandoned estate in the Pampas. The current owner wishes to return to the estate with his family and restore the once-famous gardens to their former glory.

Travelling deep into the Pampas, the vast grasslands of South America, Ursula arrives to warnings from the locals that the estate is haunted, cursed to bring tragedy to the founding family of Las Lágrimas. And soon Ursula believes that her loneliness is making her imagine things – the sound of footsteps outside her bedroom door, the touch of hands on her shoulders when there’s no one there. Most strangely of all, she keeps hearing the frenzied sound of a man chopping down trees in the nearby forest with an axe, when all her staff are in sight.

As the strange occurrences intensify – with tragic consequences – Ursula questions if there’s truth in the rumours about the cursed estate. The family’s return is imminent – are they in danger? And the longer Ursula stays at the estate, the more she realises that she too is in mortal danger.

Very atmospheric, creepy and oppressive.

Started off strong and slowly built up a lingering sense of dread and fear. It was a bit too slow at times, which slackened my attention, but the story always managed to grab me back.

I enjoyed the writing style in this. It really felt like an older gothic novel, while remaining modern and accessible enough.

The story was engaging, with ample explanations for what was going on.
Not everything got a clear and spelled out explanation, but nothing that left me feeling bereft

Overall, I really enjoyed this gothic novel and I’m curious to see what this author will produce next.

🎧 Kingfisher, T. – What Moves the Dead ★★★★

Genre: Horror

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

LOVED this!

In theory I really like the gothic genre, but in practice there are few books in that genre that I actually enjoyed. Usually my disapointment comes from the fact that there are rarely explanations given for the eerie events.
The genre is often mainly vibes, a mood, a dark tone, a threatening feeling. This makes that the supernatural themes seldom get a reason or an origin, but are simply there to create that atmosphere.

If this aspect also makes you less enamored with gothic novels, then this book is the perfect answer! It’s a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, but with some kind of explanation for that fall.

“No, you blithering idiot,” I growled, shaking his hand off. Damnable English language—more words than anybody can be expected to keep track of, and then they use the same one for about three different things. “I know she’s dead! I’m telling you, her body’s gone!”

“She’s not in the crypt. The slab is empty. We cannot habeas the corpus. Is any of this getting through?” (I was, perhaps, rather less reverent than the situation warranted, but it is a flaw of mine that I become sarcastic when I am frustrated.)

Moreover, Kingfisher manages to give her story both the menace and atmosphere of a typical gothic novel, while also being funny in a dry, witty way.

Definitely recommend!

Smythe, Rachel – Lore Olympus: Volume Three (Lore Olympus #3) ★★★★

Genre: Graphic Novel

Witness what the gods do after dark in the third volume of a stylish and contemporary reimagining of one of the best-known stories in Greek mythology, featuring a brand-new, exclusive short story from creator Rachel Smythe.

“It is natural for a King to be curious about his future Queen. . . .”

All of Olympus–and the Underworld–are talking about the God of the Dead and the sprightly daughter of Demeter. But despite the rumors of their romance, Hades and Persephone have plenty to navigate on their own.

Since coming to Olympus, Persephone has struggled to be the perfect maiden goddess. Her attraction to Hades has only complicated the intense burden of the gods’ expectations. And after Apollo’s assault, Persephone fears she can no longer bury the intense feelings of hurt and love that she’s worked so hard to hide.

As Persephone contemplates her future, Hades struggles with his past, falling back into toxic habits in Minthe’s easy embrace. With all the mounting pressure and expectations–of their family, friends, and enemies–both Hades and Persephone tell themselves to deny their deepest desires, but the pull between them is too tempting, too magnetic. It’s fate.

♥♥♥ These volumes can’t come out soon enough!!

Galbraith, Robert – The Ink Black Heart (Cormoran Strike #6) ★★★★★

Genre: Mystery

When frantic, disheveled Edie Ledwell appears in the office begging to speak to her, private detective Robin Ellacott doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation. The co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, Edie is being persecuted by a mysterious online figure who goes by the pseudonym of Anomie. Edie is desperate to uncover Anomie’s true identity.

Robin decides that the agency can’t help with this—and thinks nothing more of it until a few days later, when she reads the shocking news that Edie has been tasered and then murdered in Highgate Cemetery, the location of The Ink Black Heart.

Robin and her business partner, Cormoran Strike, become drawn into the quest to uncover Anomie’s true identity. But with a complex web of online aliases, business interests and family conflicts to navigate, Strike and Robin find themselves embroiled in a case that stretches their powers of deduction to the limits – and which threatens them in new and horrifying ways…

Wow, completely sucked me in from page one. There are few authors who manage to write a book of more than 1000 pages without even one page feeling like too much. Very compelling, exciting and unexpected.
The only criticism is that the chat conversations are not easy to read on an e-reader, but I solved this by turning on the audiobook for that.
The new characters for this story are each very nuanced and interesting, but Strike and Robin remain the heart ♥.

Marillier, Juliet – Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grimm #3) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine…

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies…

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone…

The forest knew everything. News passed on a breath of wind, in the call of an owl, in the small pattern of a squirrel’s paw prints. The trout in the stream learned it. The lark soaring high above saw it. The knowledge was in the hearts of the trees and in the mysterious rustling of their leaves. It was a deep-down wisdom, as solemn as a druid’s prayer.

When I talk about cozy fantasy, this is the very best this subgenre has to offer. I love Marillier’s writing style so much, especially how she manages to create an atmosphere of enchanting wonder.

When you felt sad or angry or hopeless, a story could help. A story could lead you into a different world for a while.

This final part (boohoo) of Blackthorn and Grimm’s story was everything I wanted it to be, while at the same time I didn’t want it to be over.
In Den of Wolves we are again presented with a wonderful mystery, the contours of which are quite easy to guess, but still manage to be unique, surprising and compelling. My favorite of the three remains Tower of Thorns, due to the much closer involvement of our main characters, which also made it a lot more emotionally charged, but each book in this series brings the same satisfaction when all the puzzle pieces click together beautifully.

‘I’ll go on any path you want,’ Grim said. ‘Might give you a push sometimes, keep you walking straight. But whatever happens, I’ll be right there beside you. Rain or shine. Shadows or light. Step for step. Always.’

♥ Blackthorn & Grimm, oh how I loved reading about them. Their poignant beginning, their compelling journey and oh so touching end. An ending that is perfect in all its quiet camaraderie and love.

Atwater, Olivia – Half a Soul (Regency Faerie Tales #1) ★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

This was sweet.
Different than expected and not as absorbent as hoped, but nice, unique and sweet. Will read the other parts in this world eventually, but the urgency is gone.