Read in November 2023

The end of the year is quickly approaching and I’m kind of scrambling to get all the blog posts I want to post before new year written and published. These last couple of weeks have been kind of busy and even though I’ve had most of my reviews ready, I procrastinated on writing the one for The Sunlit Man, which I wanted to have posted before my monthly overview. Now that I finally got around to it, here are the books I read last November!

November was quite a good reading month, where I started reading 12 books, but eventually completed 11 books. For the completed books, this comes down to 2905 pages, which isn’t all that much considering the number of books read. Therefore, the average November book only comes down to 264 pages/book.

The ratings were also a little bit all over the place. Apart from a DNF, I also rated a book with 1-star, 1 book 2-stars, 2 books 3-stars, 6 books 4-stars and also 1 book got 5-stars! So yes, truly a month of highs and lows, but mostly highs, thankfully. The average November book comes down to quite the average 3.5 stars.

In terms of target audience, I only varied between books targeted toward Young Adults (5) and adults, with 7 adult books.

As always, I also varied in reading format, with 2 ebooks, 5 audiobooks and 5 physically owned books.

November was rather a high Sci-Fi/Fantasy month, with almost 60% of the books started being one of these genres. In total, I switched between only 4 genres, namely romance (1), mystery (3), sci-fi (3) and fantasy (5).

Once again, I only read in English. Considering where I buy most of my books, chances are getting very slim of me ever reading in my native tongue of Flemish.

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! Sometimes I will also hide spoilers behind a black band, which you can read by selecting the text like here!

  1. Abercrombie, Joe – The Heroes (First Law World #5) 🎧 DNF
  2. Törzs, Emma – Ink Blood Sister Scribe ★★★★
  3. Johnson, Lora Beth – Goddess in the Machine (Goddess in the Machine #1) ★★★
  4. Harper, Jane – Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) 🎧 ★★★★
  5. Johnson, Lora Beth – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine #2) ★★
  6. White, Kiersten – The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) ★★★★
  7. Swanson, Peter – The Christmas Guest 🎧 ★★★★
  8. Jackson, Holly – Kill Joy (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #0,5) 🎧 ★★★★
  9. Tesh, Emily – Some Desperate Glory ★★★
  10. Jones, Diana Wynne – Howl’s Moving Castle (The Land of Ingary #1) 🎧 ★★★★★
  11. Howard, Amelie – The Rakehell of Roth (Everleigh Sisters #2)
  12. Sanderson, Brandon – The Sunlit Man ★★★★

🎧 Abercrombie, Joe – The Heroes (First Law World #5) (DNF)

Genre: Fantasy (grimdark)

They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls.

The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.

Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he’s far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it’s his own.

Prince Calder isn’t interested in honour, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he’ll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn’t have to fight for it himself.

Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him?

Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail.

Three men. One battle. No Heroes.

November actually started off on a bit of a sour note, as the first book immediately became a DNF. Now, that DNF wasn’t completely unexpected, but one can always hope. You could already read my thoughts on this book here.

Törzs, Emma – Ink Blood Sister Scribe ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

In this spellbinding debut novel, two estranged half-sisters tasked with guarding their family’s library of magical books must work together to unravel a deadly secret at the heart of their collection–a tale of familial loyalty and betrayal, and the pursuit of magic and power.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements–books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .

This was absolutely amazing!

Abe Kalotay died in his front yard in late February, beneath a sky so pale it seemed infected.

For a debut, the world-building was quite impressive. You only get to know the world in broad strokes, but it was more than enough to sink me into it completely.
The prologue does a tremendous job of setting the tone, in which someone dies at the hands of a book that literally drains him dry.
Despite this exciting start, the actual story was a bit slow to get going and it took me a bit to start vibing with it. We are gradually introduced to our three point-of-view characters and some of the mysteries surrounding their lives and pasts. And although I was intrigued, it took a good chunk of the book to get me fully spell-bound, but once I was, I just couldn’t put it away.

“When you’re growing up, you don’t ask whether your family’s good, do you? Especially if you don’t know anything else. They’re just your family.”

This story does not simply fit in a single genre.
It’s fantastical, yes, but it’s also a thriller, a mystery, a dark academia and a book about family and connectivity.

Even though there are countless stories about books and their magic, this was still highly original and astute.
In a way this book made me think back on The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, even though the stories are nothing alike, apart from using books as objects possessing magic.
No, the reason why I think I made the connection, is because Ink Blood Sister Scribe was everything I had expected and wished The Book Eaters to be. Where I found The Book Eaters lacking and disappointing, this was delightfully magical and unique, captivating me with mystery and intrigue, and delivering an expansive, yet perfectly rounded and deeply satisfying story.

“A sense of isolation so complete it was almost a sound, a grim buzz, the way she imagined magic sounded.”

I loved reading about each of our characters, how they experience their lives, each isolated and tremendously lonely in some way, often without really realizing it or without wanting to break away out of a sense of duty. The way these characters were portrayed, I could feel their loneliness and longing dripping off the page. I heartily felt for them and rooted for them to chase more and better for themselves, despite the risks this entailed.

“The thrum of magic filled the air; the endless sugar of a hot blue sky, the beat of a thousand gossamer wings, a wind that moved anything on earth that could be moved, which was everything.”

The writing in this book was absolutely stunning. It flowed so beautifully and often felt poetic. I can’t believe this is a debut. This author is definitely one to look out for!
Recommended for anyone who likes a touch of magic and suspense.

Johnson, Lora Beth – Goddess in the Machine (Goddess in the Machine #1) ★★★

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists—including her family and friends—are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne—if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

Another Owlcrate book to tick off and again one I’m going to classify as a win!

From the beginning I was really fascinated by the sci-fi elements and the plot. I really loved the premise of the story and the direction the author took it in. The twists and turns were so great, that the typical YA tropes felt fresh and not too overdone.

As for the writing style, I’m a bit of two minds.
Overall it was engaging and moved the story along, however the writing device that has me in two minds is the author’s use of language evolution.
Our main character wakes up from stasis after a 1000 years, so the English language has undergone quite a lot of changes. The way the author presented this was immensely clever and well thought out. However, unfortunately having to read this “evolved” English also gave me a headache, especially in the chapters told from the perspective of someone native to that speech. So yes, it was a very clever idea, but it also took away from my reading enjoyment.

Overall, this was a really well-crafted, fascinating story full of twists and turns and utterly compelling, despite the added difficulty with the language. The plot twists and ending make me really curious about the next book, which I’m definitely going to read.

🎧 Harper, Jane – Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) ★★★★

Genre: Mysterie

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.

Only four come out on the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

This was again a very good mystery thriller, improved on its predecessor in the way flashbacks were written, which was my main difficulty with the previous book.

The mystery was quite compelling and disturbingly believable.
The way in which the revelations happen, via flashbacks telling us what happened rather than the detective discovering things, may be less interesting to read if you want to puzzle along, but this did not bother me and I was happy to let the story take me to its conclusion.

Johnson, Lora Beth – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine #2) ★★

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

The thrilling, much-anticipated conclusion to Lora Beth Johnson’s Goddess in the Machine duology.

Zhade’s power might be going to his head.

He’s still getting used to wearing Maret’s face, but he can’t deny that the influence it affords him has its perks. But when the magic of Eerensed starts to turn deadly, Zhade must master the Crown if he’s going to save his people, and Tsurina’s destructive plans for Eerensed aren’t going to make that easy. Worse, he’s starting to see her point.

Meanwhile, Andra is in hiding.

Assumed dead by the people of Eerensed, she must stay underground if she’s going to live long enough to build the rocket that will finally save the colonists from this dying planet. But when Andra hears voices urging her to destroy everything, she starts to dig deeper into her subconcious. What she finds leads her to question whether she’s destined to be a savior after all.

Battling the dangerous forces buried within their minds, can Andra and Zhade truly decide their own fates? They must find a way to work together before two power-hungry leaders and a deadly swarm of rogue technology destroy humanity for good.

Although I overall thought this was a good story and conclusion to the duology, I found that this book was far too drawn out and my annoyance with the “evolved” language only grew. The latter really did not improve my reading experience, when I was already a bit bored because everything was progressing so slowly.

So I have very mixed feelings about this book, which in terms of rating leans more towards the negative than positive, despite the well-crafted story.

White, Kiersten – The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

A new fantasy series set in the world of Camelot that bestselling author Christina Lauren calls brilliant, reimagining the Arthurian legend . . . where nothing is as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

What a cool reimagining of the legend of King Arthur!
I admit, my expectations were low. I’ve had this book on my shelves for 4 years now, but never got around to it. Even with my intention to finally read the last of my unread Owlcrate books, it didn’t really call to me, until Nancy suggested a buddy read. So I really have to thank her for giving me the incentive to read this, because I ended up really enjoying this.

The atmosphere grabbed me from the first chapter. The opening sequence was so intriguing and enchanting, and really sets the tone for the rest of the book, which is broadly speaking about finding balance between nature and order.

The author uses the Arthurian legend as a blueprint, but makes many clever changes and plays on our expectations, but with respect for the source material. In doing so, she managed to create something wholly unique and exciting, which still has the characteristic mystical air that many King Arthur stories are known for.

I really loved the mystery of Guinevere.
For me, it started off a little hesitant, because Guinevere is so ignorant and naive, that it was somewhat tiring, but as the story progressed, the whys of her obliviousness became more and more intriguing.

The story unfolded quite slowly, but I was never bored. I actually found the slow, meandering pace relaxing and also gave the reader a chance to explore Camelot with Guinevere.

So this was a really riveting, enchanting story, beckoning me to read its sequel to find out more about our mysterious Guinevere!

🎧 Swanson, Peter – The Christmas Guest ★★★★

Genre: Mysterie

New York Times bestselling author Peter Swanson pens a spectacularly spine-chilling novella in which an American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family’s Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village’s grim history.

Ashley Smith, an American art student in London for her junior year, was planning on spending Christmas alone, but a last-minute invitation from fellow student Emma Chapman brings her to Starvewood Hall, country residence of the Chapman family. The Cotswold manor house, festooned in pine boughs and crammed with guests for Christmas week, is a dream come true for Ashley. She is mesmerized by the cozy, firelit house, the large family, and the charming village of Clevemoor, but also by Adam Chapman, Emma’s aloof and handsome brother.

But Adam is being investigated by the local police over the recent brutal slaying of a girl from the village, and there is a mysterious stranger who haunts the woodland path between Starvewood Hall and the local pub. Ashley begins to wonder what kind of story she is actually inhabiting. Is she in a grand romance? A gothic tale? Or has she wandered into something far more sinister and terrifying than she’d ever imagined?

Over thirty years later the events of that horrific week are revisited, along with a diary from that time. What began in a small English village in 1989 reaches its ghostly conclusion in modern-day New York, many Christmas seasons later.

Maybe a bit early in the year to read Christmas mysteries, but this popped up on my audiobook provider and got me so intrigued that I wanted to immediately dive into it.

This was a really riveting, well told, cozy murder mystery, with a good twist and perfect spooky atmosphere.

🎧 Jackson, Holly – Kill Joy (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #0,5) ★★★★

Genre: YA Mysterie

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is not in the mood for her friend’s murder mystery party. Especially one that involves 1920’s fancy dress and pretending that their town, Little Kilton, is an island called Joy. But when the game begins, Pip finds herself drawn into the make-believe world of intrigue, deception and murder.

But as Pip plays detective, teasing out the identity of the killer clue-by-clue, the murder of the fictional Reginald Remy isn’t the only case on her mind …

Find out where it all began for Pip in this prequel to the best-selling A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and Good Girl, Bad Blood.

I read “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” a couple of years ago and really loved it. So when I got recommended this little novella in my audiobook app, my interest was immediately peeked.

This turned out to be really fun.
A bit overdramatic with the obvious chapter endings, but overall just fun. I especially loved the throwback to the beginning of “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” with how this ended.
Nice extra for the series, but also a nice standalone story.

Tesh, Emily – Some Desperate Glory ★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

While we live, the enemy shall fear us.

All her life Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the all-powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the Majoda their victory over humanity.

They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. But when Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to the nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.

Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, she escapes from everything she’s ever known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.

A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, Some Desperate Glory is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.

Earlier this year I read this author’s Greenhollow Duology, two novellas that I absolutely adored. So I was really curious about her first full-length book.
With this one the author goes in a completely different direction than her novellas, and for much of this book I really had a great time reading it, but after a while my enthusiasm and urgency to read waned a bit.

This book is marketed as an adult Sci-Fi, and although the premise is very compelling, it covers a lot of big themes and it goes in an unexpected direction, it is a bit too simplistic to be really impactful for an adult audience. As a YA-book, this would have fared much better.
It certainly is well written, there is development in the characters, the world building is brief but distinct and the story is well conceived and developed. But ultimately, I don’t think it will stay with me for long.

🎧 Jones, Diana Wynne – Howl’s Moving Castle (The Land of Ingary #1) ★★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

I mainly knew Howl’s Moving Castle from the studio Gibli film, but when I learned that it was originally a book, I immediately put it on my TBR.
It took me a while to get to it, but when I happened to come across the audiobook on Storytel it seemed perfect for the time of year.

And yes, this one was absolutely amazing! I should have read this a lot sooner, lol.
It was fairytale-like, but also incredibly funny. Charming, magical and a bit absurd. Great characters, fantastic story, loved every second!

Oh yeah, and while the animated movie is also a lot of fun, in my opinion the book is better!

Can’t wait to read more from this author!

Howard, Amelie – The Rakehell of Roth (Everleigh Sisters #2)

Genre: Historical romance

In this game of seduction, the rules don’t apply…

As owner of the most scandalous club in London, the last thing the notorious Marquess of Roth wants is a wife. Keeping up his false reputation as a rake brings in the clients with the deepest pockets—money he needs to fund a noble cause. Even though everything inside tells him not to leave his beautiful, innocent wife behind at his country estate…he must.

But three years later, tired of her scoundrel of a husband headlining the gossip rags, Lady Isobel Vance decides enough is enough. She is no longer a fragile kitten, but as the anonymous author of a women’s sexual advice column, she’s now a roaring tigress…and she can use her claws.

Isobel decides to go to him in London, channeling her powers of seduction to make him beg to take her back. But she didn’t expect her marauding marquess to be equally hard to resist. Now the game is on to see who will give in to the other first, with both sides determined like hell to win.

With the end of year approaching, the completionist in me wanted to tick off this series from my list, even though I never felt really compelled to read Isobel’s story, who was the sister from The Beast of Beswick. And I honestly just should have gone with my gut and not bothered with this one.

This really wasn’t good.
Too long, without any emotional investment and motives that made absolutely no sense. Also, the author wanted her characters to be too many things at the same time, which made absolutely no sense considering their age and means.

When updating my reading spreadsheet with this book, I also discovered that this series has been renamed to The Regency Rogues, so I’m assuming the author will be writing more books about other people than the two sisters, but I’m going to pretend that this series just remained a duology, with a book for each sister and that I am now done with it.

Sanderson, Brandon – The Sunlit Man ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson shows us a future in the Cosmere universe where a perpetual planetary wanderer must decide whether to keep running, or stay and make a difference on a struggling planet.

Years ago he had comrades in arms and a cause to believe in, but now the man who calls himself Nomad knows only a life on the run. Forced to hop from world to world in the Cosmere whenever the relentless Night Brigade gets too close, Nomad lands on a new planet and is instantly caught up in the struggle between a tyrant and the rebels who want only to escape being turned into mindless slaves—all under the constant threat of a sunrise whose heat will melt the very stones. Unable to understand the language, can he navigate the conflict and gain enough power to leap offworld before his mind or body pay the ultimate price?

And then finally for November, the last of Sanderson’s Secret Projects, for which you could read my full review previously here!

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