What I Read in November & December

Monday, January 4, 2021

I know, I know, we're in a new year! Let 2020's memory be forgotten! But I couldn't close out the year without rounding up the books I read in the last two months of it. I think I might finally be back on the monthly review-writing bandwagon...

Oh, yeah, & if some of these individual reviews look familiar, it's because you read them in my Favorite Books of 2020 post, published last week. Check it out, if you haven't yet – & let me know what your favorite reads of the year were, too!

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

This book, which followed Truly, Devious, was good but largely not independently memorable, as it was primarily a vehicle to get me from book one, where the mystery started, to book three, where the mystery ended. Yes, there were some good escapades (& two murders) in between, but I tore through this one in a rush to get to the third book so I could finally figure out what was going on. ★★★★☆

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

I was ravenous to finish out this series & figure out whodunit, & I was thrilled to find that I was right... even if I'd guessed the right person for utterly incorrect reasons. This was one of those stories that left me wanting more of the characters, all of whom I'd come to like & invest in, & from the setting itself. Who doesn't love a Vermont boarding school?! I'm excited to find out that a fourth book is coming this year. ★★★★☆

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Bea is a fairly famous plus-sized fashion blogger who finds herself thrust into a brighter spotlight when she's cast as the leading lady on a dating show called Main Squeeze. The problem is that for all of Bea's self-confidence, the show messes with her head, leaving her uncharacteristically insecure while searching for love on national TV... ★★★★☆

On the Come Up by Angie Thompson

Sixteen-year-old Bri is the daughter of an underground rapper who was killed before he hit the big. An aspiring rapper herself, Bri is doing her best to make waves on the local rap scene – but often making the wrong kind of waves. I found her to be a really realistic character, a teenager making teenage mistakes but trying her hardest. ★★★★★

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

This fast-paced YA thriller, Goodman's debut novel, delves into the secret lives of rich kids. Told from the perspective of high school senior Jill, the book tells the story of a group of six friends, tapped to join a secret society at their elite Long Island school. When one of them goes to jail for murdering another, the group carries forward... until their past misdeeds start coming to the surface. ★★★★☆

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

This was the last book of Colbert's I had left to read, so I hope she's got some more in the hopper! Dove "Birdie" Randolph is doing her best to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect everything – but she's met a new boy who she knows her parents won't approve of, & she's starting to like her Aunt Carlene, who's moved into her home, & it seems like her family has some secrets... ★★★★★

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko

This was a cute children's picture book about celebrating the December holidays in an interfaith family – but that's all it was, cute. I don't expect a picture book to get in-depth about religion or the differences between them, but it's hard to feel good about teaching kids to gloss over the importance of various holidays or the familial issues that can come with trying to observe conflicting ones. ★★★☆☆

Searching for Coach Taylor by Mindy Kaling

For the life of me, I can't understand why Kaling put out this series of essays, like, one by one instead of as a whole book. It feels disingenuous to count this as a book unto itself! But I guess that if children's books count, so do weird one-off essays. Anyway, this one didn't particularly resonate with me, as I have never been a single celebrity mother. I do, however, appreciate all Friday Night Lights references. ★★★☆☆

Kind of Hindu by Mindy Kaling

I liked this essay a lot more, in which Kaling shared her overall apathy toward her faith culture until becoming a parent. She talks about feeling a sudden, pressing urge to host a mundan for her daughter, a Hindu ceremony in which you shave your baby's head "to rid you of the negativity from your past life." I'm not Hindu or a celebrity mother, but this one resonated with me. ★★★★☆

The Phantom Prince by Elizabeth Kendall

This memoir by Ted Bundy's ex-girlfriend is wild, partially because, for the most part, it's so very not wild. Bundy was a totally normal boyfriend, maybe a little bit of an asshole – but nothing about him suggested to Kendall or her young daughter that their beloved Ted was anything but a loving partner & father figure. It's mind-blowing & heartbreaking & blood-curdling, all in one. ★★★★☆

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

I love a boarding school mystery, & this was a good spin on the genre, no pun intended. Set at a ballet school, it's told from the perspective of three ballerinas: new girl Gigi; Bette, a legacy dancer & a mean girl, & June, who's trying to land big enough parts to convince her mom to let her stay in dance school. The dancers do terrible things do one another out of jealousy – but who's doing what to whom? And why? ★★★★★

Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

In this follow-up book, we return to Gigi, whose personality has hardened after everything that's been done to her; Bette, who has been wrongfully (?) accused of something terrible; & June, who is still just trying to get through & rise above. Someone else is back, too: Cassie, a dancer who'd been run out of school after a prank gone wrong. I'll say this: I can't wait to watch the Netflix series! ★★★★☆

Tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past. You can also follow my bookstagram account

My "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

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