Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: October 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

October was my best reading month of 2021 so far. I read 20 books, and the vast majority of them were four or five star reads. 

Here's the full list: 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazlewood (4 stars)
I listened to this STEM-themed romantic comedy on Scribd, and truly fell in love with the characters. I also enjoyed the academic setting, and I appreciated how angry the author was able to make me with the behavior of her antagonist. I was a bit troubled by the explicit nature of the sex scenes, but I was able to skip past them on the audiobook without really sacrificing any of the plot. I would have given this five stars had there not been so much sex. 

The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink (4 stars)
The book club that I participate in on Instagram chose Spooky as its October theme, and this was the first spooky title I read. I had a physical ARC from the publisher, but also listened to part of it on audio. It's about a girl whose parents think she is too old to trick or treat. She sneaks out anyway, but then becomes involved in saving her entire town from the queen of Halloween. It was an entertaining story and there was nothing objectionable in it at all. 

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey (5 stars)
It's extremely rare for me to select one title as my favorite book of the year, but it's happening with this adorable contemporary romance. The main characters are a woman who works in a toy store and a man who hosts a children's television show a la Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and the plot has a similar feel to You've Got Mail. I can't remember the last time a book made me so happy. Even before the library ebook expired, I had ordered myself a copy in paperback. I will absolutely be reading this book again.

Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright (3 stars)
This fairy tale was a read-aloud with my kids. I read a few chapters, my husband read a couple, and then we finished it on audio. It was fine, but I didn't love it like I love this author's realistic fiction. 

Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher (3 stars)
This vintage middle grade book was the spine for our homeschool music appreciation for this month. It's a solid introduction to the life and music of Beethoven.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (5 stars)
This was my second spooky read of the month, and I absolutely loved it. It's suspenseful and intriguing, but not truly scary, at least for me. The writing was fantastic, and I'm definitely going to pick up more books by this author.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (5 stars)
A few of my friends from my Catholic women's book club are also in a Well Read Mom book club, so they were reading Jayber Crow and suggested it for our group as well. It took me longer to get into this one than Hannah Coulter, which I loved, but the ending was really powerful and well done. I think this is the kind of book that requires a re-read, and I will most likely read it again someday. 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (4 stars)
This is the first book in the Dresden files series, and I have read it before, but it was years ago. I picked it up this month as my third spooky read, just to see if I still liked it and wanted to try the series again. It was great, and I do plan to continue and hopefully catch up at some point. 

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (4 stars)
It just felt like the right time to read another Louise Penny. I listened to this one on audio because I didn't have a copy, and it was more enjoyable than the previous Gamache title, though I still have some issues with some of the characters' behavior. I'm still not sick of the series, though, and it seems likely that I will get caught up by the end of 2022. 

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (4 stars)
My fourth spooky read was this fun witchy romance novel that again could have been five stars if not for the sex scenes. I understand that the sex scenes are a convention of the genre, and I have adapted to just skipping them in order to enjoy the rest of the story. What bothered me in this book was that there was frank discussion of male and female anatomy throughout the book, even when there was nothing sexual happening in the story. It was just too much, even though I loved the fall atmosphere and the two main characters.

 Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (4 stars)
I enjoyed this collection of chapters about the women of a small Victorian English village. It was equal parts funny and poignant and I found it much easier to read than Jane Austen, even though I have heard this book recommended to Austen fans. I am realizing that while I don't like Austen herself, I do like the things that other people who like Austen enjoy. Though I never actually posted about it anywhere, this was intended to be my pick for Victober.

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (4 stars)
I was doing some preparation for NaNoWriMo and I saw this recommended as the best way to learn about story beats. The idea of hitting certain beats in a work of fiction really makes sense to me, and it helped me figure out what I wanted to write this November. Even though this book is about screen writing, it really is applicable to all forms of fiction that involve plot. 

The Light of Caliburn by Jake Frost (4 stars)
Barb from Franciscan Mom recommended this to me, and even arranged for me to receive a review copy. It's a fantasy story involving Merlin, written from a Catholic perspective. I am not a fantasy person in general, but I devoured this book. It was just so intriguing and such a quick read.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons (5 stars)
Abbie Emmons has a YouTube channel where she gives writing advice, and after watching a bunch of her videos, I decided to actually read her book. It's a YA romance about a boy who is a double-amputee and a girl who has gone temporarily blind. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author, and I was really impressed with the character development and structure. I'm looking forward to the Christmas-themed sequel that just came out. 

Predator by Patricia Cornwell (3 stars)
I'm back in the saddle with the Scarpetta series. I've decided the easiest way to read them is to switch back and forth between print and audio. This one was more interesting than the last two or three books of the series have been, and I feel a renewed motivation to catch up on the series now that a new book is being released for the first time in five years. 

The Ex Talk
by Rachel Lynn Solomon (5 stars)
I listened to this romantic comedy set in the world of public radio, and I loved it. I wasn't even bothered by the subtle digs the author made toward white men because the particular white male antagonist in this story was a true villain. I loved the two main characters and the fresh take on the fake relationship trope. There was sex in this, but it was easily skippable and didn't slide into other areas of the book, which is why I still gave it 5 stars.

Long Road to the Circus by Betsy Bird (5 stars)
I don't read a lot of new middle grade because I'm sick of politics in kids' books, but this historical fiction novel set in the 1920s had such a great voice and made me laugh quite a bit. If all things were fair, this book would win the 2022 Newbery. I will have a review of this one coming soon. 

Anna Witch by Madeleine Edmondson (2 stars)
This short vintage middle grade book was my Halloween read-aloud with my girls. It was cute, but there wasn't a lot of substance to it, and I think it's probably better for the kids to just read it on their own in the future. 

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (5 stars)
I've never read a Ray Bradbury book I didn't love, and this one was so perfect for the end of October. It's a fantasy tale about a group of boys traveling through the history of Halloween in order to save the life of their friend, Pipkin. It was so atmospheric and I think it would make a great read-aloud for grades 6-9. 

Book of the Dead by Patricia Cornwell (4 stars)
This Cornwell was better than Predator, and it's the reason I'm going to continue on with the series. 

As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished The Bowman of Crecy by Ronald Welch and is almost finished with Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. 

M. (7 years, 11 months) read Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb, which I borrowed from the library for her, and she started reading two children's versions of Don Quixote: The Man Who Was Don Quixote by Rafaello Busoni and The Adventures of Don Quixote by Leighton Barret and illustrated by Warren Chappell. (The latter of those she is reading aloud to my mother-in-law during Skype calls.)

C. (6 years, 1 month) finished reading 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie dePaola to my mother-in-law and started Three Boys and a Lighthouse by Nan Hayden Agle and Ellen Wilson. She also read the first two titles in the Lulu series by Hilary McKay and is now reading King Oberon's Forest by Hilda van Stockum. 

E. (4 years) has been listening to me read More Milly Molly Mandy Stories. She also enjoyed paging through our stash of Halloween books, and she especially loved Pumpkin Jack, which I borrowed from the library.  

R. and A. (19 months) have been fighting constantly over First 100 Trucks by Roger Priddy. They also like our new board books: Here Comes Fall! written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Katya Longhi and Boo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton. 

Up Next For Me

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I'm not sure yet what my reading is going to look like. My in-person book club is reading Our Lady of Fatima by William Walsh for our discussion on the 11th, and I'm listening to Killers of the Flower Moon by Daniel Grann for #WorldFullofBooks on Instagram, the theme of which is Indigenous People for this month. I'm also listening to Vision in White by Nora Roberts, which is a re-read and I have three library books coming due soon: The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson, To Sir Philip, with Love by Julia Quinn and Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter. I also have a lot of Christmas reading planned and might think about getting a head start on that in the latter part of the month. 

Linking Up

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