Episode 83: Laura's November 2021 Reading

On this dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, your host Laura talks about all the books she read in November of 2021. It was a great reading month with a fun variety of books, from picture books to YA, non-fiction to novels. Let me know what you've been reading, or what you're looking forward to reading as 2021 quickly draws to a close. 

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It's been an interesting reading month for me! Lots of these books were listened to on audio or read digitally, as sweet little baby boy Miller isn't letting mama sleep much this third trimester. Insomnia equals more reading time for me, apparently. I also read some books that are a bit further outside of my normal comfort zones, which was fun and interesting. Here's what I read this month: 

Picture Books

Mr. Pumpkin's Tea Party by Erin Barker (Bookshop | Amazon) - This is a fun fall / Halloween counting book. I was won over by the illustrations, and I always am up for a tea party. (Does have monsters/ghosts/witches type characters), so if you've got little kids or don't celebrate Halloween, may not be for you. But a cute book. 

Who Goes There? by Karma Wilson (Bookshop | Amazon) - thanks to Ginnie for recommending this book to me, knowing I'm a C.S. Lewis fan. It's got a mouse named Lewis and a mouse named Joy, and the illustrations are beautiful and the repeated refrain would make a good read aloud. 

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown (Bookshop | Amazon) - This picture book biography came recommended to me by Kris Dersch (@noextrawords on Instagram) and was beautifully illustrated and informative. I mentioned reading The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan a few years ago, which is a middle grade story about Neruda that is excellent as well. 


500 Miles from You by Jenny Colgan (Bookshop | Amazon) - the third book in the Scottish Bookstore series. This one had nurses as main characters, so had more medical details than I prefer. I enjoyed books 1 and 2 in the series more; I do love this series on audio, though. 

To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne (Bookshop | Amazon) - This is a Shop Around the Corner or You've Got Mail trope, which apparently I enjoy. To Sir, With Love is set in a family-owned champagne shop (although I would take the bookshop from the original, honestly!) and was generally a light, fluffy, enjoyable read. I mentioned also enjoying Hana Khan Carries On earlier this year, which also has the Shop Around The Corner retelling vibe. I read this book in October, actually....but totally forgot to include it in my reading recap. so we're catching it here in November. 

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca (Bookshop | Amazon) - If I'm going to read a romance book, it's going to be one like this. I enjoy the Ren Faire setting, and it's been fun to get to know the characters throughout the Well Met series. This book is pretty steamy. 

Young Adult

Fractured Past (ARC) by Emily VanderBent  - Emily was a guest on episode 72 and her second book in the Crimson Time series is coming out in a few months. I had the privilege of reading it ahead of the release date to write a blurb, and I enjoyed it. 

Thanks Carissa for Ruining My Life (ARC) by Dallas Woodburn - This YA romance story is told from two perspectives, Carissa's ex-boyfriend and Carissa's sister. Her "ruining of their lives" to each of them ends up being the catalyst for change in this story. FYI One of the characters does end up being signed up for a weight-loss reality show...so there's some body positivity messages in here but also a representation of how toxic diet culture can be. I actually enjoyed the behind-the-scenes feel of the reality TV show element, and then another character works at a radio station, which was super cool! 

A Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow (Bookshop | Amazon) - this 128 page / 4 hour novella is a fractured fairytale that packs a feminist punch. I loved the parallel that Harrow drew with a chronically ill character and the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. I was engrossed in the tale and finished the audiobook in one day. I can add this to the list of books I've enjoyed by this author. 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  (Bookshop | Amazon) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Bookshop | Amazon) - I decided to continue my re-read of Harry Potter (I read the first book quite a bit earlier this year) by listening on audio. I had heard that the audio narration of Harry Potter read by Jim Dale was good, but golly, it really really is excellent. This is the series that got me out of my college-induced reading slump, so it is a bit nostalgic for me, even though I read it for the first time as an adult. It's been fun to revisit. 

Middle Grade

Several of these books were on the list of middle grade releases I was really looking forward to at the end of 2021, and I'm glad I was able to get my hands on several and enjoy them. 

The Vanderbeekers Make a Wish by Karina Yan Glaser (Bookshop | Amazon) - this is the 5th book in the series and I was interested to see what Glaser would do once she ended the winter/spring/summer/fall cycle of the first four books in the series. This book introduced us to the grandparents on both sides and also set the stage for the 6th book, which I'm now already anticipating. The Vanderbeekers are getting ready to celebrate their father's birthday, when a series of unexpected events ensues. 

Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte (Bookshop | Amazon) - Sequel to Show Me A Sign. This is a fascinating series because LeZotte is a deaf author writing about deaf characters. This second story happens three years after Mary was kidnapped as a live specimen in a cruel experiment to determine the cause of her deafness. Now Mary has the unique opportunity to go to this huge manor where a young girl who is presumed to be deaf-mute is being kept by relatives under lock and key. Mary's job is to help this girl learn to communicate. But all is not as it seems and things escalate as secrets are revealed and reputations are threatened. The description on bookshop.org concludes, "Riveting and complex, delicately nuanced and fervently feminist, Set Me Free is a masterful stand-alone companion to Show Me a Sign, and a searing exposé of ableism, racism, and colonialism that will challenge you to think differently about the dignity and capacity within every human being."

Out of My Heart by Sharon Draper -(Bookshop | Amazon) - This is the sequel to Out of My Mind and answers the question “What happened to Melody next?” The answer is that Melody gets to go to a summer camp for the first time. This camp is amazing, full of accommodations that let Melody participate in activities that she’s only dreamed of up to this point. She really gets a change to spread her wings and discover new things about herself, and it’s beautiful to see. More than anything, this book presents a joyful vision of empowerment, inclusion, freedom advocacy, and accommodation for kids with disabilities. For me, it encouraged out-of-the-box thinking about what is possible. I hope to see more places and opportunities like Camp Green Glades this outside of the pages of a fiction story.

Kaleidoscope by Brian Selznick (Bookshop | Amazon) - Selznick also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I was really looking forward to reading this book. It turns out its design is absolutely gorgeous. Each short story has an illustration, and then between each one there's a two page spread illustration of a different turn of a kaleidoscope. I will say the stories were good but left me a little mystified because I felt like there was a common thread, but also something I was missing. 

Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Bookshop | Amazon) - I enjoyed the third book in this middle-grade mystery series set in Victorian England. A shopkeeper is found dead and it's believed to be linked to the disappearance of a young woman many years ago. Myrtle and her governess must work together to find out the truth before more people die. 

The Ramona Collection by Beverly Cleary (Bookshop | Amazon |  Audible) - I bought this collection with an extra Audible credit several months ago (I think around the time that Cleary passed away, actually) and I just kind of remembered that I hadn't listened to it. I've been really enjoying hearing this series for the first time since I read it as a little kid. It's reminding me how funny little kids are and have laughed a lot. I will say Stockard Channing's narration is delightful. 

Goldwater Ridge by Hannah Kaye (Bookshop | Amazon) - I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into a former college classmate on bookstagram and found out she's now the author of middle grade western adventure books! And they're funny and good. I really enjoyed this first book, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Silverstone Valley, as well. 


Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott (Bookshop | Amazon)  - I picked up this book in a Little Free Library several months ago, but this month ended up being the perfect time to read it. I took it with me on our babymoon and it was the perfect length and I wanted something contemplative. This book reflects on suffering and how we respond to it as people of faith. 

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott (Bookshop | Amazon) - Seeing the title of this book in the front of Stitches made me remember it existed. I hadn't been particularly interested in reading this book up until now, but as we are less than a month away from the birth of our son, all the sudden this sounded like exactly the type of book I would want to read. I enjoyed the honest and sometimes insightful ramblings of a writer and new mom as she walks through all the crazy changes to one's body and life that a new baby brings. While she was occasionally overly grouchy about Republicans and there were some TMI moments, overall I found this book encouraging in a "If Anne can do it, I can do it" sort of way. Also, since this book was published in the year I was born, all the cultural references were absolutely lost on me...oh well! 

Garden City by John Mark Comer (Bookshop | Amazon) - This is one my dad enjoyed reading a few years ago and I've been meaning to read it.  It was interesting to see how this book tied in with all the work I've been doing on the Hear God Calling You workbook for Crossroads Career this past year. I also am looking forward to reading Comer's new book, Live No Lies, especially after hearing his interview on the That Sounds Fun podcast recently. 

Mystery / Historical Fiction

Now May You Weep (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James #9) by Deborah Crombie (Bookshop | Amazon) - I am still enjoying reading this mystery series, and I especially enjoyed the fact that this one was set in Scotland. 

Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan (Bookshop | Amazon) - this is the same author who wrote Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Once Upon A Wardrobe is a story-with-a-story telling of a young woman who has a sick little brother who wants to know "Where does Narnia come from?" Set in Oxford in the days of C.S. Lewis, Meg was able to meet Lewis and his brother Warnie and here stories from their lives that inform the origins of the Narnia books, and then recount them to her little brother. This would be perfect for a reader who has read some C.S. Lewis and would like to know more, but may be too introductory for a hard-core Lewis afficianado. 

I'd love to hear from you! Send me an email or leave a comment on the blog or social media and tell me what you enjoyed reading in November or what you're looking forward to reading in December! 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours, 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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