Ah November, it kicks off the holiday season! The weather starts getting cooler, holiday music creeps into the radio and the end of the year is in sight. November is also a fun month as a teacher, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving gives you a little extra time off from work as well. I discovered some good books this month. I listened to a story about a dysfunctional family vacation, cozied up with a good mystery, dove into a magical world, learned about brewing in the Midwest and of course I read one romance, this one had a character who had to decide if she should follow her heart or keep her family happy. Read on to hear what I thought!
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward is a story of a dysfunctional family who packs their bags to go on a family trip jetsetting around Europe. Charlotte Perkins is 70 years old and she longs for the days when her children lived with her and needed her more than anything. Now they are all adults living their own lives, there is the oldest Lee, a struggling Hollywood wannabe, Cord: a venture capitalist living in Manhattan who can’t seem to settle down and the youngest: Reagan, a mom of two who is struggling in her marriage to a successful surgeon. Charlotte enters the “Become a Jetsetter” contest by writing a scandalous essay that relives her younger years, her hope is the all expenses paid trip will bring her kids back together and create new happy memories for the family.
Once on the trip, it’s clear the family each has their own secrets they are trying to keep. The book is divided into parts, each part has five chapters, two from Charlotte’s perspective and the remaining three from each of the kids. I liked the format and diving into each character’s thoughts and feelings. I enjoyed reading about the family trying to overcome the trauma of their past in order to navigate their lives as adults. The book had laugh out loud moments and I loved the quirkiness. It reminded me a little of the book The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney which I read a few years ago. I listened to The Jetsetters and I thought the reader did a fabulous job, I especially loved the voice she used for Charlotte. The book has been on quite a few bestseller lists and was one of Reese’s Book Club picks. This was a quick and easy listen and I highly recommend it.
The Searcher by Tana French
The Searcher by Tana French is a mystery crime novel that I read about in the New York Time’s Book Reviews. Apparently, Tana French is an amazing mystery author and has quite a few books. I had never heard of Tana French but the reviews were good so I was eager to give it a shot. I love mystery novels and I thought the synopsis sounded interesting. The story takes place in a small Irish village, Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago cop just bought a fixer upper farmhouse and is trying to settle into a more quiet life. After 25 years working for the police department and a recent divorce, he’s ready to work on his house, enjoy a drink or two at the pub and find some peace. Shortly after settling in, a local kid starts hanging around Cal’s house. The kid whose brother went missing, asks Cal to investigate and find out what happened to Brenden. As Cal begins looking into the mystery he uncovers some dark secrets and realizes his new picturesque town is not as quaint as he once thought.
The story was a good mystery and I liked that the main character had to figure out the clues on his own. It felt like a book my dad would really like, in fact, I bought him a copy for Christmas. It wasn’t the typical mystery book I usually pick up but I liked the slow build of the story and uncovering clues and people of interest over the course of the novel. It wasn’t my favorite book I’ve ever read but for mystery fans I think it would be entertaining. French is a good writer and I’m curious what her other books are like.
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman is the prequel in the Practical Magic series. Hoffman has written over thirty books, however, I’ve only read the ones in the Practical Magic series. I first read Rules of Magic, then the book Practical Magic. The two sisters from Rules of Magic show up as the beloved aunts in the Practical Magic book. In the novels, the reader learns that the trouble the Owens family faces all began with the Matriarch Maria Owens who was accused of witchcraft in the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. Maria put a curse on the family hoping to spare the Owens descendants from falling in love. When Book of the Month had Magic Lessons as an option, I jumped at the chance to read the origin story of Maria Owens.
The book takes place in the 1600s and begins when as a baby, Maria Owens was abandoned in a snowy field. A kind healer, Hannah Owens, discovers Maria and teaches her lessons in the “Unnamed Arts”, Maria has a gift and soon discovers her powers as a witch and healer are great. From Hannah, she learns to only love someone who will love her back. When Maria is abandoned by the man who claimed to love her, Maria follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here, she sets a curse on the Owens family for centuries to come. As she lives her life, she must learn to deal with the rules of magic and lessons in love. The story follows Maria throughout her whole life and Hoffman does a wonderful job telling her story. It was fascinating reading about the Salem Witch Trials and how women who were independent and had a mind of their own were treated in the 1600s. If you have never read the Practical Magic series I would start with this origin story. I’m sure once you read Maria’s tale you will be drawn into the world of magic and want to pick up the whole trio of books.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
The Lager Queen of Minnesota is the perfect family saga for anyone who loves beer. Hell, even if you don’t like beer I think you’d like this book. It’s a bestseller and I can see why. I originally picked this book up because J. Ryan Stradal wrote another great novel called Kitchens of the Great Midwest that I read a few years ago and loved. I was so excited when he had a new book come out. I put it on hold at the library but it was taking forever for it to be my turn! Finally, I bought it for myself and I’m so glad I did. The story focuses on two sisters: Helen and Edith. When their parents die, their father leaves the inheritance entirely to Helen so she can follow her dream of opening a brewery. This move immediately causes strife between the sisters and they move on with their lives without each other.
Helen, who is hardworking and at times ruthless, opens and runs one of the most successful breweries in the Midwest called “Blotz”. Without her share of the inheritance, Edith struggles to make a living and often wonders what even a little of the money would have done to help her out. Edith’s heart is huge and she is constantly trying to help her family and those around her. Edith’s granddaughter, Diana comes to live with Edith and understands that a person might need to be a little tougher than her grandmother to get ahead and survive in the real world. Diana gets the opportunity to join a local craft brewery, her love of brewing and her work ethic brings the family success and has the chance of reuniting the sisters. I loved the characters in this novel, they all work hard even when odds are against them. I also enjoyed the details about brewing beer and the world of craft breweries. The story is such a Midwest gem and so heartwarming. I highly recommend this novel, in fact, I already told a few of my Wisconsin friends to pick it up! Cheers to the author, he wrote another brilliant book.
Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo
Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo is another romance novel brought to me by Book of the Month. Azere is a Nigerian who immigrated to Canada when she was only 12 years old. Before her family moved to Canada, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian Edo man and preserve the families culture. Her mom has helped Azere live up to the promise by setting Azere up with countless eligible Nigerian men. When another set up goes way wrong, Azere finds herself in a hotel bar flirting with a charming, handsome, white man named Rafael.
As Rafael and Azere grow closer and learn that their one night stand is much more, Azere needs to figure out if she can love someone who could potentially tear her apart from her family. Azere has to figure out if loving someone from a different culture will make her less of a Nigerian. Can she hold onto herself in the relationship? Or will she constantly be compromising who she is to make Rafael happy? The novel explores the complicated relationship between Azere and her over bearing mother and Azere’s wish to be a compliant daughter. I loved Azere’s journey even though at times I felt frustrated with her not standing up for herself. It was interesting reading a story about an immigrant trying to navigate her two worlds. I felt like Azere and Rafael’s chemistry was sexy and I liked their relationship. The ending is a little “happily ever after” for it to be super realistic but I feel like in 2020 we could use all the happy endings we can get. The novel wasn’t perfect but I tore through it and I loved their relationship. If you are looking for a sweet love story with some family drama thrown in then this is the book for you.
That’s it for November! I’ve already started three books for December and I have two cute holiday themed ones in my “to be read” pile. Hopefully with Winter Break I’ll be able to read quite a few books to finish up 2020. I’ve already read 51 books this year!!! Happy Reading!