November Book Reviews

 Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

Many thanks to Netgalley and Scribner Books for the digital ARC of damnation Spring by Ash Davidson! I highly recommend this book if you like settling in with a community, getting to know a wealth of vivid and complex characters (the kind you think about when you aren’t reading), with an excellent slow burn of increasing tensions that come to an emotional conclusion. And it’s a heartbreaker.
I was initially drawn in by the very familiar Pacific Northwest atmosphere, and could picture it all so clearly. This was an especially impactful read after having finished The Seed Keeper and listening to Braiding Sweetgrass on audio. The author is from this logging area of Northern California and, though she is not indigenous, I think she represented her indigenous characters well. So many themes to unpack on environmentalism, and how we take care of ourselves, our families. This book will stick with me, and I highly recommend it - with the caveat of major trigger warning for miscarriage and stillbirth.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The hype was real on this contemporary romance! I'm glad I knew going into it that the author workshopped her Star Wars Kylo and Rey fan fiction into this story about two modern day scientists. For one: yay for smart and successful female leads! And second, yay for putting Adam Driver in my head as the hopelessly in love, but romantically inept, male lead. Swooooooon. 

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I finished Braiding Sweetgrass over the Thanksgiving holiday, which was serendipitous and I highly recommend googling the entirety of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. A small quote that encompasses much of the book’s themes:

“We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.”
Our #evergreenreaders book club pick was a perfect nonfiction book to dive into after finishing The Seed Keeper and Damnation Spring. Kimmerer’s way of illustrating science and nature through personal stories about her family, her tribe, and her students is so engaging. I bounced back and forth between print and mostly audio, and it felt like I was listening to a lovely guided meditation with a message. I learned so many fascinating things about lichen! pond scum! maple syrup and squirrels! cattails! and, of course, the erasure of Indigenous cultures and their efforts to forge new traditions. This book is so informative and just lovely.

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

My daughter picked this up during one of our trips to Third Place Books and insisted that I read it after reading it with lightning speed. I must say, that I was a little confused about who was who, in relation to the main character Tiến at the outset. But once I got my bearings as to where I was in time, or reality, I found this book to be so engrossing and the illustrations of the fairy tale sections are just GORGEOUS. I loved how Nguyen straddled several storylines without it feeling as if one was given short shrift. My heart ached and swelled for Tien, as well as his parents. As always, I highly recommend picking up graphic novels, as they convey so much emotion and drama in a way that words alone cannot.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Another romance novel that lived up to the hype! I thought Hoang's debut, The Kiss Quotient, was excellent and missed her second novel, but couldn't resist grabbing The Heart Principle from the lucky day shelf at the library. And, as I had read about in the million glowing reviews, Anna goes on a journey to hell and back, and the narrative is quite dark. It made me rife with anxiety for her and I wanted to scream at multiple characters and multiple occasions. And major forewarning about the realities of grief and family strife during hospice. But, damn, I applaud Hoang for tackling really difficult stuff that is close to her personally as a person on the autism spectrum and who has dealt with taking care of a loved one who is dying. It is still a great romance, quite steamy/open door in parts, with the absolutely requisite happy ending!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I picked up this back list Kate Morton because I always think of her mysterious literary fiction as excellent reading for the cool and rainy days. Somehow I missed what seems to be everybody’s favorite, the secret keeper. Just like all of her books I’ve read before, it was an engrossing read with great characters and family dynamics. But, I felt like I knew the twist very early on and I didn’t realize it was a World War II novel which feels kind of stale to me - but perhaps this is why it’s one of her most popular? If WWII historical fiction is your jam, it's a perfect entry point to Morton's excellent work.