November Books

I know I usually post my books for the month on the first Tuesday of the following month, but there is no need to check your calendars.  This time around I’m posting a bit early because I probably won’t finish any of the books that I’m currently in the midst of reading, so you’ll still get an accurate look into my recently read pile.  Confetti and I will also be going to PAX Unplugged this weekend, so this will free up next Tuesday’s post for a recounting of that adventure.  Wins all around!

With all that said, the end of the year tends to be a very busy season of life, but the moments stolen away with reading are joyous ones.  This month, I didn’t get to quite as many books as I would have liked.  However, I am still happy to share what I did read.

Books will be rated on a 1 – 5 star scale with 1 being bad and 5 being excellent.  If you enjoy what you see and don’t want to wait until the next book post, please follow us on Goodreads.  We’ll stay consistently updated there before compiling our month’s reading and thoughts here.

The comics I have read will also be included at the end of the post.  Those will just be listed and not officially reviewed.  However, if you ever want to hear about any specific comic in particular or want my thoughts, don’t be afraid to ask.  I enjoy discussing everything I read. 

Let’s go!

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of 70s and 80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix – 3.5/5 Stars

Grady Hendrix uses this book to take a look back at the history and trends of horror fiction, during the 70s, 80s, and beyond.  His writing will cover the rise and fall of the horror paperback genre, looking into the reasoning behind certain fads and also the rules and styles that fit specific horror subgenres.  Mostly though, this will be a mass recounting and summary of dozens of ridiculous horror stories and series.

While reading Paperbacks from Hell, it becomes immediately clear that Hendrix has a deep passion for the paperback horror genre.  This is a man who has done his research, but more importantly, he has lived and experienced these books firsthand.  These books could easily be written off as fad-chasing, ridiculous garbage, but Hendrix finds the fun and beauty instead, and then he makes sure readers can’t help but appreciate the insanity and novelty of these novels too.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with a growing to-read list thanks to Paperback from Hell.

The history of horror fiction is explored through the different subgenres that shined during the paperback boom.  From evil children to haunted houses to terrifying animals to skeleton doctors and more, Hendrix provides the rules, genre tropes, and stylings of each type of novel, while also giving examples or summaries of dozens of books.  Oftentimes, Hendrix will simply recount the major plot points of novels in order to hammer home just how insane and interesting these books got.  

The summaries and can-you-believe-they-wrote-this-ness take precedence in this book, but there is actual history and nonfictional information to be found between the recountings.  There is plenty to learn and Hendrix does a wonderful job contextualizing the trends and breakthroughs that horror followed.  However, the true meat of this book is the celebration of horror stories’ past through the exploration of other novels.  Thankfully, Hendrix is pretty humorous in his writing and does find the proper balance of sharing other stories without ever feeling boring.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you enjoy horror, ridiculous writing, humor, or a look into history through a unique lens, Paperbacks from Hell should be a satisfying read.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – 2.5/5 Stars

Bella Swan moves back to Forks, Washington to live with her father now that her mother is traveling with a new boyfriend.  A loner and an outcast, Bella doesn’t expect to find much to appreciate about Forks.  Bella is surprised to catch the eye of many possible suitors, but there is one boy in particular who catches her interest, Edward Cullen.  Unfortunately, Edward is a vampire who has an almost irresistible thirst for Bella.  He wants to run from her to keep her safe, but he also wants to bask in her presence.  Bella and Edward hope to make a relationship work, despite their whole prey and predator dynamic.  Can love prevail against the constant fear of danger, and what about the other vampire out there?

I am super late to Twilight as it is well past its biggest moment in the sun (which may or may not have caused some sparkling), but it is interesting to finally actually read the first book of the series that had thousands proclaiming Team Edward or Team Jacob.  Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of hate about this series and a lot of passionate love.  Having read the novel, I can clearly understand both sides.

In many ways, Twilight is a novel that plays into what a lot of teens feel. The emotions are enormous and overpowering.  The draw and dangers of love are real and the world simply doesn’t understand what you’re going through.  These are occurrences that teens will understand and even non-teen can relate to on some level.  As a source of not-quite-trashy entertainment, Twilight might be considered okay.

On the other hand, Meyer’s writing style and story does leave a lot to be desired.  The prose is a bit weak and wordy, I didn’t appreciate the climax happening off screen, and the characters throw up so many red flags that a vampire might start lusting for even more blood.

Having only read book one, I can’t speak for Bella’s complete character arc and development, but in Twilight she makes so many bad decisions in the name of “love.”  She is treated poorly, threatened, and gaslighted, but she only finds those things charming.  In fact, Bella goes out of her way to protect Edward by lying about their relationship and what she’s up to, so if he does kill her, he won’t be blamed for it.  It’s not good.

I have read much better books than Twilight, but I have also read much worse.  Overall, Meyer tells an interesting enough story that probably could have been a little shorter.  Those of you who love the book and series, I can see what you might like about it.  As for me, I think I’ll be skipping out on the rest of the series.

The Stranger’s Wife by Anna Lou-Weatherly – 3.5/5 Stars

This is the story of two women who have both become victims of terrible men.  Beth might seem like she is living the perfect life, but must deal with a husband who she never really knew, one with dark secrets and a viciousness she could never have imagined.  Cath comes from a broken background and lives a life abused by a partner who cares only for getting his next fix.  Both women’s lives are steeped in tragedy, but a chance meeting may change everything.

I should first admit that I had no clue that this novel was the third book in the Detective Dan Riley series when I first dove in.  Along with the two women, Detective Riley, the man working this case is a point of view character.  As a stand alone case, this novel works on its own.  Riley may have some story elements progressing from previous stories, but they never felt distracting or unneeded for this tale.  They simply felt like they humanized Riley further and made him more worth rooting for.  

Riley’s strong characterization is an example of where Lou-Weatherly shows her greatest strengths.  The characters of this novel are well-written.  The women are easy to relate to and their hardships are easy to understand.  The strong character work made this novel engaging and compelling.

Unfortunately, part of the success of this story hinged on the central murder mystery, but that never felt like a super strong part of the novel.  When the details of the murder are revealed, the circumstances seem a little far-fetched and convenient.  Thankfully, the rest of the novel is strong enough to make up for the weaker mystery, but it’s still difficult to not wish that aspect was stronger.

The Stranger’s Wife is a solid entry into the genre of thrillers and police procedurals.  This worked well as a stand-alone story and also made me interested in finding out more about the larger narrative of Detective Dan Riley.  The novel wasn’t without its flaws, but the characterization and overall plot feel worth the time and effort.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J.M. Nouwen – 3.5/5 Stars

In his book, Henri J.M. Nouwen reflects on his deep appreciation of Rembrant’s painting “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and how it helped strengthen his relationship with God.  Nouwen gives an analysis of both Rembrant’s painting and Jesus’ proverb.  He explores how we and God all play the role of the young son, the elder son, and the father from the story.

Nouwen clearly has a lot of passion for both Rembrant’s work and for the story of the Prodigal Son.  He has also clearly spent a lot of time ruminating on both.  Through his years of study and reflection, Nouwen has learned a lot and does his best to share those lessons with his readers.  While his prose and writing style isn’t always the most thrilling, the messages within Nouwen’s work are solid and worth reading.

Personally, I enjoyed Nouwen’s words best when he was describing the proverb at hand and exploring how the different roles (younger son, elder son, and father) apply to himself and humans in general.  Here I found strong reminders of Christ’s teaching and the potential pitfalls of sin that we like to ignore.

The amount of time spent on the actual painting itself was a bit less satisfying for me.  Again, the painting undeniably holds a meaningful place in the life of Nouwen, it just didn’t resonate the same way with me.  I can appreciate his appreciation, but his tireless praise of the piece of art didn’t do much for me beyond his use of it to transition into more focus on God and our relationship with God.

I am also not an art scholar, but at times while the messages were good, Nouwen’s interpretations of even the smallest details of the painting eventually started to feel a bit stretched.  

Again, I praise Nouwen for the messages and lessons he imparts through his work.  It’s important to examine ourselves through different lenses and to see the ways where we may fall short and the ways in which we can follow God’s word more closely.  This book is worth checking out for those lessons.

Comics Read:

  • The Avengers vol. 9 – World War She-Hulk by Jason Aaron
  • Champions vol. 2 – Killer App by Danny Lore
  • Miles Morales vol. 5 – The Clone Saga by Saladin Ahmed
  • Miles Morales vol. 6 – All Eyes on Me by Saladin Ahmed, Phil Lord, and Chris Miller
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 1 – The Final Gauntlet by Donny Cates

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