November 2021 Reading Update

I knew this would be a good reading month for me. I had surgery mid-month, and have a long, slow recovery ahead of me, with ample time to read! I started the month with a big stack of books that had collected around my house over the last few months, and then 7 books I had on hold at the library all came up around the same time. There was a streak where I was literally reading a book a day! This month I read:

  • Girl A by Abigail Dean – I don’t know where I heard about this book, but I had it saved in my library app, so I read it early this month and enjoyed it. The story follows multiple siblings, now adults, who all survived a real “House of Horrors”. Throughout the story, we learn that Girl A was the child who escaped, saving her siblings from the torture they had lived under with their parents. The premise reminded me of a real family that was found an hour north of me, where something like 17 children (some who were in fact adults) had been held captive, in restraints, with limited food, for years. Girl A takes place in England, and the horrors were told in small flashbacks as Girl A meets up with her adult siblings after the death of their mother. It was a dark story, well told.
  • The Guncle by Steven Rowley – I LOVED this sweet story! When Patrick’s sister-in-law and college best friend passes away, her husband and children are grieving. Then Patrick’s brother, her husband, needs to go to rehab, so Patrick gets to take care of his nice and nephew all summer. The kids, who are still grieving, fall into a routine with their GUP, Gay Uncle Patrick! This story was just so cute, with more heart than I expected.
  • Not All Diamonds and Rose: The Inside Story of the Real Housewives from the People Who Lived It by Dave Quinn – I loved this inside look into all of the Real Housewives, chronicled city by city with quotes from all the stars. If you know Housewives, this is a great read!
  • The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller – I’m so glad I chose this for my Book of the Month selection sometime in the last few months. I loved it! It was a quick thriller that centered around a local book club, and all of the secrets the families were keeping from one another in the neighborhood.
  • Pretty Things by Janelle Brown – I loved this book! Thanks to Andree for gifting it to me and to JJ for putting it on my radar! Nina and Vanessa are alternating narrators of this book, and with each switch, you learn more about their past and their present, most of which is filled with cons, lies, and tricks. This story had many twists and a lot of despicable characters, but it was a fun ride!
  • Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich – I have read and enjoyed another Erdrich before. When I heard this story described, it sounds interesting and mysterious. But really it was a sad tale of a broken family, whose parents struggled with addiction and whose children had to watch the fall out. It was beautifully told, including elements of the Native culture Erdrich always writes about, but in her style, which includes no quotation marks, and odd dialogue.
  • A Rule Against Murder (Gamache #4) by Louise Penny – This series is truly a cozy mystery series. I liked that the murder Inspector Gamache had to solve this time was in a different location, instead of in the usual adorable town of Three Pines. However, two residents from Three Pines were directly involved, so there was still a connection to Pete and Clara, two of the main characters in all of Penny books I’ve read so far. This was one set at a tense family reunion on a beautiful, secluded lake, with many secrets surrounded it.
  • The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune – I have loved TJ Klune’s writing since reading House in the Cerulean Sea earlier this year. He writes sweet, gay love stories that have extraordinary (pardon the pun) characters, settings, and adventures. This one was about two super heroes fighting it out around the city, while some queer high school kids just tried to help each other through their day-to-day challenges. A few crushes, some deception, some grief, and some good friendships mix together to form this unlikely fun story.
  • Everything We Didn’t Say by Nicole Baart – I enjoyed this for it’s fast pace, and the twists that kept me guessing throughout the solving of the mystery. When Juniper comes back to her hometown, years after being exiled after a murder took place, the reader wonders what went wrong. As Juniper tells us her current story, she also tells us what happened that summer years ago that changed everything. This had fun secondary characters, and good twists! I’m glad I chose this for my Book of the Month club pick!
  • Raising Our Hands: How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations, Start Accepting Responsibility, and Find Our Place on the New Frontlines by Jenna Arnold – I found this author on Instagram, then learned she was one of the founders of the original Women’s March in DC, in which I participated. I knew she was an activist for social justice reform, but I didn’t know much more about her. In this book, she shares all the privilege that she was born with, as she speaks directly to other white women in America, imploring us to learn more, be more, do more to make the systemic changes needed in our country. This was written with a very informal tone, and A LOT of quotes from many other, more prolific writers. There were a few good tips, especially if you are newer to this work. I think this would be a good book to press into someone’s hands who still doesn’t get the role we need to play, or the importance of starting now.
  • Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan – I loved this book tremendously! This is the kind of book you want to hug at the end. This is a book I did hug, with tears streaming down my face, at the end! I thank the Currently Reading podcast for putting this book on my radar. I’m proud to have purchased the book from an independent book store. This was a beautiful story about Megs, a college student, who wants to help her young brother George learn how C.S. Lewis came up with the idea to write The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Megs knows George is dying and wants to solve this mystery for him, so she goes off on a quest to meet Lewis and ask him this question. I loved that book as a child, but don’t remember all of the details. That didn’t matter. What this really was, was a story of love, about a love of reading and storytelling and friendship and family and imagination. It was incredible!
  • The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard – I LOVED this book! Catherine Ryan Howard is now one of my new favorite authors, after loving 56 Days just as much! In this story, we learn the story of the Irish serial attacker, known as the nothing man, through the retelling of his crimes in a true-crime story that one of the survivors writes. It’s fast-paced and gritty and so much fun to read!
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia – One of my work friends told me about this middle grades book awhile ago, and I finally got it from my library. It’s a fun, quick read about three young Black girls who are put on a plane to see their mother, who abandoned them after the youngest was born. Delphine is such a good big sister and our lens into this world, taking care of Vonetta and Fern as they learn about their mother and the Black Panther movement. This is historical fiction at it’s best – telling a personal story.
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris – Another collection of essays by Sedaris, many of which are just laugh out loud funny! He spends most of his time retelling childhood stories about him and his family, in embarrassing details, and to his own detriment. His raw honesty and sarcasm are just funny to read!
  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake – I LOVED this beautiful middle grades story! The writing is gorgeous and I could picture the artwork and the swirling colors in each scene described. Ivy is a young girl, about to turn 13, whose home is destroyed in a tornado. As her family picks up the pieces of their lives, Ivy wrestles with herself and her new realizations. Written by an openly bisexual author, this story is such a sweet story of loving yourself, finding friends who love you for who you are, and how impactful art can be, in all its forms.
  • Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent – This was a fast-paced story, told by many (too many!) alternating narrators. We begin the story knowing that Oliver did something awful to his wife Alice and that most people are surprised. Through the various narrators, we learn Oliver’s life story, a little about their marriage, and a lot about many other characters. I liked this because it was a quick and easy read, but I was underwhelmed by the ending.
  • Little Women by Louise May Alcott – I reread this classic for Laura Tremaine’s patreon book club this month. I remember reading and loving this as a child, and touring Alcott’s home in Boston with my family; my mother also loved this and passed her love down to me! I was worried that rereading it would make me love it less, especially because I am not a fan of classics in general. Luckily, I enjoyed this, though it was longer and slower than my usual reading (it took me 4 days as opposed to one in this wild reading month!). I loved the family love, the sisterly bonds, the joys in friendship and the arts, and as always, Jo was my favorite. Reading this in 2021 is fascinating, because if it was written now, Jo might be a gender-bending girl, a lesbian, or a trans man. Jo’s confidence and unwillingness to behave like a “typical woman in the 1800’s” was way ahead of her time. I didn’t cry at the saddest part, having known it was coming and like I saw Laura Tremaine say, I realized that Beth was such an underdeveloped character. In spite of that, the family love from beginning to end was beautiful and felt like it wrapped up in a cozy blanket. The book club discussion gave me so many other perspectives! I hated the character of Amy as a child, but rereading it now I could appreciate her growth. I was furious that Jo got married in this, as it didn’t match up with her character throughout the entire rest of the book, but I understand the Alcott was forced to write that ending for Jo by her publishers.
  • The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker – I stared this book to participate in an October book club discussion. However, I didn’t finish it that month and I missed the meeting. I did want to finish it, and had time this month. This is a fascinating look into how to plan and organize meaningful discussions in parties, meetings, and gatherings of all shapes and sizes. The author walks us through the research on how to create a powerful opening and a meaningful closing (never start or end with logistics!). She shares tips for bringing people together to debate, to come ton consensus, or just to connect deeply. While I am not a natural hostess in my own home, I do plan a lot of meetings and gathering at work, so that was always what I was connecting to as I read. I wish that more conference organizers would read this, so I wouldn’t have to suffer through any more awkward “networking” events without a purpose. I enjoyed many suggestions, and rolled my eyes at others that felt far from my reality. I loved the examples she shared throughout.

Fiction: 14

Nonfiction: 4

Young Adolescent: 3


Author/plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices work: 8

Female author: 14

Male Author: 4

Nonbinary Author:

Library books: 9

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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1 Response to November 2021 Reading Update

  1. Andree Grey says:

    OMG I cant wait to read this in depth when I have time and I can add to my Amazon cart for the break! I did just start reading Pretty Things last night!!! Only made it about 10 pages….but looking forward to it.

    Andrée Grey, Ed.D.

    From: Reflections on Leadership and Learning
    Reply-To: Reflections on Leadership and Learning
    Date: Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 9:25 AM
    To: Andree Grey
    Subject: [New post] November 2021 Reading Update

    ⚠ EXTERNAL: This e-mail originated from outside of Encinitas Union School District. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the source address and know that the content is safe. Please forward this e-mail to if you believe this e-mail is suspicious.

    Amy’s Reflections posted: ” I knew this would be a good reading month for me. I had surgery mid-month, and have a long, slow recovery ahead of me, with ample time to read! I started the month with a big stack of books that had collected around my house over the last few months, and”

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