Wednesday, December 7, 2022

An Open Book: November 2022 Reads

 Happy Advent! I have been doing all sorts of reflecting lately as the year 2022 winds down (to the extent that I almost missed my exit when driving to an event last weekend, because I was so deep in thought), and I've already started figuring out which book from each month to highlight in a future post. In the meantime, though, it's time to look back on just November. I read some really fabulous things, so I'm linking up with An Open Book to chat about them! 

The Book Woman's Daughter, by Kim Michele Richardson

This is the beautiful sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. It follows Honey Lovett (Cussy and Carter's daughter) as she tries to find a safe and secure life while her parents are in jail--a challenging feat, since she has the same blue-skin condition as Cussy, and is only sixteen years old. Diving into her mother's work of being a packhorse librarian, Honey also dives into a fierce fight for her independence and safety. I thought the story was really engaging and fun, but I didn't like it quite as much as its predecessor. This story focused a lot on the struggles of women of 1950s Appalachia as they dealt with misogyny in the workplace and daily life, and while that's a great theme to cover, it felt a bit overdone in parts. Still, I really enjoyed reading this!

Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning, by David Sobel

This was a practical guide for people interested in nature schools as well as people who are trying to create their own nature schools. While I have no aspirations to create a nature preschool, I do enjoy reading about educational theories and nature-based learning in particular. This book covers the approach that different schools in the U.S.A. take as well as different considerations to keep in mind when trying to create a nature school program yourself. I enjoyed this book, although some parts had me rolling my eyes and cringing a bit (a decent number of nature schools integrate some rather hippie New Agey things in the curriculum that I don't like). This was pretty interesting. 

The Cabin Faced West, by Jean Fritz

My two-year-old pulled this off the shelf at the library and gave it to me, and I'm so glad she did! This is a wonderful children's novel, originally written in the 1950s, and set just a few years after the close of the Revolutionary War. It follows Ann Hamilton, a young girl who has just moved with her family to the western frontier of Pennsylvania. Ann is sad to leave her life and best friend in Gettysburg and struggles with finding joy amid the hard work and isolation of her new home. However, a series of events leads her to realize that she can love this new place and find the adventure in it. I really loved this book! The writing is simple, but beautiful, and there's a wonderful depth and growth to the main character, while keeping everything in this book at a level that a young child can read and understand. As an added plus, the book is loosely based on real-life events! 

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

This was a gorgeous World War I novel, told through the eyes of Paul, a young German soldier. The story follows Paul into the thick of the fighting, back to his home when he has leave, and back to the fighting again. It shows the incredible horrors of war, but also shows the hope and humanity of the men involved-no matter what side they are on. It expresses the sheer trauma that soldiers endure in war, but also the community that they create with each other. This was a really good read, and I can see why it's a classic! 

There's a Body in the Window Seat! The History of Arsenic and Old Lace, by Charles Dennis

This was a fun, quick read, and I really enjoyed learning the history of the play and movie adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace. I was absolutely fascinated to learn that the story is inspired by a real-life figure (Amy Archer-Gilligan), and it prompted a conversation with a relative about how scary it is that people can sneak into the medical system with nefarious intentions. I didn't entirely care about all the bios that the book included, though I get why that's an important part of a book that details the history of a play and movie. Still, it was interested to learn about Arsenic, and this was an enjoyable read! 

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

This dives into the life of Janie, a black woman living in the South in the 1930s. In the beginning of the book, she sits down with her friend and spends the next several chapters talking about her whole life--from childhood up to the present day. Janie talks about the joys and the struggles, the bad things and good times, the abuse she suffered and the love that she found with her third husband. This book has beautiful writing (though the colloquial dialect made me read at a slower pace than usual-not necessarily a bad thing!) and it was a good story about resilience, love, community, and endurance. 

Tranquility by Tuesday, by Laura Vanderkam

This was a very practical and engaging book about time management, and specifically how we can make the most of our time and choose peace amidst the chaos of life. Vanderkam recognizes that every person has a different rhythm and pace of life, and different demands on his or her time, so she proposes nine rules that any person can adapt and use. Some of the topics were pretty commonsense as being good ("give yourself a bedtime"), but we often don't actually do these things. Other ideas were new to me, like "plan your week on Friday afternoon" and "one big adventure, one little adventure." For each rule, Vanderkam includes some personal stories and steps/questions for each person  both in implementing each practice and reflecting on it afterwards. This was a quick read, and I enjoyed it and found it very helpful! 

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Ove is a curmudgeon who spends his days grouchy and commenting on the downfall of society, but one day, he meets new neighbors and his life begins to drastically spin out of his control. This is a beautiful novel about community and love, and it reminded me a bit of the Pixar movie Up. That being said, I do have some complaints about the book (Ove sounds like an eighty-year-old man but he's actually in his late fifties, so that didn't seem realistic or well done, the main story covers the span of a couple weeks, which seemed like too-short a time for some of the developments to happen, and there was a very minor LGBTQ storyline, because apparently that's  a required element in any secular novel or tv show now). Overall, though, I thought this was a great read and I really enjoyed it! There is a strong theme of suicide, though, which may be traumatic or triggering for some readers. 

Lilibet Lynn and the Children of Sherwood: A Thimble of Time Adventure, by Elizabeth Hajek

On her twelfth birthday, Lilibet goes through her normal routines as a homeschool student in the twenty-first century: she eats breakfast, completes some assignments, goes to a library, and visits her grandma…and unexpectedly finds herself in the Middle Ages. Lilibet—who loves stories about Robin Hood—is delighted to find herself in medieval England (although the standards of sanitation make her a bit squeamish). However, she soon becomes involved in a life-or-death mystery, and finds herself torn between escaping to the safety of her home and helping her new friends. Lilibet was a fun character to journey with, and I fondly thought of my own childhood as I read about her struggles and joys. I was fascinated to learn about medieval England through her journey, too. The author creates a very immersive experience in this story as Lilibet discovers the sights, sounds, and smells of the Middle Ages, and I was deeply engrossed in the story. I especially love how the story involved the Plantagenet family, since I’ve always struggled at keeping track of the different royal families involved in England’s history. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I am excited to see what other time-traveling adventures are in store for Lilibet! (I received a copy in exchange for a review, all opinions are my own--and a more in-depth review of this book is coming soon)

Thanks for joining me this month! If you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments!


  1. Sounds a good selection of reads. Popping by via #AnOpenBook

    1. Thanks for stopping by! It was a pretty fun group of books to spend the month with :)

  2. Thanks for linking up! I immediately thought The Cabin Faced West would be a book my oldest daughter would have loved. And Jean Fritz sounded familiar . . . and her I discovered that daughter read the book from her school library in 2017! (Found it in An Open Book from that year.) I'd like to read All Quiet on the Western Front some day.

    1. That's wonderful that your daughter got to read The Cabin Faced West. I'm amazed that I managed to be completely oblivious to it during childhood! Hopefully you can get to All Quiet on the Western Front someday; it was excellent (challenging at times, but well worth it).

  3. I just grabbed The Cabin Faced West from the library last week! We're doing a loose study of The Revolutionary War right now and I planned it for our read aloud this week. So glad to hear you enjoyed it!