October and November 2020 Must-Reads

Looking for your next great read? Today I’m sharing 13 incredible books I read this fall. Find your perfect memoir, thriller, YA, or romance read in this month’s stack. Be sure to bookmark this post for your next library day!

How the heck are you? For those that have joined my Patreon community, I have been so good about updating you all on what I’m reading.

Unfortunately, there appear to be only so many hours in the day to keep up with all the new duties of being a mother in a pandemic so the blog has just been a difficult place to keep maintained.

Please tell me I’m not the only mom on the struggle bus? 

I was planning to hold onto these reviews until the end of the month, but I fear that the more I get behind the less likely you will see any updates from me. 

2020 is kicking my tail. 

Sending big virtual hugs to anyone who can sympathize? We will get through this.

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Join Us for Our November MomAdvice Book Club Discussion:

November Road by Lou Berney

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June 2020 Book of the Month

Check out the November Book of the Month Club Selections:

Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Memorial by Bryan Washington 

Now let’s talk about this month’s stack!

October and November 2020 Must-Reads

Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah

It may be my own upbringing, but I do find myself drawn to stories about church and faith.

Moving to Shanghai, and newly married, Amber finds herself thrown into a world that she never thought she would be part of.

A third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Amber has devoted her entire life to the ministry. Although she had freedom, in the states, to share about God, in Shanghai she finds herself in a secret society where her preaching is illegal and punishable.

There is nothing like moving away, honestly, to help you find yourself. This is a coming-of-age story to realizing that there were so many ways to see the world and the people in it. A blossoming friendship, with someone outside the faith, leads her to an awareness of how many different ways one can find God.

The decision to explore this though comes with serious consequences, including being shunned by her own church community, the one place where she finds identity. 

I learned so much about customs and culture, in China, that I couldn’t put this one down. Amber’s story of finding herself was absolutely gorgeous and really made me reflect on my own time growing up in church, in a completely different way.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Imagine that you have an identical twin and one day she chooses to lead a completely different life, including embracing a completely different racial identity.

Identity is exactly what Bennett explores in this phenomenal novel that just BLEW ME AWAY.

This journey takes you through their different experiences, as they each fall into two very different communities.

The book covers the 1950s to the 1990s, allowing the reader to experience this family story in such a riveting way.

It’s the kind of meaty novel that you just don’t want to end, as the reader longs for the two girls to come together and find their commonalities again.

I really enjoyed Bennett’s first book, but this book is next level writing. Read it right away!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I know many of us are reading pandemic books, as a way to cope with our current circumstance. Donoghue is most notable for her novel, Room, so I was excited to see how she told the story of the 1918 pandemic, through the eyes of a nurse.

Donoghue notes, in the end, that she had submitted her draft prior to COVID, so some of those eerie similarities feel more weighted knowing that they were not influenced by this situation.

Set in Ireland, Nurse Julia powers works at an understaffed hospital, in a ward dedicated to expectant mothers. 

Powers is constantly confronted with, truly emergency situations as many of the women battle the deadly flu with very few tools, in her arsenal, to help in recovery.

When Bridie Sweeney volunteers to help, Julia sets aside the fact that she not a trained nurse, and allows her to shadow her work and assist in procedures.

Raised in a home for orphans, Bridie is naïve to the experience of mothers (or mothering) and becomes Julia’s most faithful companion as they battle these cases. It’s a beautiful friendship that blossoms on these pages.

If you have ever wanted a guide to midwifery in these days, you will be astounded at how well Donoghue writes on these complicated procedures.

It also showcases the same issues we are struggling with today which begs us to realize just how little we have learned.

Just like today, they are short-staffed, struggling with supplies, having difficulties convincing others to take the necessary steps to reduce transmission, have distrust in their government, and how this disease impacts the lower income communities, at a disproportionate rate.

I found this book to be very hard to put down!

Trigger warnings: not recommended for pregnant women or those who want to avoid books on pandemics right now. 

5 out of 5 Stars

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you are looking for a book with a memorable character, I have a feeling that you will fall in love with Zelda.

Zelda is an older teenager on the fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum, who happens to see herself as a modern-day Viking.

Her obsession with being a Viking is what fuels her quest to accomplish many things in life and helps her identify the heroes and the villains in life.

Raised by her older brother, Gert, they struggle with mounting financial issues that lead to selling drugs and putting them both in dangerous situations. 

As each of them is struggling to navigate the world, in their own ways, they both hope to find love and security in some unlikely places.

You can’t help but to fall in love with Zelda, as she struggles to navigate social cues, her sex life with her boyfriend (who struggles cognitively more than she does), the tribe of warriors who teach her to navigate the world, and how she finds identity in the legendary Vikings.

I found the first half to be stronger than the second, but I absolutely adored this story. 

I loved it so much that I finished it in a day, it was that enjoyable.

The bonus?

You learn a heck of a lot about Vikings in the process of this one.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thrillers tend to follow the same formulas and are, rarely if ever, meaty enough for a book club discussion. That is not the case at all with this phenomenal read.

Rachel Krall runs a true-crime podcast, very similar to Serial, where she explores a case each season to help seek rectify injustices that may have occurred. This makes her a target of fandom, but also a target of frustration, for those who may be involved in these cases.

In the new season, Rachel is investigating a rape trial, where an Olympic-hopeful athlete has been accused of committing this crime. The family is well-known, wealthy, and connected in the town so he has the best people involved to represent him.

As Rachel settles into this town, for her investigation, she begins to receive letters from a woman who is begging her to reopen an investigation into the death of hers sister.

As these cases share many parallels, Rachel learns more about the dark side of this town and the people in it.

Goldin does an incredible job building out sympathy for these women, in each case, and exploring really important themes about these #metoo stories and how wealth and power allow men to not be punished for their crimes.

I want to say, this one comes with major trigger warnings and I would not recommend it, if sexual assault is triggering to you. 

It’s graphic and disturbing, in these scenes, but also does a good job of not glossing over the crimes. 

5 out of 5 Stars

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m a read-it-before-you-watch-it person and have been dying to see the Hulu series that was adapted from this book.  I had heard such mixed reviews on this that I’ve, honesty, been unmotivated to read it.

It seems that people either fall in the camp of loving it or loathing it. 

For me, this one is a hard one to really review, because the writing was so descriptive and well-done.

This complicated love story is set in a small town in Ireland.

Connell and Marianne attend high school together and they are the perfect, “opposites attract,” love story. She comes from a wealthy family, but struggles to fit in at her school. Connell is popular, but has to work for his success.

The reader takes a journey, with Rooney, from the  beginning days of their relationship. No matter how badly they seem to want to start new identities and lives, they always seem to be pulled back into one another’s gravity.

This unrequited love story sounded like a winner, but was really dull. 

The jumpy timeline, the big focus on how ugly she was, and the moodiness of the whole thing just didn’t work for me.

The plot felt shallow, the ending abrupt, and the psychological exploration felt forced. 

I wouldn’t say that I fell in the “hate it camp,” but I definitely did not get the hype. 

3 out of 5 Stars

Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish by Tori Whitaker

Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mother and daughter relationships are some of the most complex and this novel really explores these hurdles around a tragedy that has rippling effects throughout these generations.

Millicent will soon be celebrating her ninety-first birthday and has been holding onto a personal tragedy that she hopes to share one day with her daughter and granddaughter.

Although this is on her agenda someday, her daughter stumbles upon a box filled with mementos of a time that she never knew about that opens all her old wounds.

The reader gets to learn about Millicent’s early married days her infertility struggles, and her strong feminist views that were frowned upon by other women in her life.

Millicent bucks these traditions though by assisting her husband in the successful sales of Sears model kit homes, in a time when women were only expected to care for kids and their home.

While juggling these duties she is forced to deal with a private matter in a public arena, challenging her own mental health and marriage.

If you like Jodi Picoult’s earlier novels, I think you will appreciate this novel that explores a woman’s personal tragedy in the 1950’s, in particular, how women’s fertility and births were treated.

It is infuriating, heartbreaking, and creates a twist that causes one to audibly gasp.

Trigger warnings: not recommended for pregnant women or women who struggle with infertility. 

4 out of 5 Stars

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

This gorgeous novel absolutely blew me away and will be making my, “best of 2020 list.”

I can’t rave enough and encourage you to pick this one up as soon as possible.

In 1714, a woman strikes a deal with a dark god to get her out of a promised marriage to a man that she does not love.

She is given immortality, but she is always forgotten.

She can end her immortal life, at any time, by surrendering her soul to the dark god- a compromise she isn’t willing to make.

This takes you through 1714 all the way to 2014 and hops around through Addie’s scrappy life of survival as she tries to navigate life where she is always forgotten.

When she meets a boy that really can remember her though, she finds just the peace she has always been desiring in her immortal life.

The question is, will the god let her have it?

Honestly, this is the kind of book that transports a reader into an entirely different world.

I was teary-eyed and couldn’t stop turning the pages to see how Addie’s life would work out.

There were some really smart twists that would not have seen coming.

This book is just the kind of book you need right now to escape the realities of pandemic life. 

10 out of 5 Stars

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

If there is one book in my stack that really got me out of my reading slump it is, for sure, this one. 

The Kingdom is a very Disney-inspired theme park that relies on robots to keep the magic alive.

Each of the princesses is a robot and has been programmed to make the day magical for their guests.

All hell breaks loose though when these carefully programmed robot princesses start malfunctioning, threatening the lives of guests and the staff. 

The readers gets to follow along as one princess is accused of murdering a staff member and the clues are slowly leaked to the reader.

This is the kind of suck-you-right-in page turner that will get you back to reading again.

As a fan of Westworld it had that robots behaving badly aspect and really drove home what happens when rely a little too much on technology to do life for us. Get this book ASAP!

5 out of 5 Stars

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

I’m so thankful for our book club because I would have never picked up this book, on my own, had a member not raved so much about it. 

I will say, it is the kind of book that I think you need a twisted sense of humor to appreciate and so it was an easy sell for this reader.

The premise is that the zombie apocalypse has occurred and it is told through the perspective of their pets and other animals that are observing this bizarre behavior.

In fact, the main perspective we get is from a crow. It sounds bizarre, but it was one of the most unique reading experiences that I’ve had in a long time.

I don’t remember the last time that I have laughed out loud at a book, but this was worthy of loud laughter and I found myself sharing passages with my kids and husband as I read it.

I can’t rave enough about what a treat this book was and a perfect Halloween read. All the zombie fun (a little gore), with a whole lot of humor. 

5 out of 5 Stars

The Bright Lands by John Fram

Friday Night Lights meets Stephen King is how this novel was described and why I decided to pick it up.

Who doesn’t love a little horror mixed in with their football?

Joel Whitley was shamed for being gay, in his conservative hometown, and now has made a life for himself in New York. 

He had no plans to return until the disappearance of his brother and now he finds himself back in a town and haunted by memories that he would rather not face.

He finds an unlikely ally in the high school’s star cheerleader. The two begin to unravel an underground secret that the town has kept hidden for years and must team up to bring justice for Joel’s brother.

The book is graphic, particularly some of the sex scenes, but I can see how they helped to move the story.

I  listened to this as an audiobook and thought the narration was great and the story was well-written. 

It’s a solid debut and I look forward to what Fram has in store for us next.

3 out of 5 Stars

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger’s, “Ordinary Grace,” quickly became one my favorite books of all-time.

Krueger is a gifted storyteller and his latest novel really showcases how beautifully he can tell a coming-of-age story.

Fans of Huck Finn are sure to love this adventure story where four orphans run away from the Lincoln Indian Training School after one of the boys commits a terrible crime.

They decide to steal away in a canoe and head out on the Mississippi to find a place of their own after a harrowing experience at the school.

The kids narrowly escape meeting their fate more than once and find love within some very unlikely places.

This story will really pull at your heartstrings and is the kind of novel that a reader can really get swept away in.

Krueger includes some information about these training schools and his research at the end of the book which is, definitely, worth noting. 

5 out of 5 Stars

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Fans of Mexican Gothic are sure to appreciate this creepy ghost tale that would be the perfect little winter read.

Robert Highstead is a postmortem photographer and receives a rather strange request to transport his famous cousin, Hugh, to a chapel to be buried.

Hugh was an author that developed a cult-following around a novel that he wrote called, The Lost History of Dreams.

Robert is used to dealing with the dead though and even is visited often by the ghost of his wife, Sida, on a regular basis.

Between that and his work, he keeps the post-mortem life quite busy.

What should have been a quick trip though, ends up becoming a more difficult one as Robert discovers that he is unable to get into the castle.

Luckily, Hugh’s niece holds the keys to getting back in the chapel, but she will only give these if she can the love story of Ada & Hugh to Robert.

This is a bit of a book within a book experience where you have two storylines that are beautifully built and keep the reader flipping the pages.

It had some smart twists and also a lot of interesting historical information that I would not have stumbled upon had I not read it.

If you like a good gothic historical fiction novel, this is one you might really enjoy! 

4 out of 5 Stars

Read With Me This Year

January 2020 Must-Reads

February 2020 Must-Reads

March- SKIPPED (pandemic brain)

April 2020 Must-Reads

May 2020 Must-Reads

June 2020 Must-Reads

Pandemic Hiatus for eLearning

September 2020 Must-Reads

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enjoy these reviews? here are a few other reads you’ll enjoy this year!

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Happy Reading!


Published November 16, 2020 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of MomAdvice.com. You can read all about her here.

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