December Wrap-Up

Happy (almost) January everyone!

Normally, I wait to post my monthly wrap-ups until the first day of the next month. However, since I’ll have an annual wrap-up post coming out this weekend, I figured I’d do this one a day early!

Originally, I was going to try to power through a couple more books today before the end of 2021… But then I decided I didn’t want to rush through my reading; I’d rather take my time. I might end up not meeting one of my goals for the year, but I’ll get really close!

I did better with my reading this month than I have in the past few months! I read a lot of short books, so it looks like I read more than I did, but still! Being able to actually finish several books helped motivate me to get further out of my reading slump.

This month was full of cute holiday reads, Spanish middle grade books, and some inspiring nonfiction. I’d say I’m definitely ending my reading on a high note this year!

Without further ado, here is my wrap-up of all the books I read in December:

To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

Stats and Overall Thoughts:

Books read: 12
Physical books: 3
Audiobooks: 9

Fiction: 10
Nonfiction: 2

Average monthly rating: 4.0
Top Book of December: Where the Light Enters

*To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

5-star books:

  • Where The Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden (Autobiography, Audiobook)
    • I really enjoyed this autobiography! Going into it, I didn’t know much about Jill Biden other than that she’s the wife of Joe Biden and she’s an educator. This autobiography starts from childhood and goes through Joe Biden’s time as Vice President in the Obama administration. That being said, it’s not a political memoir at all. The topic comes up tangentially (since it is a part of her life), but it’s really not focused on that. I loved her perspective on family and learning about the unique way her family was formed. I also really appreciated her perspective on being both a mother and a working woman, and her insistence on doing both in order for her to be happy. Finally, I was really inspired by her experiences as a teacher (she’s been a teacher in quite a variety of contexts) and her perspective on education. Overall, I found it to be a really uplifting and inspiring memoir that could be enjoyed by anyone (even those who may disagree with her family on political matters).
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  • Saraí y el significado de lo genial (Saraí and the Meaning of Awesome) by Saraí Gonzalez and Monica Brown (Realistic Fiction, Early Chapter Book/Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • This was such a cute book! I believe I’ve now read all of the books in this series (if indeed there are only four) and I read them all in Spanish! This one and the one with the Around-the-World Fair are definitely my favorites. I love how diverse her family is and how this diversity was captured in the story in such a natural and authentic way. It’s something that so many kids will be able to relate to. Her dad is from Costa Rica and her mom is from Peru, and she also has a sister who is deaf and speaks primarily in sign language. However, there’s more to these characters than just that, which was refreshing! I especially love food plays such a big role in the story. I’ll go more in to depth in a full review soon, but overall I loved the family (and especially sister) relationships presented in this story, Sarai’s determination and dedication to helping her family, and the themes about adapting to change. Review coming soon!

4.5-star books:

  • The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie (Mystery, Audiobook)
    • Another great murder mystery from Agatha Christie! It had such a unique premise (planned, advertised murders occurring in alphabetical order) and kept me engaged the whole time. And I definitely didn’t see that ending coming! While it wasn’t quite as memorable as Murder on the Orient Express or And Then There Were None, I still really enjoyed this one!

4-star books:

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  • Sweet Talk by Cara Bastone (Romance, Audiobook)
    • This was such a cute audiobook! The first book in this series ended up being a surprise favorite of mine earlier in the year, so I was really excited to listen to the second one! While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one, it was still a really fun listen! The audio production was fantastic, and there was a fun mystery element to the story as well, but overall I just didn’t find it as compelling as the first installment. But that’s okay! It was still very enjoyable!
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  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Literary Classic, Audiobook)
    • While I have seen many different movie and TV adaptations of this story, I had never actually read it until now! It felt very familiar for this reason, but I’m still really glad to have finally read the original story. One of my favorite holiday movies is Scrooged with Bill Murray, and after having read this I feel like that movie was a pretty faithful adaptation of the source material! It’s a classic for a reason; the story is engaging and uplifting and will definitely put you in the holiday spirit.
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  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Graphic Memoir, Paperback)
    • Wow! This book was so different than what I was expecting, and you should definitely take my rating with a grain of salt. In the last few months of this year, I’ve really been struggling with a reading slump. I picked this book up because, even though I expected the content to be on the heavier side, I figured a graphic novel would be something I could get through quickly. Boy was I wrong! There are so many literary references incorporated into this story, and the vocabulary is so… academic? Fancy? I don’t have the vocabulary prowess of Bechdel, so I’ll just say this: Lots of big words. I haven’t read a ton of classics, so a lot of the literary references went right over my head. To be fair, she does explain them, but I had to go back and re-read several sections to really make sense of them. And unfortunately this ended up lessening some of the emotional impact of the story. Also, because of my reading slump, I just wasn’t really in a place to be putting that much effort into it. I love books that challenge me and make me think, but I have to be mentally prepared for it and I just wasn’t this time. I’d like to try it again someday though! It’s an interesting story and in many ways it reminded me of The Glass Castle, which I read earlier this year. It primarily focuses on her complicated relationship with her dad, and the narration is kind of detached emotionally. I thought this was effective in The Glass Castle because it made the story feel more believable to me, but here it just made it a little difficult for me to connect with the story. If you enjoy graphic memoirs, I would definitely recommend checking this one out! Just be prepared to really commit to it and put some effort into making those connections.
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  • Saraí en primer plano (Saraí in the Spotlight) by Saraí Gonzalez and Monica Brown (Realistic Fiction, Early Chapter Book/Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • This was also a really cute installment in the series! I again loved the sister relationships and how they were portrayed (the arguments but also fierce protectiveness), and also how Sarai deals with having to make new friends and handle bullies. The challenges she faced felt realistic. I also really liked how her new friend was quiet and very different from Sarai, and the positive light in which this was shown. Overall, a very cute story! Review coming soon!

3.5-star books:

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  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (Romance, Audiobook)
    • This book seems to have kind of been inspired by the movie Groundhog Day (also starring Bill Murray, like Scrooged which I mentioned above) because it involved repeating the same time loop over and over, which was kind of a fun spin on a Christmas romance story! I liked the premise of it, but the story ended up going in kind of a predictable and boring direction. Still, the chemistry between the two protagonists was cute and fun to read about, but it would have been more impactful overall if the love interest had ended up being someone different. I also read some other reviews complaining that the Groundhog Day time loop doesn’t really end up playing much a role in the story later on, but this actually didn’t bother me too much. I think if it had been overdone it would have felt really repetitive. While the book definitely has its issues, I still found it to be an enjoyable and fun listen for this festive time of year!
Viva Durant and the Madness of Madame Bouchard by Ashli St. Armant |  Audiobook |
  • Viva Durant and the Madness of Madame Bouchard by Ashli St. Armant (Mystery, Middle Grade, Audiobook)
    • I read the first book in this series almost exactly a year ago, and I was excited to listen to the second installment! It’s a cute mystery for middle grade readers. That being said, while the first one could be enjoyed by adults and children alike, this one seemed to be a little more geared toward kids. Which is fine! I just thought the story wasn’t put together as cleverly as the first one was. In the first book, she really solves the mystery on her own. In this one, however, she receives a lot of outside help and doesn’t really even end up solving the mystery herself in the end. I also found the big reveal to be predictable and somehow kind of nonsensical at the same time. Therefore, while the ending was a disappointment, it was still a fun listen that would be great for kids!
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  • The Best Worst Christmas by Kate Forster (Romance, Audiobook)
    • I wanted to listen to some short, cute Christmas romance novels this month, and this one definitely delivered! It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was cute and well-narrated. My biggest issue with it was that romantic relationship seemed a little unrealistic. The premise is that they were high school sweethearts whose relationship ended abruptly and badly, and they never got over each other (and they’ve had nearly a decade to move on). It just seemed a little unbelievable and over-the-top in terms of corny-ness (and this is coming from someone who married their own high school sweetheart!). Aside from the romance being a little hard to buy into, it was still a cute story with some fun holiday moments!
The Christmas Pawdcast by Emily March
  • The Christmas Pawdcast by Emily March (Romance, Audiobook)
    • Another cute holiday romance! While I enjoyed it, I did have some issues with the romance element of this one as well. The romantic connection in this one was almost entirely based on physical appearances. While each individual character had their own interesting backstory, it just didn’t really make sense to me why they connected and fell in love so quickly. Also, some of the comments the male character made (in his head or out loud) about the female love interest were clearly supposed to be cute or romantic, but I found most of them to be incredibly creepy and cringey. I think at one point he calls her his little snickerdoodle. Bleh. It was basically a Hallmark movie in audiobook form, which is obviously something many people enjoy, so I’ll just leave it at that!

3-star books:

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  • The Roommate by Dervla McTiernan (Mystery, Audiobook)
    • I absolutely love the other books in this series, so I was really excited to listen to this prequel! Before I read it, I noticed some reviews complaining about it being anachronistic, but I downloaded it anyway figuring it would be something I could ignore. However, I have to agree with those reviews. This story is supposed to be set in the early 1990s, but there were so many elements of the story that absolutely could not have happened in this 90s. Some examples are texting as the main form of communication, easy access to online banking, recreational use of Photoshop, the music video of Pharrell’s Happy, watching a movie on a laptop, and so much more. I couldn’t even really process my feelings about the story itself because the anachronistic elements made the story completely unbelievable. However, if the story had been set in the present (or within the last decade), it would have been a decent mystery.

How did your reading go in December? Any stand-out books to recommend?

Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading (my blog, but also just in general)!

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