December Wrap-Up

Happy (almost) January everyone! And happy (almost) 2023!!

Despite being sick and traveling (not at the same time!) in December, I actually managed to read quite a bit this month! I’d say it was a good month of reading, too, because even the books I rated lower were still enjoyable in their own way.

Early in December, I read The Selection series to try to get out of my reading slump, and it worked! I read the first three books really quickly. They certainly aren’t literary masterpieces, but I was entertained! However, I had to DNF the fourth book because it started to just feel really annoying rather than entertaining.

Not long after that, I got the flu and was out sick for several days. (I’ve somehow managed to avoid getting COVID during the last few years, so this was the most sick I’ve been in quite a while.) Although I felt terrible, one nice thing was getting to read more! I managed to read a mystery novel, a cute Christmas romance, and a middle grade book that I told one of my students I would read a while ago. So that was nice! I managed to read nearly a book a day while I was out sick.

Luckily, I recovered just in time to go to Disneyland with my husband and my in-laws! It was so much fun. I’d been to Disneyland before, but never during the holiday season. On the flight down, I finished listening to The Dutch House. I loved it! It nearly brought me to tears as I reached the end on the plane. Our return trip home, however, was impacted by the winter storms that raged across the country right before Christmas. Our flight was canceled, so we decided to do a last minute road trip to try to make it home by Christmas Eve. And we did it! But it was exhausting. Again, a positive to this situation was having a more extended opportunity to read. So, while trapped in the car, I managed to start and finish Becky Chambers’ To Be Taught, If Fortunate. I probably could have finished yet another audiobook while in the car, but I was beyond tired at that point so I just tried my best to sleep. It was quite a way to end the year, to say the least!

I also added several books to my collection this month that I’m really excited about!

A couple of these were gifts I got for my husband, but I’m still excited to add them to our shared collection!

Over the last few days, I’ve been playing around with a spreadsheet my husband built for me. I told him I had a dream about having a spreadsheet where I could catalogue my book collection and track all of the important details about them, and that the data would be connected to graphs that would update with each new book I added to (or removed from) my collection. And he made it a reality! It’s proving to be a lot of work up front to catalogue all of my books from scratch, but once I set up that foundation it will be relatively easy to add books as I go. I’m so excited to see what I learn about my collection once I have all of the data entered!

Tomorrow, though, I get to collect all of the data from my 2022 year of reading. It’s one of my favorite annual traditions (my husband helps me put my graphs together while we watch When Harry Met Sally), and I’m excited to share that post with all of you in the next few days!

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: 8
Physical books: 6
(Books that I physically own: 5)
Audiobooks: 2

Fiction: 8
(Historical fiction: 1)
Nonfiction: 0

Average monthly rating: 3.75
Top Book of December: The Dutch House & To Be Taught, If Fortunate

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

5-star books:

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Historical Fiction, Audiobook)
    • This book was narrated by Tom Hanks and he did an incredible job. Every time I listened to it I felt like Tom Hanks was sitting with me and telling me a story. I was completely captivated and engrossed no matter what was happening in the book. His beautiful narration no doubt had a great impact on my enjoyment and experience reading this. I loved it, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s very much a character-driven story; very little actually happens. However, I enjoyed the themes it explored having to do with family, memory, forgiveness, loyalty, and what we owe to each other. The story spans basically an entire lifetime of our main character, and I thought it was really interesting to see how his trauma from early on carried over into his adulthood. Not only that, but how he was impacted by how his sister processed her trauma. His attachment to and connection with her definitely impacted all of his other relationships, but he could never let go. He owed her a lot, but at what cost to him? I also thought it was interesting to see what each of the siblings was willing/able to forgive and what they couldn’t (and how they differed from each other in that regard). I definitely recommend this one, but especially the audio version!
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (Science Fiction, Audiobook)
    • I read this one for a virtual book club I joined recently, and I’m so glad I did! This is a book I likely wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. A little bit of it went over my head at first (it also didn’t help that I listened to it on a last minute, overnight road trip through California after a canceled flight!), but after listening to the discussion during the book club meeting I got a lot more out of it. A true testament to the power of community when it comes to reading! This book was the perfect example of how to naturally and authentically include diversity in a story. I also loved how the narrator wasn’t a scientist (she was an engineer, but her work was very different than that of her peers). This was perfect because the majority of readers of this book likely aren’t scientists either, so this made the more scientific aspects of the story easier to understand since the narrator explained it as a non-scientist. This story was also interesting because it wasn’t really plot- or character-driven. It was more theme-driven, which was fascinating. I loved the questions it posed about sacrifice for vocation, loneliness and the different types of human connection, and the value of the pursuit of knowledge. How much sacrifice or harm is acceptable when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge? Is the pursuit of knowledge selfish if it’s not being shared with others? Or if it wasn’t requested by others in the first place? Is it valuable if what is learned doesn’t immediately have a practical application for others? It’s a quick read, but it packs in some really big ideas! Something else that’s important to note is that the ending is really ambiguous. I loved it, but it might not sit well with all readers. I highly recommend this book, and I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Becky Chambers’ work!

4.5-star books:

  • The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin (Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • This was such a cute book! It was light and entertaining but still touched on some very real and important topics in a way that would be accessible to kids of a variety of ages. Review coming soon!

4-star books:

  • The Shadow Lily by Johanna Mo (Mystery, Paperback)
    • I really liked this one! And I was right in predicting that I would like it more than The Night Singer, the first book in the series (you can find my mini review HERE). It had all the things that I liked about the first one (the atmospheric writing and setting, interesting lead detective, etc.), but the main mystery was much better developed and had a more satisfying ending. I don’t want to say too much in order to avoid spoilers, but I definitely recommend this one! And you could probably still enjoy it even without having read the first one. I can’t wait for the next installment(s) to be translated into English!
  • All I Want for Christmas Is You by Miranda Liasson (Romance, Paperback)
    • This was an impulse buy from Target a few years ago. I saw that Bernese Mountain Dog puppy on the cover and just couldn’t resist! I don’t read a lot of romance and I don’t really read many holiday-themed books either, but I still enjoyed this one for what it was! It’s a Hallmark Christmas movie in book form, so if that’s your thing, this is the perfect book for you! If it’s not your thing, then you probably wouldn’t enjoy this. I honestly don’t have very strong feelings about it either way. I needed something light and comforting to read while I was sick, and this fit what I needed perfectly. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it (the writing is fine, pacing is fine, characters are developed enough), it just has to be something that suits your preferences.

3-star books:

  • The Selection by Kiera Cass (YA Dystopian Fiction, Paperback)
    • Is this book well-written? No. Does the plot make sense? Not really. Is the dystopian setting necessary? Nope. Did I enjoy reading it anyway? Yes! It’s silly, the political context for the dystopian setting is nonsensical, and the romance/love triangle is totally ridiculous (even the love triangle in Twilight is better than this), but it was still a fast-paced and easy read that sucked me in, which is exactly what I needed to get me out of my reading slump.

2.5-star books:

  • The One by Kiera Cass (YA Dystopian Fiction, Paperback)
    • Well, this was at least better than the second book in the series! While I enjoyed this enough as I was reading it, there were just so many things that didn’t make sense. She doesn’t actually do anything in the end to prove her love to the guy she chooses, and they just kind of magically get a happy ending with no justification. The resolution on the losing end of the love triangle is convenient and kind of nonsensical as well. There are also a couple of deaths that are unnecessary and/or don’t make any sense in the context of the plot. In addition to that, the resolution to the conflict with the rebels is, again, convenient and nonsensical. While there was at least some action in this one to keep you entertained, it was just disappointing to get to the end and realize that our protagonist had literally no impact on the story. Nothing she did actually influenced her love interests and who she ended up with, she didn’t really have an impact on the rebels, the country, or the government… Everything that happened in the story would have happened regardless of her contribution (or lack thereof). The overall worldbuilding of the series was also incredibly sexist. I think this was intentional and was meant to be some sort of social commentary, but the poor execution meant that it just ended up being sexist itself. The girls were catty, judgmental, and stereotypical. And the sexist laws and set-up of this dystopian world were never really explained or justified. I’ve seen many reviewers make this same comment and I would have to agree: this would have been better if it were written as fantasy rather than a dystopian novel. If it were fantasy, you wouldn’t necessarily have to try to explain how this world came to be and why. It would just be how it was, and our protagonist could fight against it. As a dystopia, though, it didn’t make sense at all.

2-star books:

  • The Elite by Kiera Cass (YA Dystopian Fiction, Paperback)
    • When I got to the end of this one, I thought, “Seriously? That’s it?” Literally nothing happened in this book. Our protagonist just flip flops between love interests at the drop of a hat, and not much happens other than that. She makes stupid choices and is shocked when they have negative consequences and negatively impact the people around her. Anytime she’s not 100% pleased with what the prince does, she immediately runs to her ex. Then, he doesn’t really do anything, but she still decides that she doesn’t want him either and goes back to wanting the prince. Why do either of these guys want to be with her after her selfishness and indecision? It’s totally unclear. Again, though, it’s fine as long as you’re not looking for anything serious! But you definitely have to be in the mood for something fluffy with very little substance to enjoy this series.

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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