Sunday, December 31, 2023

December Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in December:

  • A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcy Little Badger - I technically finished this one on November 30th, but I had already posted my November list, so in December it goes ;) As per usual, I wasn't sure what to expect with this book, but I found it in the Native American Heritage Month section of my Hoopla app and thought I'd give it a go. Let me tell you, I LOVED IT! The best way I could figure out how to describe it is a coming-of-age story with a mix of Indigenous traditions/ stories but potentially in a futuristic time period. I was so invested in all of the characters that I was finding time throughout the day to listen to a few minutes here and there. I also loved that there was a character with they/them pronouns. I not only appreciate the inclusive language used throughout the story but I also was thrilled that it was never addressed or made into a big deal, it was just as normal as using he or she (AS IT SHOULD BE). The story was inventive, original and engaging. And, yes, it is technically a Young Adult book, but I promise this is one for all ages - read it! I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • This Winter by Alice Oseman - I hadn't borrowed this book in the past (even though I love the author) because it is only an hour or so long and I didn't want to "waste" one of my precious downloads on my Hoopla app (I only get 8 so I need to be selective ;)). Well, as luck would have it, I had two unused downloads on the last day on November, so I figured this was the perfect time to snag this one. I would say, that although this is a story about some of the characters in the author's other works, I felt as though it could stand alone and you weren't missing vital information. I'll be honest, I love Charlie and Nick so I was all in from the jump. Even with my bias, I really enjoyed this one for a few reasons. First, besides being partial to the characters, it was about one day, so we were able to dive a little further into the nitty-gritty of what happened. Second, as with all of Alice's works, this does not shy away from important (but often taboo topics) such as self harm, eating disorders, mental illness, etc. I don't think I would buy this one for my personal library mostly due to its length, but if you love the Heartstopper series (or Alice's other books), it's totally worth a read/listen. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman - Well, I'm on an Alice roll, I guess ;) I figured I might as well snag the last one of the books on my Hoopla app that I hadn't listened to yet. This was another coming-of-age story told from two different perspectives (and two different readers for the audiobook, which I love). I love that Alice always uses underrepresented communities, whether that's trans characters or folks who follow different religions (and that it's completely normal - BECAUSE IT IS). I felt like this book was very pointant in today's society, where the generation growing up is one of the lonliest (per studies), yet extremely connected on social media. As always, I appreciate Alice's consistent drive to include difficult topics, such as the coming out process, mental health, self-harm, family dramas, etc. I was definitely pulling for all of the characters, but loved Angel and Jimmy the most. The fact that there was a short story (Ghosted) at the end, which fills in one of the gaps in time in the original story was awesome too! Here's hoping Alice is writing more books or maybe working on another season of Heartstopper, because I'm here for it all! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Obsessed by Allison Britz - I thought it was time for a memoir, so I scrolled through my Hoopla app and this one caught my eye. I will be honest, I don't know much about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so I was interested to dig into this book. (NOTE: If you use the term "OCD" to describe someone who is Type A, a perfectionist, particular about things or anyone who has NOT been diagnosed with OCD, stop!) This is a memoir from Allison, who had the onset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder during high school. I found this incredibly interesting. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that someone's difficulties or tragedies should be used for entertainment purposes, but as someone who has never experienced OCD or had anyone in my life be diagnosed with it, it was extremely eye opening to see how their brain works and how their behaviors may follow. I appreciate Allison's bravery for not only sharing some of the harder experiences she has gone through in her life, but also for talking about mental illness honestly and openly so that we can remove the stigma often associated with it. If you have a chance, I'd absolutely recommend grabbing this. I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli - This one was in my "suggested for you" list on my Hoopla app (since I normally enjoy Becky's books) so I gave it a download. Although I didn't know anything about the book before grabbing it, I figured it'd probably be a coming-of-age story and it was. It was a cute story about coming to terms with who you are, who you want to keep around you, who may be toxic in your life, etc. All Most of the characters made me smile and I was rooting for them all to "win" from the jump. This one definitely took me through #AllTheFeels. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but, in the end, I was satisfied ;) Everything may not have been wrapped up with a pretty pink bow, but that's how life is sometimes. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Feeling of Falling in Love by Mason Deaver - This book popped up in my "recommended" list on my Hoopla app and the burning dumpster on the cover caught my eye (sometimes it's the little things ;)) so I downloaded it. I was hoping for a dumpster fire of a story and you definitely get that with this one. I don't want to ruin it for you, but this is your classic rude person falling in love with the nice person kind of story. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it (and could see it as a cute romcom movie on Netflix or something), but it was a bit predictable. I wouldn't buy it for my personal library, but it'd be a great airplane or next to the pool type book to snag. I would give it an 8 out of 10 (technically I'd say like a 9/10 overall story but a 7/10 for the cliche). 

  • Nobody Wants Your Sh*t by Messie Condo - I've had this book in my "for later" folder on my Hoopla app and thought it was time to grab it. Have you ever heard about "death cleaning"? It's the idea of simplifying your possessions with the thought of what will happen to them AFTER you die. It's not meant to be a morbid thing, more of a compassionate thing with those who you leave behind (and the stuff you leave) in mind. Warning - this book is filled with curse words, so if that offends you, this is NOT the book for you (although there are plenty about this idea with more 'palatable' language). The author isn't trying to be offensive, but more calling us on our BS. It's a quick read/listen and has some really interesting ideas to ponder. For example, items that you love may not be items your loved ones will love, so instead of assuming they'll want them, HAVE A CONVERSATION! Also, sometimes it's better to pass along those items while you're still alive to see the recipient enjoy them. The author also reminds the reader that an item is NOT a memory, so we should feel unburdened by letting the 'thing' be passed along to someone who will use it/ love it. If you don't know me, I could probably live with 10 possessions and be totally content, I don't need "things", but I know that's not always the case (cough, cough... hubby would be a packrat if I let him ;)). Seeing as we don't have children or many earthly possessions, we don't really need to worry about passing our estate to someone, but all of the points raised were still very thought-provoking (and important to think about as our parents age). [PS Did you notice the author's name?! Am I the only one who thinks it might be a joke?!] I would give it an 8 out of 10.  

  • Everything All At Once by Steph Catudal - I didn't realize that this book existed, but when I learned about it I had to download it on my Hoopla app. If you are an ultrarunner, you have probably heard of this author's husband - Rivs Puzey. During the pandemic, Rivs became very sick and this is not only the story of his battle with the illness (and even getting it diagnosed), but it was also about Steph's younger years and how grief has been around her pretty much her whole life. I would say that I was actually hoping to hear more about Rivs, but this wasn't his autobiography, it was about Steph's struggles (and triumphs) in life. She does not hold back, so this book is very raw, honest and, at times, a bit uncomfortable, but I'd rather her make me slightly uneasy than sugarcoat what she's been through. I'm hoping we'd all prefer realness. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake - Well, after a few nonfictions, it was time for me to scroll through the YA section of my Hoopla app. I came across this one and it had good ratings so I decided to give it a go. This one was rough - not because it was badly written but because of the subject matter. It is definitely a heavy topic, but one that (I feel) needs to be addressed more openly and frequently. This is a story about high school students and the aftermath of sexual assault. The first half of the story you get two know a set of twins and their friends, starting to root for them. Then you find out about two sexual assaults that rock their worlds and how they deal with it all. I also appreciate that there is talk of gender identity. It wasn't something that makes or breaks the storyline, but I'm grateful the author broached the topic. I'd say the cadence of the story is quick and doesn't really let up. You are in for a riveting, gripping and important story. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand - My Hoopla app has a "trending" section and most of the audiobooks in December were holiday related. I wasn't in the mood for a romance (in my head, I'm assuming they're all going to be similar to the corny Hallmark movies), so when I saw this pop up, I was intrigued. I didn't notice the small print at the top of the cover ('every scrooge deserves a second chance'), I just saw the title and figured something with "afterlife" in the title would be a darker story than a "traditional" Christmas read, right?! Loandbehold, this is more of a modern day telling of A Christmas Carol. Of course there is more to it than that, but for being a reimagined version, it was a very creative twist on it. I won't say that there isn't some romance sprinkled throughout the story, but surprisingly it doesn't turn out to be the main point. The main point is to LOVE AND GIVE WHILE YOU CAN! But, I'm sure you could've guessed that from the subtitle ;) Adored this retelling of something we've all probably heard/ seen a billion times. If you don't mind reading a Christmas story AFTER the holiday, grab this! Otherwise, put it on your December '24 list! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, December has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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