What I Read December 2018

Well, the month (and year!) are not over yet and I hate writing these end of month posts until the actual end of the month, even though it causes a backlog of how many posts I want to write. But I just finished my 125th book of the year, so I think I’m going to call it! If I happen to finish any more books in the next two days, they’ll have to roll over into January.

That being said, December was a fantastic reading month! I read NINETEEN books this month!! I’m sure that must be a personal record. Granted, some of them were really short, one was a graphic novel, and two were on audio. But I wanted to make reading a top priority this month and I really followed through. The books I read this month were even so good that I had quite a few 4.5, 5, and 5* (my extra special rating for best of the best) star books! Here they are!

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere
Rating: 4 stars

It’s been quite awhile, but I enjoyed going back into this sweet and touching Christmas series. I didn’t have a ton of recollection of the previous books – it’s not necessary, but still nice to have a working knowledge of some of the side characters. But I enjoyed this story of Gabe the custodian, Amy the insurance worker, and the little foster girl Maddie who brought them together. It’s definitely a short and oversimplified story, but a nice fast paced and uplifting read during the Christmas season.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Rating: 5* stars

I never, ever would have found this book on my own – or picked it up if I had seen it. But in my facebook book club group so many people started recommending it and I was intrigued. It’s a collection of real life letters between Helene, an American script writer in the 1950’s and Frank, an English bookseller. The letters span about 20 years and were shockingly delightful in their celebration of the written word. I read the entire book in about an hour and I LOVED it. I laughed out loud and I cried at the end. It was awesome and the perfect book for anyone who just plain loves books!

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this sweet story about a single mom and her 12 year old son who inherit a beach cottage in Maine and visit it around Christmastime to fix it up to get ready to sell. The cottage sounded so lovely, it really made me want to start repainting and changing things up in my own house (if only those things were as easy as the book made it sound!). I did find it a bit unbelievable how eager and helpful Jackson, a 12 year old boy, could be. But it was sweet to see the story of dreams coming true and building a new life that is better for everyone. I just wish the ending hadn’t been so abrupt and unbelievably perfect.

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin
Rating: 3 stars

So my rating does not reflect this, but I made the mistake of assuming this was going to be a Christmasy read because of the snow on the cover and because so many other of Martin’s books take place at Christmastime. But in reality most of this book happens around Halloween and only the epilogue is at Christmas. Just so you know!! I saved it to read in December and was a little disappointed. Anyway, it was a sweet little romance between two very likeable characters and an adorable five year old boy who brings them together. But you have to deal with a lot of frustrating hardship trying to pull them apart just too many times. I read it relatively quickly and enjoyed it, just nothing super special about it.

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

Colleen Hoover never lets me down! Despite straying from her usual genre, this psychological thriller was amazing and unputdownable. I’m so glad I started it on a weekend so I could read it all in a day. So good! But also very twisted and dark. If you have trigger warnings with things happening to children, this might be a book to avoid. But the storyline as a whole was so great. And not without her usual amazingly written romance woven throughout the pages! I loved both Jeremy and Lowen so very much. I don’t want to say too much about the plot so I don’t give anything away – but read this book if you like fast paced thrillers. It was SO GOOD.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 2.5 stars

I was pretty disappointed in this Christmas book. Terri Blackstock has proven to be a pretty great author to me over the many years I’ve been reading her, but this particular story felt like it had such an agenda toward all kinds of random little things and it drove me nuts. The first half of the book was so repetitive and boring. There’s a tiny bit of way too fast to be believable romance. I think the second half was slightly redeeming in its message about putting family and personal connection first. Overall, a pretty fast read, but just not that enjoyable.

Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford
Rating: 5* stars

I’ve been slowly working my way through this book for over a year now. Not because it necessarily takes a long time to read, but because I wanted to savor each nugget of wisdom and inspiration. This book is kind of set up like a devotional with 1-2 pages devoted to each topic for the day. I really loved every page and got so much out of it. This would be an amazing book or gift for any mother, especially mothers of littles. I highly, highly recommend it.

One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rating: 4 stars

I made the mistake of assuming this would be a very light and fluffy Christmas read. I was definitely unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster I’d go through with the main characters over a span of nine years. To be fair, I really wasn’t that interested in it the first one hundred pages. But I read through the rest of it over the course of a day as it got a lot more interesting. The premise of the book was pretty frustrating. You can take a good guess on what will happen, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch happen. But overall, I really rather liked it! The characters and their friendships and love for each other even in the worst of times was so strong and endearing. A great Christmastime read.

No Exit by Taylor Adams
Rating: 4.5 stars

Wow, what a crazy book. You will get about a quarter into it and start wondering what in the world could possibly happen for the rest of this book with five strangers trapped in a rest stop overnight during a blizzard? Well, A LOT. Granted it happened on a day I didn’t have anything else going on, but I read this book practically nonstop for an entire day to its end. It was fast paced and stressful and quite a ride. I definitely recommend if you’re into this genre.

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Rating: 4.5 stars

It took me a bit longer than 84, Charing Cross Road to get into it (I missed the letters!), but this little book was every bit as endearing and sweet as the first. Helene’s writing brings so much nostalgia for a time and place that feels magical. A world where people just want to know each other and love books and simply want to experience every bit of life together. This book is basically journal entries of Helene’s trip she finally takes to England. Still so much fun and emotion packed into every entry. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I knew all of the landmarks she visited and there were definitely an overabundance of characters that were hard to keep track of. But it did remind me of my own two trips to Europe and while I wasn’t in England I could easily imagine all the old world charm. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to getting my hands on the third!

The Noel Stranger by Richard Paul Evans
Rating: 2.5 stars

Richard Paul Evans rarely disappoints me and I always look forward to reading his annual newly released Christmas story. But this one just did not cut it for me. While there was nothing wrong with it, per se, I was just bored by it. I get so annoyed by characters (and people!) who are purposely vague when being open and honest would eliminate so much confusion and strife. I get that without that element there wouldn’t be anything to this story. But it annoyed me. And I just couldn’t find much interest in either character.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Rating: 5 stars

I happened to see this book listed on a graphic novel recommendation list and promptly requested it from the library because it looked so fitting. And it was! It’s the PERFECT creative rendering of what it’s like to be an introvert. I’m not entirely sure that all introverts could relate to everything Tung drew and wrote about because it obviously has a lot to do with the rest of her personality type as well. But honestly, basically every page just totally hit it on the head for ME. It’s always nice to see a book like this that validates my own feelings and personality traits, especially with how I could relate to feeling down on myself for being the way that I am. It’s better to learn more about yourself so you can accept the way you are and see the benefits to being a person like that out in the world. I’m never quite sure how to give star ratings to graphic novels, but I’m going with a solid 5 for this one because it was perfect for me. And on the plus side – it only took about half an hour to read and counts as another full book for my end of the year attempts to pile on as many books as possible! 🙂

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
Rating: 3 stars

This is a short and sweet little story about a dying man who was an absent father that provided his son with all the material goods and comfort he’d need, but none of his time or presence. As he’s facing death he has the opportunity to do something that will save the life of a little girl and has a huge decision to make. I did feel that this was perhaps a bit more abstract that I was looking for – or I was just really, really tired when I read it at the end of a long and stressful day. But it’s valuable in its lesson about what really matters in life and nice for a short read if you have it lying around.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (audiobook)
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re in the market for a unique and short (about 3.5 hours) audiobook, this one fits the bill. I was looking for something to listen to besides podcasts for a few days and this was a new release on my Libby app. I had the book earmarked to read at some point, but knew it was unlikely I’d ever have time for it. Anyway, the book is a memoir about the harsh life of a Native American woman (though she only refers to herself as “Indian.”). I have to admit that audiobooks are really hard for me to concentrate on and I never feel like I got as much out of it as if I would have just read it. This memoir is heavy. And it was very disjointed. Disjointed in a way that somehow works, but it was also hard to really feel quite everything she had to say. I also did not find Mailhot to be a very likeable person at all and I had a hard time finding much sympathy for her. Anyway, I don’t regret listening, but still wish I had gone ahead and read it with my eyeballs instead.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (audiobook)
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun little romp of an audiobook (less than an hour!). This book has been on my radar for awhile as something to possibly get for Caden. I saw someone recommend the audiobook online, so I went ahead and checked it out. It’s read by Gaiman with a really great production value. While I can’t say it was terribly exciting for an adult, I think a middle grade reader or child would really enjoy it. Perhaps as a family listen on a long car ride. I did end up buying the book for Caden and it has a lot of great illustrations, so either method would work well with the right age group.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Rating: 5* stars

This is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read! I probably never would have even considered it since horror is a genre I adamantly avoid, but I saw the trailer for the Netflix adaptation and it looked so good I wanted to read the book first. A small group of survivors band together in a house against unknown creatures that upon sight cause people to go mad, murdering anyone within reach and then killing themselves. While I do wish there was a little more information given about the creatures and they weren’t such a vague unknown throughout the entire book, I was still held in rapt attention through every page. I loved how it went back and forth between the present journey and the events leading up to that desperate day. This was quite the page turner and did not disappoint!

Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino
Rating: 3 stars

This book annoyed me so much. I don’t like stories about missed opportunities and longing for a different life when you could take control of your circumstances and make the changes that would bring you your happiness. Stop being a dormat and letting other people make choices for you. That’s really all this book is. One long lament to the wrong choices that were made and a life filled with the resulting unhappiness. Too much angst and strife to get to that happy ending so much further down the line.

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak
Rating: 3 stars

I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book. Jackie is a 16 year old who just lost her entire family in a car accident. She is sent to live with her mom’s friend and their 12 kids – 11 of which are boys – 6 of which are in the high school with her. The family itself is just a bit ridiculous and unbelievable. But I found most of the characters to be endearing and I did like her actual “life with the Walter boys.” I just had problems with the total lack of parental involvement that surely would happen if the situation were real. Jackie also finds herself constantly trying to figure out which of two of the boys she truly had feelings for. The one we’re supposed to be rooting for is such an egotistical jerk and I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for him. But then the second one starts coming across as so immature and pathetic that you don’t want her to pick him either. I think I would have liked the book more if it had nothing to do with falling in love with one of the boys and was truly just her new life in that family.

Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5* stars

I bought this book on a whim because Colleen Hoover (my favorite) is constantly talking about her author best friend Tarryn Fisher and other than their combined series, I haven’t read anything by her. And I’m so glad I did because this book was good. I read it in a day because I was so drawn into the story. Senna, an emotionally complicated and distanced writer is raped in the woods and found by Isaac, an oncologic surgeon. Drawn to help her, he shows up at her door every single night to help her feel safe, despite how she gives him nothing of herself in return. Years later they are both drugged and kidnapped and wake up in a deserted locked cabin in the wilds of Alaska. I was pretty apprehensive about reading this book because the original cover (not the one above) made it seem like the book would be some kind of weird and kinky romance about a woman and her kidnapper. It’s not. At all. It’s about learning to trust and learning to love and opening yourself up to the unexpected. Overall, I found this book incredibly sobering, but I also could not put it down. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff
Rating: 5 stars

I’ve fallen behind on my book reviews. 🙁 I’ve fallen behind on all of my blog posts the last few weeks. Sewing deadlines have taken over my life. I finally finished those and now I’m on to wrapping and baking and getting everything ready for Christmas. So I’m making the decision to skip writing in depth reviews on the last few books I’ve read. But I wanted to start back up again with this book I finished today because I loved it! And if you’re looking for a lighthearted and sweet holiday read, this would be perfect.

Charlie (Charlotte) is co-editor of the high school newspaper and an overachieving perfectionist to a tee. She has zero tolerance for people breaking the rules or being late for anything. She develops a crush on the school’s most popular star student and athlete, Teo. She decides to rig the paper’s Secret Santa exchange so she can get Teo gifts that prove how perfect they are for each other. The only problem is that Charlie has no idea what Teo likes. So she solicits help from Teo’s cousin J.D. – also known as the most annoying person in the world. J.D. has been a constant headache to her as the paper’s photographer and is late to every meeting, driving her insane. But for the sake of Christmas, Charlie and J.D. are forced to spend a lot of time together coming up with the perfect combination of gifts that will win Teo’s heart. A friendship eventually emerges and Charlie’s heart begins to turn.

This book is pretty much a perfect YA romance for me. If you love YA as much as I do, you’ll like this book – guaranteed. It was lighthearted and funny and J.D. was an absolute delight! Charlie definitely had her faults, but they were things I could relate to. I also loved the genuine friendship she sheared with her best friend throughout the story. I feel like so many holiday books revolve around someone being grumpy and anti-Christmas. This was a refreshing twist with everyone excited and full of Christmas spirit. I also loved that so much of the book was about finding the perfect gifts for the Secret Santa exchanges. I adore gift giving and it was fun to read about people who found as much joy in it as I do.

Overall, I loved this book. It was one of my favorites of the year! I think it’ll definitely be a re-read every December. One of my favorite parts about the book was the almost constant interaction between Charlie and J.D. That made the whole story a lot more entertaining and fast paced. It was such a sweet book that will bring anyone a smile this Christmas!

Cozy Christmas Reads: Heartwarming Books for the Christmas Season

cozy christmas

Every year around Thanksgiving I start to feel the deep seated need to be cozy – snuggling in with candles, decorative tree lights, piles of blankets, and books that are delightfully filled with Christmas cheer.  I try to hold off on holiday books until two weeks before Christmas, but often give in sooner. December is such a magical month, why not add to the magic by filling your mind with books that will only enhance your Christmas spirit? It’s one of my favorite parts of the season!

I’ve come up with a rather extensive list of suggestions for your own cozy Christmas reads! I’ll start with books I’ve read and loved in the past and then share what I’m planning to read this year.

Tried and True Christmas Authors

Richard Paul Evans

Truly one of the best authors I’ve ever read. His books will make you cry, laugh, and remember for years to come. (His The Walk series is incredible!) Richard Paul Evans’ Christmas books are especially meaningful and I highly anticipate reading a new one each year. There are so many to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites.

Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans

Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

  • Lost December – A modern day retelling of the prodigal son. Beautiful!

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

The Christmas Box

  • The Christmas Box – Another three book series. Perhaps the Christmas books he’s most well known for, earning a mention on the cover of all the other books! Looking back at my book spreadsheet for the last seven years, I’m not sure I’ve actually read this one! I’ll have to add it to my list asap.

Holly Martin

Martin has written a handful of delightful books, and her Christmas series are particularly fun. They’re a bit more on the fluffy side, but not so much that they’ll bore you or be too predictable. I highly recommend any of her books!

Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin

One Hundred Christmas Proposals

Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Shoes

  • The Christmas Shoes  – If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, surely you’ve heard this song! While the song definitely gets annoying, the book is so fantastic! This is the first in a seven (though it appears more like five related books) part series called The Christmas Hope series. I’ve read the first four and they’re basically guaranteed to make you cry. Which is a huge bonus in my opinion! I want all the feels in my reading life, but especially around Christmas.

Debbie Macomber

Macomber is an author you’ve surely at least heard of, even if you’ve never read her books. She seemed to turn out at least one Christmas book a year and there are tons of backlog you could read. As an author, a lot of her books are hit or miss to me. But there are a few Christmas books in particular that I really enjoyed.

Twelve Days of Christmas

Starry Night

Melody Carlson

Carlson was always one of my go tos for a great Christmas novel. I’ve missed some of her newest books, but definitely plan on adding them to my list.

Christmas at Harrington's

The Christmas Pony

Individual Christmas Books that I Loved

Comfort and Joy

Comfort & Joy – Kristin Hannah is an amazing storyteller. This Christmas book blew me away.

Paper Angels

Paper Angels – Beautiful book about a simple act of kindness changing the lives of each other.

Christmas Roses

Christmas Roses – An historical Christmas romance that is sure to win your heart.

A Christmas to Remember

A Christmas to Remember – With a similar writing style as Holly Martin, any Christmas books by Jenny Hale are sweet and endearing.

The Paper Bag Christmas

The Paper Bag Christmas – An unexpected delight about the true meaning of Christmas spirit found by two boys volunteering their time in a hospital.

Remembering Christmas

Remembering Christmas – Joy is often found in unexpected circumstances.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street – I just read this one and think it’s a delightful story full of heart for  people of any age!

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading this December

The Noel Diary

The Noel Diary – St. Nick will be bringing me this book in its physical form because I’m confident I’m going to love and treasure it. From the reviews, it looks essential for jumping into the Christmas season!

Merry and Bright

Merry and Bright – This year’s Macomber novel looks to be one of my favorite tropes. Fall in love on paper and then realize you don’t like the person in real life. It’s at the top of my list!

Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris – Historical fiction is not a genre I usually gravitate toward. But this book in particular looks beautiful and bittersweet – the type of book I generally love. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Glad Tidings

Glad Tidings – Bakers and writers, what more could I want in a story! This looks like another promising Macomber holiday treat.

We'll Always Have Chrsitmas

We’ll Always Have Christmas – Another book about a baker! I read a lot of books about bakers. This one looks especially fun and endearing.

Christmas at Hope Cottage

Christmas at Hope Cottage – This looks like the perfect book to read right around Christmas. Full of cheer and magic!

Thanks for checking out my list! I would love to hear your favorite cozy Christmas reads!