December Reads

I’m writing this on Christmas day, though my hope is that I’ll have another book finished before the end of the month, so fingers crossed!  I got six books for Christmas, which brings my 2018 TBR list up to 10 already, and I’ve still got some leftover from 2017.  Of the 69 books that I was gifted or bought in the year of 2017, I have 19 unread books.  Of those 19, I did not plan on finishing 5 of them, so really, in the end, I’ve only got 14 unread from the year, which I think is pretty good.  My goal for 2018 is to definitely read those 14 books, especially before I buy another book stack.  All of my holiday books have been purchased, so the hope is to read those 14 unread books before February, which will be when I’m next seeing Erin.  That being said, I do also plan on rereading The Mortal Instruments series quite soon, and I’ve been craving a mini David Mitchell reread, so we’ll see how far I get into the holiday books.

And, drumroll please, my final count for the year of 2017 is 82 books!  Look at how cute it all looks put together on Goodreads.

But, enough of all that.  Let’s talk about this month’s books!

What: The Fireman by Joe Hill
When: 5/30-12/2
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Okay, two things about this book.  I know that I started it in May, and thus it seems like it shouldn’t be shelved as a read in December book, but I only read about 70 pages in May, and then abandoned it literally until December.  This was not because it was bad (quite the opposite, in the end), but because I just wasn’t feeling the adult fiction vibe.  Also, I didn’t mean to try to read everything Joe Hill’s written, but apparently I am?  I first read Horns because the movie was excellent, and then read A Heart-Shaped Box because a coworker let me borrow it, and apparently I only have two books left after The Fireman?  Well, clearly I’m continuing to read for a reason.

I’ve read exactly one novel by Stephen King, and that was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  It is, by no stretch of the imagination, an even remotely scary book.  And yet, I was pretty damn terrified.  Most of his movies scare the heck out of me, so I was a little wary going into Horns, which was why, ultimately, I decided to watch the movie before reading the book.  And boy, was I wrong in thinking Hill would write like his father at all.  To be fair, however, I don’t really know what King writes like, so it’s possible Hill does, but I find Hill’s stories a lot funnier, creepier in weird, sarcastic ways, and much more complex.  There’s so much going on at any given moment, but all of it ties together really splendidly.

The Fireman itself is about a post-apocalypse (kind of) universe where a disease has caused people to burn up from the inside out.  The main character, Harper, joins a group of people that will definitely remind you of a cult who have learned how to live cohesively with the disease.  She befriends a character, whom the novel is named after, John, who can control the “scale”.  And while all that is well and good, the thing that I enjoyed the most about this book was the level of feminism in it.  I admit that I was skeptical going in.  Not only is Harper a woman, she’s pregnant and has recently left her husband, so I was ready to be less than pleased about her representation.  Hill knocked it out of the freaking park.  Harper is an individual in every way possible, and doesn’t depend on the different men in her life.  She’s strong, she’s weak, she’s a badass, she’s terrified, she’s maternal, she’s batshit, she’s everything all at once, and I freaking love her.  Yes, the scifi half of this was excellent, but Harper’s character really made this story for me.

What: That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
When: 12/3-12/5
Rating: ★★★
Review: I wanted to like this book, and I think it’s because of the cover.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t particularly love it either.  Going in, I thought I was going to be reading about a modern-set novel with Victorian elements.  Why modern-set?  There’s genetic coding, pretty futuristic technology, and a heck ton of equality.  And yet, I admit I’m still not quite sure when this was supposed to take place.  Reading the Goodreads summary, I see that it is, indeed, supposed to be future-set, but there was just so much that led me to believe that we were either in the mid-1900s or just somewhere before the 21st century.  The equality was just–over the top, too.  I know this sounds awful, but it wasn’t realistic in the slightest.  The world was almost utopian because there was no muss, no fuss about literally anything.  Really, it was like Jane Austen, but with genetic upgrades.

My problem with this book is that it’s misleading.  There are snippets in between each chapter from the past (I think?  These were super unclear, too.) that talk about everything that Queen Victoria I did in order to create this utopian society–how she married into a different race, how she opened the gates for same-sex marriages, etc. (also, all while in the late 1800s, so there’s that).  And all of it was based around the Computer (basically God), which shows you your genetic makeup, and then I think you could change things if you wanted, and you could also see your best possible genetic match via the Computer, and all of this sounds incredibly interesting, but there’s only one scene that has anything to do with this in the entire book, though a lot of it is built around this.  It was just really a let down.  Don’t get me wrong, the characters were great, and that’s why it got 3 stars and not 2, but the story was just–meh.

What: Beyond the Bright Blue Sea by Lauren Wolk
When: 12/6-12/8
Rating: ★★★★
Review: And then there’s this gem!  I picked up a few middle grade books the last time I was out shopping, and I’m so glad that I did.  This novel follows Crow, a 12-year-old who washed up on one of the Elizabeth islands outside of Massachusetts as an infant.  She’s lived there all her life with Osh, Mouse, and Miss Maggie, and this is her journey of finding out where she came from and who she is.

This was such an adorable novel.  I loved it from beginning to end, and it was so well written.  Each of the characters had such big personalities, and I found myself vastly interested in all of them.  The story itself was full of twists and emotional moments that I was not expecting, and it was such an enjoyable journey.  I only gave it four stars instead of five because it was just good, not exceptional.  I really loved reading it, and I’d definitely recommend it, but it didn’t leave me going OH MY GOD at the end.

What: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
When: 12/10-12/16
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I’ve talked about Maggie before, so I’m not going to rehash it all here, so this review will be fairly short.  This is my seventh time reading this novel, and I have one of the lines from it tattooed on me.  Shiver is the first in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and it’s very likely you’ll see reviews for LingerForever, and the standalone Sinner, pop up in the next month or two.  Shiver tells the beginning of Sam and Grace’s story.  Grace is a girl trapped in a human body that wants to be a wolf running through the woods, and Sam is a boy trapped in a wolf’s body that wants to be a human holding Grace’s hand.  The story starts with the wolves attacking Grace, and just unravels from there.  Yes, there are werewolves.  Yes, this is, as Maggie calls it, a capital K Kissing book, and holy hell, there’s a ton of romance in it, and it’s beautiful.

This is easily, hands-down, my favorite of Maggie’s books.  It might honestly even just be my favorite book, which is saying a lot because hello, Harry Potter.  I’ve already reviewed three Maggie books this year, and talked about her in my Auto-Buy Authors blog, so I’m just going to leave you with that.  It’s my favorite of hers, and maybe my favorite book ever, so you should definitely read it.  I even named one of my cats after the main character, Grace.

What: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
When: 12/10-12/18
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: This was so gosh dang cute.  I absolutely adored every second of this book.  The format of it is really interesting, too, and what I think made me like it so much.  The story follows 11-year-old Alex, who is IN LOVE with space.  His dream, at the beginning of the book, is to send his Golden iPod, which he’s been recording Earth sounds on, into space on a rocket so that other lifeforms will someday intercept it and hear what Earth is all about.  What ensues after that is the journey of a lifetime.  It’s full of all sorts of drama and angst that I did not expect from this sweet-sounding story, and it nearly tore my heart out.

The format of the story are Alex’s recordings, and I want you to just imagine how an 11-year-old talks–super fast and all at once.  Alex is over the moon excited about space and his hero, Carl Sagan, and talks about both of these pretty constantly.  This was a super fast read, and very, very enjoyable overall.

What: Shadows of the Dark Crystal by J.M. Lee
When: 12/21-12/27
Rating: ★★★
Review: I was going to say that I probably had too high expectations for this book, but then I read about how the Jim Henson Company went on this Author Quest to find the perfect author to write the story, and now I’m even more frustrated at how poorly written this was.  The story relied heavily on the fact that its readers have seen the original movie.  And while I have, that was probably almost 20 years ago, and I was a small child when I first saw it.  Yes, there were illustrations in the book, which helped–and which were beautiful–but the world and the races both were not described well.  It was really hard for me to find my footing in this book and to understand what it looked like.  I could follow the plot well enough, but it was pretty hard to figure out what the Skeksis Lords, the different Gelfling characters, and uvRa (is that his name?) looked like, not to mention the Dark Wood, Sog, and the Crystal Castle.  Stone-in-the-Wood was pretty easy, but that’s because we only spent a chapter there.

Overall, I gave this novel 3 stars because I enjoyed the characters and the plot.  It was interesting to dive back into the world of the Dark Crystal, and to find out where it all began.  If you’ve never seen the movie, though, I don’t recommend this as you’ll feel pretty lost.

I thought I might be able to read another book before the end of 2017, but alas, this is it!  My intention is to greet the new year strong, to read as much as possible in January, and to wrap up the remaining 14 books from 2017 before we get too far into 2018.  I’ve got a lot of reading goals for 2018, and I can’t wait to see what new worlds I get to explore.  Happy New Year!

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