Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday ever, and this year was no exception. LOOK AT THIS BOOKSTACK:
I also maybe got even more than that?
I swear, these are my last books of 2018. I have SO many books to read in 2019, and I honestly cannot wait.
I’ve had the most incredible last weekend of the year, filled with high tea at Jolie and the Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet with Jen. It was just truly one of the fanciest weekends ever, and I’m spending tonight with her (New Year’s Eve), and I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for us.
There have been a ton of great books this year, so without further rambling, here are December’s reads. I’ll link it at the end, too, but don’t forget to check out my Top 10 Reads of 2018 while you’re here!
What: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeves
Review: The movie for this came out in the middle of the month, and as I was super excited when I first saw the trailer, I knew I had to read this so I could go see the movie. I fear it may be one of those few movies that’s better than the book, but I also think that’s because the trailers have built it up to be this huge, epic journey that fits really well on the big screen and just wasn’t given enough time to develop on the page. I felt like this easily could have been another 100-200 pages, and I would have loved it. There’s so much packed into this world in so short a time, and I just wanted more time spent in it, plain and simple.
This story follows Tom, even though the movie will lead you to believe it’s Hester’s story (it is, I honestly cannot fathom why Tom is the narrator), who lives on London in a town eats town world. Ever since a past, likely nuclear, war nearly destroyed the Earth, cities have mobilized and are hellbent on destroying each other in a never-ending war. But London has uncovered a weapon from the Ancient War, and are preparing to use it on static cities.
What: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
Review: Oh god, this was good. I knew it was going to be. It ticks a lot of my boxes right from the summary, so it really just came down to the writing on whether or not I would like it. The story follows Chloe, who is trying to fix her autistic sister, Ivy, up with a boy at her school, Ethan, in an attempt to teach Ivy about independence. It backfires on Chloe in several ways, but worst of all is that Ethan’s older brother, David, is the student Chloe hates most at her own school, and now they’re stuck chaperoning their sibling’s dates.
BOXES CHECKED. This was just adorable. It’s super predictable, but also threw me for some serious loops. The writing is excellent, and I’ll definitely be reading more by this author. The relationships in this were amazing, both familial and romantic. I really appreciated the sisters in this. We don’t get to see a lot of sisters as friends in YA, I think, or even siblings in general, and it always feel special when it is in there. Which, coincidentally, right after I read this, I read another amazing sister friendship. This also had a fantastic, realistic, and diverse representation of autism. It was just all-around great, okay. Read this book.
What: Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
Review: Sometimes, I send Jen texts that just say: I found another Ava Lavender book. The really sad part is that I read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender in December 2016, which was before I started posting wrap-up reviews. Actually, you know what would be an amazing idea? A post just about that book and how it’s affected my reading since then. OH MY GOSH HERE YOU GO.
Also WOW. I don’t have words, so here, have this picture I posted on my Instagram story after I finished reading it:
I said I was going to be coherent, but I don’t know how to be? This may be one of the best books I’ve ever read? I proceeded to tag several of my friends in this story post, saying, “This is a little book about big magic and powerful women, both of which you all are.” There are not enough words in the English language to describe my love for this book.
Summer of Salt follows two sisters, Georgina and Mary. They’re about to turn 18, and every woman in their family has discovered her magical power/gift before their 18th birthday, with the exception of Georgina. And though she’s starting to accept that maybe she’ll just be normal her whole life, she doesn’t have a heck of a lot of time to focus on it because her great-great-great-more greats-aunt, who once turned herself into a bird, has disappeared. The problem is, this bird has been the source of birdwatchers all over the world flocking on Georgina’s little island, and now, everyone is panicking.
This is about magic and romance and secrets and sisters and all sorts of different kinds of love and feminism and empowerment and bravery and beauty and just ugh. It’s a lot, and it’s wonderful.
What: The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket
Review: Perhaps one of my biggest goals for 2019 is finishing this damn series. Also, UM, I LIKED THIS??? Do you want to know why? Because I know why. IT WASN’T PREDICTABLE! Like, I actually did not know what was going to happen. Olaf wasn’t wearing a disguise. People didn’t not believe the Baudelaire’s. Poe made a surprising guest appearance, and THEY DIDN’T GO WITH HIM! I’m not even saying spoiler because these books have been out for forever and a day, but guys. I really liked this. I read the first half of it in one sitting because I was so invested in it. This is a game-changer. I might read the next one this month, too. Stay tuned to find out.
What: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Review: I have a lot of feelings about this book. Like, a lot. Like, I bought the sequel the day after finishing this. It’s about a future Manhattan, where a 1000-floor tower basically is its own world. Things are high-tech, the super rich live on the top and the poor live on the bottom, there are drugs and parties and a lot of different romances. There are hoverboards and other futuristic devices, like contacts that enable you to pretty much not have a phone, gorgeous fashion that, come on, seriously, if this ever gets made into a movie or TV show, I can’t wait to see the fashion, and a prologue that plot twisted the heck out of me at the end.
I saw several someones call this a “dark, futuristic Gossip Girl“, and while I’ve never seen the show, I know enough to understand the comparison. And yeah, I’d say that’s pretty dead on. It was such a quick read, and it’s really just fluff with some flashy future tech stuff thrown in. It’s super dramatic, and full of secrets and romance, but it was really good, and I can’t wait to read the next one.
I feel like I have to note this in case anyone reads this and then gives me the evil eye: I do not condone incest. The relationship in this is between a sister and her adopted brother, and by enjoying this book, I am not saying that that is okay in the real world. But this is fiction, guys, and sometimes fiction takes liberties on the real world.
What: Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry
Review: I had a very visceral reaction to this book. Like, my whole body hurt when I was done with this. I honestly felt like there was fire in my chest, and I just wanted to find the nearest pillow and scream into it. I don’t want to get into religion in a book review, but suffice to say, this reminded me, very vividly, why I walked away from the church 13 years ago and why I am never going back.
I had a funny encounter with this book with the head of my HR department. She asked me what I was reading one day at lunch, and I just hung my head in despair. She couldn’t have possibly picked a worse day to ask that question. “Heretics Anonymous?” I said nervously. She stared at me. I showed her the cover. “You know, like when they find Jesus on toast.” She stared some more, then gathered up her lunch from the microwave and left. So. That happened. Hey, this book is a great conversation starter, so there’s that. I really enjoyed it; please don’t let this review convince you not to read it. It was spectacularly well done, which is probably why I had such a wild reaction to it. The characters were phenomenal. Each of the Heretics had their own specific personalities, and we spent time getting to know their beliefs (aside from Max, but he’s got a special place in my heart). The writing was top notch, and the plot took some unexpected turns. I also thought it handled Catholicism really well, and asked some important questions.
What is this about? Michael, atheist, is forced to attend St. Clare’s, a private Catholic school. He’s pretty convinced that it’s going to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to him until he meets Lucy, who wants to be a priest, and who invites him to join her secret after-school club, Heretics Anonymous. Who are they? A group of misfits that want to challenge the status quo. Lucy, Catholic and wants to be a priest, but can never because she’s a woman; Eden, Pagan and sick of people getting her specific branch wrong (it’s Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheism); Avi, Jewish and gay and feeling like he’s never going to fit in anywhere, especially at home; and Max, cloak-wearing adventurer who just wants to be left alone.
What: Kindness, Clarity, and Insight by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama
Review: I think it’s kind of funny that I read this at the same time as ^^^. I honestly didn’t even mean to, but there was so much theology talk in my previous read that it immediately put me in the mood. This was a series of talks the Dalai Lama gave during a visit to the US. The first half discussed more the moral aspects of living a good life, and the second half was heavy on the Buddhist doctrines. Suffice to say, I enjoyed the first half more. His Holiness can get a little wordy when talking about the doctrines, and it starts to feel like a textbook, so a lot of my study into Buddhism has been written by other people.
But the first half of this was excellent! There were several parts that I highlighted, and that I feel really apply to all aspects of life. It was very engaging, and very heart-warming to know there are still people in the world striving to make it better.
What: Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom by Colleen Saidman Yee
Review: I had a difficult time with this book. I started out really liking it. I was doing that fast nod thing at different parts, and I kept highlighting different pieces. There were two things, however, that shifted my view on it a little. This follows Colleen Saidman Yee’s life from childhood until now, and discusses not only her journey with yoga, but her journey with life. A lot of the really early stuff, before Saidman Yee discovered yoga, was very captivating. She had a lot of excellent points to make, and her discussion on living as a woman was excellent.
However, pretty much as soon as she discovered yoga, it became “this teacher said this” and “this practitioner said that”, and I felt like there were no longer any original opinions. I felt like I was being force fed beliefs from other people and that Saidman Yee had no real opinion on these matters other than they were right and that’s what we should believe. Her voice was very lacking toward the end of this, and I was discouraged by that. I also wasn’t into the yoga sequences. It’s always difficult to include yoga sequences in a book because, generally, the transitions aren’t included, and that’s what made it hard to enjoy this time. If I was a total beginner, I would just link the poses together and come out on the other side feeling totally confused and uneven.
Overall, a good read, but also a reminder why I’ve kind of stopped reading yoga books.
What: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
Review: This literally took me forever to read. This follows Owen, whom his friends adorably call O. He’s recently discovered that the life he knows–living away at a boarding school that he loves, being uber rich and going on super fancy vacations, and basically being king of the castle–is the product of embezzlement. No one knows where his father is or if he truly stole all the money they say he did, but Owen is determined to uncover everything, even if that means moving back to his hometown in rural Louisiana, surrounded by all of the people that now hate his family.
This was a lot like the last book I read by Ashley Elston, This is Our Story, which was kind of slow in the beginning and then WHAM PLOT TWIST. However, it was a lot slower for a lot longer, and it took some convincing to make me keep going. I was also in a mood to just write, so sitting down to read a book that wasn’t grabbing me was a little tricky, but about halfway through, things started to get weird and spooky, and I was HERE FOR IT. This turned out to be really excellent, and I was, once again, super impressed with the plot. The writing was good, not great, but good enough that I enjoyed it, though it was the characters that really made this excellent.
What: Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy
Review: I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I didn’t totally enjoy the last book I read by McCoy, so I was a little hesitant about picking this up, but it’s the only book I’ve seen recently that combines all of the Sabbats together rather than requiring me to buy eight different books. And I actually really enjoyed it! McCoy broke down each of the eight Sabbats in a way that was easy to understand and comprehensive. She talked about the history behind each one, how it’s celebrated in other cultures, and provided examples of how we can celebrate it today. I feel like I learned a lot, and I’ll definitely be referring back to this.
What: Raising the Bar: How Gymnastics Can Change Your Life by Nile Wilson
Review: If you follow me on social media, you know that calisthenics has actually changed my life, and that all of it started with Nile’s program on Body Bible. I’ve linked it there, and I’m also linking the blog I did about my fitness. Calisthenics, aka regular people gymnastics, has completely revolutionized the way I look at fitness, so, suffice to say, I was VERY excited when Nile announced this book.
This isn’t all that well written, but it is inspirational, and there’s a reason I’ve been following Nile’s journey and I’m committed to bettering my life through his program. I truly enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, I highlighted a lot, and I came away from it feeling more ready to kick ass than usual. I think the best way to convince you to read this, rather than write about it, is to just show you why I originally fell in love:
Oh man, is this truly the first video I ever watched? Okay, quick history–so I love Buzzfeed, obviously, who doesn’t, and I happened to stumble upon this “Regular People Try Olympic Figure Skating”. You know how YouTube is. It just suggests videos, and you’re like SURE WHY NOT. (I only know all this because I’m looking at my YouTube history right now.) It looks like YouTube suggested a Gaius Thompson video while I was watching that one, who is an UK Olympian gymnast, and Nile was in his video. I watched three videos by Gaius before I either looked up Nile or it was suggested to me, and from February 10th to February 28th, I watched 64 of Nile’s videos before finally deciding that yes, this was a journey I wanted to experience for myself. I’m currently in my fourth round of the 4 week shred from Body Bible, I’ve got the handstand program queued up for when I’m done, and then, hopefully, the new 4 week shred will be out and I can jump in on that. I really do mean it when I say that calisthenics changed my life.
What: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Review: WOW. First of all:
There is SO MUCH amazing artwork for this series, and I am SO IN LOVE with Karou. Wishes for blue hair and tattoos and has literal hamsas and lives in Prague? Oh my god, I am here for this book. Like. I am just beside myself with awe. I feel the way I did after I finished reading Strange the Dreamer. Laini Taylor just has raw talent. She’s a true genius. Like. Wow. I wish I could be on that level.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the first in a trilogy that I’ve already purchased the rest of, unravels the story of Karou, just a normal human who constantly feels like she’s missing something and who works for a chimaera that collects teeth. Karou doesn’t know why he collects teeth, and though she’s curious, she’s spent a lifetime of asking and is just grateful to have a family. That is, until an angel shows up and tries to kill her. Then, all bets are off.
Like, real, true awe, guys. This left me speechless.
What: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Volume 2 by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John
When: 12/19 -12/20
Review: In this volume, we’re really starting to see the world of Thra as we know it from the original film, and it’s fantastic. Like, truly full of whimsy and gorgeous artwork and fantastical elements. I was so in awe by every page. And the story! Toward the end of this volume, the pieces were starting to come together and I could recognize the place where the Dark Crystal exists in the current universe. The Mystics and Skeksis have finally made an appearance, the world looks a little more familiar, and everything is just so full. I’m amazed every time I step back into the world of Thra how much more there is to everything. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading these volumes about the early Thra, and I can’t wait to dive into the next one.
What: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
Review: There was this one review on Goodreads that was a 5-star review for this book that just simply said “oh man this is going to get so many 1-star reviews” and I both 100% understand why that person said that and also why they loved it. I think that this is definitely a 5-star review for a lot of people, and I completely understand why it would be. I’m just simply not one of those. Remember Summer of Salt, earlier in this post? I felt the exact opposite way coming out of this. I felt discouraged to be a woman and like the only hope that I had was to kill all men around me, and that’s just not a way to live life.
This was another retelling, kind of, but unfortunately, I didn’t fall in love with it like I did the Snow White retelling I read last month. It’s about a girl (damsel) who is rescued from a terrible dragon by a handsome prince. Her destiny, which she has no choice in, is to become this prince’s queen. Not only does she have no choice in it, she doesn’t for one second think for herself. She just lets other people tell her what to do. I mean, if I’d just woken up naked in the arms of a strange man with no memory of what had come before, I’d a) have a lot of questions and b) be like okay see ya later byyyyyye. I would not go into a foreign city and marry someone I’d never met just because other people told me to, but like, that’s just me. Unlike with the Snow White retelling, everything was obvious. I’ll give you one guess why the girl has no memories of before the dragon. I’m also going to assume that your guess is right. This relied heavily on its original work and didn’t really add anything new. It was feminist while also being very backward for woman, which is kind of an accomplishment to do both of those at the same time, and if you have any sort of triggers, it’s going to hit all of them unnecessarily. This was just not good.
What: Spinning Starlight by RC Lewis
Review: This reminded me a lot of The Martian, and by that I mean both authors are math/science-based before they are writing-based, and thus, while the writing is kind of meh, the story is really interesting. I kept picking this up and putting it down, and then I started reading it, and I did not like it at all in the first 50 pages, but I persevered because I have this weird get to at least 100 pages before you DNF, and I’m really glad I did because I ended up liking it a lot. This follows Liddie, whose voice is a ticking time bomb. If she speaks, it will trigger an implant in her throat that will immediately kill all of her brothers. If she doesn’t speak, they’re probably going to end up dead anyway, so to combat that, she travels to a planet everyone thought didn’t exist and almost incites an intergalactic war.
YEAH YOU READ THAT RIGHT. There were so many aliens in this, and I still liked it! I don’t know why, but scifi and I don’t always get along. I like my space books very realistic, and so when you start throwing in interplanetary travel that includes aliens, I’m like ehhhhhh okay no thanks. But sometimes, it works, and it definitely worked here. This was a very interesting story. It took some time to warm up to both the writing and the characters, but in the end, very worth it.
What: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
Review: I’m saying it now, and I’m saying it in my 2019 goals (to be posted later today), I will finish this series reread in 2019. Not only that, but I will read at least one of the spin-off trilogies. I swear to Satan, this series reread has taken me over a year. That’s ridiculous. Also, don’t let that make you think for one second that I don’t enjoy these books a stupid amount.
Because The Mortal Instrument series is, by far, one of my favorite series out there.
I don’t care what anyone thinks. Clary Fray is one of my favorite narrators out there. There’s a reason I’m reading these again, and there’s a reason I read them so fast the first time. The first three books, I’ve brought down to 4 stars each, but honestly, I’m sticking with the 5 stars this time. I said in an earlier review that my love for Clary just grows with each book, and that is more true in this one than previously. She’s just so relatable, and I really enjoy her as a character. I think I may even read the next TMI book in January.
What: Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
Review: I ended up liking this a lot less than when I started. It was cute at first, and totally predictable, which was fine, but the writing just got progressively worse as it went on, and by the end, I was just reading to finish it. This reminded me a lot of Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and I know a lot of people love his books, so it might just not be my thing. ACTUALLY, out of curiosity, I went to see if anyone else felt about those as I did, and there’s one review that perfectly describes how I felt about the two books by Sáenz I’ve read and Been Here All Along:
So the beginning was cute. It was cute in a middle-school-book kinda way. But going in thinking this was YA and getting an onslaught of 99% CONVERSATION and 0% PLOT made me feel ripped off.
Oh man, yeah. Poorly written, no dialogue tags, and literally only dialogue. There were no descriptions of the characters, their school, their friends, or their houses, where they spend a fair amount of time. There was really no plot except them getting together, which was kind of figured out within the first 50 or so pages. And so many of the characters just felt like they were in there for literally no other reason than to fill up space. Also, Ezra/Ruby? That’s gross, goodbye.
Anyway. This book is about two boys who fall in love. Kyle knows he’s bi, but after an entire lifetime of friendship, only realizes he likes Gideon after he realizes that Gideon looks like Frodo Baggins. Gideon discovers he’s gay in a way that feels so strange? Like, I 100% would have believed this book more if Gideon was ace. But suddenly, he goes from not having feelings or anything at all for any gender ever to being full blown insta love with his best friend. Sure. That’s literally the whole plot.
17 BOOKS?! WHO AM I?
Wow, it’s the end of 2018. I feel like not only did this year go by fast, but this month just shot by. I read a lot of books, and let me tell you, picking my top ten was no easy feat, but here it is: Top 10 Reads of 2018. Initially, before I started this month, I had 10 laid out no problem, but then I read a lot of really fantastic books this month, and that changed things. I’ll also be posting my 2019 goals very soon, too, so keep an eye out for that.
For January, I debated not giving myself a TBR because I was having this moment of let’s have a special break because it’s the new year, but that’s dumb. It’s just another month in the reading world, though it is, I realize, also the start of my 2019 reading challenge. I’m going for 100 books again this year! Thus, here is my January TBR:
- Furyborn by Claire Legrand
- Locke & Key, Vol 2: Head Games by Joe Hill
- The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine
- When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn
- The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke
I didn’t quite finish my December TBR, though I got pretty close, so these are all new ones for next month. A little fantasy, a little regular fiction, one graphic novel. I finished out 2018 really good, so I’ve got some big plans for 2019. (I think I say something similar every month?) I currently have 60ish books leftover from ones I purchased in 2018, and I am ready to tackle the heck out of those, especially because I don’t see any bookshopping opportunities in the near future.
Do you have any reading goals for 2019?