Because I struggle getting into the Christmas spirit (Yes, I detest most Christmas music and refuse to decorate prior to Black Friday.), I figured my Scrooge-laden soul could benefit from some holiday reads in December.
I binged Elin Hilderbrand’s holiday series Winter suggested by a Facebook friend, and it did inspire me to be less bah humbug-ish. Promise. Don’t believe me? I played Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while hanging ornaments and adorning the fireplace mantle with fake poinsettias and glittery snowflakes. Huzzah! The Ram-a-grinch’s holiday heart grew a seasonal three sizes. It has since returned to its nonholiday appropriate size.
Here’s what I read in December with some mini reviews thrown in. (One of my new year’s resolutions is to write my mini reviews as soon as I’m done reading the books. It’s just too hard to write them a month after I’ve read them anymore, especially when some of the books are part of a series read in succession. Be prepared for some cop-out reviews.):
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert–YAL; Despite some negative Goodreads reviews, I really enjoyed this fantasy novel.
- Winter Street (Winter #1) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Stroll (Winter #2) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Storms (Winter #3) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Solstice (Winter #4) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction; These books chronicle Kelley Quinn, the owner of Winter Street Inn on Nantucket, and his flawed adult children, his Santa cheating wife, and his CBS news anchor ex-wife Margaret Quinn during the Christmas season. It’s dishy, dysfunctional, and soap opera-esque. While a total guilty pleasure, I did give the last book four stars because by the end of the series I loved these crazy characters.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari–nonfiction; Harari’s portrayal of the human race’s history is sweeping and mind-boggling. He starts at the beginning of human evolution and then tackles the agricultural revolution, imperialism, industrialization, and capitalism (to name a few). His logic is thought-provoking, and you might not agree with everything he has to say. While I understand the limits of covering humankind’s history in a 443 page book, I thought it was neglectful of him to essentially ignore the historical implications of how women have been treated. Despite this, Sapiens earned a spot on my top twenty reads of 2018. (Side note: The world conspired against me reading this book. I had it on hold for two months, it came in while I was out of town over the summer for two weeks, so it got sent back. Then I placed it on hold again and waited eons for it. Chunks of pages were falling from the binding when I finally got my hands on it, and the library took it out of circulation upon its return.)
- Vicious (Villians #1) by V.E. Schwab–YAL
- Vengeful (Villians #2) by V.E. Schwab–YAL; The Shades of Magic Series by Schwab is one of my favorite fantasy reads ever so I had to pick up this young adult series by her as well. The first one left me a bit underwhelmed. Victor and Eli’s story begins in college, where they discover the ability to become extraordinary–by killing themselves and then coming back to life. Eli awakens from death with regenerative powers while Victor can cause pain. They end up nemeses and more nefarious than heroic, picking up a motley crew of extraordinaries along the way. The second book more than made up for the slow pacing of the first, and I ended up rating the second four stars.
- The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy–suspense/mystery; Ummmm, it’s okay? I keep reading suspense even though most of it is less than stellar in hopes that one will finally wow me with brilliantly written prose. Am I asking too much from this genre?
- Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage–horror/thriller; A nonverbal little girl, who idolizes her daddy, fantasizes about killing her mother and then tries to do so. It’s fucked up, but I was never genuinely scared during this book. It alternated between both Suzette’s (the mother’s) and Hanna’s (the daughter’s) perspectives. The more I read, the more I dislike authors trying to narrate from the “now” perspective of children; in this case, Hanna’s perspective is over-developed and the diction too rich for that of a seven-year-old.
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo–nonfiction; Read it. Digest it. Then, like Oluo beseeches, stop talking about it and start taking action. It’s a must read, making my top three of books read in 2018.
- Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira–Science Fiction; I liked Pedreira’s style, but in the midst of all the science fiction jargon, it was hard to keep track of the characters and the plot.
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone–YAL; Much in the same vein as Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Justyce, an ivy league bound African American student who goes to a mostly upper class white school, witnesses the gun death of his best friend by an off-duty white police officer. Throughout the novel, Justyce writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr., explaining the everyday microaggressions and full-blown racism he faces from society, ultimately writing rhetorical questions as an outlet for his frustrations. This is joining my recommendation list for my students.
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay–nonfiction: I had published my top twenty books read in 2018 before I read this novel, and dammit, I would add this book to it if I could. I love Gay’s personal critique of feminism, and her essays are the shit. Her writing style is enviable. Slapping me in the face, her sentences left me raw and awakened the bad feminist in me too. Also through close examination, she offers cinematic and literary critique of women’s tropes and race portrayal in artistic mediums.
As always, any discussion is welcome, and I’m always taking recommendations.
Happy New Year. My resolutions post is slated for next week.
(All cover art taken from Goodreads.)