Monday, January 2, 2017

What I Read in December


Whoaaa. I didn't think I could make it to 100 books, & at the end of November, I wasn't even going to try. I just wanted to take my time & read good books, rather than trying to read a lot of books - but somehow, I did both. In the end, I blazed through 12 books in December - my most in any month - to hit 101 books by the end of 2016. I can't imagine beating that number in 2017, but again: It's about quality, not quantity! In December, I read...

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

At age 8, Callie & Tessa testified in the murder trial of a suspect who was then sentenced to death for killing Callie's cousin - but the older they get, the less the girls are sure of what they saw. When a similar murder claims the lives of one of their friends, they set out to learn the truth, which rattles them in ways they never expected & changes everything they thought they knew about justice & family. A refreshingly original take on a murder plot that could've felt all too familiar.  ★★★★★

Before He Sees by Blake Pierce

This is the sequel to Before He Kills, which I read in November, & its author is still in need of a good editor; typos galore! Again, though, the story itself, however trite, is enjoyable & fast-paced, keeping me on the edge of my seat until the end as I followed along with FBI agent-in-training Mackenzie White's latest serial killer case. I liked this book slightly less than the first, based on believability (this plot seemed verrrry unlikely), but I'm still planning to buy book three. ★★★☆☆

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller

This is a stunning memoir from an actress/comedian whose family life on Long Island was a far cry from what you'd expect of such a glamorous personality. Kim's parents are extreme hoarders, collecting so much junk & trash that their house was covered in maggots & vermin had no running water. The emotional toll the hoarding took on her &, indeed, on their entire family & those who love them will ensure that you never laugh in horror at a Hoarders rerun again. Bravely told.  ★★★★★

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

I'd heard so much about this book, both positive & negative, that I wasn't sure what to expect - but I, for one, loved it. It's not necessarily body-positive - teenage protagonist Willowdean strives to accept her fat body through first love, family pressure, & a local beauty pageant, & she doesn't always succeed at it - but I found it to be a realistic portrayal of the kinds of internal struggles so many women face in judging our own bodies & those around us. It helped that Willowdean, a Dolly Parton fanatic who works at a fast food restaurant in the deep South, was charming as hell. ★★★★★

The Trespasser by Tana French

A Washington Post reviewer recently wrote that "U.S.-born, Dublin-based Tana French is the most interesting, most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years." Damn. While I enjoyed this much-praised novel, my God was it ever Irish - to the point that it was difficult for me to follow. Still, it was a juicy story with an uncommonly detailed look at the behind-the-scenes goings-on of a squad of murder detectives, told from the perspective of talented but surly Antoinette Conway, the lone woman & POC in the department. Enjoyable but overall fairly depressing, with a dissatisfying ending. ★★★★☆

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon 

I don't even know what to say about this book except that it's truly one of the most beautiful novels I've read in a long time, maybe ever. Sure, it's hopelessly romantic. Sure, it's about two dreamy teenagers with an improbable 24-hour love story. But it's so wonderfully written that by the end, I was sobbing happy tears, just feeling like my heart was going to explode. ★★★★★

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

This book got unfavorable reviews from my Goodreads friends, but I felt differently. Cody, 19, is sent to clean out her best friend Meg's dorm room after Meg swallows a bottle of drain cleaner & leaves behind a devastated community. Along the way, Cody learns startling secrets about Meg's life & makes some revelations about her own. Having been in the unenviable position of being left behind after a loved one's suicide when I was around the same age as Cody & Meg, this book felt relatable & realistic to me. ★★★★☆

Before He Covets by Blake Pierce

This is the third book is a series I have only half-heartedly enjoyed but can't seem to give up. This one follows newly minted FBI agent Mackenzie White as she tries to figure out who's murdering visitors to a national park in West Virginia, which is, perhaps not coincidentally, where a young boy vanished nearly two decades ago. To my relief, this book has fewer typos than its predecessors.

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

I didn't know much about the Scottish stage actor & Good Wife star, but when I saw this memoir getting rave reviews, I had to pick it up - & I'm glad I did. Cumming writes of a tumultuous & abusive childhood & his adult relationship (or lack thereof) with his father, interwoven with his quest to learn more about his late maternal grandfather, a war hero who died in Malaysia. Emotional & worthwhile. ★★★★★

My Story by Elizabeth Smart

I'd had my eye on this memoir for awhile, written by the abducted Mormon teen whose story captivated the nation in 2002. At age 14, Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom while she slept. Nine months later, she was found wandering the streets of Utah with her abductors, religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell & his wife, who had kept her chained & raped her repeatedly. The writing is a bit formal & stilted, but overall, it's a crazy, traumatic story... with an incredibly happy ending. ★★★★★

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Does this novella based on a TED Talk count as a book? I had to wait in a long line to borrow is from the library, so I'm gonna say it does. Adichie, author of Americanah, shares her eloquent insights into why she identifies as a feminist... & why the rest of us should, too. A quick, easy read that will help you defend your feminism & may even convince a skeptic or two. ★★★★★

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

This was book 100! A Kindle First read, I chose it because it seemed simultaneously serious (it's about a summer camp for at-risk kids) & light-hearted (one of those coming-of-age deals) - & I was right. It had a familiar feel to it - there are lots of books in this quirky-teens-with-mental-illness genre - but it was also well-written & comforting, with realistic, likeable characters & a satisfying (if slightly predictable) ending. I'd love to try something else by this author. ★★★★★

The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker  

It took me nearly two years to finish this book, but not because I didn't get a lot out of it - just because it's heavy enough that I had to put it down more than a few times. I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, because it's not meant to be enjoyable, but it's important - like, potentially life-saving. I first started reading it in February 2015 after a dating prospect turned sour & left me in fear for my safety. This book reminds women to trust our gut, even at the risk of being impolite, & it provides vital tips for dealing with potentially threatening situations. ★★★★★

Comment to tell me what you're reading, then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch & see what I've read in months past.

Please note that my "What I Read in..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but please also don't judge me too harshly for including them.

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