I’ve been busy reading a lot of books in December! Enough that I think it makes sense to break my wrap up in two again so that it doesn’t get to be one massive, overwhelming post at the end of the month.
So far I’ve finished 11 books in December, which sounds like a ton, but that number is a bit misleading. Part of it is because I read most of two of them in November, including FDR by Jean Edward Smith, which I discussed in my Nonfiction November Wrap Up. The other part is that four of them were around 200 pages or less. But still, there’s a lot to discuss!
The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath
The Earl Takes All is a romance novel in which Edward has promised his dying twin to pose as him in order to prevent the brother’s pregnant wife, who has miscarried several times, from becoming so upset that she loses the baby.
I did not expect to like this book at all, but I actually found it to be a really engaging read. I really liked Edward and Julia and watching them fall in love with each other and thought they were great characters with lots of good banter. Unfortunately I can’t fully recommend this book as there was a fair amount of lying and guilt involved that I just don’t care for, but I was surprised at how much I did wind up enjoying it and think Heath did an excellent job overall. It’s just a really difficult premise to sell and, as much as I enjoy Heath’s books, even she can’t overcome my natural reticence to a premise like this.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Like Seabiscuit, Unbroken was excellent, securing Laura Hillenbrand a spot on my list of favorite new-to-me authors. This book follows the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic track star who joined the air force when World War II broke out and served in the Pacific Theater. When his plane went down, he floated in a raft for more than 45 days before being rescued by the Japanese and tortured in a prisoner of war camp, where he stayed for approximately two years before being liberated.
It should be no surprise that Zamperini’s story is fascinating and incredibly impactful, and Hillenbrand did an amazing job telling it. I’m so impressed by how much research had to have gone into this and how many details she was able to include. She also brought in a lot of context to tell Zamperini’s story, which really helped to educate readers on World War II in the Pacific, an oft-overlooked part of the war. I know I’m definitely guilty of focusing more on the European Theater, which is part of what makes Unbroken so special to me, in addition to just being a fascinating and engaging read.
I also definitely recommend checking this out on audio, as it’s narrated by Edward Herrmann, the actor who played Richard Gilmore. He’s got a great voice and I really enjoyed listening to him tell Zamperini’s story, though I do recommend looking into a physical copy to see all of the photos. It’s a long audiobook and I did wind up finishing the last 100 pages in the print book because I just needed to finish it already and don’t listen to books on audio all that often, but I was really sad to leave Herrmann’s narration behind when I made the switch. Fortunately it seems like he’s narrated a ton of nonfiction, so I’m going to have to check some of that out eventually.
Head Coach by Lia Riley
In Head Coach, sports reporter Neve and local pro hockey coach Tor have always clashed with each other. But when Tor winds up winning a bet with Neve, he decides invite her to an out-of-town wedding and see if they’ll finally kiss or kill each other.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher as part of the Avon Addict program.
I thought this would be a fun enemies-to-lovers romance, and I love hockey, so I assumed there was no downside to picking up this book. As it turns out, I was not a fan. At all. I think a lot of it is that the book was just way too short for all of the plot elements Riley wanted to throw in there. Both Neve and Tor had really elaborate backstories explaining why they’d never been in a good relationship before, but we never saw them grow past that or share those backstories with each other; they were just told to the reader and really didn’t have much bearing on the book. There was little to no character growth and I really couldn’t tell you why the two of them wound up together, as they really didn’t have many conversations with each other that weren’t fights.
Speaking of fights, Tor said some really nasty comments about Neve early in the book, and there was no groveling before they started sleeping together. When a guy is that mean (or a girl, for that matter), there needs to be tons of groveling!! But Neve got over it very quickly and they never discussed it again. Not ok. Plus, those plot elements? They got increasingly cheesy and ridiculous, and by the end I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. I was not rooting for either Neve or Tor to get their happily ever after and only finished this book because it was so short.
Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Mature Content is the fourth book in the Cyberlove series, this time focused on the relationship between TrashyZane, a YouTuber known for oversharing about his personal life, and Beau Starr, whose channel is much more wholesome and inspirational. Nothing about these two makes you think they’d be friends, let alone lovers, but after a surprise hookup at a convention, their relationship gradually turns into something more.
I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this after the turn the Cyberlove series took with the third book, but I love the first two so much that I decided to give it a shot. As it turns out, it’s really not my thing. I should say, it has a lot of the trademarks that I like from the earlier books. Zane and Beau have great individual and joint growth and you’re really rooting for them at the end. It just largely comes down to preference. I didn’t like the YouTube aspects of this book and all of the drama around Zane and Beau, and their relationship had BDSM elements in it that just aren’t my thing. Plus, as the blurb says, Zane is prone to oversharing and is very out there about his personal life, which is the complete opposite of me. So while I thought this book was well written, it just wasn’t the right fit for me.
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Mature Content. Please see this post for more details.
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
Godsgrave is the sequel to Nevernight, so I can’t discuss the plot too much without giving away spoilers for the first book. In case you haven’t heard of Nevernight, it follows Mia Corvere as she joins a school for assassins as part of her plan to avenge her parents. You can check out my thoughts on Nevernight here.
Personally, I think the sequel was just as good as the first book. Like the first book, it took awhile to get into Godsgrave because it kept shifting perspectives between where Mia is now and how she got there. Once I got oriented, though, it got really, really good. And that ending?! It’s almost as mean of an ending as the one in Nevernight. I will say, this series is still a little dark and bloody for my own personal preferences, but I do think it’s a solid fantasy series that I’ve really been enjoying. I can’t wait for the third and final book to learn more about Mia’s powers and if and how she winds up avenging her parents. It’s going to be so, so epic.
The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson
In The Art of Running in Heels, Lexie thought she was ready to get married on live television after winning the reality show Gettin’ Hitched, but when the big moment finally arrives, she finds herself leaving the groom at the altar. Instead, she hops in a private plane headed to a remote part of Canada with none other than hockey star Sean, and romance ensues from there.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher as part of the Avon Addict program.
This book started out with so much potential, but dang, it went downhill really fast. Again, some of my dislike of this book is personal preference, as I don’t watch reality TV and didn’t like the prominent role it played in this book. But also, I don’t think the reason given for how Lexie won and why she agreed to go through with the wedding was adequate. Lexie’s business was also a bit much for me, and the scripts she wrote out for Sean were ridiculous. What really killed it for me, though, were the lies to her parents and the fact that I’m not entirely sure what Lexie and Sean liked about each other so much and why they got together. Like, I know they’re physically attracted to each other, but I’m not sure there was an awful lot more to their relationship. So yeah, this book just didn’t do it for me.
I should also note that Lexie is Georgeanne and John’s daughter from Simply Irresistable, which was Gibson’s very first Seattle Chinooks book. I haven’t read that book, so I can’t really compare them, but I think if you liked the first book, you’ll enjoy the chapter giving a glimpse at Georgeanne and John’s life several years down the road as well as some of the parallels between Georgeanne and Lexie’s stories since they were both runaway brides.
The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson is on shelves December 26.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Men Explain Things to Me is an essay collection about women and feminism. I really liked some of the essays, including Men Explain Things to Me, The Longest War, and Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force, but others, like Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable, didn’t do much for me. Overall I think Solnit’s essays do a great job highlighting why feminism matters and how it can play out in our daily lives in both large and small ways, and of course it’s incredibly timely given the number of articles coming out now about men who have been using their positions of power to sexually harass and assault women.
However, I will say that this book didn’t seem all that groundbreaking to me. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I had read it when it first came out, but between having read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and a number of articles about the relationships between men and women, I came away from Men Explain Things to Me feeling like I hadn’t learned an awful lot I didn’t already know. So while I did enjoy reading it and recommend checking it out, I would encourage you to pick up Bad Feminist first.
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
It Takes Two to Tumble is a Sound of Music-inspired historical romance between a naval captain and the local vicar who helped take care of the captain’s children in his absence. Neither Philip nor Ben was expecting to fall in love, but they quickly find themselves questioning what they want from their lives and if they can find a way to be together.
I’ve really enjoyed Sebastian’s previous books and only became even more excited to read It Takes Two to Tumble when I realized it was loosely inspired by The Sound of Music, which is one of my favorite movies ever. Unfortunately, though, this book didn’t do much for me. I like Ben and Philip well enough, but there wasn’t much tension between them and I didn’t find myself overly invested in their relationship. Perhaps some of that is personal preference, as I really enjoy the will-they-won’t-they and getting sucked into the relationship between the leading characters, and I didn’t think they had much of that in this book. So overall I thought this book was just ok.
Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
My book club recommended Taking the Heat, and after reading so many lackluster romances, I decided to give this one a try since I’d heard good things. It’s the story of Veronica, who pursued her dreams in New York City only to find herself back in Wyoming and working as an advice columnist when things didn’t work out, and Gabe, a male librarian who’s taking one year to live the rural life he’s always wanted before moving back to New York and taking over the family business.
There are a lot of things I liked about this book, but ultimately it just didn’t work for me. If Veronica said fucking one more time, I was going to slap her. It was really repetitive and in a kind of tee-hee-hee, look-at-me-being-bad-by-using-this-word voice that got really annoying really fast. I also didn’t like her opinions on New York. Don’t get me wrong, NYC isn’t for everyone (it’s not even for me sometimes) and I’ll admit my experience is much different from hers because I moved out here with my husband (then boyfriend), but I don’t think the book acknowledged nearly enough that New York is a big enough city for everyone to have wildly different experiences, and that just because it didn’t work out for her doesn’t mean it’s a terrible place to live. (Please keep in mind that I might have gotten overly defensive while reading this and the book might not actually have been that negative about New York.) I was also disappointed that, while Veronica had great growth throughout the book, Gabe really didn’t until the very end. Anyways, overall it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t really for me. I think I need to go back to my historicals for a while…
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
“Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it,” according to the blurb for The Female of the Species. When the man who assaulted and murdered her older sister walked free, Alex took matters into her own hands and killed him. In this contemporary YA book exploring rape culture, Alex finds herself becoming friends with star athlete Jack and defiant preacher’s kid Claire while knowing that she shouldn’t be trusted around people given the violence inside her. “As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever,” the blurb promises.
Omg, this book. I can’t. I’m so gutted. I buddy read it with Jenica from Firewhiskey Reader, and I’m so glad I had someone to talk about this book with as I was reading it, as my mind was seriously blown. I highly, highly recommend checking it out, though keep in mind that it does deal very explicitly with rape culture. It’s such an important book, though, and does an amazing job showing how pervasive rape culture is and what a wide impact it has. I thought McGinnis did an excellent job creating the different characters and making them distinct from each other while also weaving their stories together, but I was even more impressed by how good some of the side characters were and how much they brought to the story. This book is really difficult to discuss without going into major spoiler territory, so I’m just going to yell at you through the screen that it’s important and you need to read it. And then come back and find me so we can discuss our thoughts, because I have LOTS.
Alright, I think that’s plenty for one post. How has your reading month been going so far? Do you think you’ll get more or less reading done over Christmas break? Let me know in the comments! I’m hoping to get lots more in before the end of the month, though I don’t think my reading count will be quite so high in the second part of my wrap up as I’m picking up some bigger books.