December Wrap-Up

December was a great reading month — I read everything on my December Hopefuls list … and then some! I am closing out my year with 54 books!

Here’s what I read this month:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol

An annual reread … and one of the best Christmas ghost stories! Every year I get something different out of this book, and this year, I was actually spooked! I also made a resolution to read at least two Dickens novels this year! I admittedly have only read two … A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. I read Oliver Twist in 9th grade, so I look forward to reading it again as an adult.

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

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It felt really special to read this out loud to my daughter this year. Ian and I took turns reading a letter throughout the season. If you love Tolkien or whimsy things (and let’s be honest, you love both when you love Tolkien), read this! It’s hilarious, fun, smart, and so beautiful.

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here

I go into more detail in my book review, but golly, Backman is one of my favorite authors ever. This book was Beartown meets A Man Called Ove meets Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in all the best ways. I absolutely adored it. I have one more novella and I will have completed all of Backman’s works!

King of Scars (King of Scars #1) by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars (King of Scars, #1)

I am working my way through the Grishaverse! I read the Shadow and Bone trilogy this summer, giving them an average review. That didn’t stop me from reading the Six of Crows duology, which I have yet to review … but Six of Crows was one of my favorite books this year! Crooked Kingdom … not so much.

Anyways, I devoured this book in a week or so, and found it to be … mmm, well. Average. This 527-page book is a bit of a rollercoaster. I was feeling disconnected from the main characters and the pacing throughout. The story follows Nikolai (one of the only reasons I continued to read Shadow and Bone), Nina (one of my favorite characters in Six of Crows), and Zoya, who was a prevalent character in Shadow and Bone. All of the characters were watered down versions of themselves, especially Nikolai. I will give a longer review when I finish Rule of Wolves, which I have ordered. The way this story ends makes you want to pick up the last book, so don’t fret if you started this one and you’re unsure. We can finish this together!

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)

Thank goodness I ordered this book. I finished it this week and wow. I am enthralled by this story and the main character. Rin is unlike any fantasy heroine I have ever encountered … and this book was unlike any fantasy book I have ever read. It is raw, dark, violent, honest. It packs a punch and is not for the sensitive or faint hearted. It was my first military fantasy and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

I finished The Cruel Prince the morning of Dec. 31. I was hoping to make this one my first completed read of 2022, but I flew through this one. This book was extremely interesting and though there are things I did not like about it … I certainly didn’t hate it. I look forward to completing The Folk of the Air trilogy in the next couple of months!

What about you? What did you read this month?

Another year in the books (heh). Check out all the books I read in 2021:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up

November Wrap-Up

December Wrap-Up

Book Review | Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

I adore Fredrik Backman’s books. I discovered A Man Called Ove a few years ago, and I fell in love with Backman’s writing style and character development. Since then, I have read all of his novels. All I need to do is read his novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, and I will be done with all of his works!

I finished Britt-Marie Was Here this week and wow. Backman is a genius when it comes to writing about the human experience. His characters are flawed, but colorful and loveable. There is no such thing as a two-dimensional character. A misunderstood character will have qualities about them that you adore. Backman can also introduce a character briefly on one page, and that character will possess enough emotional depth that they leave a mark when they exit the scene. It’s just truly remarkable. His books have humor, suffering, pain, heartache, romance and humor. They are all masterpieces.

A little more about Britt-Marie Was Here:

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

My thoughts

Readers first meet Britt-Marie in Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. She’s not exactly a likable character…but just you wait. At the end of the book, Britt-Marie has left Kent, her cheating husband, and Britt-Marie Was Here picks up where we left off.

Backman is wonderful at creating main characters that are prickly and annoying, but you eventually grow to absolutely adore them – this is Britt-Marie. Britt-Marie certainly has her quirks. She’s socially awkward and very set in her ways, but a lot like Ove in A Man Called Ove, you learn her backstory and you laugh out loud at their mannerisms and interactions with other folks. You wish you knew them in real life.

Backman is also incredible at creating communities. Borg is a small, washed-out town, but the people who live in the town are tight knit and there for one another. Like the Beartown series, the town is deeply connected to a sport. Britt-Marie finds herself working at a soon-to-be-closed recreational center and then the coach for the soccer team, a sport she knows nothing about. Soccer is what brings the town together, and though the kids aren’t very good and practice on a crappy pitch, the entire town comes to watch them play in the Cup. It is so heartwarming and Backman excels on capturing these moments. Though the town is a mess and its people are “seedy,” they are well-rounded and you grow to like them and defend them.

As I mentioned, Backman has such a talent for writing about life in its most fragile and powerful moments. Here’s an absurdly long excerpt that made me cry:

At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?

If a human being closes her eyes hard enough and for long enough, she can remember pretty well everything that has made her happy. The fragrance of her mother’s skin at the age of five and how they fled giggling into a porch to get out of a sudden downpour. The cold tip of her father’s nose against her cheek. The consolation of the rough paw of a soft toy that she has refused to let them wash. The sound of waves stealing in over rocks during their last seaside holiday. Applause in a theater. Her sister’s hair, afterwards, carelessly waving in the breeze as they’re walking down the street.

And apart from that? When has she been happy? A few moments. The jangling of keys in the door. The beating of Kent’s heart against the palm of her hands while he lay sleeping. Children’s laughter. The feel of the wind on her balcony. Fragrant tulips. True love.

The first kiss.

A few moments. A human being, any human being at all, has so perishingly few chances to stay right there, to let go of time and fall into the moment. And to love someone without measure. Explode with passion (261).

My favorite part of Britt-Marie Was Here was the ending, because it was just about her and the mark she left on the town. It wasn’t about her marriage with Kent, or any new relationships she formed along the way; it was about her journey and the next steps she took for her own healing and well-being. In the end, she chose herself, and that was beautiful.

Have you read this one? If you’re a Fredrik Backman fan, what book is your favorite?


November Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that November has already come and gone and we are almost done with 2021.

November was a very successful month for reading; I read 8 books! The past few months I felt really behind on meeting my Goodreads goal of 50 books, but now I have only 2 to go until I complete the challenge!

Here’s what I read in November:

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Robert Bucknam and Gary Enzo

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

As a first-time mom, I will take all and any book recommendations from parent friends. This book was super helpful and provided some great tips on how to help your baby develop a sleep routine. While a lot of the stuff in here was a little dated, I did appreciate their take and will adopt some of their practices into my parenting style.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)

This book was just alright for me. I was not a fan of Addie LaRue, but many friends encouraged me to try this series out as well as A Darker Shade of Magic. I will not be reading the second in this series, but I plan to give Darker Shades a try in January. The writing is good in this one, but I really didn’t enjoy the story and the characters. I found myself quite bored throughout … even though I read it fast.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code

Thank goodness for Kate Quinn. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that The Rose Code is now one of my favorite books of the year. You can read my full thoughts in my book review, but I will share that this book is fast-paced (even though it’s a long one). It is also captivating and profound. This book really delivered, hitting all of my favorite topics: historical fiction, feminism, and (recently) historical romance.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

… Eh. This book is a little overhyped. I go into more detail in my book review, but my high level thoughts are this: beautiful prose should not be used as a distraction to hide a lackluster plot and flat-as-can-be characters. I found this same issue with Starless Sea, a book that was also overhyped for its beautiful writing. Don’t get me wrong, Morgenstern can write some pretty prose, but when I am sitting there wondering where the “fierce competition” or “deep, magical love story” is, you’ve lost a lot of stars.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) by Linda Åkeson McGurk

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom's Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge)

This is another good parenting book that I highly recommend. While I skimmed through a lot of the personal stories (there were just too many), I appreciated the author’s take on getting kids outside and the importance of exposing your children (and yourself, really) to fresh air at an early age. My husband and I read this one together and we found so many useful nuggets that we will adopt with our little one.

Zen Mamas by Teresa Palmer and Sarah Wright Olsen

Zen Mamas

Another parenting book, but this one was OK. It got a little too earthy crunchy at some parts, but I did appreciate their insight and learned a lot about what kind of mom I want to be!

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Boy. I really, really wanted to love this book. The premise was right up my alley: historical fiction, libraries, feminism … but instead I encountered a poorly written book that was lacking in insightful dialogue, likable characters, and plot development. Gosh, this was just not good. The characters were flat, the prose was choppy and messy. Cringy dialogue and a stupid whodunnit at the end. Predictable twists and turns. Just an all-around stinker.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

The Deal of a Lifetime

When in doubt, turn to Backman. After I finished the book above, I went right to my favorite author. I started Britt-Marie Was Here and then read this novella in one sitting. This 60-ish page novella was absolutely breaktaking. Like all of Backman’s work, I was left speechless and in tears after his brilliant writing tore my soul apart. This is a great holiday read that teaches you about the importance of family and living every moment to the fullest.

What did you read in November? Share some books below!

And, see what I’ve been reading this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up

Bookstagrammer Highlight: @once_upon_a_library_

Friends, meet Kailee. Kailee and I met while grumbling about our grad school journeys in a bookstagram buddy chat, and we became fast friends. We have a LOT in common (aside from books) — like our love for cats and spooky season!

Learn about how awesome Kailee is below … and give her a follow!

Why did you start a bookstagram?

I started a bookstagram out of boredom. Suddenly, I wasn’t working at a law firm anymore and I was back in grad school (but totally online) and I just needed some sort of community. And my bookstagram was born!

What is your go-to genre and why?

When in doubt, I always choose mystery. Not even thriller/mystery, but pure whodunnit mystery. I just really love the puzzle aspect of it. I spend the entire time trying to figure out the puzzle and beat the author. It’s fun when I figure it out, but it’s even more fun when I don’t. That’s the best kind of mystery.

Tell me something about yourself that a lot of people don’t know about.

I’ve been scuba diving with Mickey Mouse.

If you could only listen to one soundtrack/album the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hozier’s self-titled first album. I listen to it entirely too much.

This is a hard one: What are your top five books … ever?

Well, this is a rude question. I typically split this category into series and standalone, so here are two answers!

Top 5 standalone books:

  1. The Night Circus
  2. The Shadow of the Wind 
  3. Six of Crows (technically a series but whatever, I’m making the rules)
  4. Good Omens
  5. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts


Top 5 series:

  1. Red Rising (first trilogy only)
  2. Ember in the Ashes
  3. A Darker Shade of Magic
  4. The Winternight Trilogy
  5. Harry Potter

Wow, this was really hard and I’m not even sure I’m right lol.

What is one trend you just can’t get behind?

Ugh, rainbow bookshelves. They’re pretty but too chaotic for my brain.

Tell me more about your shop. What is the name and what do you sell? Why did you decide to open a shop?

My shop is on Etsy and also called OnceUponALibrary. I mostly sell booksleeves, zipper pouches, and custom bags! The custom orders are my favorite because I love designing things that are EXACTLY what someone wants.

What makes a book a 5-star read?

I’ll try to be more descriptive than just saying “vibe” lol. But a book is a five-star read if I can’t stop thinking about it, if I want to gush about it to everyone, if the story really surprises me. But bad writing will ruin a good idea, so it also has to be well written.

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween, hands down! Spooky season is the best season and I will die on this hill.

Follow the wonderful Kailee on Instagram.

Want to be featured on my blog? You don’t have to be a bookstagrammer! If you have a small business, podcast, or something creative that you want to share, please email me at kass.readsbooks@gmail.com!