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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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. Sheis 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?
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?
December is a busy time, so I never anticipate that I will read much. There are two books that I do plan to read this month, and they are annual reads.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I have reread this book every year around Christmas time for the past 10 years. It’s such a classic, and I love the story (and film adaptations)!
Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
I received this book from a friend last year, and I will be reading it annually. The book is a series of letters that Tolkien wrote his kids while pretending to be Father Christmas. The letters are hilarious, filled with troublesome polar bears and elves and incredible pictures that Tolkien drew himself. Ian and I would read each other a letter every night before bed, and I can’t wait to continue the tradition this year!
What else am I reading?
Glad you asked.
I picked this up last week and flew through the first 130 pages. This book is a historical military fantasy and I was captivated the moment I started. The main character, Rin, is so interesting.
Do I expect to get my heart torn out by Backman yet again? Yes. Will I continue to read his books knowing I will ugly cry, holding my chest and wondering why the world is so cruel and beautiful at the same time? Also yes.
Hoping that I will finish both of these books in January! Who knows — maybe I’ll finish one of these this month!
This was me back in June when I finished Kingdom of Ash, the final book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. I started the journey about a year ago, reading Throne of Glass (the first book) along with a fabulous group of bookstagrammers. Our goal was to finish the series by this April. Some bookworms in the group breezed through the series, reading one book after the other and finished well before April, but I decided to stay true to the schedule and finish at my own pace.
I already miss this series. If I had to choose between TOG and ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses for those who aren’t SJM fans) I enjoyed Throne of Glass a lot more. I appreciated the multiple points of view, I loved the characters, was engrossed in the storyline and action, and appreciated that there was less smut. This series is more geared toward the young adult audience (though there are some sex scenes), but overall, I enjoyed the story more and the characters more than what you’d find in ACOTAR.
A little about Throne of Glass
Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series that follows the journey of Celaena Sardothien, a teenage assassin in the Kingdom of Ardalan. She is released from a prison-like camp, Endovier, after she accepts an offer from Crown Prince Dorian, the king’s son, to compete with other thieves to become the King’s Champion and gain her freedom. Over time, she forms close ties with Dorian and Chaol, and … well, a lot happens.
Like a lot. These books are FULL of action and plotlines. As you continue through the series, more characters are introduced. There are battles and secrets and magic and lots of romance. There’s a lot of betrayal and death. And, in true SJM fashion, there is healing and self-love and sisterhood that left me bawling at the end.
Ugh. I could read these books all over again (and I probably will).
There are so many things that happen in this series and I will do my best to convey my thoughts in a coherent matter. I loved these books. I loved the characters. I loved the plot. I was never bored. I was always entranced by Maas’s story and always found myself wishing that these books were movies so I can watch them over and over. I guess I’ll have to do a reread soon! 🙂
It may be best to break down each book and write a paragraph about what I liked (and even what I didn’t like … not all of them were 5 star reads!) to give you a feel of what to expect if you ever plan to read these books. This will also be interesting because I feel like I don’t remember everything that happened!
Throne of Glass
I’ll admit: I had some fears going into this one. A Court of Thorns and Roses (SJM’s other fantasy series) did not start out great, but I was pleasantly surprised with Throne of Glass as the first book in the series. I was hooked from the start. Celaena is released from Endovier and trains to compete with other deadly assassins in the kingdom. She is quick-witted, headstrong, smart and beautiful. She loves to read and eat. She captivates Dorian and Chaol, and forms a strong bond with Princess Nehemia, who is visiting from her own faraway kingdom. There are duels. There are monsters. There is magic. It is all so interesting; I couldn’t put this book down. I ended the book hungry for more.
The Assassin’s Blade
Now, this one was a bit of a miss for me. This book contains five novellas and they are all important when it comes to context for future books in the series. I found that I enjoyed some stories more than others. While they are all separate novellas, they are sequential in a way, and follow the story of Celaena and her first love, Sam. Celaena forms relationships (some good, some bad) with other colorful characters across Erilea and the book ends with you appreciating learning more about her backstory and ready to read more about Dorian and Chaol.
Crown of Midnight
This is when things get a little wild and crazy, and I was totally here for it. Like Throne of Glass, I tore through this book, needing to know what happened next. A romance starts to bud between Celaena and a certain individual (shock, shock) and there is tons of violence, betrayal, kidnappings, and thievery. Honestly, I just think Celaena is too cool. Magic and witches are introduced, and Celaena leaves for Wendlyn, telling Chaol a secret that changes everything.
Heir of Fire
This one was definitely my least favorite in the series, but there were many elements that I enjoyed. The main snag was that Maas was introducing dual perspectives in this book (hello, Manon. I love you), but it unfortunately was rough to get through. I think Maas was just learning how to navigate multiple POVs, and it showed. In this book, Celaena also meets Rowan, who I extremely dislike. He kind of grew on me in the series, but honestly, I find a lot of the men in Maas’s books to be misogynistic and problematic. I have never been on the “but he’s so dreamy who cares” train with her books. I was never Team Edward either. Stop glorifying toxic men, mainstream culture!
Anyways, this book left me heartbroken and nauseous and OMG I had to read more. So, I pressed on despite the ickiness.
Queen of Shadows
Oh, boy, am I glad I did. This book was my absolute favorite of the series. So many amazing characters are introduced. Nesryn. Lysandra. Aedion. Lorcan. So much happens. Magic. Demons. Murder. I was floored when it ended. I would reread just this one if I could and my TBR list wasn’t 300 books high. Heck. I might just do it anyways.
Empire of Storms
Elide. ELIDE. I love Elide. ELIDEEEEE.
I loved learning more about Manon and watching her character grow. I loved all the romance that was budding among the characters. Yeesh. It just keeps getting better. Characters from the novellas come into play. Celaena continues to be absolutely badass — and the ending, will, again, break your heart. So much happens! I immediately picked up the next one.
Tower of Dawn
Now, some SJM fans do a tandem read with Empire of Storms. And while I did not do that the first time around, I would like to do it the second time I read this series. Tower of Dawn as a standalone, however, is really good. I enjoyed learning more about Chaol and Nesryn and I REALLY enjoyed meeting other amazing characters: Yrene and Sartaq. Love. Them. Everything really comes together in this one and I finished satisfied.
Kingdom of Ash
You may be wondering how the author could possibly close out an entire series with so many storylines and characters in 984 pages. I wondered the same thing. I will say that it wasn’t done as thoroughly as I would have hoped. While I still enjoyed the reading experience, I found lots of holes and wanted more with some storylines. I loved how the story ended for most of the characters, and there were parts that wrecked me. There were some cringe storylines and parts that I could have done without, but, hey. Overall, I closed the book satisfied and then went into that book hangover I was talking about earlier.
Thanks for reading this far if you did. Whew. What a journey. And thank you, Sarah, for helping me get through this pandemic so far!