December 2023 Wrap Up

The last month of this year was my best reading month yet! I read the most amount of books and had SO MANY 5 star reads. Be on the lookout for a 2023 Wrap Up coming in January!

Stats:

  • Read: 13 books
  • One 3 star read, five 4 stars, and seven 5 stars
  • 1 DNF
  • Favorite book of December: Tower of Dawn/Emergency Contact (it’s too hard to pick!)

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

I feel like much of this book was filler until the end, or at least setting up for the final two books in the series. It was still action-packed, though, and the key characters were finally together and in one place. All the different character dynamics were interesting to read about. Lorcan and Elide’s story was my favorite part! Aelin’s scheming and hiding things from her court really started getting on my nerves, though. Rating: 5 stars

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

I read Tower of Dawn and Empire of Storms as a tandem read, which I really recommend! Anyway, I am the biggest Chaol defender to ever exist and Chaol is my favorite character, so I knew I would love Tower of Dawn. I don’t get the people who said it was boring or wanted to skip it. It had a really important plot and uncovered a lot of missing information. Other than that, Chaol’s character development and character arc was literally beautiful and one of the best character-focused books from SJM (even Nesta’s book couldn’t top this). We get to see Chaol grapple with his disability as well as his guilt, anger, and self-hatred stemming from all the previous books. Yrene is another character who I adored getting to know, and her and Chaol’s slow burn hate-to-love romance was impeccably written. Seeing Chaol finally satisfied and truly happy with himself was lowkey emotional for me. Rating: 5 stars

A Cross Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh

This was just okay. There were quite a few grammar/editing issues, some problematic language, and overall cheesiness. The romance was cute enough and the holiday vibes were present, so it was enjoyable enough. Rating: 3 stars

Emergency Contact by Lauren Layne and Anthony LeDonne

I was on a holiday romance kick this month and on a whim found this book on a list of Christmas romances. I had no idea that I would end up loving it as much as I did, or that it would be one of my top romances of the year. I have been on the hunt for any romance that even remotely feels like You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle, which is one of my all-time favorite rom-com books. Even Hogle herself hasn’t since written anything since that could measure up to it, but I would say that Emergency Contact is the most similar out there. The wild antics, the personalities of the hero and heroine, the incredible banter and wit, and the second chance romance are all of the best qualities of both books. Emergency Contact felt so comical and festive yet simultaneously romantic and poignant. Throughout their journey together, both characters had to look inwards to admit their own mistakes in their failed marriage, and see the other’s perspective. Besides the serious stuff, I had the best time ever reading about all the chaotic mishaps. This book was genuinely so funny and clever. The banter had me laughing out loud frequently, which I almost NEVER do. Both characters were so real and deeply flawed, and their chemistry was really well written. I hope this duo keeps writing books together, because I NEED rom-coms to actually start being funny again. Rating: 5 stars

The Plight Before Christmas by Kate Stewart- DNF

 I got almost 80% through this before I just couldn’t do it anymore. Honestly, no Christmas romance compares after reading Emergency Contact. The main characters in this story acted like teenagers even though I think they were in their 40s. The dialogue was corny and stilted at times. The heroine repeatedly calls the hero “Campus Casanova”. The heroine’s mother repeatedly calls the hero “handsome”. No, thank you! DNF

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This was a beautiful, atmospheric winter read! Don’t go in with any expectations- it reads very much like an old fairytale, which was a little hard to get used to but ultimately enjoyable for me. It was extremely slow paced for half of the book, but the latter half was exciting. The Russian folklore implemented throughout was so interesting, and the characters were very well written. The writing itself was rich and descriptive. If you like books with an emphasis on family, this is for you. Rating: 4 stars

Running Wild by K.A. Tucker

This is the final book in the Simple Wild trilogy, but it focuses on a completely different couple. A large portion of the plot focuses on veterinarian care and mushing, two things that I learned a ton about during the course of the book. The sport of mushing was so fun to read about and really informative. Marie was a main character who was well fleshed out, relatable, and likable, considering she was only seen as the heroine’s “competition” in the last two books. Tyler’s story was heartbreaking, but it was beautiful how the two finally managed to work through their individual issues and get together. This was a great winter romance!  Rating: 4 stars 

A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

 WOW, this was so good! People in the fantasy community seem to forget that a fantasy book can be something other than mortal girls and their hot 500 year old faeries. Don’t get me wrong, I love those books as much as the next person, but it feels like there’s been a lack of creativity in the fantasy genre. However, the fantastical elements in A Study in Drowning were subtle, new, and inventive. It was a perfect blend of dark academia and dark fantasy. The tone and setting were very atmospheric and rainy. The plot surrounded the analysis of literature, and also had strong themes of misogyny in academia and mental illness. The romance was a subplot but beautifully written and one of my favorite parts of the story. Reid’s storytelling was mysterious and full of tension. Rating: 5 stars

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

This was a really nuanced enemies to lovers, forced marriage romance! I feel that Lucian was the most complex love interest of the series so far. He was definitely morally gray but the author crafted an interesting backstory and provided reasonings for his actions. Also, in this book the commentary on women’s rights also included worker’s rights, which was important and eye opening. Rating: 4 stars

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

This dystopian world where everyone is immortal and has to be “gleaned” by certified killers was so interesting and brought up a lot of different stances on the morality of murder as well as the uncontrolled thirst for power a gleaner can start to have. I especially liked reading about Rowan and how his views on gleaning started to change throughout the book. The story was pretty slow until the latter half, which is my main criticism. Rating: 4 stars

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

I know this series is controversial for its outlandishness, lack of believability, and poor mental health representation (which I’m trying to look past since it came out 10 years ago). But what I also know is that I reread it 4 years later and still adore it. Exy is a made-up sport but I loved reading about it all the same. A group of misfits who hate each other but also grow to love each other and become found family is my kryptonite. Dynamics between 10+ characters is a difficult thing to write, but the author successfully created feelings of tension, solidarity, and passion. I can’t wait to see the relationships grow even further. Rating: 5 stars

To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

This was a really sweet You’ve got Mail romance. I’ve read a few books with that trope and they can sometimes annoy me with all the miscommunication, but here it was handled with care and made the romance more tension-filled. I really enjoyed Gracie as a character as her people-pleasing personality was super relatable. Her relationship with her siblings was also a nice addition to the story. I just wish the romance had more time to develop, since the book was on the shorter side. However, even with fewer pages than I would’ve liked, I loved Sebastian and Gracie’s romance! Rating: 4 stars

The Raven King by Nora Sakavic

This book is probably not objectively five stars– there isn’t a cohesive plot and the author writes so many unnecessary descriptions. I don’t care! There were a lot more traumatic moments in this book, but they led to found family moments which made me tear up. Neil’s character growth of learning to trust his teammates and fighting for them was very well written. Rating: 5 stars

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

This really surprised me, since I gave the first book only 3 stars and was not impressed. I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. We follow a different main character, Grey, who was always more interesting than Rhen in my opinion. He is written with so many dimensions and motivations, and we get to see how he handles a shocking revelation and a huge change in his role as character. The new character introduced, Lia Mara, is extremely fleshed-out as well and I really enjoyed her understated strength and leadership. I liked how Grey wasn’t a typical fantasy alpha male but had real fears and insecurities. The new side characters were lovable, and the end was so action packed. I now have a renewed interest in finishing this series! Rating: 5 stars 

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