December 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

This was my worst reading month of the year! I couldn’t get into anything I picked up. I don’t know if it was the holidays or I was just overdue for a reading slump (I can’t remember the last time I had one), but it was a boring (and frustrating) month for me.

Having said that, please take my reviews this month with a grain of salt! I don’t necessarily trust that these books weren’t for me – it could just be that I was in a reading funk. Search out some more reviews from your trusted sources before making a final decision on whether or not you decide to pick up one of these books!

December By the Numbers:
  • Total Books Read: 8
  • Audiobooks: 1
  • Five Star Reads: 1
  • Unread Shelf: 1 (8 DNFs)
  • By Women Authors: 5
  • Nonfiction Reads: 5
  • Published in 2020: 5 (+ 2 in 2021)

Favorite Book of December:

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

This one had been on my list for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to it. It’s powerful and eye-opening and makes you want to spring into action! (See below for more of my thoughts.)

Here are a couple honorable mentions:

  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
  • Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis

Heading into December, here is the TBR I set:

  • A Backlist (BOTM) Title: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
    • ❌ Didn’t get to it.
  • A BOTM Title: The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan
    • ❌ DNF
  • A Nonfiction Title: The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
    • ❌ Didn’t get to it.
  • A NetGalley/Edelweiss Title:  *** Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
    • ❌ Didn’t get to it.
  • A Memoir: *** This Is All I Got by Lauren Sandler
    • ❌ Didn’t get to it.
  • At least 2 physical ARCs:
    • *** The Lightness by Emily Temple
      • ❌ Didn’t get to it.
    • *** Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
      • ❌ Didn’t get to it.

To be fair, I didn’t pick up some of these books because I knew my mind wasn’t in a good state. There were too many on this list that I wanted to have a fair chance, so I picked up other books instead!

I also read the following books:

  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Yu created an incredibly unique format for his book, Interior Chinatown. It’s satirical look at how Asians are viewed in America and the main character, Willy Wu is an actor. He is trying to climb the unspoken of ladder from “Generic Asian Man” to the top where only a select few can be crowned “Kung Fu Asian”. Often times, the book would blur the lines between what was reality and what was part of the script, which made this one of the most unique book formats I’ve ever seen. Within the first few pages, I had tears running down my face. Then a few pages later, I was chuckling under my breath. This book really has it all – and there’s a lot of nuance you have to dig through as a reader. I’m not sure I’ve sold anyone on giving this book a try, but I am so glad I read it. It profoundly affected me and I have found myself thinking about it off and on since I finished earlier this week.
  • 🎧 *** The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 This was my first 2021 release of the year, and I enjoyed it! I didn’t realize it’s a retelling of Jane Eyre (I’ve never read it), so I can’t compare the two. As for this story, the audiobook was engaging and I flew through it as I deep cleaned my kitchen! The Wife Upstairs has not one, not two, but three super unlikeable, cringeworthy human beings at the center of its story. The big question is: who will prove to be the most manipulative? The most messed up? With multiple twists I didn’t see coming (and quite a few I did), this one kept me interested and engaged. There’s a lot required from the reader in respect to suspending belief, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t read thrillers because they’re realistic!
  • *** Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is a dark and unrelenting coming-of-age memoir of addiction, codependency, and grief. Geller’s mom and dad gave her and her sister a choatic upbringing, and while I really loved Geller’s writing style, this book felt more like 500 pages than 300. It was unnecessarily long and some of the stories began to feel repetitive – because let’s be honest, how different can stories be when dealing with addicts that continually relapse and need to crash on your couch again? Geller seems to be the only one who escapes the addiction lifestyle – her mom, dad, and sister continually repeat the same cycle – and she makes a life for herself as a college professor in Canada. This book demonstrates the effects of generational trauma well and, by the end, I was hopeful that Geller had finally broke out of that lifestyle with her new husband.
  • *** Happy Habits: 50 Science-Backed Rituals to Adopt (or Stop) to Boost Health and Happiness by Keren Salmansohn
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 40-45% of your daily habits are preprogrammed habits! Can you believe that? We run on automatic for almost half our days! With the new year quickly approaching, it’s a great time to reevaluate our daily habits and make some changes and this book is a great companion for that very task!
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
    • 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Wow! I am continually amazed at the people who go out and change the world…Bryan Stevenson is one such person. I’m intrigued by their drive and passion. It has become Stevenson’s life mission to end mass incarceration in America. He advocates to extend mercy to people convicted of crimes and demonstrates what that looks like in the most beautiful way. He sees prisoners as humans first and treats them with dignity and respect. His caseload is huge and only seems to be growing. This is a wonderful book – truly inspiring – and reciprocates a lot of what Brittany K. Barnett writes about in her book, A Knock at Midnight (equally as wonderful and inspiring). Both of these books should be on everyone’s TBR! 
  • *** At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is another 2021 release that I had higher hopes for. I absolutely love San Fransico…it’s my favorite city in the United States. For that reason alone, I was immediately drawn to this book, but I was also curious about 19-year-old Maddy who is homeless and living in Golden Gate Park. When she accidently witnesses a murder, her life is upended as the police and the victim’s parents all want answers from her. Ultimately, I was completely let down by this story. I found it hard to finish, so I forced myself through this one. It read more like YA and I think it would be a better book for that genre. The story felt very chaotic and disjointed, and it ended very abruptly.
  • Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ While this one didn’t take a lot of brainpower, I found a lot of insightful things within its pages. It was the perfect escape for my unfocused brain right now and I’m definitely going to incorporate some of the suggestions in my own home!
  • Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis
    • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My initial reaction when the Coronovirus outbreak happened was, “How did previous generations feel? Were they worried about the same things? Did their pandemic get politicized like COVID-19 has?” These questions (and so many more) prompted me to pick up this book, and I was relieved so find that people generally seem to respond in the same ways (in both good and bad ways). For me that was a comforting notion…that humanity gets through the pandemic and life does seem to return to “normal” again. It gives me hope in a year that felt very bleak. Some of the information was a bit over my head, but I also thought Christakis was able to convey this scientific information quite well. Some of the information will date quickly, but I appreciate this book for instilling a sense of hope back in me – especially as we head into the New Year!

I’m currently reading and will likely finish by the end of December:

  • How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Differences by Adam Rutherford
    • I am literally just starting this, but it’s not a very big book!
  • Memorial by Bryan Washington
    • I’ve seen mixed reviews of this one so I’m not sure where I’ll land on it, but I know I’ll be quick to DNF if it’s not working!

I tried but wasn’t feeling:

  • The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan
    • Unfortunately, from the beginning, the story felt off to me. The writing was elemetary and lacked any sort of hook to grab my attention. I DNF’d it at just 15% (the poor reviews and low rating on Goodreads didn’t help).
  • Daddy by Emma Cline
    • I just couldn’t get into any of the stories in Emma Cline’s collection, Daddy. I tried every single one of them and, unfortunately, they all fell flat. DNF.
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
    • With the year ending, books have to be blowing me away in order for me to keep reading them. At a different time, I probably could have appreciated this book more – it’s main theme is about grief, which I’m always on board with. But the formatting of the book (maybe just a problem with the ARC I have) made it difficult to sink into the story. I may try this again in the future if I ever run across a hard copy of it!
  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
    • Sadly I’ll never know if this one didn’t work for me because of the reading slump I’m in, or if I really just wasn’t into the story. I tried so hard to love this book (it won the 2020 National Book Award for fiction after all!), but, for me, it was pretty boring and uneventful. I definitely wouldn’t trust my opinion because it’s got great ratings on Goodreads and a lot of people are raving about it, so seek out other reviews before deciding whether or not to read it. DNF at 62%.
  • A Promised Land by Barak Obama
    • Cannot spend one more second on this book. Try as I might, I just couldn’t finish it. It’s way more politics than I wanted; I was hoping for a more emotional book like Michelle Obama’s was. Unfortunately, this book was changing my opinion of Barak Obama – he was coming across as such a narcissist that I thought it was better to call it quits while I was still ahead. DNF @ 63%.
  • To Wake the Giant: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Jeff Shaara
    • Unfortunately, just when we’re about to get to the bombing of Pearl Harbor (which is all I’ve been waiting for), I’m just too burned out on the story to care anymore. Initially, I was totally into this one because it reminded me of my grandpa who was in the Merchant Marines back in the late 1940s. I figured it was giving me a glimpse into what it must have been like for him. And I was really curious about the Pearl Harbor bombing, but there was just so much detail and cheesy narration that I ultimately lost interest. DNF @ 52%.
  • The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Short Stories by Danielle Evans
    • I loved the first story, can’t remember the second one, and no longer cared after the third. 🤷🏼‍♀️ DNF @ 24%.
  • Want by Lynn Steger Strong
    • Another victim of my current state of reading. Maybe would have been a better book at a different time for me. It was too character-driven for my inability to focus. DNF @ 41%.

Unread Shelf Update:

I think it’s the pressure of not missing any good books before the year ends, but I didn’t read any backlist books this month. I also did one more end-of-the-year purge of my bookshelves in order to be ready for 2021!

As of the end of December, the total number of physical books on my shelves is: 184

If you’d like to participate in the Unread Shelf Project, head over to Whitney’s blog for more information!

There you have it! What was your favorite read from your December TBR?

(#partner #freebooks: All books noted by asterisks (***) indicate I received the book for free from the publisher, the author, or another promotional company to review. All opinions are my own.)

5 thoughts on “December 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

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