2019 is finally over in the books, so it’s time for 2020 and all the fun reads ahead! Before I move on to the next book in my TBR stack to ring in the new year, I’m going to reflect on my final month of reading in 2019! WIthout further ado, here’s my wrap-up of my December reads!
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Summary: Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.
Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.
There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.
Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.
Thoughts: I’m starting to think that this author just isn’t for me. There were a lot of things to like about this one, but finishing it was like pulling teeth. I feel like the author tried to do too much in too little of time and really the only reason this isn’t getting 2 stars instead of 3 is because Sana and Rachel are so dang cute.
Readalikes: The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
I Didn’t Really Think This Through: Tales from my So-Called Adult Life by Beth Evans
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Summary: Like Mindy Kaling meets Hyperbole and a Half, I Really Didn’t Think This Through gets at the heart of what makes life both so challenging and so joyful—figuring out how to be a person in the world. Armed with her beloved illustrations, popular Instagram artist Beth Evans tackles a range of issues—from whimsical musings to deeply personal struggles—in this imaginative anti-guide to being your own person.
This book is a compendium of Beth’s collected wisdom and stories, interwoven with her tremendously popular and loveable illustrations. The book is a wonderful mix of fun (playful meditations on the band Rush and international pen-pals) and thoughtful (Beth delves into her personal history with obsessive compulsive disorder and depression while commiserating on topics like dating and credit card shame) all with a simple candor that anyone from a teen to their grandparent can relate to. Through all of her experiences, Beth manages to extract valuable lessons, and the book is replete with friendly advice about caring for yourself, getting help no matter what your problems are, and embracing what makes you happy. Beth is a compelling storyteller, her drawings picking up where her words leave off, creating an approachable and immersive experience for the reader. Beth’s work feels like a hug from your best friend. And like a best friend, she’s here to say “You got this!”
Thoughts: A real human being I know and call a friend wrote and illustrated this book, and I think that’s pretty swell! I read it in one sitting, and it warmed my heart; in this book I found not only my experiences with anxiety and depression, BUT ALSO the positivity that can be found both in this world and myself. I seriously recommend this one to any and all millennial (like myself) struggling to feel like and be an “adult”, and all my fellow mental health advocates out there.
Readalikes: Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen, Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
The Christmas Shop by Nancy Naigle
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Summary: Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.
Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?
Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?
When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?
Thoughts: Yoinks this was incredibly difficult to finish. I wanted to like it, I really did, but there were too many things trying to happen and none of them were done well. Would not recommend this at all, and the only reason I gave it 2 stars was because there were some characters and plot aspects I did like.
Readalikes: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber, Christmas in Harmony Harbor by Debbie Mason, Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle
Takane & Hana, Vol. 10 by Yuki Shiwasu
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Summary: After her older sister refuses to go to an arranged marriage meeting with Takane Saibara, the heir to a vast business fortune, high schooler Hana Nonomura agrees to be her stand-in to save face for the family. But when these two utter opposites pair up, get ready for some sparks to fly!
When Hana’s childhood friend Okamon confesses that he’s in love with her, Hana goes into a total panic! Can she possibly return his feelings? And once Takane finds out, all bets are off on how he’ll react to the news!
Thoughts: I really didn’t like Vol. 9, so this one was definitely an improvement! I really enjoy Takane’s and Hana’s characters, despite the potential moral complexities of their relationship, so I look forward to the following volumes!
Readalikes: Last Game by Shinobu Amano, Happy Marriage?! by Maki Enjōji, Nisekoi: False Love by Naoshi Komi
Daytime Shooting Star, Vol. 2 by Mika Yamamori
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Summary: Optimistic high schooler Suzume moves to Tokyo and finds her heart caught between two men!
After arriving in Tokyo to live with her uncle, Suzume collapses in a nearby park when she recallsm once seeing a shooting star during the day. A handsome stranger brings her to her new home and tells her they’ll meet again. Suzume starts her first day at her new high school sitting next to a boy who blushes furiously at her touch. And her homeroom teacher is none other than the handsome stranger!
She soon realizes that she is attracted to her homeroom teacher, Mr. Shishio. Although she tries to deny her feelings, they only grow stronger. But then her classmate Mamura does something that leaves her speechless!
Thoughts: I didn’t really love the first volume of this series but I decided to try the second volume (I usually give manga ~4 volumes to grab me) and it was better! I’m starting to enjoy the characters and their adventures, so I’m actually excited to read the next volume.
Readalikes: Wolf Girl & Black Prince by Ayuko Hatta, Honey So Sweet by Amu Meguro, Ao Haru Ride by Io Sakisaka
Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Summary: Olivia Langley is the human embodiment of Christmas cheer, and she has absolutely no problem spreading it around for all to hear. Christmas sweaters? She has twenty. Christmas cookies? She’ll take three dozen. Christmas movies? Yeah, she’s seen them all.
So it’s no surprise when she’s put in charge of Loveridge & McGowan’s holiday festivities. Secret Santas? Yep. Ice skating? Of course. Holiday trivia? Duh. Christmas-themed bar crawl? That’s one big jingle bell hell yes. Kissing her boss at a Christmas tree lighting in front of his ex-girlfriend? Well…it is the season of giving.
And Olivia does not come with a gift receipt. No exchanges. No returns. No refunds. All sales are final.
In an effort to ungrinch the grinchiest man she’s ever met, Olivia enlists herself, Santa’s Executive Helper, to scheme up a plan that includes sleigh rides, snow days, and one too many mistletoe kisses, which certainly gets Asher’s tinsel in a tangle. She’s pretty sure that she sleighed this whole fake dating thing. Well…until she realizes there’s nothing fake about her feelings for Asher, and suddenly tangled tinsel, unsolicited Christmas trees, and celebrity heartthrobs are the least of her worries.
Thoughts: This was recommended by a couple of people to get me in the holiday mood, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! I love office romances so this one was so fulfilling- it’s banter-filled and fun, yet also serious. Overall, I’d highly recommend this one for fans of fake dating and looking into getting in the Christmas spirit!
Readalikes: The Boss Who Stole Christmas by Jana Aston, Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, Holidate by Monica Murphy
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Summary: Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.
Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32-years-old and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?
Thoughts: Y’all, this book had so much potential and it even showed it in a few places…. but it just didn’t rise to the occasion. First of all, in any P&P remix or refresh, I think it’s most important to capture the essence of the story: the slow burn, the longing, the miscommunication, and the similarities. This one focused too much on names and circumstances from the original and completely left out the reason the original is so beloved-that timeless emotion and feeling. Also the writing was just not well done. Too much telling, not enough showing…and it’s NOT a Christmas book in the slightest! Take out Christmas and the story ~essentially~ remains the same.
Readalikes: Christmas with the Billionaire by Niobia Bryant, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Moonstruck Vol. 1 & 2 by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Summary: In volume 1, werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.
In volume 2, werewolf barista Julie and her supernatural friends try to unwind at a party, but a conniving fraternity of fairy bros has other plans for our heroes. With one of their friends trapped in the frat house and the winter solstice (a notable night of magical mischief) looming ever-closer, it’s up to the amorous werewolves and gregarious centaur to save the day.
Thoughts: These were quick and cute reads! The real highlight of this series is the characters- they are all loveable, yet flawed, and truly I wanted to be friends with all of them. Where I found these volumes lacking were in world development and general storyline; regardless, if you’re looking for a cute, inclusive, and magical series to try, this one is a winner!
Readalikes: Kim Reaper by Sarah Graley, The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xiu
Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer
Rating: 5/5 stars
Summary: For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game.
Pan’s life used to be very small. Work in her dad’s body shop, sneak out with her friend Tara to go dancing, and watch the skies for freighter ships. It didn’t even matter that Tara was a princess… until one day it very much did matter, and Pan had to say goodbye forever. Years later, when a charismatic pair of off-world gladiators show up on her doorstep, she finds that life may not be as small as she thought. On the run and off the galactic grid, Pan discovers the astonishing secrets of her neo-medieval world… and the intoxicating possibility of burning it all down.
Thoughts: Y’all, this graphic novel was such a treat! The art is lush and transformative, and you can’t help but root for the characters on their journeys! This one is a perfect pick for those who (like me) loved Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam and those who would love nothing more to stick it to the patriarchy. I cannot wait for the next installment in this one; I’m real bummed this one ended honestly!
Readalikes: Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, & Babs Tarr, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Summary: Two people. One house. A year that changes everything.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.
But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.
Thoughts: This one was just not…good. Not only was it incredibly drawn out, it just wasn’t interested honestly. I had to force myself to finish it, because the characters and the plot just didn’t grab me; however, I finished and I guess it was at best a meh.
Readalikes: To All The Cowboys I’ve Loved Before by D.R. Graham, The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, One Day in December by Josie Silver
There There by Tommy Orange
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Summary: We all came to the powwow for different reasons. The messy, dangling threads of our lives got pulled into a braid–tied to the back of everything we’d been doing all along to get us here. There will be death and playing dead, there will be screams and unbearable silences, forever-silences, and a kind of time-travel, at the moment the gunshots start, when we look around and see ourselves as we are, in our regalia, and something in our blood will recoil then boil hot enough to burn through time and place and memory. We’ll go back to where we came from, when we were people running from bullets at the end of that old world. The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, that we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, only to die in the grass wearing feathers.
Thoughts: This one has been on my TBR for a long time, so I was happy to read it with my work’s book club. This was illuminating, challenging, and really emotional, and I enjoyed the unique writing style employed in this one. I’d really recommend this one to anyone looking for a thought-provoking read, or those wanting to learn about experiences that don’t necessarily mirror their own.
Readalikes: Love Medicine by Louise Erdich, Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson, The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Summary: Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
Thoughts:This was a really cute story, and the rep found in this book was so appreciated! The art was nice, and I liked the fantasy elements too. What kept this from being from a five star read is that I would have loved more world building and development; it felt a little lacking in this one. Overall though, this was pretty good!
Readalikes: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle, Grimoire Noir by Vera Greentea,The Backstagers by James Tynion IV & Rian Sygh
An Incurable Case of Love, Vol. 1 by Maki Enjoji
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Summary: After witnessing a handsome and charming young doctor save a stranger’s life five years ago, Nanase Sakura trained to become a nurse.
But when she meets the doctor again and they start working together, she finds Kairi Tendo to be nothing like the man she imagined him to be!
Thoughts: I picked this one up because the author wrote another series I’ve been enjoying, Happy Marriage?!, and I found this to be a fun and quick read! Because it’s the first book in a series, a lot of it was spent building the backstory and the charged relationship between these two-overall, I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to read the next volume (seriously, I’m a sucker for office romances)!
Readalikes: SP Baby by Maki Enjoji, Honey So Sweet by Amu Meguro, Ao Haru Ride by Io Sakisaka
Book Love by Debbie Tung
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Summary: Bookworms rejoice! These charming comics capture exactly what it feels like to be head-over-heels for hardcovers. And paperbacks! And ebooks! And bookstores! And libraries!
Book Love is a gift book of comics tailor-made for tea-sipping, spine-sniffing, book-hoarding bibliophiles. Debbie Tung’s comics are humorous and instantly recognizable—making readers laugh while precisely conveying the thoughts and habits of book nerds.
Thoughts: This was meant to be cute, I’m sure, but it was rather pedantic. Honestly, the cartoons really had no unifying theme (other than books, obviously), and I didn’t really enjoy it. It’s a cute gift for the book worms in your life though.
Readalikes: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence, The I Wonder Bookstore by Shinsuke Yoshitake
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Summary: Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.
In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
Thoughts: This is such a beautiful telling of a tragic story. I feel like history of the US government interning Japanese Americans is overlooked in school curriculum and it is such an important and horrific policy, that people need to know and understand how people experienced it. This is without a doubt one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.
Readalikes: Belonging by Nora Krug, March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell, Uprooted by Albert Marrin
Smooth Criminals, Vol. 1 by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, Kurt Lustgarden, & Leisha Riddel
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Summary: When a bit of hacking goes wrong, geeky Brenda accidentally unfreezes Mia, a master cat burglar from the 1960s. Together, they work to pull off a heist bigger than either of them could have dreamed…and solve the mystery of Mia’s cold storage in the process.
When Brenda, geeky hacker extraordinaire, accidentally awakened Mia, an international jewel thief frozen in the 1960s, she wasn’t sure what to expect…but it surely wasn’t a new partner in crime! With their powers combined, they decide to pull off the heist of the century and with fifty years of catching up to do, Mia already has a target in mind. Writers Kirsten ‘Kiwi’ Smith (Legally Blonde) and Kurt Lustgarten (Misfit City) and illustrator Leisha Riddel swing into action and steal the show with this daring and hilarious caper of time-melding suspense.
Thoughts: My thoughts on this volume is honestly meh- the art was good, the characters cute, and the setting was fun, but the plot lines just didn’t vibe together or make a cohesive story. I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up the next volume to be honest.
Readalikes: Lady Killer by Joelle Jones & Jamie S. Rich, Under the Moon by Lauren Myracle & Isaac Goodhart, Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, & Matt Wilson
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Vol. 1 by Kelly Thompson & Veronica Fish
Rating: 5/5 stars
Summary: Sabrina is a teen witch who’s struggling with balancing the double life of high school and her burgeoning powers. Newly relocated to Greendale with her aunts Hilda and Zelda (also witches), Sabrina is trying to make the best of being the new girl in town which so far includes two intriguing love interests, an instant rivalry, a couple of misfits that could turn into BFFs, and trying to save the high school (and maybe the world) from crazy supernatural events. NBD!
Thoughts: This was a nice contrast to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (both the show and the comic series), and I really enjoyed reading it! I’ve always been a fan of Archie Comics and this had the feeling of that time, as well as the live action TV show of my childhood. The art is lovely, the characters lovable, and I hope this series continues!
Readalikes: Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jordie Bellaire & Dan Mora, Blackbird by Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel, Archie by Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Annie Wu, & Veronica Fish
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Summary: Harry Potter is leaving Privet Drive for the last time. But as he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid’s motorbike and they take to the skies, he knows Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters will not be far behind.
The protective charm that has kept him safe until now is broken. But the Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything he loves. And he knows he can’t keep hiding.
To stop Voldemort, Harry knows he must find the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them. He will have to face his enemy in one final battle.
Thoughts: I completed my biannual re-listening of the HP series just in time for the new year! Deathly Hallows always feels a bit slow for me, possibly because they aren’t in school and it’s building up to the very end. Also the dumb af epilogue. J.K. Rowling may be a garbage human, but I will treasure this series always! It’ll probably be a little bit until I re-listen again.
Readalikes: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Magyk by Angie Heap, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert
Rating: 3/5 stars
Summary: Cash Evans has come a long way since his troubled childhood, but all the wealth he’s earned as a tattoo artist can’t fix the hole in his heart. He knows that the sweet barista who haunts his dreams is off-limits… But life doesn’t always go to plan.
Bailey Cooper is determined to learn from her mother’s mistakes. She’s seen how cruel love can be, and she’s not about to sacrifice her self-respect for a relationship. But when a bad boy with a heart of gold comes to her rescue, she finds herself wondering if this beast might just be her Prince Charming.
Will these two lost souls find a happy ending under the tree this Christmas? Or is their love doomed to wither with the mistletoe?
Thoughts: I know this is a novella, but it was truly kinda meh for me. I would have loved more development of the characters and the plot, and really I couldn’t suspend my disbelief on this one. This isn’t one I’d really recommend for those looking for good holiday romances or slow burn romances; regardless, I love Talia Hibbert and I’ll continue to check out her books!
Readalikes: Bad for the Boss by Talia Hibbert, Sin and Ink by Naima Simone, Holiday Temptation by Jennifer Woodhull
What books did you finish and love in December? Put them in the comments below!
Until next time…