December 2019 Reads

I finished out my 2019 reading challenge strong this month. My original goal for 2019 was to read 24 books, then I bumped it up a couple of times and finally settles on 52 books. By the end of this month, I’d read 71 books this year. That’s absolutely insane to me and I’m really proud of myself.

Not only did I crush my goals, but I also managed to squeeze in a couple contenders for favorite book of the year into this month. Not too shabby for one of the most hectic and off of my normal routine months of the year.

Keep reading to see what I read in the last month of the decade and what I thought of each book!

Stats

Number of books read: 7 📘📘📘📘📘📘📘

Print books: 1 📚

Audiobooks: 3 🎧🎧🎧

Kindle books: 3 📱📱📱

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 star books: 2

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 star books: 2

⭐⭐⭐ 3 star books: 3

⭐⭐ 2 star books: 0

1 star books: 0

😍 Favorite book: Thirteen

☹️ Least favorite book: The Amber Spyglass

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

friend request by laura marshall book cover on kindle honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read December 1, 2019.

Maria Weston died twenty-five years ago. She had to have. But then, who set up a Facebook account using her name? And who knows what really happened the night she disappeared? Who knows enough to terrify Louise out of her wits with a friend request from her long-dead schoolmate? Who knows what Louise really did that night? Could Maria actually be alive after all these years? Those are the questions that race through Louise’s head (and the reader’s) in Laura Marshall’s novel Friend Request.

This book was exactly what I wish the Megan Miranda novels I’ve read were. Like in
All the Missing Girls and The Last House Guest the timeline weaves in and out between 1989 and 2016, there’s guilt over a mysterious event that happened in the main character’s teenage years that ended up with a dead friend, and the characters always seem to know more than the reader. However, in Friend Request, the suspense is real and tense and the story would be thrilling even without the manipulated timeline. In addition, I can’t remember the last book I read that had a red herring that was not stupid, pointless, or obvious. Laura Marshall made excellent use of that plot device in this novel and she managed to throw me way off the trail of the facts in this story.

I flew through this whole book today on a lazy, rainy Sunday, but I think I would have had a hard time putting it down even if I had someplace to be today. I didn’t love most of the characters (which was probably the point) and I didn’t love reflecting on my own difficulty making friends in school (again probably part of the point), but the story was incredibly compelling and the mystery had me hooked. I would definitely pick up another book from this author.

Content warning for sexual violence in this book, especially near the end.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

the winter people by jennifer mcmahon book cover on kindle honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from December 3, 2019 – December 8, 2019.

The town of West Hall, Vermont has long been the site of mysterious disappearances, dating all the way back to the brutal murder of Sara Harrison Shea in 1908 after the tragic death of her daughter. Today, unsettling things are still happening and they may be connected to the horrifying, unnatural things Sara describes in her diary, which was published after her death. In the present-day, teenage Ruthie finds a copy of Sara’s diary hidden under the floorboard in her house (which just so happens to be the old Harrison Shea house) and soon she isn’t the only one hunting down West Hall’s secrets. Mysterious hiding places, legends of calling the dead back to life, a cursed ring, and ghostly figures in the woods are just some of the creepy elements in this terrifying, unputdownable novel.

If you follow me here on Goodreads, you know I love a good thriller, but I rarely gravitate toward outright scary stories. I get nightmares from the trailers to scary movies and I’m still scarred by the story of “The Green Ribbon” from the time I read In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories as a little kid. But for some reason, I decided to pick up The Winter People and I’m incredibly glad I did. This book terrified me the whole way through and I was looking over my shoulder the whole time. It was almost impossible to put down and I enjoyed just about every page of this story. I definitely plan to read more books by Jennifer McMahon in the future.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

the whole town's talking by fannie flagg book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from December 3, 2019 – December 9, 2019.

Elmwood Springs, Missouri is a charming little town with a long history of loveable residents. There’s Lordor Nordstrom, the kindhearted man who got the town off the ground in the 1800s by building a successful dairy business with his mail-order bride Katrina. There’s Elner Shimfissle, the woman who loves to sing off-key, talk to animals, and is loved by everyone (you might remember Elner if you also read Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, like I did). And there’s a whole lot of people in between, before, and after. The Whole Town’s Talking tells the story of the town and its people, through their lives, deaths, and hereafters.

I checked out this audiobook from my library because I was in the mood for something cozy and heartwarming. As usual, Fannie Flagg did not disappoint. The stories were sweet, sometimes surprising, and always heartwarming. I liked getting to know more about the characters from Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (and I loved the little cameo by Fritzi Jurdabralinski from The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion). If you like Fannie Flagg’s work, The Whole Town’s Talking won’t disappoint. And I will keep reaching for her novels when I need something heartwarming.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March

a questionable friendship by samantha march book cover on kindle honeybeejoyous

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐💫

Read from December 8, 2019 – December 15, 2019.

Brynne and Portland are two women living in a small town in Maine. They’ve been best friends for ages, but their lives have always been set on different courses. Behind two seemingly perfect marriages, one woman is struggling to conceive and gets potentially life-threatening news from the doctor. The other is watching her marriage crumble before her eyes and is coping with betrayal that connects back to her childhood. A Questionable Friendship grapples with the question of how much trust a friend is owed and what can happen when you feel like the only person you can trust is yourself.

I feel like I can always count on Samantha March to tell a compelling story about women’s friendship and this novel was just further proof of that. Before this, I’d only read the books from her The Six series and I’ve liked those quite a bit. A Questionable Friendship met the expectations I came in with. It was a good story with likeable characters and an engrossing plot. Her writing is a tad clunky and it sometimes feels like you’re being told facts rather than shown a story, but I don’t pick up a novel like this to read a literary masterwork. This is the type of book I pick up to have a quick, lighthearted read where I can just sit back and enjoy the story. What I feel sets March apart from other writers of her caliber is her willingness to tackle dark and difficult subjects within her stories alongside the descriptions of makeup and girls nights out. This novel was no exception and in fact, took an even darker turn than I was expecting. I always have fun reading Samantha March novels and I will definitely keep picking them up.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

the amber spyglass by philip pullman book cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from December 10, 2019 – December 18, 2019.

The Amber Spyglass is the third and final book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I read the first two books earlier in the year, but I waited a long time to get my hands on this audiobook through my library because of how well-produced these audiobooks are. I love how all the characters have different voices, I love the musical interludes between sections, and I just have found this series to be incredibly immersive in audiobook format.

I can’t say too much about the plot of this book since it’s the third in a trilogy and I don’t want to spoil it for people who have not read it yet. However, I will say that I finally understand all the controversy around this series. Even though I was a kid, I remember when The Golden Compass movie came out and so many people were talking about how it was horribly anti-Christian and sent terrible messages. Then, I read the first two books in this series earlier this year and just didn’t understand where all of that hatred was coming from. In this final book, however, the themes, morals, and stance of the series suddenly became clear. I don’t have a problem with any of what this book was trying to say (it is fiction, after all) but I finally understand the pushback to the series. I do find it interesting though that these themes and morals were ambiguous or barely hinted at in the first two books and then I got beaten over the head with them in this book.

I enjoyed this book, it was a fitting culmination to the trilogy, and it was better than The Subtle Knife, but it was not nearly as amazing to me as the first book in the trilogy. Usually, it’s hard to follow up a book that incredible, but since I’d heard such great things about this series as a whole, I wanted to read the whole thing. I’m glad that I did, but the only one of the books I’d reread is The Golden Compass. I don’t like being beat over the head with themes and I’ve never been one for big fantasy battles. I like smaller stories, especially ones where the main character is a spunky child who can outwit all the grownups. The Amber Spyglass was a fitting coming-of-age for Lyra, just not exactly my cup of tea. I really had to push through to get myself to finish the book because at a certain point, I just found myself no longer all that invested. I am definitely interested in watching the HBO series though, because I know there’s a lot they can do with this trilogy visually.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

my sister, the serial killer by oyinkan braithwaite book cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from December 19, 2019 – December 21, 2019.

I hadn’t heard any details about My Sister, the Serial Killer before I picked it up except that it was really good. I’m glad I ended up reading it and even more glad that I chose to hear it as an audiobook from my library.

Korede is an older sister. A devoted older sister. So devoted, in fact, that when her younger sister Ayoola calls her to say her boyfriend is dead, Korede grabs her disinfectant and her gloves and goes right to Ayoola’s aid. Although Korede has considered going to the police several times (especially since this is Ayoola’s third boyfriend who’s ended up dead), she’s never been able to prioritize a man over her little sister. However, she finds herself stuck when Ayoola starts seeing a man Korede has been pining over for years. Jealousy, family, secrets, and morality all come into play in this short, gripping novel.

I loved the contrast between the two sisters in this book and I love the insight into the family dynamic the reader is given. By the end of this short read, I really felt like I knew these characters. The whole time, I truly did not know what was going to happen next. I really enjoyed this story and I want to read more from Oyinkan Braithwaite in the future.

I also want to note that this story is set in Nigeria and the cultural dynamics of that country (especially the role of the police, gender expectations, and class divisions) felt very important in this story. Although these aspects were definitely different from my everyday experiences and from what I normally read in novels set in the US, I didn’t feel like I was lost or like I couldn’t enjoy this novel. In fact, it really made me want to make a more conscious effort to read books from authors from other countries. This book was truly great.

**read as an audiobook**

Find my review on Goodreads here.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

thirteen by steve cavanagh book cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from December 30, 2019 – December 31, 2019.

Two people have been brutally murdered by a serial killer. Thirteen is a courtroom drama about their murder case. The serial killer is in the room, but he’s not the defendant. He’s on the jury. Steve Cavanagh’s novel follows the parallel stories of Eddie Flynn, the defense attorney who is convinced his client is innocent despite the overwhelming evidence against him, and Joshua Kane, the juror with an agenda of his own. There’s drama, murder, genius, psycopathy, and more twists and turns than I thought were possible to reasonably pack into a novel, but somehow it all works to create an absolutely incredible story.

I truly could not put this book down. I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump the past couple weeks and I’ve picked up and put down three or four books. Thirteen was the book I needed to get me excited to read and I finished it just in the nick of time to end my 2019 reading challenge on a very high note. This book was right up my alley — any summary that reads like a Criminal Minds plot synopsis is an instant cue I’ll pick a book up. It was action packed, had likeable characters, an intriguing villain, and several plot twists that actually surprised me. I think there may have been one too many reveals packed in to the very end, but overall I thought all the twists were well done and I felt like I was keeping pace with (or even a little behind!) Eddie and the investigators rather than being a step ahead. To me, that’s usually a sign of a well written thriller, because when you’re a serial mystery/thriller reader and avid Criminal Minds watcher, sometimes even those sick twists can be a bit predictable.

Eddie was also a great character. I don’t often love books where the primary protagonist is a male, but I really liked Eddie and cared about his personal story arc as well as his involvement in the case. He was a good narrator and I felt good rooting for him. A particular quote stood out to me as evidence for why I liked him so much as this novel’s protagonist: “In a criminal trial, forensic evidence is God. But I’m a defense attorney. I’ve got the devil on my side. And he doesn’t play fair” (pg 258). Eddie is whip-smart, an underdog, and a darn good lawyer. I saw that Cavanagh has written several other books where Eddie is the protagonist and I would definitely consider picking them up.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this book and I’m so glad I picked it up. This was a great last book to read in 2019 and it has me even more excited than I already was to start my 2020 reading challenge.

Find my review on Goodreads here.

This was such a great way to wrap up my year of reading. Did you read anything you loved in December? Leave a comment down below and let’s talk about it!

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