December Wrap Up: Part One

How are we already halfway through December? This month is flying. This whole year has been a weird mix of going fast and feeling like we’re slogging through it and it’s never going to end. But regardless, we’re in December and I’ve read some pretty exciting books this month so let’s get started!

1. Defenselessby Elizabeth Dyer

I have a full review of this book already posted, so I’ll keep this part short and sweet. I enjoyed this romantic suspense novel and would definitely recommend it, although there were elements that I did not love as much as I would have liked. For example, the main character is pretty much the only woman in the entire novel. So. That was fun. Check out my review if you want to see more of my thoughts!

2. Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha

I’m completely enamored with this series, but so far this third book has been my least favorite. I don’t know why I was so unable to connect with Six and Bren as characters, but I really was. That said, I still very much enjoyed this book. I also appreciated that it moved the plot forward. Mostly though, I’m beyond excited for Rachel’s book, which I think is up next! I need to stop wanting to spend my entire paycheck on books, but… They’re just so good!

3. Friends Without Benefitsby Penny Reid

I enjoyed this one even more than the first in the series, which I read last month. Elizabeth and Nico have so much chemistry and the history between them made the course of their relationship make sense. Also, just Elizabeth as a character is wonderful. And Nico as a character as well, really.

Basically, this book follows Elizabeth, a doctor in Chicago, and Nico, a famous comedian. The two went to the same high school and have some sort of history, though you find out the exact nature of that history as the book unfolds. Nico shows up in Elizabeth’s hospital one day with his niece to try and get her into this new study for the disease she has, which I am currently blanking on.

What I loved the most about this book was all of the familial elements. Getting to meet Nico’s family was such a joy because they all felt like very distinct characters with their own unique personalities. Definitely would recommend if you’re in need of a laugh and something cozy after a hard day.

4. Love Hackedby Penny Reid

And this book marks where my love affair with Penny Reid started to show some cracks… For the most part, I really enjoyed this book as well, there were just a few things that I couldn’t really describe that kept me from loving it. Now, I liked Sandra and Alex as characters, well… That is, I really liked Sandra as a character and my feelings about Alex were pretty up and down.

This book follows Sandra, a psychologist who hasn’t made it past the first date in years without making the man she’s dating cry because apparently something about her just makes these men start to self-disclose really personal things. When she’s on one of these first dates and the man leaves, Alex–her waiter–finally confronts her about what she’s doing to these dudes. Their relationship is complicated by secrets Alex is keeping and also a little bit by the fact that Alex is much younger than Sandra.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this book, but there was just something that I wasn’t able to love it as easily as I did Friends Without Benefits. That did not stop me from reading Marie’s book right after that though.

5. Dating-Ish by Penny Reid

So I skipped ahead in the series because I had bought Dating-Ish several weeks ago when it was a Kindle Daily Deal and I decided I could skip Fiona’s book and just come back to it. I think I regret that decision… I really like Marie as a character and I think Matt is mostly okay, but there were parts of this book that I just hated so much.

The plot of this book is that Marie is going on a first date with someone she’s pretty sure is going to be perfect. But then this guy shows up who looks nothing like his picture and is asking her questions like it’s an interrogation. He finally says something to offend her and she leaves. Later, it turns out that this guy is Matt, Fiona’s neighbor, and he is a scientist doing stuff with artificial intelligence. Marie winds up teaming up with Matt on a series of articles she and a co-worker are writing together that’s basically about ways to replace dating.

The plot itself is very fun. I don’t love Matt, but he’s fine. The part that got me to really dislike this book was a conversation 32% of the way in the book when the knitting group discusses whether or not terms like “Femi-Nazi” or “Grammar Nazi” are offensive. Kat is, apparently, Jewish, so she becomes the token person to try and articulate her feelings about the term. At some point though, one of the characters starts complaining about how people just need to learn to talk through these issues and… Well. Here’s the thing. All of the characters are white. All of them. And if you’re going to have a conversation like this in your book, could you please make sure it’s done well? I know I’m not the only one bothered by this conversation because so many reviews talk about it on Goodreads. So… Yeah, I’m sure I’ll continue reading Penny Reid because for the most part I’ve enjoyed her writing, but wow, did that really ruin this book for me.

6. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Hello, my name is Jenica, and I am complete trash for this series. Everything about The Diviners series is so wonderful, from the seamless way Bray created a group of diverse characters (who all feel three-dimensional) to the plot to my precious bby, Evie, who needs therapy in the worst way. I can’t say much about this book because spoilers, but I will reiterate that the audiobook is magical.

I will also mention that we get introduced to Ling Chan, a disabled Chinese-American young woman, who adds to the diversity of characters in this series and I love her. Also her mom is Irish, but because she married a Chinese man, she’s now considered Chinese because the Chinese Exclusion Act and associated laws were supremely f**ked up.

I did feel like the plot progressed more slowly in this book than in the first one, but Evie and Sam…. They’re my ship, y’all. I will go down with it, because I’m pretty sure Jericho is Evie’s end game. I hope I’m wrong about that. Also, am I the only one who literally cannot stand Mabel? She infuriates me. Anyway, I’m very excited for January when I get my next Audible credit so I can continue to book three!

7. The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas

I am beyond late to reading this book, but I will nevertheless join the masses screaming about how amazing and important this book is. Angie Thomas’s debut (DEBUT!!!) is honestly one that should be considered a modern classic. It is marvelous. I cannot use enough words to explain to you how fantastic it is so instead I’ll just give you a quick little summary.

Starr Carter is dragged by her friend, and her brother’s half-sister, to this party that gets broken up when a gang shooting occurs. Starr leaves the party with one of her childhood best friends, Khalil, and they are stopped by a police officer for a broken tail light. Khalil’s story ends the way we’ve seen too many black men’s stories end when they’ve been stopped by the police for some nonsensical reason and Starr is the only witness.

The book really explores how Starr has to switch between two worlds, her poor black neighborhood, and the mostly white prep school she attends. She has to be careful never to get angry so as to not seem like the ANGRY BLACK WOMAN and she even has to talk differently. This book explores so many deep themes, but ultimately, is a story of family and inner strength. It’s an incredibly important read and if you haven’t picked it up yet, please do.

8. The Obelisk Gateby N. K. Jemison

I picked this book up the other day and then basically read it in one sitting. One very long sitting because the book is over 400 pages, but I just could not put it down! I think it moves faster than The Fifth Season, but it could also be because I was already attached to the characters that had me flying through the book.

Again, I can’t say much, but I did appreciate the places the plot moved and I adore the new POVs. It’s so interesting. I still have some unanswered questions, but it was nice to get answers to some of the questions I had at the end of The Fifth Season. I’m extremely excited to pick up the third and final book in this trilogy and then I’m probably going to dive in to The Inheritance Trilogy because I already have it and I’m a little in love with N.K. Jemison right now.

9. Third Rail by Santino Hassell

I said this on Goodreads, but I really don’t think I’m even remotely part of the intended audience for this book. I like erotic romance sometimes, often, and I read m/m romance novels not infrequently. This novella has an established couple (both men) who enjoy having a third person and choose Chris to be that third.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did for the most part, but this is the first time I’ve read a m/m book and felt like I was objectifying or fetishizing gay relationships somehow? I’m not articulating this well and it seems especially ridiculous that I would feel this way given that Hassell is, I think, the first Own Voices m/m romance author I’ve read from. I think I’m definitely going to give him another chance–I already own Fast Connection, so hopefully I’ll not feel so odd about that one? We’ll see!

10. The Female of the Speciesby Mindy McGinnis

I buddy read this with Dani from Dani’s Bookshelf (you should definitely subscribe to her blog if you haven’t already because she’s wonderful!) and I am so glad I read it with her! There is so much to unpack in this book. I’m still not sure I’ve completely wrapped my head around everything that happened, to be honest, which means that I’m still not sure what to rate this book, but I’m leaning toward five stars. This book was not always easy to read, but it was compulsively readable. Both of us read it in one day.

Basically, the story follows three different characters, Alex–known at school as the girl whose sister died (read: was brutally murdered after being raped); Peekay (short for Preacher’s Kid); and Jack (cute boy, a bit of a player, and someone who wants to escape from their small town). Alex has very violent urges related to men who commit violence against women, so, as I’m sure you can imagine, this book deals a lot with violence and sexual assault. Overall, I would definitely recommend this for one of those days where you want to burn the world down.

11. Hungerby Roxane Gay

I promise you, I did not think I had read this many books this month, but whoops. I guess so. Everyone has already talked about this book, I think; it won the Reading Women Award for Nonfiction for 2017 and it’s already hit many best of 2017 lists. There is, of course, a reason for this. Roxane Gay wrote the most honest memoir I’ve ever read.

This is a memoir of Roxane’s body, a body that is morbidly obese, a body that she built as a fortress after being gang raped at 12 and then things spiraled a bit out of control. She is brutally honest about so much, including her jealousy of women with eating disorders. Her candidness about everything she has been through, including being a black woman in rural areas in the midwest, is awe-inspiring, honestly. I don’t think I’m as honest with myself as Roxane was to the world. I find her indescribably brave and will probably be in awe of her until I die.

I listened to this book on audio, which she narrates herself. Be forewarned that listening to the first quarter of the book is difficult if you are in public because you will probably want to cry. I know I did.

Okay, that is everything I read this month! I’m in the middle of so many other books, but to be honest, I make zero promises about finishing any of them. Well, besides Uprooted and most likely The School of Good and Evil. We shall see. What have you been reading this month? Any last minute potential favorites of 2017? Let me know in the comments!


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