Recent Reads, December 2023

The beginning of December felt pretty hectic with holiday preparation, but the end of the month left me with lots of time for reading, which was really nice. I feel like I’ve been getting back into the habit, and also getting more into audiobooks, too, which has been fun. I read a nice mix of genres in December – some rom coms, some litfic, a thriller, plus some holiday books. Here’s everything I read!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I thought this book was going to be a cute rom-com, but was (very!) pleasantly surprised when I realized there was a little bit of magic, too! August is 23 years old and just moved to NYC to be independent for the first time in her life. She finds herself with a quirky group of new roommates, who help her get a job at a local pancake diner, and is going to finally finish her degree, too. And then one day on the subway, she has what seems like a meet cute with the girl of her dreams – Jane. And then every time she’s on that subway, she sees Jane again, and again, and again, which seems like too much of a coincidence. Can August help figure out why Jane is seemingly stuck on the subway line – and find out a little bit about herself along the way?

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

This was a really cute story about the origins of Christmas and Santa. It’s definitely a young story – there are illustrations, and it’s written for kids’ reading level, but is absolutely something that can be enjoyed by adults, too. Nikolas is a young boy who goes on a quest to try to find his father, who left months earlier on a mission and never returned. Nikolas makes some strange friends along the way, and even discovers a secret Elf village going through a serious lack of goodwill and cheer. Nikolas has to figure out how to save his dad and the Elf village, too – and maybe give out a few gifts along the way.

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

The story is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Salama lives in Syria, and was a pharmacy student until bombs started going off regularly in her country. Now, she works in a hospital, helping to save the victims that come in daily. Though she is dedicated to her work, and to the loyalty to her country, she also dreams of escaping, to save the life of her pregnant best friend / sister-in-law Layla, so that she doesn’t give birth in the midst of war. Though she knows she needs to go, Salama can’t quite force herself to leave her country. Salama has to decide her place in the ongoing revolution. I highly, highly recommend this one – it’s incredibly powerful.

The Second Chance Year by Melissa Wiesner

A friend recommended this cozy romance written by a local author, and I’m so glad I read it! Sadie is going through a rough time after losing her job, getting dumped, and losing her apartment, so when she’s offered a wish on New Year’s Eve, all she wants is the chance to re-do the last year of her life. She just knows that if she could do it all over again, she’d make better, more mature choices. But she’s still shocked when she wakes up on New Year’s Day and realizes that her wish has been granted. Sadie has the chance to undo some of the damage from the last year – but sometimes, the things that seem light mistakes turn out to be blessings in disguise.

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda

I read this for a book club, and it’s definitely more “literary” than what I typically gravitate towards. Lydia has just moved to London as part of a young artists’ residency program, where she has a small studio along with a group of other artists. But unlike the other artists, Lydia is a vampire, and she’s starving, because she’s not able to easily buy the pigs blood in London that she subsisted on from the butcher in her small town. Lydia has never tasted human blood, and she’s constantly caught in the crosshairs of her desires and her insatiable hunger that takes up so many of her thoughts. She has to figure out how to exist and survive in her new world, and how to deal with the conflicts so innate in her own self.

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

This story was basically a Hallmark movie in book form! Charlie and Cass are identical twins who are both frustrated with something going on in their lives. Charlie just had a head injury on the set of her baking competition show, and currently can’t taste or smell, and Cass broke up with her boyfriend, but he really doesn’t seem to understand that they’ve actually broken up. So the twins decide to swap places with each other. Unsurprisingly, the swap doesn’t go quite as easily as they hoped (especially since the sisters don’t seem to have shared any information about their lives with each other??), and there are some mishaps along the way… but like any Hallmark-esque story, there are happy endings in store for all. This wasn’t my favorite holiday rom-com, but it’s not bad, either.

The Passengers by John Marrs

This was such a fun thriller! I listened to the audiobook, which was full cast and so great. Six people get into self-driving cars one day – cars that are now a routine and (mostly) accepted part of society – and then suddenly the doors lock, and a voice comes on saying that their destination has been changed. The six passengers find out that they’re now all set on a collision course with each other, and that their fate is being live-streamed to the public, too. In a horrific, reality show twist, the public is asked to decide who will survive, and who should die first. Will the public or the passengers be able to find a way to save them all?

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