This was a solid month of reading. Nine books in total, and a good mix of both smart and guilty pleasure. Later this week I will share my big post of everything I read in 2020, ranked (check out last year’s post here) but for today, I wanted to get up December’s list!
Everything I Read in December 2020
It was a good month of reading but I will say that I did not read anything from my anti-racist reading list this month (I generally prefer to listen to non-fiction and was very much enveloped in A Promised Land – 29 hours was no joke!) so have a goal of reading two books from that list this month. I started Heavy by Kiese Laymon yesterday and am enjoying it (if that’s the right word?) so far.
TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE READING! I’m always looking for great recommendations… I love reading your comments!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BEAUTIFUL BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past six years. The best part is that now you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, books by Black authors, etc!) Now you can also filter by GRADE to find exactly what you’re looking for or just peruse my top picks. If you’re feeling like you need even more book recs, check out last month’s list!
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, by Lori Nelson Spielman
This book was passed to me (and highhhhly recommended) by my mom, who is my go-to for book recs. Her taste is a little less murder-y and crime-y than mine but we pretty much always agree on what we like and do not like. First of all, if you are craving an adventure, this will satisfy that as you will feel as though you are in Italy. I finished reading and felt like I had been on a trip through Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast! It also has one of Becca’s favorite tropes: a loveable, eccentric older woman. In this case it’s a great aunt and not a grandmother but that doesn’t matter. Same thing, giving me slight Matchmaking for Beginners vibes.
The Fontana family is cursed. Because of a past family feud, no second-born daughter will ever find lasting love. Emilia Fontana is happy living a quiet life baking at her family deli. Her cousin Lucy is absolutely desperate for love and trying to break the curse. When the girls’ estranged great aunt invites them on an all expenses paid trip to Italy AND promises to break the curse on her eightieth birthday on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral, they accept, heading off on a once in a lifetime adventure (and getting to know their Aunt Poppy, who is just an absolutely wonderful character!!!). I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. Cannot recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A
A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
First of all, I can’t believe I finished this book (I listened to it) in a month as it was a whopping 29 hours! It wasn’t difficult though, the book was so interesting that I found myself waking up and having coffee with Barack, and then taking him along on walks while I was in Charleston. If you decide to read this I highly recommend the audiobook, it truly was so soothing and wonderful and felt like spending time with him! This is the first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs, taking you through both is personal and political life from his earliest aspirations to running for senate to getting elected, to capturing Bin Laden.
I found it so interesting to hear his perspective (having had some distance from being in office now on his foreign policy, cracking down on Wall Street, the early days of Donald Trump (and the birth certificate nonsense), and everything in between. I especially enjoyed the more personal stuff, his family life, marriage to Michelle, etc. It is beautifully written, intimate, and deeply introspective. He is such a brilliant writer and it genuinely felt like sitting down with my old friend the ex-president, reliving his glory days, vulnerably talking about his mistakes and disappointments, etc. It’s poignant and hopeful and was the perfect palette cleanser after the election. I did not want it to end and am really looking forward to the next one!
- Overall Score: A+
White Ivy, by Susie Yang
A few of you recommended that I read this book! It is NOT a thriller but it is incredibly suspenseful, and while drawing you in with a page-turning plot it is also a complex look at the constructs of both race and class. Ivy Lin is a thief and a liar, raised by her Chinese grandmother (who teaches her how to steal) and intense (borderline abusive) parents. She grows up poor in a suburb of Boston, attending private school. There, she develops an obsession with Gideon Speyer, the golden boy with the perfect life from a wealthy political family. Years later, after college, she reconnects with Gideon’s sister Sylvia. Gideon and her begin dating, fulfilling Ivy’s wildest dreams.
Suddenly, her life is glamorous and exciting: fancy dinners and parties, weekends at the family beach house… Ivy has everything she’s ever wanted! But then (ominous music!) another man emerges from Ivy’s past. His presence threatens to upheave everything she’s worked so hard for and she is forced to decide what she really wants and figure out who she really is. This book is dark and suspenseful, with slight Talented Mr. Ripley vibes. I really enjoyed it. The middle does lag a bit, but I didn’t mind as it’s so sharply and perceptively written! Highly recommend.
- Overall Score: A
This Time Next Year, by Sophie Cousens
British Chick-lit is not really my usual genre but every now and then I get a craving and will spend a whole weekend day curled up reading one. And that’s what I did with this book, (which I’d heard such good things about)! It lived up to all the hype – it’s very cute and perfect for fans of Josie Silver (while not a Christmas book, it definitely had those missed-connection but fated to be together One Day in December vibes to it).
Minnie Cooper is convinced that her New Years’ birthday is unlucky, and it’s all Quinn Hamilton’s fault. You see, they share a birthday and on New Year’s Eve when she and Quinn were born, Quinn’s mother wins the hospital’s cash prize for being the first baby born in the new year – AND she stole her name (Minnie was supposed to be Quinn Cooper). Minnie is convinced that she’s just unlucky and has a bit of a permanent chip on her shoulder.
Each year, her birthday is more and more of a disaster, leading up to 2019’s New Years Eve when she and Quinn meet in a chance encounter at his birthday party. They’re both seeing other people but spend 2019 bumping into each other, developing feelings and non-feelings. Minne’s business is struggling and life just always feels hard; whereas Quinn’s life just feels easy by comparison. Of course, things are not always as they seem. This is a cute and fun “will they or won’t they” sort of romcom; I really enjoyed it!
- Overall Score: A-
Admission, by Julie Buxbaum
This book is a great exercise in empathy. Like many of you I was fascinated (and really upset) by the college admission scandal with Lori Loughlin and her daughter Olivia Jade, Felicity Huffington, etc. This book is a fictional look at what it would be like to be the daughter of one of those parents. To feel like you were so stupid that your parents had to buy your way into college. To lose your friends and boyfriend and feel like the whole world hates you and you’re just totally screwed.
Told from the daughter’s perspective, it definitely presents a more empathetic (though fictional) take on what happened. I struggled for the first 40% of the book (the older I get the less I like YA unless it’s about rich unsupervised teens or a thriller) as it was slow and very high school (a silly critique of YA, yes yes I know!) but ended up enjoying it. I felt like it was just a little young but duh, it is a young adult book! All of that said, it gave me a different perspective. While it won’t be a Bad on Paper book club pick, I do think it would make a great book club book as you’d have such a great conversation about the book and the admission scandal in general.
- Overall Score: B+
The Wife Upstairs, by Rachel Hawkins
Oh boy I LOVED THIS. Loved it. Read it in a day. This is a fantastic-ly twisty, very Gone Girl-esque thriller and I adored it. It’s actually a modern re-telling of Jane Eyre, which I didn’t even realize until after. But even if you’ve never read Jane Eyre (I actually have not), you’ll still enjoy it. Jane is new to Birmingham, with a dark past. We don’t know much, just that she has been in and out of foster care her whole life. Upon moving to Birmingham, she starts walking dogs in the ritzy community of Thornfield Estate. Think rich housewives decked in diamonds and giant mansions.
When she meets rich, gorgeous, (recently widowed) Eddie he seems too good to be true. But is he? He lost his wife just six or so months ago in a boating accident. Eddie could be the solution to all of her problems… but will her past catch up with him? Or, is Eddie not as he seems? The two fall in love and things escalate quickly but of course with books like this, all is not perfect. This is suspenseful and fun and even though I did end up guessing the big twist I needed to know what happened and could not put it down! I absolutely loved it. If you are looking for a deliciously twisty thriller, read this!
- Overall Score: A
People Like Her, by Ellery Lloyd (out 1/12)
You know I can’t resist a thriller, especially when it’s about an influencer. This one was creepy, and I will admit it probably best got down the influencer job better than most books about influencers I’ve read… (so often they dumb down the job to just opening packages and snapping selfies!). The authors (it’s a husband and wife duo) clearly put in the time to do the research. And it was fast paced – I read it in a day. Emmy Jackson is an “instamum” in the UK, with over a million followers, a handsome writer husband Dan, and two adorable kids. Her brand is based all on honesty and telling it like it is… except she is not exactly always h0nest.
The book alternates between the perspectives of Emmy and Dan (so you quickly see how disingenuous Emmy can be, though you still do root for her most of the time) and… Emmy’s stalker who blames Emmy for a series of terrible tragedies in her own life. Emmy’s stalker is hell bent on hurting Emmy. The book is suspenseful and hard to put down, but at the same time it was a little bit predictable and you kinda knew what would happen next. I did like the character development of Emmy and the way the book explored the darker side of influencer culture though, so I would still definitely recommend it!
- Overall Score: B
An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin
This was recommended to me in the Facebook group after I gushed about The Talented Miss Farwell last month. SUCH a good one. It’s a bit older (from 2011) and written by Steve Martin – yes, THAT Steve Martin the actor. I had absolutely no idea what an incredible, keenly observant writer he is. I was all at once impressed and surprised! Lacey Yeager is young, beautiful, clever and smart… working her way up in the art world of New York City. The book follows her career through the nineties and into the two thousands as she begins her career at Sotheby’s and climbs the social and career ladders in front of her.
From the rise of the art world to the tragedy of 9/11 to the recession of 2008 and beyond. It’s told from the perspective of her friend Daniel and along the way we find out that the two of them have done something unethical together, but you don’t find out just what that is. I couldn’t put it down, I thought that the writing was excellent, the characters were so fantastically developed… it’s just so smartly written and interesting. I can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A
What Would Frida Do, by Arianna Davis
I would describe this book as… part biography and part self-help book! As a long time fan of Frida Kahlo I was really excited to pick this one up and it did not disappoint. Frida Kahlo was a feminist icon, a style icon, and an incredible artist. She was known for her signature bold, colorful style and (equally bold) politics just as well as she was known for her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera. Through her life she experienced horrible heartbreak (both in her marriage and in her struggles with her health and infertility) but she was never afraid of living boldly, staying true to herself, and making a statement.
I was pretty familiar with her story but loved the format of the book: it breaks up Frida’s life into chapters (like love, heartbreak, sex, etc.) giving us an inside look at her life and how she handled each of these things, with advice at the end. Her story is pretty incredible: she’s survived so much, from polio as a child to being impaled by a hand rail in a bus accident to her husband’s multiple affairs (even cheating on her with her own sister). It’s part history book/biography and part pep talk. Such a fantastic idea and also a really great inspirational book as we usher in a brand new year.
- Overall Score: A-
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photo of me by Clay Austin.