December 2019 TBR: 12 Books before Christmas

Hello December! I wish I could express just how excited I am for this month – Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and this year it will be even more special because I am expecting a baby ANY day now! I can’t wait to see how much better this little Christmas baby makes the holiday season, which for me is already so full of love and family and joy.

BUT… in the back of my mind I still know that I have SO MANY BOOKS that I want to get in before the end of the year. I know that between the holiday craziness and a newborn baby I will DEFINITELY not get to most of the books that I want to, but I’ve picked 12 that I WANT to and feasibly think I CAN read before the end of the month – and as an extra little challenge, I named this post 12 Books before Christmas so that I can hopefully spend the last full week of the year completely enjoying my family without stressing or thinking about any reading goals I have yet to complete 🙂

There’s not much of a rhyme or reason to this TBR, but I have included the 12 books I want to read below with the short blurbs on why!

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Dystopia

Why I Want to Read It: These first two books on my list are a little bit of a cheat – I’ve actually finished them both already. (It’s the 4th of the month, and every day counts!!) This is a book that I had seen hyped all over the internet, claiming to be a creepy, sort of hard-hitting post-apocolyptic dystopia novel about a traveling Shakespeare troupe navigating a world whose population has been wiped out by 99.99%. I’ll save my full thoughts for my December wrap-up, but unfortunately this one did not live up to the hype for me!

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction

Why I Want to Read It: Again, I already have read it – but this had recently been added to my shelves as a thrift store find. I loved both the book and the movie of The Martian by Andy Weir, so I thought this book by him might be worth a try. Again, full thoughts to come, but I was so extremely pleased to find that I loved this one just as much!

Title: An Unwanted Guest
Author: Shari Lapena
Genre: Thriller

Why I Want to Read It: I have read all three other books by Shari Lapena, including her 2019 release Someone We Know, and to be honest my opinion on her is still up in the air. I believe the three other books I have rated 2, 3, and 4 stars – so I’m hoping this one will help me solidify my thoughts on whether I connect with Shari Lapena’s writing or not!

Title: The Dilemma
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Thriller

Why I Want to Read It: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris is one of my all-time favorite thrillers – I absolutely loved the writing, the story, and the way I was left thinking about it for hours/days/months after finishing it. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book, set to be released in January, and I’m pumped to read more of her writing in this new thriller that I really don’t know anything about.

Title: The Bridge of Little Jeremy
Author: Indrajit Garai
Genre: Contemporary

Why I Want to Read It: I was sent a physical copy of this book by a representative of the author in return for a review, based on my feelings about Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I expect this book to similarly be very character-focused and potentially hard-hitting, which I’m excited to get into and share my thoughts about this previously unknown-to-me book and author.

Title: Until We Meet Again
Author: Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger
Genre: Historical Fiction

Why I Want to Read It: This one’s an interesting one – this book actually belongs to my husband, who recommended I read it several months ago. I haven’t gotten around to it yet because it seems to be quite out of my comfort zone, but I’d really like to fit it in by the end of the year so that I can relay my thoughts back to him 🙂

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Thriller

Why I Want to Read It: This year Ruth Ware became one of my favorite thriller authors after reading only one book – The Turn of the Key – and I now want to get to ALL of her backlist titles. I’ve been told that they aren’t as good as her most recent release, but I’d like to make that decision for myself – starting with this one!

Title: Heroine
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Contemporary

Why I Want to Read It: I read The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis early on this year and gave it 4 stars – I really connected with the hard-hitting story, complex characters, and McGinnis’s style of writing. Since this seems to have more of that hard-hitting subject matter, I have high hopes that I’ll enjoy this book just as much.

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Contemporary

Why I Want to Read It: You might see a theme here, but I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere this year and – spoiler alert – it’s ending up in my Top 10 of 2019 (post to come!). This is her only other full-length novel to date, and I can’t wait to dive in (pun intended, see the cover) to this one and hopefully love it as well. A bonus is that it’s pretty short and should be easy to squeeze in!

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Genre: Thriller

Why I Want to Read It: Marisha Pessl is an author that I have not yet explored yet but think that I will really love, based on reviews of her books Night Film and Neverworld Wake. This one I just happened to stumble upon in a thrift store, so I picked it up and would love to prioritize it this month!

Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Contemporary

Why I Want to Read It: One more time – I’ve read one book so far by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove. That book really surprised me in how much it impacted me by the end, and I hear that that’s what all of his books do. I hope to get to Backman’s entire backlist eventually, but this one by the end of the year will be good enough progress towards that goal for me.

Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller

Why I Want to Read It: Gillian Flynn has been hit-or-miss for me with her last two books; I absolutely adored the book and movie of Gone Girl, but then was extremely disappointed in how much I disliked Dark Places. This one will be the tie-breaker – is Gillian Flynn one of my favs, or was Gone Girl an anomoly for me?


Just writing about these books has made me excited all over again to read them – I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought of them. If not, what are you planning on reading in December? I realize now that I have absolutely no seasonal reads, and I’m treating this month more like a catch-up month for my physical TBR – are you planning on reading holiday-themed books for the month instead?

Hope everyone has/is having a wonderful holiday season!


Mid-Year Reading Summary

And just like that, I guess 2019 is already halfway over! Because my reading goal has been going SO well and I’ve already read 45 of the 52 books I wanted to complete by the end of this year, I thought now would be a good time to recap all of that reading, mention some standout favorites so far, and set some new goals for the remainder of the year.

General Reading Summary

Books Completed: 45
Pages Read: 12,821
Authors Read: 41
Overall Genre Breakdown: 30 fiction, 15 nonfiction

Detailed Reading Summary

Reading Statistics

Female: 25 (61%)
Male: 16 (39%)

Physical Books: 36 (80%)
eBooks: 5 (11%)
Audiobooks: 4 (9%)

Contemporaries: 14 (31%)
Thrillers/Mysteries: 7 (16%)
Female Nonfiction: 6 (13%)
Memoirs: 4 (8.9%)
Miscellaneous: 4 (8.9%)
Classics: 3 (6.7%)
Dystopias: 2 (4.4%)
Historical Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Science Fiction: 2 (4.4%)
Sports: 1 (2.2%)

1 star: 1 (2.2%)
2 stars: 4 (8.9%)
3 stars: 13 (29%)
4 stars: 18 (40%)
5 stars: 9 (20%)

Favorite Reads

In the table up in the detailed reading summary, you can see that the nine books I rated 5 stars are written in pink. I could say that all of those are my “favorites” so far of the year – and that would be true – but I really want to highlight the 5 books that really stand out in my mind as must-reads.

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
    This book, when I read it, immediately stood out as a new possible favorite book of all time. The writing was great, the characters were interesting, and the storyline included a lot of sensitive topics that I felt connected to and enjoyed reading the different sides of (custody disagreements, parenting styles, general feelings of inclusion and belonging). I actually don’t think this book would be everyone’s cup of tea because it is a pretty slow-moving contemporary, but I really, really enjoyed it.
  2. The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
    This was another emotional one for me. I’m not a big crier when it comes to reading, but this book got me about as close to tears as possible. I also don’t consider myself a romance lover, but the storyline of the couple in this book is really special. I think people could learn a lot about empathy by reading this book, so it’s a big recommendation from me. You can find my full review of this book here.
  3. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White
    This is the only nonfiction book on my favorites list – in fact, it’s the only nonfiction book that I’ve rated 5 stars so far this year. It is full of extremely useful and relevant tips for any woman with a career – whether you’re in the magazine industry like her or the engineering industry like me. It’s long enough to really dive into important topics but moves fast enough and covers enough different topics to keep it from getting too drawn-out or preachy. It includes both entertaining anecdotes to give context to her points and actionable pieces of advice to feel like you’re actually getting something out of it. Overall a great read for anyone, whether you’re just starting in a career or you’re already in management or beyond.
  4. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
    This is by far one of the most-hyped books I’ve picked up this year, and to me it totally lived up to all of the great reviews. It’s primarily science fiction, but reads like a thriller and makes you contemplate your own life like a hard-hitting contemporary might. I never felt bored, but I also never felt like it got too over-the-top with action or unbelievability.
  5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
    I originally went into this book with very little knowledge about the plot – and I’d recommend that anyone wanting to read this book do the same. All I’ll say is that this book is similar in vibe to The Perks of Being a Wallflower – nostalgic, a little slow-moving, with a really powerful ending. I was shocked by how much the story impacted me and how much I was left thinking about it days, weeks, and now even months after finishing it.

Rest of Year Goals

Considering the fact that I only have 7 books to read before completing my 2019 Reading Challenge, I definitely think it’s necessary to up my goal, at least unofficially (I’ll probably leave it alone on Goodreads). The logical next goal would be 90 books, which is double what I read in the first half. But part of me wants to go for 100 🙂

Other goals I have for the rest of the year include:

  • Continuing to post monthly wrap-ups on my blog so that I can keep all of my thoughts and reviews in one place.
  • Starting to do monthly challenges to read certain types of books (keep an eye out for my August TBR for an example).
  • Continuing to read primarily female authors
  • Continuing to read at least 2 non-fiction books every month

But mostly, my goal is just to keep reading as much as I possibly can!


January-June Monthly Wrap-Ups

Book Reviews

Book Recommendations


Buzzwordathon Wrap-Up | June 2019 | YOU

For my second round of Buzzwordathon, a readathon hosted by booktubers Booksandlala and Chanelletime, I went in with the much more (in my opinion) reasonable goal of 4 books in 7 days. [As opposed to my last, highly ambitious attempt of 7 books in 7 days – read about how that went here!]

For those not familiar with Buzzwordathon, it’s a week-long readathon with the goal of reading only books with a particular word in the title. This round’s buzzword was “you.” I chose 4 books on my owned TBR to tackle, and I’m happy to say that I completed all of them! Below are mini-reviews of the books I read and my thoughts on each of them – I’m very happy to say that not only was it a great week for my page count, but also for my enjoyment. No books lower than 3 stars, and two 5-stars!

Title: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This
Author: Kate White
Genre: Female Nonfiction/Business Self-Help
Pages: 345
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: Kate White, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, wrote this book to be a complete career guide for young women in any industry. It covers everything from how to apply for and land your first job, to how to impress your boss, to how to get promoted, to how to manage other people, all the way up to how to handle reaching the “big job” that you’ve spent your whole career striving for.

My Thoughts: I wrote on Goodreads that this is one of, if not THE, best career-focused self-help books I’ve ever read. Even though my industry is COMPLETELY different from the magazine/media industry, there were so many helpful tips throughout this book. It’s long enough to actually flush out all of her points (a big pet peeve of mine in self-help books is when they say a catchy, inspirational tip but then don’t follow up on how it’s actually useful), but moved quickly enough to cover a LOT of ground – pretty much an entire career. I didn’t ever find myself skimming or getting bored. Overall I’m just really happy to own and have read this book, and I can absolutely see myself reaching for it again as I reach different points in my career.

Title: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Author: Mitch Albom
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 196
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This novel follows Eddie, an amusement park maintenance worker who suddenly reaches the end of his 83-year-old life. After death, he goes through a journey of meeting five people who have died before him and were integral in his life, whether he knew it at the time or not. He learns lessons about his life, his death, the world around him, and the impact his seemingly simple life left.

My Thoughts: This book is as heartwarming and inspirational as the title makes it seem. I think it is aimed at a younger audience, so I’m not surprised that I found the stories to be pretty simple and the life lessons a little cliché, but they are good life lessons nonetheless.

Title: Do You Realize?
Author: Kevin A. Kuhn
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 400
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows George, a middle-aged man who finds himself completely stuck in a rut in his life. His relationship with his wife is fine, his kids are fine, and his job is fine, but he is not fulfilled in any way. Suddenly his life is shifted when he meets a strange man on the subway offering to let him beta test an app on a new Apple watch that lets him travel to parallel universes and alternate realities of his life, effectively letting him time travel and relive key moments in his life. Around the same time, one of his family members is in an accident that has him wondering if he is living his life to the fullest, or if he could be doing more, a major question that shifts his entire mindset.

My Thoughts: This book – which I picked up on a complete whim on my Bookstore Scavenger Hunt – was the BEST surprise! I absolutely loved this story. It’s reminiscent in a way of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter – so if you enjoyed that book, I think you would enjoy this one, too. But, it’s also very different. Both books explore parallel universes, but Dark Matter does it in a thriller-y way, while this book is much more contemporary in style. Not only did this book keep me entertained, it also made me think deeply about some of life’s biggest mysteries and left me feeling fulfilled and even inspired.

Title: How Lucky You Can Be
Author: Buster Olney
Genre: Sports Memoir
Pages: 215
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: Don Meyer was a well-renowned college basketball coach who was in a car accident right before his 2008 season. This book tells the story of his coaching life before and after the accident, trying to prove himself as an effective coach and then having to re-develop his entire coaching style after losing one of his legs.

My Thoughts: I think my reading experience would have been a lot better had I known who Don Meyer was before this book. [This book actually belongs to my husband, a big sports fan – I never would have picked it up if we didn’t already own it]. However, I can still appreciate a well-written book with heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories about an incredible coach and person. Very inspiring.


And with that, my second round of Buzzwordathon is over! Though 4 books in a week may not be the MOST impressive, I’m still really happy that I read and enjoyed four full books. Not only that, I’m left feeling refreshed (not burnt out) and ready to finish out June strong! How’s your June going?!


Bookstore Scavenger Hunt

Okay… this is a challenge I saw Rebecca at Bookishly Rebecca complete on her blog (see the post here), and after reading through it I KNEW I had to try! Rebecca did this scavenger hunt on her own bookshelves, but as a newer book blogger still building up my collection, I decided to go for it in a bookstore where it would (hopefully) be easier for me to find a book that meets each step’s requirements!

I think I’m supposed to tag others do to this, but I’ll just extend it to everyone – if you think you’re up to the challenge, I’d love to see you attempt the Bookstore Scavenger Hunt! (Be warned, it’s harder than it looks).

Step One: Find your favorite book.

At the time of doing this challenge, I had not yet found my favorite book as an adult. (I might have found it in March, though – see my Buzzwordathon Wrap Up to find out which book that is!) So I went ahead with my favorite book from middle school, Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes.

Step Two: Find a book with an author who has the same first or last name as author #1.

Easy, right? Well, let me tell you – it took me a LONG TIME to find another Kevin on the bookshelves! But eventually, I did.

Do You Realize? by Kevin A. Kuhn, a science fiction novel about a middle-aged man stuck in a rut who finds himself presented with the opportunity to beta-test an app that allows him to journey through alternate versions of his past.

This was a SUPER exciting find – this book gives me major Dark Matter vibes (a book by Blake Crouch which I LOVE), so I was already pretty stoked at this challenge finding me a book I’d never heard of but am excited to read!

Step Three: Open the book to page 74, line 3. Pick two words from that line and find another book with those two words in the title.

Also easy, right? I opened up my intriguing new book to find page 74 and…

line #3 reads “and so few connections…” which left me pretty stuck. I tried all combinations: and-so, and-few, and-connections, so-connections, and few-connections. Even with the help of Goodreads, I couldn’t find any books with those words in the title, let alone any that my local Half Price Books had in stock. So, I went with Plan B: starting over.

My other favorite childhood books were the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. With this new author’s name, I soon found another Barbara on the bookshelves: Barbara Kingsolver. I opened up one of her books to page 74, line 3 and found:

“could swear it was the quiet that woke her, the fact that their talk of” which gave me SO many more options for book titles! I ventured into the mystery/thriller aisle and eventually found The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb.

And even though the word in the sentence was “quiet” and not “unquiet,” I still counted it!

The Unquiet Grave is set in nineteenth century West Virginia and is based on the true story of the Greenbrier Ghost murder trial. Although it doesn’t sound like a book I would choose for myself, it gave me all I needed to know to move onto the next step!

Step Four: Find a book with similar context.

I pretty much only had to turn around in the aisle to find the perfect book to fit this prompt, An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd.

Clearly the titles are similar, but beyond that this book is also an American historical fiction novel centered around a murder mystery.

Step Five: Upon finding that book, find a diverse book with a similar title.

For this one, I didn’t necessarily want to find a third book with “grave” in the title, so I went another route – an unmarked grave would not have a name on it, right?

Didn’t take me long at all to find The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block. This book is about an unnamed African-American girl wandering the streets of Buffalo who is found and brought in to a psych ward for studying. I know that having an African-American main character does not automatically make a book diverse, especially in a book set in the US, but I think this might be as good of a match as I was going to find.

Step Six: Pick a main character’s name from that book and find another book that has that name in the title.

Well, the main character of my book is unnamed, which makes this challenge tough. The doctor is named on the back of the book, Dr. Zoe Goldman, but no books were coming to mind with Zoe in the title. I did also notice that the unnamed main character is called Jane Doe, so I ran with that – I know of a book with Jane in the title!

Hello, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I was extra excited about this one because I don’t own the book and I’ve been interested in picking it up – so this gives me the perfect excuse! (Also, how adorable is this Charlotte Bronte collection? It’s not the one I bought, but it is cute to look at.)

Step Seven: Open that book to a random page and pick a word without looking. Find a book with that word in the title.

I went ahead and opened Jane Eyre randomly to page to 322, laid my finger near the top of the page, and found myself on the word “stranger.” Back to the thriller section I went to find The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda.

Step Eight: Buy or check out your books!!

This was an awesome challenge! Although I had heard of some of these books before, I definitely hadn’t heard of all of them, and wasn’t planning on picking them up on my own accord anytime soon. This gave me a nice push.

The three I decided to actually purchase were Do You Realize? (a sci-fi that I had never heard of but looks up my alley), Jane Eyre (a classic I’ve been meaning to pick up), and The Perfect Stranger (a thriller I have heard of but hadn’t made my decision on whether to pick it up or not). A great variety I would say, and the perfect excuse for new books!

I would love to do this again sometime, in a new bookstore and with a new starting point. I love how limitless the options are and how easy it is to find books you hadn’t heard of before or weren’t planning on reading. I highly encourage this challenge to anyone looking to find some new, underhyped books!

Thanks again to Bookishly Rebecca for introducing me to this challenge! 🙂