December 2019 Reading Wrap Up

Better late than never, right? 😉

This month’s quick stats:
8 books (3 audiobooks)
1,508 pages
9 authors (6 female)
1 nonfiction | 7 fiction
This year’s quick stats:
109 books (25 audiobooks)
27,477 pages
99 authors (54 female)
25 nonfiction | 84 fiction

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Dystopia
Pages: 333
My Rating: 2

Brief Summary: This novel is set after the world’s population is nearly eradicated by a sudden outbreak of the Georgia Flu, which kills 99.6% of humans. The story follows a group of Shakespearean actors as they roam the midwest United States and perform for the small groups of survivors they meet, as well as a few characters’ background stories from before the near apocalypse. 

My Thoughts: I’m disappointed that I was so disappointed by this book. I feel really similarly as I did after reading The Night Circus (another confusingly super-hyped book) – way too slow-moving, lots of perspectives and storylines all muddling together, and overall no real payoff from what promises to be a suspenseful, action-packed story. I first tried picking up the book physically, wanted to give up about ⅓ of the way through, and then decided to try the audiobook, re-listening to the first part and pushing through to the end. I wish I could even say that I understand what people love about the book… but I really can’t. I’d appreciate insight if anyone has it as to what made you love the story!

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 305
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows Jazz, a resident of the first city on the moon, Artemis, and a smuggler of forbidden goods to the city’s wealthier inhabitants. Being on the wrong side of the law but the right side of the rich, she gets herself into all kinds of shenanigans just trying to make ends meet for herself. 

My Thoughts: I loved this. I love Andy Weir’s ability to make science readable yet actually hold merit (as far as I understand, this is true). I love how his characters are humorous and make the story fun to read. I’ve seen feedback that the main character in this book is too crude or immature to be realistic, but I actually disagree and enjoyed reading about a girl who makes sex jokes (there ARE a lot of them, so sure, maybe it gets a little old – but I’d rather keep them than take them all out) and doesn’t have a relationship propelling the plot or distracting her from the issues at hand. If you liked The Martian by this author, then I’d say that this book is at least worth a shot – there are plenty of differences, but the things I loved the most about that book also appeared here.

Title: An Unwanted Guest
Author: Shari Lapena
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 290
My Rating: 4 stars

Brief Summary: This is an isolated, closed-circle mystery that takes place in a lodge hotel in upstate New York during a huge blizzard. When one of the guests turns up dead, there is no way for the police to be contacted or for any of those remaining to leave, resulting in everyone theorizing who could be the culprit and trying to avoid becoming a victim themselves.

My Thoughts: This is definitely my favorite Shari Lapena thriller out of the four she’s written so far. I don’t think there’s anything extremely original or surprising in it, but I don’t that’s the point of this type of mystery. I felt satisfyingly creeped out by the atmosphere she created and enjoyed seeing how the story played out.

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows young woman Hal after receiving a letter stating that a relative of hers has passed away and left a substantial inheritance that is hers to claim. This confuses Hal as she doesn’t believe herself to have any living relatives, and certainly not rich ones – but her dire financial situation convinces her to attend the funeral anyway and attempt to play the part she needs to to receive the funds. 

My Thoughts: This was… not my favorite thriller, but I can’t say there’s anything inherently wrong with it, either. I have a hard time with mysteries that have lots of characters because of how hard it is to keep everyone plus the storyline straight. This one has many characters plus a bunch of convoluted family dynamics, making it a little hard to follow and ultimately making the ending less than satisfying because of how much I likely missed or forgot. The atmosphere was very similar to her most recent release, The Turn of the Key, which I loved. I’d still recommend this book to Ruth Ware fans, and I plan to continue reading from her backlist, but be prepared to concentrate on keeping the characters and storyline straight in your head.

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 282
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This story follows the Chinese-American Lee family before and after the death of “favorite child” Lydia, focusing on each family member and their emotions and secrets they are withholding from the other members. 

My Thoughts: This was a seriously emotional read and a deep character study into these realistic characters and complicated family dynamics. Although I enjoyed the reading experience and flew through the book, a couple of months later I’m struggling a little bit to remember specifics of the plot, so it’s hard to say it was life-changing or impactful beyond the enjoyable experience.

Title: Heroine
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 5 stars

Brief Summary: This book follows high-school softball player Mickey Catalan after she suffers major injuries to her lower body in a car crash with one of her teammates. Determined to overcome the pain and return to her old self, she becomes dependent on painkillers and starts walking down a dangerous path to keep her supply coming.

My Thoughts: Because of its dark subject matter, it’s hard to say this book was great – but it was great. I loved reading about a high-school softball player (something I was too and enjoyed relating to) who isn’t known for being pretty, or funny, or even nice. She’s known for being tough. And that makes it strangely believable that she could slip into the scary world of drugs despite her athletic commitments and the risk of getting caught destroying her future. The book didn’t drag for a second, which is a feat in my opinion for a hard-hitting contemporary. I was completely invested, and Mindy McGinnis took something I personally can’t relate to (addiction and the opioid epidemic) and made me empathetic towards the characters involved. Highly recommend to those who can handle the subject matter.

Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This story is told from the perspective of seven-year-old Elsa, who considers her grandmother to be her best and only friend. Her grandmother tells her stories of the fantasy Land of Almost-Awake and ends up leading Elsa on a quest to form relationships with people around her who she never thought she’d like. 

My Thoughts: This was a sweet story, but I didn’t love the child as a narrator. I think fans of whimsical and slightly fantastical stories will enjoy this much more than I did!

Title: Until We Meet Again
Authors: Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger
Genre: Historical Nonfiction
Pages: 298
My Rating: 3 stars

Brief Summary: This is the telling of the story of two Polish families fleeing their homes in hopes of surviving the Holocaust and avoiding deportation or punishment by the Nazis. Specifically, we follow 17-year-old sweethearts Meyer and Manya through their journeys, at times leaving their families and each other in attempts to keep everyone as safe as possible. 

My Thoughts: This was a fascinating story and obviously hard-hitting subject matter, written in an appropriate way for young readers. While I think that took away a little bit from its impactfulness for me personally, I definitely think it’s a story worth reading about for everyone of all ages.


Top 10 Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2019

I’d like to start out this post by saying that this year was actually a pretty great reading year – I didn’t read THAT MANY books that I completely disliked or couldn’t finish. But, of course, there were some – and some that I was very much not expecting to be so disappointed by. This post is highlighting those books – the ones I expected to love but was let down by in one way or another. I have to make the disclaimer that I DO NOT THINK these are bad books, and I COMPLETELY respect those who enjoyed or even loved the books below. Sometimes reading tastes don’t align, and that’s okay! I’d actually love to know if you disagree with any of my opinions below – if you enjoyed one of the books, what was it that worked for you?

Title: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: 2 stars

This book, although not my lowest-rated book of the year, I consider to be my biggest disappointment because I whole-heartedly thought I’d love it. The story follows two strangers, Daniel and Natasha, who meet in New York City and develop an unlikely relationship over the span of a single day. My problems with the book included the pacing (SO slow, with choppy chapters) and the love story (completely unrealistic in my opinion). Although I typically don’t mind character-focused, slice-of-life type stories, this one just did not work for me – I was left bored and unsatisfied!

Title: Not All Migrate
Author: Krystynna Byers
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: 1 star

I had received this book as an eARC on Netgalley, and I was really disappointed to not connect with the story and have to leave my dissatisfied review. This book follows a man who has lost his wife and two daughters in a car accident and is informed that his wife had an unknown drug in her system at the time of the crash. He sets out to find out what the drug was and who supplied it to her, but ends up addicted himself (not a spoiler – the addiction part is essentially the entire book). The premise was completely unbelievable to me and the writing of the book was so graphic and strange that it took everything in me to complete the book at all. I said in my inital review that although this book could be entertaining to someone, I’m just not sure who that someone is – definitely not me or anyone looking for a traditional thriller.

Title: Appalachian Book of the Dead
Author: Dale Neal
Genre: Contemporary (?)
My Rating: DNF’d/1 star

This year, I only DNF’d two books – this unfortunately was one of them. I don’t even know how to describe the genre or the plot of this book, it was that unusual. I’ve seen it described as a “metaphysical thriller,” but I’m not really sure what that means. The book was very slow-paced and ominous, but there was no clear plot that I could distinguish by the time I quit reading about halfway through. I had received a physical ARC of this book from the publisher, but even that could not motivate me to finish this strange story.

Title: The Lost Man
Author: Jane Harper
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: DNF’d/1 star

This was the second of two books I couldn’t finish this year. I had picked it up as part of my Goodreads Choice Award Thriller Nominees reading challenge, but after attempting to read it both physically and as an audiobook, decided it wasn’t worth suffering through. The plot follows two men searching for answers after the mysterious death of their third brother, but the writing is extremely slow-paced and focuses heavily on the atmosphere of the Australian desert that the story is set in. I found absolutely nothing that intrigued me from the start of the book, and after reading in other reviews that the pace never picks up, decided I could put the book down with the decision that it was not the thriller for me. I know Jane Harper is a very popular writer, so I’m sure this book as well as her others appeal to many readers, but I don’t foresee myself racing to pick up her books again anytime soon.

Title: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen R. Covey
Genre: Nonfiction
My Rating: 2 stars

This book is highly regarded as a nonfiction classic, an authority on the topic of forming habits and becoming successful in a business sense as well as in one’s personal life. I was excited to soak up all of the knowledge, but very quickly found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I have read a number of other nonfiction books that seemed to say the same things that this book did, but in much more concise and impactful ways.

Title: The Unhoneymooners
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Rating: 2 stars

This was a VERY popular contemporary romance book this year, and I had no reason not to believe that I’d love it as much as everyone else. What came out of it was the realization that I prefer this “rom-com” type story in movie form MUCH more than in book form – I think it just took way too much of my time for a story that is so overly cheesy and lacks any real substance. I can totally respect that other people might connect with this type of light-hearted story, but now I know better before jumping into them myself.

Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 2 stars

Another very hyped book this year, My Lovely Wife is a thriller that follows a couple that murders women as a way to spice up their marriage. Again, I had no reason to think that I wouldn’t love it, but after completion I have concluded that I don’t enjoy stories from a serial killer’s perspective. I didn’t find anything suspenseful or surprising about the story and was expecting more from the amazing thriller this was supposed to be.

Title: Someone We Know
Author: Shari Lapena
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 2 stars

This was the third Shari Lapena thriller that I’ve read, and unfortunately my least favorite. The story follows several members within a neighborhood where one woman turns up dead and everyone starts pointing fingers and discovering secrets that everyone else is hiding. I had a number of problems with the tropes used, including cheating/lying between every married couple involved, and the fact that every single person had a motive to be the killer made the ending unsurprising and unsatisfying.

Title: One Nation Under Taught
Author: Dr. Vince M. Bertram
Genre: Nonfiction
My Rating: 2 stars

This book, which I read way back in January, had me really excited – as an engineer myself, I can totally see the need for more graduates of STEM fields and think that a book designed to educte on that topic is a great idea. However, this book ended up being a 200-page advertisement for Project Lead the Way, one program that – although I see its merit – claims to have all of the answers and be ready to solve all of America’s education problems, and it just rubbed me the wrong way.

Title: Inspection
Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Dystopia
My Rating: 2 stars

I was super excited to read this book, a dystopian novel about two separate but nearly identical experiments being done on boys and girls to study how being raised completely isolated from the opposite sex would impact their development and potential for success. A great premise, but unfortunately I was disappointed by the execution of the book because of its slow pace, limited surprising elements, and too-late action.


With that, I’m actually glad to be done writing this post – I don’t enjoy talking badly about books or revisiting all of the books that left me with disappointed feelings – I’d much rather talk about favorites! So my next post will highlight my top 10 FAVORITE books that I read in 2019. Feel free to comment and let me know (or leave a link to your own post) either your favorite or most disappointing books that you read this year!