Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Wow! The last few weeks of December seem to have flown by.
At the end of November, I thought I was all prepped for the end-of-the-year rush. Then, before I knew it, time was ticking down to the end of 2023. And I still hadn’t finished my 2023 Reading Challenge. Or read all of my January releases. Or finished all my end-of-the-year tasks for the blog.
I will admit, being sick for half the month let me get a lot of reading in. After reading my last two reading challenge prompts (Recommended by a Librarian and Borrowed from a Friend), I rushed to finish as many 2023 releases and advanced 2024 releases as I could.
You’ll be happy to hear that one of the most-anticipated books of 2024 is fully worth the hype. 2024 is shaping up to be a good reading year based on my other advanced review books.
Scroll down to see my reviews, and, as always, be sure to let me know what you’ve been reading lately in the comments!
December 2023 Reading List
In a future not too dissimilar from our present, three tech billionaires wield a disproportionate influence over the world and their bottom line conflicts with the good of humankind more often than not. Prepared for the end of the world, they each of their own bunkers and band together to create an early warning system so they can escape before anyone knows what’s happening. After popular survivalist Lai Zhen sleeps with the personal assistant of one of the billionaires, she unexpectedly gains access to the early warning system, sparking a race with catastrophic consequences.
It’s really hard to describe The Future without spoiling the story. Naomi Alderman brilliantly describes a very realistic dystopian scenario where the world is on the brink of collapse. Told nonlinearly, The Future jumps around in its timeline, creating clever twists that dive into intriguing themes about technology, social media, and social responsibility while still giving an action-packed story.
Amanda Cole has followed in her father’s footsteps as an ambitious young CIA agent. When a Russian defector walks into the office warning of the assassination of a US senator, Amanda is the only one to believe him. When the senator is killed, Amanda teams up with a legendary female spy to uncover the truth of the Kremlin plot.
I love me a good spy thriller and, unfortunately, this was not it. The Helsinki Affair was a run of the mill story where you quickly realize you don’t really care what happens. The writing is so weak that you don’t develop any feelings, positive or negative, for any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t awful. It was just meh – uninspired and completely forgettable.
Cracks begin to form for a Brooklyn family as troubled husband and wife, Dan and Isabel, find they are both a little in love with Isabel’s younger brother Robbie, who lives in the attic. Meanwhile, their children try to navigate growing up while ignoring the strain between their parents. After Robbie moves to Iceland, the pandemic hits, adding even more strain as the family tries to figure out how to live together and apart.
Told as snippets of the same day, April 5, over a three year period from 2019 to 2021, Day is both beautiful and boring. With not much plot, Day is the kind of story that only English majors truly enjoy. All of the characters are all too in love with each other, making for an extremely dysfunctional family setup. Luckily it was short for its brevity saved it from feeling too pretentious.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In a sequel to the hit bestseller, The Maid, return to the five-star Regency Grand Hotel where Molly Gray is now the Head Maid. When famous author J. D. Grimthorpe drops dead in the hotel’s tea room as he’s about to admit to a long-held secret, the entire staff are suspects in his murder. Yet, Molly has her own secret. As a child, Molly worked with her grandmother cleaning Grimthorpe’s mansion. Can Molly solve the mystery and save the hotel’s reputation?
I adored Nita Prose’s cozy mystery, The Maid, but was disappointed in the unoriginality of its sequel. The Mystery Guest was just plain boring. Constantly switching between the past and the present slowed down the current mystery to a crawl and didn’t add as much development as I’d have liked. This time around, Molly’s aphorisms seemed pithy and overused instead of cute and refreshing. Unless you are dying to know more about Molly, I’d skip this contrived repetitive mystery.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ballantine Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Reclusive former movie starlet Lana Farrar invites her closest friends to her private Greek Island. Having recently discovered her husband’s affair, Lana intends to confront him. As bitter resentments between old friends come to a head, a cat-and-mouse game ends in a murder. Told through the enigmatic narrator Elliot Chase, The Fury will keep you guessing what actually happened on that island.
I will admit, I hated The Silent Patient but its twist was so well done that it’s unforgettable. The Fury, on the other hand, was an enjoyable, though quite forgettable, read. Elliott Chase is the ultimate unreliable narrator, whose unique storytelling will likely divide readers. With each section, Elliott keeps revising the story, reluctantly filling in the details he forgot to mention the last go round. As the puzzle pieces fall into place, The Fury keeps you engaged trying to parse truth from fiction in a completely implausible but fun tale.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Celadon Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Kate Alice Marshall
Emma has purposely kept her husband in the dark about her past. When Emma announces she is pregnant, he confesses that he was laid off and has lost the down-payment to their house. With nowhere else to turn, Emma and Nathan move into her parent’s estate that she jointly owns with her estranged sisters. Emma just never mentioned that this is the house where her parents were murdered, and she was always seen as the prime suspect. With a baby on the way, Emma finds it’s time she learn what actually happened all those years ago. For Emma has been covering for her sisters without ever really knowing what actually happened that night.
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a really satisfying thriller, and No One Can Know was just what I needed. Emma makes for an excellent narrator and Marshall smoothly builds tension as you slowly learn the truth of what actually went on in that house. I loved the complicated relationship between the sisters and Emma’s intense desire to protect them no matter what. With excellent pacing and plenty of unexpected twists, No One Can Know is the perfect thriller to kick off the new year.
When her brother ships off to Vietnam, nursing student Frankie McGrath impulsively decides to leave her sheltered life on Coronado Island and join the Army Nurse Corps. In Vietnam, Frankie is overwhelmed by the chaos of war. Yet, even more unsettling is the shock of coming home to a country that has been divided by war and disillusioned by politics.
With a similar feel to The Four Winds, The Women is immersive historical fiction with a more serious tone. I took a little longer to attach to Frankie than usual but, by the time I did, I was desperate for Frankie to get her happily-ever-after. Yet, The Women reminds us that life isn’t like a fairytale. War is a messy, traumatizing business even when veterans are fully-supported. And Vietnam was messier than any other war in American history, leaving unheard of struggles for returning soldiers, especially for the women who were often overlooked and forgotten.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
The only life Tress has known on her island home in an emerald-green ocean has been a simple one, with the simple pleasures of collecting cups brought by sailors from faraway lands and listening to stories told by her friend Charlie. But when Charlie goes missing, Tress must stow away on a ship and seek the Sorceress of the deadly Midnight Sea. Can this fair maiden save the day?
Written for his wife Emily, Brandon Sanderson’s Tress of the Emerald Sea is a charming, beautifully illustrated fairy tale written for adults. Facetiously narrated as if a bedtime story, Tress of the Emerald Sea enchants with a simple whimsical adventure in a fantastically imaginative world. Although Brandon Sanderson fans will recognize the humorous narrator, Tress of the Emerald Sea can easily be read as a standalone novel without any knowledge of the Cosmere.
George R. R. Martin
The battle for the Iron Throne continues in the third entry of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Of the five kings contending for the throne, one is dead and another is disgraced. King Joffrey still sits on the throne, but Robb, King of the North, is so far undefeated and bent on taking revenge on the Lannister family. But treachery abounds in this harsh world, full of threats from within as well as growing threats from without. For Daeneyrs Targaryen is slowly building up her army as her dragons grow and a looming force from beyond the Wall is coming south.
I’m not sure if I can even describe how much I am loving this series. George R. R. Martin keeps the twists coming, unafraid to kill off beloved characters as much as hated ones. Yet, Martin also has a knack for making you like some characters you previously despised, building complex layers into his epic fantasy. Even better, my husband decided to reread A Storm of Swords with me, so I’ve been having fun talking about all the books as we watch the tv series together.
Though her body was never found, everyone knows that, five years ago, popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend Sal Singh who then killed himself. Except Pip isn’t so sure. For her senior project, Pip, the epitome of a good student, wants to prove Sal’s innocence. With the help of Sal’s brother Ravi, Pip uncovers secrets that someone wants to remain hidden.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is a fun young adult read with excellent twists that keep the story moving. I found Pip an extremely relatable character – the essential good girl who is very much into her schoolwork. Her earnest nature and methodical investigation lets you feel like you are part of the story, making this a compelling whodunit perfect for teens.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in December?
What books did you love this month? Which books can you not wait to read? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book Lists to Enjoy: