What I Read in December 2020

Welcome to 2021, and a very happy New Year to you all!!

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been quite a ride… It certainly wasn’t the year I envisioned having when I wrote last year’s December wrap-up, that’s for sure. But that’s not to say it was all bad! Despite online classes, lockdowns and the rest of this pandemic-inspired weirdness, I had some pretty great moments with my friends and family, finally got my huge exams out of the way, improved enormously at Russian, and read (and slept) way more than I did in 2019. So overall, I’d say this year was still a success, and I’m excited to see what 2021 has in store for us!

And although it started off pretty horribly, December was actually one of my favorite months of the past year. All the Advent spirit never fails to put me in a good mood, and then there’s my birthday and Christmas πŸ€— And since apparently some of you thought “I mostly got books” isn’t a good enough description of my presents, here is a quick overview to satisfy your curiosity (and spoil you for what I’ll probably be reading these next months). Please excuse my abysmal photography skills – remember, you asked for this:

LEFT – THE BIRTHDAY HAUL: My parents apparently thought me continuously running to the library to check out the same Jane Austen books over and over again was extremely pitiful… So for this birthday, they go me these absolutely gorgeous clothbound editions of her six major novels!! Honestly, I’m obsessed 😍 And they also got me The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Final Draft – more thoughts on those later πŸ˜‰ Then, knowing my language obsession, my brother got me this really cool thing called The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book, which is full of linguistic riddles and totally up my alley. I’m slowly chipping away at that, but what I’ve seen so far is pretty great! And Who Should We Eat? is a board game that my sister and my other brother got me. The premise is that you’re trying to build a raft to get off an island you were stranded on, but if you run out of food you have resort to cannibalism and pick crewmates to sustain you – who then come back and haunt you as evil spirits. It’s really gruesome and really fun 😁

RIGHT – THE CHRISTMAS HAUL: Are you really surprised that this also consists of mostly books? I guess my family just knows me too well… Anyway, Neal Shusterman’s Skinjacker Trilogy, House of Earth and Blood and The Secret History were all presents from my parents. Brother Number One got me Humble Pi, which promises to be wonderfully math-nerdy, my sister painted me that Voyager painting to go along with the Enterprise one she gave me a couple of years ago (my family are all huge Star Trek fans), and Brother Number Two got my siblings and me a gift card to an escape room of our choice (it’s valid until 2023, so let’s hope COVID doesn’t last that long πŸ˜…) and lots of candy, which didn’t survive long enough to make it into this picture. Oh, and my parents also got the whole family a beamer and a huge canvas screen so we can watch movies together on that. Although we still haven’t figured out where to put the beamer so that it’s not in everyone’s way, so lots of arguing ensues before movie sessions now…

So yeah, I hope that was a better description? However, by far the best Christmas present I got was a letter from our Ministry of Education WITH MY EXAM RESULTS! I’ve been agonizing over these for weeks, so knowing I passed is such a relief! And I did amazingly well! Much better than I expected for sure, so I was over the moon the minute I opened that letter… Although I do think the timing was actually a pretty shitty move on the ministry’s part. The letters were sent out on December 23rd and just imagine getting the news that you failed just in time for Christmas… That’s basically the worst present ever πŸ™ˆ

But thankfully, I didn’t fail, so let’s finally get into what this post is supposed to be about: everything I read in December! And let me tell you – reading-wise, this month could hardly have been better. I read a bunch of books I absolutely loved and nothing I ended up not liking, so I’d say it was definitely a success! Although I did not, as I had hoped, reduce my physical TBR-pile to zero books. There are just too many huge fantasy clonkers still sitting on my bedside table. But that’s okay – I guess I’ll just be reading lots of fantasy in January and February 😊 Now, though, let’s have a look at my December-reads:


Final Draft by Riley Redgate (4/5 Stars)

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I knew pretty much nothing going into this book other than it being about a girl who aspired to be an author. But that was more than enough to get me excited! Books like these are always so relatable, and this one was no exception.

We follow a high school senior named Laila – shy, awkward and absolutely obsessed with writing sci-fi stories full of drama, love, robots and action. The only person ever allowed to read them is her very supportive creative writing teacher and fellow The Rest [a sci-fi TV show Laila and her friends watch religiously] fan Mr. Madison. However, just a few months before Laila’s graduation, an accident happens and Mr. Madison is replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who gives Lila a big fat F on her first assignment…

Overall, I loved this book! The friend group in this was one of the cutest and most realistic ones I’ve ever read about, the family relationships were equally well done, the writing parts were very relatable, and plus, this book has some pretty great LGBTQ+ and mental health representation. My one complaint is that I felt as though the ending was a bit rushed and that I would have liked to see a bit more of Laila’s writing journey. But I’d still very much recommend this!


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (4.5/5 Stars)

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I’ve been gushing about this book in almost all of my December posts, so it obviously shouldn’t come as a surprise that I absolutely loved it! In my opinion, the hype surrounding this one is completely justified 😊

If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard about this book yet, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about a young French girl named Adeline, who, back in 1714, makes a desperate bargain with the devil. Thus, Addie gains immortality, but at a price: she cannot be remembered, and she is unable to leave a mark on our world. Until, one day in 2014, something changes.

I thought this book was absolutely wonderful! All the Faustian references, the lyrical writing, and the ensnaring plot have made it my favorite Victoria Schwab book to date. And that’s saying something, because you all know how much I love Vicious

However, I do also think this book has its flaws. Some of the characters could have been a bit more multidimensional, and I also wouldn’t have minded seeing some of the places Addie visited in a bit more detail. Nevertheless, I loved this book so much that those things seem insignificant in comparison. I’m docking half a star for formality’s sake, but in my heart, this is a five-star read for sure 😍 I highly recommend you go read it! And if you’d like to see more of my in-depth thoughts, you can check out my full review here.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt (4.5/5 Stars)

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If you’ve read some of my older posts, you’ll know I’m absolutely obsessed with M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains. In my opinion, that book is dark academia at its best: It has a prestigious college setting, a complicated friend group, murder, intrigue, and lots and lots of Shakespeare! 😍 However, in about half the reviews I read and watched, people were always saying that it was basically a weaker version of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Obviously, my interest was piqued. A book even better than If We Were Villains? Of course I needed to read that! So when my parents gave it to me for Christmas, I just couldn’t resist and immediately started reading.

The Secret History follows a small group of students attending an elite New England college, where they study Ancient Greek with an eccentric but charismatic classics professor. Our narrator Richard Papen, dirt poor and from California, is the newest addition to this group. Entranced by the mystery and elitism surrounding Julian Morrow’s class, he is determined to be part of it, not knowing what he is getting himself into.

This book is dark. It’s interesting. Suspenseful. I mean, the first sentence is “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.” Doesn’t that make you want to keep reading?

Still, I think I have an unpopular opinion here when I say that If We Were Villains is better than The Secret History. Of course, that may just be my Shakespeare-bias. But I do think that The Secret History was a bit lacking on the academia side of it all. I would have loved a bit more Ancient Greek obsession, but if you ask me, that was pushed very much into the background in favor of the murder storyline in the second half of the book. And also, If We Were Villains has this really cool frame story that gave it a much more well-rounded feel than the ending of The Secret History did.

However, that’s not to say that The Secret History wasn’t excellent. Because it was! I’ll definitely be reading more Donna Tartt in the future. And I’d highly recommend you check this one (and If We Were Villains) out!


The Empire of Gold (Daevabad Trilogy #3) by S.A. Chakraborty (4.5/5 Stars)

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Yes, I finally read it! It certainly took me long enough, considering how much I was anticipating its release πŸ˜… But I wasn’t disappointed!

Since The Empire of Gold is the last book in a series, I obviously can’t say much about it without spoiling anything. So I’m just gonna be extremely vague and say that it is the finale to a Middle Eastern-/Egyptian-/Asian-mythology-inspired high fantasy trilogy that you should definitely read if you’re a fellow fantasy fan. These books have consistently made it into my yearly favorites, and this last one was no exception.

I’m very satisfied with how everything wrapped up – although I do think a bit more death at the end wouldn’t have hurt – and was pleased that I anticipated some plot twists correctly, but not all of them. Predictability in finales is always really annoying, but I do like stroking my ego by guessing at least some things correctly 😁 Plus, the romance I’ve been rooting for since book one finally came to fruition, so my shipper heart was extraordinarily pleased 😊

Apart from the lack of heart-wrenching main character deaths, I only have one small gripe, namely how one of the plot twists in this book was executed. Apparently, S.A. Chakraborty felt the need to take a leaf out of Sarah J. Maas’s books and conveniently not tell us information that the protagonist knew about, just so it could be used as a grand reveal later. Which is something I absolutely hate! Unless your narrator has always been unreliable, don’t to this, authors! It just creates distance between reader and protagonist, and the “plot twist” isn’t even a real twist because you as a reader had no way of guessing it and the protagonists themselves aren’t surprised, either. So yeah, I thought the way that particular plotline was executed was kind of annoying…

Overall, though, I’m very happy with the ending we got, and the Daevabad Trilogy has definitely cemented itself a spot in my all-time fantasy favorites!


Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (3/5 Stars)

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Of course, I couldn’t just leave my beautiful new Jane Austen novels untouched, so I actually read two of them this month. The first was Sense and Sensibility, but since that one was a reread and I never include those in my wrap-ups, it’s not going to get its own entry this time, either. Although I will say that, while I was a bit skeptical the first time I read it, I absolutely adore it now! Seeing a couple of movie adaptations and noticing details I overlooked on my first read-through have made me see some things in a very different light this time around, so I’m very sorry I unjustly rated you 3.5 stars back in July, Sense and Sensibility!

But back to Northanger Abbey. The book follows a young girl named Catherine Morland, who is staying with some family friends in Bath in order to be introduced into society (and find a husband). But some of her new acquaintances turn out to be more tiresome than Catherine bargained for, and she soon finds herself in the middle of all kinds of misunderstandings. And it doesn’t exactly help that Catherine has a very overactive imagination inspired by the gruesome tales she’s read in gothic novels…

Overall, I quite enjoyed this, but I do think you can tell that it’s one of Austen’s earlier novels. The characters in here were a lot more one-dimensional than those in her other books, the first half and the second half felt a bit disconnected, and the ending, if you ask me, happened really fast and was a little bizarre with regards to one character’s motives. Also, Catherine was so overly naive that I sometimes felt like slapping her. But who knows – maybe I’ll completely change my mind about that when I reread this one, too πŸ˜…

And one thing I did really appreciate about this book was its humor! The scrapes Catherine got into because of her Udolpho obsession? Hilarious! And boy, Jane Austen sure doesn’t shy away from calling people out. The next time some classicist snob shames you for reading the wrong kinds of books, just confront them with this quote:

[T]hey were still resolute in meeting up in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together. Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding – joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fantasy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans.

Northanger Abbey, p.31-33

Jane has got our back, guys!


Die LΓ€ngste Nacht by Isabel Abedi (3.5/5 Stars) (This book has not been translated into English, but, in case you’re curious, the title means ‘The Longest Night’)

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It’s been some time since I last read one of Isabel Abedi’s books. She was quite an influential author in my teenage years, but I hadn’t really been keeping track of what she’s published recently. However, when one of my friends mentioned that she was reading and enjoying this one, my interest was piqued, and when she offered to lend me her copy once she was done with it, I obviously said yes!

Die LΓ€ngste Nacht is about a girl named Vita, who has just finished her Abitur exams and is going on a road-trip through Europe with her two best friends. By chance, Vita and her friends stumble on the small Italian village of Viagello – a name Vita spotted in one of the manuscripts that was sent to her father’s publishing company. A manuscript her father got raving mad about. A manuscript that might have something to do with Vita’s dead sister, a sister she can’t remember and whom no one will tell her anything about.

While I was reading this, I couldn’t put it down. The suspense was surreal, and the writing amazing. However, this is one of those books that are great while you’re reading but kind of mediocre once you really start to think about them. The insta-love in this was off the charts. The whole plot depended on these huge miscommunication issues, that, in retrospect, didn’t really make all that much sense. And it was never fully cleared up how a bestselling author got his hands on that manuscript in the first place.

Still, I had so much fun with this that I’m still going to give it 3.5 stars. As long as you don’t question things too much, this is a pretty decent YA thriller.


And that’s it for this wrap-up! If you’ve read any of these books, feel free to let me know your thoughts on them down below! Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Did you get any interesting Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Diwali or any other types of presents this year? I’d love to know!

Also – my favorite and least favorite books of the year posts should be going up sometime in the next few days πŸ˜‰ So stay tuned for those if you’re interested in all the gushing and tea-spilling coming your way!

23 thoughts on “What I Read in December 2020

  1. Noelle says:

    Final Draft looks interesting! I’d love to read more books with characters who love to write.

    I’m hoping to start the Daevabad Trilogy this month, so I’m even more excited now after seeing your glowing review. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I know! I can’t get enough of books with characters who write, either! So if you have any other good recommendations, feel free to let me know 😊

      And I really hope you end up loving the Daevabad trilogy just as much as I do! I’ll be eagerly awaiting your thoughts now that I know you plan on reading it 😁

      Like

  2. Line says:

    I was excited for your Empire of Gold review obviously and couldn’t help but notice the sentence: “a bit more death at the end wouldn’t have hurt.” Well, I think it would have hurt SOMEONE, like the person dying for example πŸ˜‚ But I’m glad it lived up to your expectations. I’m still a little on the fence about the series as the synopsis of the first book doesn’t exactly speak to me if you know what I mean. I may have to look up some more reviews for that one.

    And I absolutely cannot wait for your favorite and least favorite books of the year posts!! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, technically, maybe πŸ˜‚ But a bit of character sacrifice is always great for destroying me in the best way possible 😊 Though it does sound pretty awful when you put it that way… πŸ˜‚

      And now I’m hoping you come across some convincing reviews 😁 I just love this series so much; it’s so wonderfully political! Though yeah, the first book is also a bit romance-heavy, so I can see why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea…

      And I hope my favorites and least favorites won’t disappoint! Though I imagine you probably already have a pretty good idea of which books the top spots will go to…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Line says:

        Haha I also enjoy a good character death once in a while. I just thought you had a fun way of saying it πŸ˜‰

        I’m interested in The City of Brass because it’s historical fantasy and I’m all about that at the moment. I also love some good politics so that’s good to hear! Although, a lot of reviews call it tropey and romance-focused. But if you say it’s mainly in the first book, I could ignore that 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          Yeah, I actually didn’t even notice how ironic it was to use “hurt” in that context until you pointed it out πŸ˜‚ But now I’m just going to say it was paradoxical wordplay and hence, an ingenious stylistic device 😊

          And I do think the politics and world-building outweigh the romance, especially in the later books! But checking out other reviews is probably the smartest course of action – after all, I don’t want to be responsible for you hating yet another popular book 😁

          Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yes, Addie LaRue was perfect despite its imperfections, if that makes any sense! 😍 I’m also looking forward to picking up more and more details on rereads – I sped through it so quickly this time around that I’m sure there are some things I didn’t fully savor!

      Like

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Yay, I’m so happy someone agrees with me on this!!! πŸ€— I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone else loving If We Were Villains more 😊 I mean – not that The Secret History doesn’t deserve all the love, but saying If We Were Villains is just a rip-off does it so much injustice!

      Like

  3. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    Happy New Year Naemi!!! And a million congratulations on doing well on your exams!!! πŸ₯³ Your haul of all those Jane Austen books is impressive! I’ve only read Pride & Prejudice from her, though I’d like to change that this year 😊 And the Daevabad trilogy is on my TBR thanks to you, so I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed the final book! But I totally get what you mean when you said you wanted more death — as psychopathic as it probably seems, it annoys me so much when an author pulls punches to save the main characters, especially in a finale.

    Great post Naemi!! I’m looking forward to reading your yearly wrap-up!! πŸ€—β€οΈ

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Thank you, Abby!! And a very happy New Year to you, too! 🎊

      Yeah, I’m still really impressed by the Jane Austen books, too 😁 Apparently, my parents found them on sale somewhere and immediately thought of me – and I’m so happy they did! Pride & Prejudice was actually the only book we had a family copy of before, so it’s great that I can now read them whenever I want to and don’t have to depend on the library 😊

      I also really hope you end up liking the Daevabad trilogy! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on it πŸ€— And I’m very glad someone understands my psychopathic love for having main characters killed off in finales πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ It just destroys you in the best way possible! Plus, it’s just so unrealistic that all of them miraculously survive while random unnamed characters are dying by the bucket load… If you want to make me truly understand the horrors of war, you’ve got to make me feel it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Thanks, Allison! There are still a few Christmas and birthday books I need to get to myself, so I’m also pretty excited about these πŸ€— I hope your December was equally amazing!

      Like

  4. Pilar says:

    Congrats on getting such good results on your exams Naemi!! I’m so happy for you πŸ˜„πŸ₯³ The Jane Austen collection sounds beautiful!! And I really hope you enjoy all the books you still haven’t read ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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