Hi, friends! Another year has come and gone just like that. A full week into the new year, I finally sat down to write about all the books I read in December. I have been feeling more like myself the last couple of months which I think is the reason why I’ve read quite a bit last month.
MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins – 4 stars
You know I’ve been re-reading the Hunger Games Trilogy before I read the “new” fourth book. My sister had borrowed my copy of the Mockingjay so I demanded it back so I could finish the Trilogy as soon as possible (don’t worry, she hadn’t started it yet). Of the three books, Mockingjay is the most different—obviously it’s the first book in the series that does not revolve around another round of Hunger Games, and a lot more happens between Katniss (and may others) just learning about District 13 and the ending of the book. I was actually shocked looking back at how much Collins squeezes into one book though it doesn’t feel rushed. Now I need to get my hands on The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes!
AGAINST THE LOVELESS WORLD by Susan Abulhawa – 4.5 stars
Told in two timelines, Against the Loveless World tells the story of Nahr, a Palestinian woman in the present as she is locked away in solitary confinement in Israeli prison and in the past as she and her family are made refugees time and time again. While this is a fictional story, it portrays the lives of many Palestinians living in refuge and living under occupation, especially as a woman. Abulhawa’s writing allows you to understand Nahr intimately in a way I had not foreseen at the beginning of the book.
THE WAKE UP: CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN GOOD INTENTIONS AND REAL CHANGE by Michelle Mijung Kim – 4 stars
While The Wake Up is not my favorite type of writing to read (to clarify, it is nonfiction about social justice vs self-help!!! I usually prefer this type of information in shorter format), I did take away quite a bit from this book. Michelle Mijung Kim shares personal anecdotes throughout The Wake Up, such as the times when her dad worked as an undocumented immigrant and wasn’t allowed to sit down or take a lunch break so he would secretly eat rice and banchans out of a ziplock bag) which helped me connect to the writing on a deeper level. Though I have been making efforts to incorporate more inclusive language in my day-to-day, some of the ableist language she points out (for example, “daily standup” and “all hands meeting”) reminded me how the work to be inclusive and transform ourselves is ever evolving and we cannot remain stagnant.
A LIVING REMEDY by Nicole Chung – 5 stars
A Living Remedy is book about grief. Nicole Chung writes about the passing of both of her adoptive parents following the publication of her first book All You Can Ever Know (which I have not yet read but NEED to after reading a A Living Remedy). While I generally like memoirs and have read quite a few books about death and grief, A Living Remedy captivated me and moved me in a completely new way. Perhaps there was an added layer of intimacy as Chung opens up as the only child of her adoptive parents or it was the unfathomable, gut-punching reality of losing her parents back to back. It’s such a beautiful memoir, and I hope you give it a read/listen!
JACKAL by Erin E. Adams – 4.5 stars
Jackal is a horror indeed. The pace took longer to pick up for me but Jackal reminded me a lot of The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson. Both involve the (near) death of a Black girl in a small town though in Jackal, it seems to be pattern, or at least Liz thinks so. You witness the fear and frustration Liz feels as she investigates the disappearance of her goddaughter at her best friend’s wedding back home in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Moreover, we learn about the lost girls from the past from an eerie point of view. Jackal kept me guessing about everything until the very end.
EVIL EYE by Etaf Rum – 4.5 stars
Evil Eye is the latest book by Etaf Rum, the author of A Woman is No Man which has an ending that still haunts me months later. It reads quite a bit more contemporary though A Woman is No Man was released less than five years ago. Evil Eye seems to be inspired by Rum’s own personal journey though it was not her intention to write an autobiographical story from moving to North Carolina to grappling with an internal conflict between wanting a fulfilling life and being grateful for the life one has. Not a ton happens in the book which is balanced by the fact that you see Yara work through generational and past trauma and change in real time.
MRS. NASH’S ASHES by Sarah Adler – 4 stars
If you’re like me, you saw Mrs. Nash’s Ashes everywhere on Bookstagram this year, and my guess is it’s due to the wildly unique premise of the book. As the title suggests, the story involves the ashes of Mrs. Nash, late roommate of Millie for whom she is traveling to Key West. Thanks to a cancelled flight, Millie finds herself on an impromptu road trip with Hollis, an acquiantance she knew through her shitty ex. Naturally, things happen during their time together though you don’t quite know what to expect! Lovely story and interesting characters.
THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME by Fredrik Backman – 3.5 stars
This novella by Fredrik Backman felt appropriate for the Christmas time! It’s less than an hour on audiobook so I listened it to while I was packing or unpacking during the holiday season. The Deal of a Lifetime is about death and meaning of life, and while it has the *Fredrik Backman touch*, it didn’t quite do it for me.
PHOEBE’S DIARY by Phoebe Wahl – 5 stars
I learned about Phoebe’s Diary from Hannah Moushabeck on Instagram, and I must say it was one of my favorite books from 2023. Phoebe’s Diary is inspired by/loosely based on the author’s journals from teenage years, and there are doodles and illustrations throughout the book that really make you feel like you’re’ reading someone’s journal! I loved the format of the book as well as the intimate and personal teenage struggles and growth Wahl captured in Phoebe’s Diary.
STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG by Jessica Kim – 4 stars
This one was the perfect feel-good book to end the year with! In many ways, Yumi is a typical child of Korean immigrants. While working at her family’s Korean restaurant and doing her best to live up to the high expectations for academic achievements set by her genius older sister, she fosters her dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. She accidentally joins a comedy camp taught by her very favorite Youtube star though it requires quite a bit of covering up and deceit. Add to that the financial struggle her parents are going through, and that paints the full picture of Yuri’s summer! There were really actual moments of stress experienced while listening to this book but it’s an adorable and heartwarming story about living your truest life.
P.S. So far, I’ve finished The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store in the new year!