December 2018 Must-Reads

Can you believe that we are coming to my last month of reviews for 2018? I BARELY made it to my 100 book goal, but spent the last week and a half reading as many books as I could, amidst the holiday craziness, so that I could say that I NAILED IT!

This reading month was SO GOOD though that I am rethinking my top ten book list for 2018 because so many great books made it just under the radar. You can catch my best-of list on the blog tomorrow.

The good news is that MANY of these are priced in the $2.99-$5.99 on Kindle so many of this month’s selections are awesome AND affordable.

This week I will be plowing through two books for this month’s upcoming book club chats. I hope you will join me as we discuss this one and this one this month.

Typically, we only discuss a book each month, but the holidays were just too crazy to try to weave in a book chat there.

In case you missed it, did you see that our 2019 selections have been announced?

Let’s Be BFFs on GoodReads

If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there!

There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there!

In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s selections:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Maid by Stephanie Land

Golden Child by Claire Adam

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Plus our extra book, available for add-on by members:

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

This month’s special:

Using code FRESHSTART, new members can get a free book when they join today.

Here are 10 must-read books I tackled in December:

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I wanted to get Dumplin under my belt before the movie came to Netflix and I’m SO glad I did. If you are looking for a satisfyingly sweet feel-good message, this YA novel delivers.

Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed Dumplin’) is the daughter of a local former beauty queen and has always felt at peace in her own body,  in spite of her self-proclaimed fat girl status.

The beauty queens all look the same around her town though and she decides to submit her own application to join in the beauty queen fun. Seeing Willowdean’s bravery, peers that normally would never enter decide to also participate in this year’s contest.

Where does a girl learn some show-stopping skills and nail her stage walk down though? Well, Willowdean finds out that her aunt had a secret spot she loved to visit where some of the best showstoppers can show her and her friends the ropes.

I loved this book so much and the beautiful message in body positivity that this character embraces.

After you read this, be sure to stream the film because it captures all of the magic that this book embraces. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series after enjoying this one so much this month!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I received an advanced reader copy from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I was a huge fan of Loigman’s debut novel, The Two-Family House, and so excited to see that she was continuing down the path of historical fiction with her second novel.

Loigman shines when exploring complicated family relationships, and one of the most complicated is the love of two sisters. In this story, two estranged sisters find themselves reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII.

Ruth & Millie could not be more different and their contrasts are often brought front and center by their mother who seems to find favor with Millie. Her need to pit them against each other causes them each to carry secrets from one another and to grow apart.

When Millie loses her husband and finds herself penniless though, she comes to stay with Ruth to find a job and shelter. Ruth’s bitterness has not gone away, especially as Millie seems to attract attention, just as she did when they were young.

Secrets can’t stay buried forever though and the reader is taken along the very strained journey to the twisted conclusion where each sister must own their part in the story.

Loigman weaves the chapters together flawlessly and utilizes many voices to help round out the story. It is evident that she has done a lot of research on the Springfield Armory and the types of jobs the women would have held while their husbands were at war.

Just like her first book, the story seems straightforward, but Loigman is so gifted with building a character-driven story that would give a book club a lot to chat about.

Be sure to add this one to your stack this month, it does not disappoint!

5 out of 5 Stars

Between Me & You by Allison Winn Scotch

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wow, wow, wow, this book was INCREDIBLE. If you are looking for a book that you can really escape with, Between Me & You was a fantastic read that I savored this month.

If you were a fan of, A Star is Born, this is a similar love story of two people on the search for fame and what happens when one person moves forward in their career while the other is struggling.

Ben has all the cards stacked in his favor in Hollywood. He comes from a privileged family and seems to have the right connections. Tatum, however, is a struggling actress who is working as a bartender at an NYC dive bar. When the two meet, they fall in love and get married.

The thing is, Tatum’s career takes off and Ben finds his own career is fading.

This touching love story is told from two perspectives with one rewinding history and one moving their story forward, both laced with their own bias and regret.

Told from their unique perspectives and with this shifting timeline, the raw honesty in each of their stories really pulls through in a really unique way.

Usually, I find I gravitate toward one perspective, but this wasn’t the case with this one. I loved seeing each of these viewpoints and Scotch does an incredible job fleshing these out.

I must admit, I have read all of Scotch’s books and her debut has always been my favorite…

That is, until I read this one.

This is a love story that really delivers and will definitely be on my top ten this year!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Y. Kang

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you are looking for a historical fiction pick that you won’t be able to put down, The Impossible Girl is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. Kang uses her own background in medicine, working as a practicing physician on the side, and crafts the incredible story of a girl born with two hearts in 1850.

Cora, born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and nameless immigrant, is the stuff that legends are made of. At a time in history where grave robbers would dig up freshly buried bodies for profit, she knows that her own body would garner a fine wage for a resurrectionist and builds her own business as a trusted resurrectionist to protect her identity and her own phenomenal medical miracle.

Acting as herself and posing as a brother, she is able to both administer the deals and help with the digging.

She isn’t the only one though looking for bodies that can serve as specimens for dissection and display. A series of murders has begun, beating Cora to her profits and worrying her that she could be the next victim.

Well-written and beautifully researched, I devoured this book and can’t wait to dig into Kang’s debut novel next.

If you are a fan of Fingersmith (please say you are!!), you are going to flip for this incredible read!

5 out of 5 Stars

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Each time I think, “NO MORE THRILLERS,” I stumble upon another amazing one that just sucks me in! Despite my thriller burnout, I couldn’t have loved, Jane Doe more! If you are having Joe withdrawal, this thriller gave me all the same sociopathic fun feelings as I got with my addiction to the Caroline Kepnes series.

Jane is probably the most unremarkable woman ever. She secures a day job at a mid level insurance company, has zero fashion sense, and has a cheap apartment filled with cheap furniture. A girl like this might not catch everyone’s eye, but it does catch the eye of the middle manager, at her insurance agency, and Steven Hepsworth won’t take no for an answer.

Jane is hiding something though. The only person that her sociopathic heart has ever loved was her best friend, Meg. Meg commits suicide though, all because of her relationship with Steven.

Now it is time for Steven to pay.

If you love a good game of cat & mouse in your thrillers, this one is wickedly sadistic and, at times, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Steven is a character you will love to hate and Stone builds a great complexity and layering to Jane that makes her highly intriguing.

If you need a quick page-turner with a sadistic spin (come on, I know I’m not alone!!), snag this fantastic thriller today.

4 out of 5 Stars

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I think I enjoyed this book a ton, simply for the reason that I went into this one knowing nothing about it. In our last blind book club exchange, I won this book from a friend and decided this would be the perfect month to read it. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Green’s last book, but found his earlier work to be some of my favorite YA reads.

In this story, Miles “Pudge” Halter heads to the Culver Creek Boarding School where he meets a rather hodge podge group of pals, including a beautifully mysterious girl named, Alaska Young. Alaska & Pudge bond over the holidays, when they are the only two students to roam the halls of the boarding school corridors and dig up dirt on their fellow students.

It is through this moment of bonding that Pudge realizes he would do just about anything for Alaska, including being a part of their series of infamous pranks that they are intent on pulling off on each other. What Pudge doesn’t know though is how Alaska is going to forever alter his world and separate his life into two sections: the before and the after.

If you like quirky characters with a good friendship storyline, I just know you will love this one. I thought it had the sweetness of, The Serpent King with a bit of the Eleanor & Park quirkiness thrown in, for good measure. I really enjoyed this one, mostly for this book’s humor and heart.

This book proves, once again, just how much I have enjoyed Green’s earlier works.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Waiting Room by Emily Bleeker

I received a copy of this novel from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Veronica has been struggling with postpartum depression ever since the death of her husband collided with the birth of her daughter. Her depression is so deeply rooted that she is unable to even touch her beautiful baby girl and knows that her daughter would be so much better without her.

That is why she is horrified when her home is broken into, while her mother is caring for her daughter, and she discovers that her daughter has gone missing. Due to her fragile mental state though, she soon realizes that she is the primary suspect in this disappearance and she will now stop at nothing to be reunited with her baby girl and finally be the mother she has always known she could be.

Ah, but nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to unreliable narrators, is it? Veronica is a mentally unstable guide in our story and there is soooo much more than the reader could ever guess.

I loved the smart plot twists that Bleeker has woven into this story and found it to be a quick page turner that delivered on an ending that I could have never guessed.

Anyone who has ever struggled with postpartum depression or the guilt of not measuring up as a mom will find Veronica to be very relatable character with flaws that seem fitting for her circumstance.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

I received an advanced reader copy from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Gown is going to be one of those buzz books this winter that everyone will be talking about, I guarantee it.

Instead of exploring the story of the royal family and all of its mystery, Robson decides to explore a royal wedding through a different set of eyes. These eyes she chooses to tell her story through are those of the women that made and embroidered the dress of Princess Elizabeth when she wedded Lieutenant Philip.

Set in 1947, Ann Hughes & Miriam Dassin are talented embroiderers that have been tasked with the intricate stitching that will adorn the royal bride’s priceless wedding gown. Following the royal wedding though, Ann moves and never tells her family of her life in London and the work she did for this famous gown.

It is only in 2016, when Ann’s granddaughter stumbles upon a box of her late grandmother’s belongings that she finds a set of hand-stitched flowers with no background information on them. What she discovers though is that these motifs are the same that decorated the Queen Elizabeth II’s gown and she begins to wonder if there was more to her grandmother’s story than she realizes.

Heather travels to London to unravel the past that Ann never shared with her family and her secret friendship with Miriam Dassin, a celebrated artist and Holocaust survivor.

Robson discusses, rather frankly, her struggles with finding information on the real women behind the real gown. It was through a chance meeting that she got in touch with Betty Foster, a woman who aided in the actual embroidery of the dress, that she was able to use this interview to flesh out these characters, along with her own independent research at another embroidery house.

An excerpt of the interview with Betty appears at the end of the book and showcases how much her voice shaped Robson’s writing and these gorgeous characters that she has crafted.

Fans of, Secrets of a Charmed Life and the show, The Crown, will DEFINITELY be swept away in this gorgeous book.

I absolutely loved it!

5 out of 5 Stars

The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani

If there has been one Kindle book that has consistently been top of the charts these past few months, it has been, The Storyteller’s Secret. Badani graciously joined me for an interview, after releasing her debut novel, so I had a feeling that this book was going to be another incredible treat and I wasn’t wrong. This book is GORGEOUS start to finish and, as the title suggests, if you just love beautiful storytelling, this book is one I would hand to you.

Jaya is a New York journalist who has suffered her third miscarriage and has found herself in a struggling marriage and emotionally drained. Desperate to relieve her anguish, she goes to India to uncover the answers of her family’s past.

When she arrives, she is greeted by Ravi, a trusted former servant of her family, and he has been waiting for Jaya to share the beautiful stories of her grandmother’s life. Growing up in the traditional Indian culture, her grandmother is a gifted storyteller with a big heart and strong spirit. Her husband dislikes these glimmers of independence, but also gives her the space she so desperately craves.

When a school is opened in the village, she is given the generous offer of being a teacher at the school and in exchange Amisha will be gifted English lessons. This generous offer is gifted to her by a handsome soldier who is stationed there during the British occupation. He can never know what a joyful gift it is and the heartache that will, in turn, come from that gift.

Badani writes again with kindness and wisdom for Indian customs and the religious beliefs they have built upon. I always learn so much from her writing and she does a phenomenal job of showing the beauty of India while also acknowledging the harder to swallow truths of the caste system and superstitious punishments that have been gifted within the family.

More importantly, given tasked to write the poetic stories of Amisha AND the task of telling Amisha’s story…well, that would take a talented storyteller to pull off. It comes as no surprise, Badani delivers the storytelling magic with abundance.

I would recommend this beautiful read to fans of, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

5 out of 5 Stars

Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman

Some books just devastate you and, Waiting for Eden, wrecked me with each word.

Like, gutted me.

At under 200 pages, Ackerman shows you that you need not make your stories long for them to be emotionally impactful.

Eden Malcom is in a hospital bed, unable to speak or move.  His wife spends each day with him in the hospital with their daughter… a daughter that he has never met. You see, Eden is a very wounded soldier who was injured in a Humvee explosion, an explosion that killed his best friend.

Eden’s wife, Mary, sits with him everyday, and turns away all attempts to cause her to end Eden’s suffering. His best friend waits for Eden in a comfortable limbo-like state – ready to ease his transition.

On Christmas Day, Mary is not at his bedside and Eden’s consciousness comes flicker back to life. He is determined to communicate his wishes to his family.

Eden’s best friend, who has died, is our narrator and through his eye we can see more of these fractures in these relationships and what his part was in them. He also is able to illustrate about what has happened to Eden and which soldiers are left unattended while he is cared for .

I listened to his one on audiobook and I found myself with tears in my eyes through almost every page. You are left, as a reader, to wonder what you would do if the tables were turned and to look at the complexities of this marriage and friendship.

The ending left me unsatisfied, but I have to acknowledge that this was such a messy story that I would never have got the ending I wanted. It definitely gave me so much to think about and Ackerman has gained one more big fan of his writing.

4 out of 5 Stars

Read With Me This Year:

January 2018 Must-Reads

February 2018 Must-Reads

March 2018 Must-Reads

April 2018 Must-Reads

May 2018 Must-Reads

June 2018 Must-Reads

July 2018 Must-Reads

August 2018 Must-Reads

September 2018 Must-Reads

October 2018 Must-Reads

November 2018 Must-Reads

What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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Published December 30, 2018 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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