In all the excitement and hustle and bustle of a new year, I forgot to recap the five books I read in December. December is hectic for everyone, but I admit it’s especially hectic in retail; I miraculously managed to read five books in December: two geared toward a younger audience, one thriller, and one nonfiction title I relished all month long.
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. You’ve already heard me rave about this young adult novel; it made my “best books of 2015” list, and although it’s a YA title, Dumplin’ has a ton of crossover appeal. When self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Clifford – called Dumplin’ by her beauty pageant mother – falls in love for the first time, her confidence begins to take a nosedive. How to get it back? With Texas beauty pageants, best friends, and Dolly Parton, of course. I’m still raving about this book, all these weeks later. It’s funny and realistic and utterly readable; I had a hard time ever putting it down. It’s just the YA book this world needed. (If you read a lot of YA, you know what I mean.)
Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels. I picked Adventures of Miss Petitfour up based on cover art alone; acclaimed watercolor artist Emma Block illustrated this new middle reader book, and her eye-catching drawings are dispersed throughout its pages. The book details a different Miss Petitfour adventure each chapter; each of the stories, then, are stand alone, which can help early readers who are adjusting to the chapter book format. Miss Petitfour reminded me a bit of quirky Amelia Bedelia; the silly antics aren’t quite there, but the sweetness of the story is. Adventures of Miss Petitfour felt old-fashioned in the best possible way, and I love recommending to customers looking for the perfect birthday gift.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. When I’m in the middle of a reading slump, there’s nothing better to help me get back on track than a well-done thriller. (Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be well done, as long as the plot clips along at a steady pace.) I wasn’t in a reading slump in December, but I was desperate for a quick read, and In a Dark, Dark Wood seemed like a good fit. The novel features a bachelorette weekend gone wrong, and after 48 hours in a cottage in the remote English countryside, our protagonist Lenora winds up in a hospital bed. Someone is dead, but now the reader has to follow Lenora’s memory to figure out who and why. In a Dark, Dark Wood is part Clue, part Before I Go to Sleep (it garnered comparisons to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, but the Before I Go to Sleep comparison is the most accurate, I think). I read this book over a weekend, and I found it compelling, but it didn’t make too much of an impact. It’s made several “best of” lists for 2015, so if you’re into suspense novels, give this one a try. I do think it’s worth the read, particularly when the book comes out in paperback later this year. (I’m thinking beach read.)
Live from New York by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. There’s nothing quite like an oral history to get you through the longest part of your year. Live from New York is 700 pages all about Saturday Night Live; the book is written entirely in interview format, which I thought might be distracting – or boring – but instead made for perfect reading every night when I crawled my aching feet into bed. I’m not even the biggest SNL fan, but I thought this book was fascinating. I’m sure I’ve been a pleasure to have at dinner parties over the past few weeks because I now have a plethora of SNL anecdotes to share. I actually think this would be a fun book to read to prep for a New York City trip; there are so many details about the city and the history of the show. I really wound up enjoying this book, which I grabbed off the shelf on a whim one night and then proceeded to read off and on all month long.
Voracious by Cara Nicoletti. When you own a bookstore, people stop buying you books as gifts. It’s a sad phenomenon, really, and I think it’s due, in part, to the assumption that I’ve already read anything someone could buy me. (Not true.) Luckily, my mom understands my plight, and for Christmas, I was given Voracious, a memoir by butcher Cara Nicoletti. The subtitle of Voracious is A Hungry Girl Cooks Her Way through Great Books, and that’s really the book in a nutshell. Nicoletti has loved the kitchen and the written word for as long as she can remember, and in this book, she combines her love of both. Each essay is brief, but features a favorite of Nicoletti’s books, ranging from The Boxcar Children to Emma to The Silence of the Lambs. Her selections run the gamut, and there appears to be no rhyme or reason to their order, but that’s okay. The books are each followed by an appropriately-themed recipe, and I found my mouth watering on several occasions. The book isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a lovely tribute to the books Nicoletti loves, and it’s really a beautiful book itself: colored illustrations and thick, semi-glossy paper make this a great gift for the book lover in your life. (I love my copy.)