So many books in December! This is part of the reason I delay my favorites of the year until mid-January...
This was a short and powerful read. However, I found it a little dry and rife with generalizations about many problems we face today. It certainly gave me a new perspective of looking at ways we are a tribal species, and how that helps and hinders our lives. The loss of tribe definitely seems like the driving force of trauma for veterans, but I'm not entirely sold on the fact that our society evolving from tribalism is the root of nearly all of it's ills, the way Junger seems to imply.
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
Ohhhh, this was such a fun escapist read. I originally gave it three stars, because: total fluff. But this terribly sweet conclusion of the Winter Street series, and the the end of the story for the characters I've become quite attached to, was a wonderful holiday treat. Upgraded to four star rating for humor and heart. Hilderbrand is great with memorable character development, as well as making me feel like I've been to Nantucket - even though I just desperately want to visit now. I'm hopeful she'll start another series for next Christmas!
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bojalian (You can read my review here!)
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
I finally caved to finishing this gorgeous YA series and I love these characters SO MUCH. This installment of the Raven Cycle was kinda iffy on plot for me, even with the first three as a benchmark for a lack thereof. Honestly, I'm thinking about it now and can't really describe what the heck happened. There were a lot of loose ends, secondary characters left hanging, new inscrutable ones introduced, and a slapdash solution to the major final obstacle of the book. And yet... I was sucked in as always and turning pages because of the beautiful and nuanced writing, the relationships, the swoon factor for... well, every character - I'm in love with ALL OF THEM. If (when?) she writes more Raven Boys lore, I will read the heck out of it.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
There must be something about reading a WWII novel at the end of the year that lands it as one of my favorites, as with The Nightingale. Or maybe it's because I parse out these novels, only allowing myself one or two a year on this subject. They are usually so good, though! I was quickly enraptured with Sepetys characters and the journeys they faced during Operation Hannibal, the German evacuation of troops and civilians from East Prussia and Poland. I loved the short chapters told from the perspective of each character, each from a different country. I can see how it would be jarring/crazy making for some, but I found myself up late saying 'just one more chapter.' It is fraught with tension and a lightning paced read. It was hard to wrap my head around the biggest maritime disaster in history being so unknown. This book is a must read: fascinating, engaging and bittersweet.
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Since my December Book of the Month (Swimming Lessons by the same author) was delayed, I thought I'd read her debut novel that has been on my TBR for quite awhile. This was an outstanding read. This story of a girl taken to the woods to live in isolation with her survivalist father begins with her acclimating to the 'real world' after her ordeal and I thought this was a brilliant way for her story to unfold. As we learn more in flashbacks, it becomes clear that whether or not she returns home is not where the mystery and tension lies, but HOW she gets out of her situation. How does she leave her father? How does she come to understand what is really happening? The ending is pretty harrowing, but following the breadcrumbs of ideas that Fuller deftly drops along the way is RIVETING stuff. I can't wait to dive into her latest novel!
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
This was on my summer list, and it's one I'm glad I finally got around to reading. It follows a amiliar, but fun, 'You've Got Mail' trope: the main character begins a communication via email with a mystery individual. In many cases it may be a secret admirer - see also Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and This is What Happy Looks Like. I enjoyed this as a straight up high school drama, but there was also a lot of good subject matter to chew on about friendship, parenting and loss. Even though the mystery person is pretty easy to pin down, I furiously turned the pages towards the end of the book to confirm my theory. It's just ADORABLE. I was surprised to learn that this was Buxbaum's first YA novel. Her depiction of teen life was evocative of my youth and felt spot-on.