I can't believe December is over already (and we're in 2023!)—time is still working in strange ways, at least in my brain. I already put out a list of some of my favorite reads of 2022, but I wanted to close out the year with some books I read for the first time in December. I didn't read as much—or all the books I wanted to—in December (I love holiday romances and I love to binge them at the end of the year), which was indicative of the year as a whole. I'm hoping to get back on track with reading (and writing!) in this new year. For now, here's December's reading:
Pack of Lies by Charlie Adhara: Pack of Lies starts a new series that spins off from Adhara's Big Bad Wolf paranormal romantic suspense series. We get more of the paranormal and more mystery suspense in this book, but with a new romantic pairing. Eli was a supporting character in the original series, and I will admit to having mixed feelings about him. After this book, I really do love him. I also enjoyed his love interest, and I'm interested to see how the relationship develops, as this wasn't much more than the barest beginnings for them, amid the mystery and murder and suspense of the plot. This book probably stands alone, but I would say to read the original series for more context—and also because it is really good.
Masters in the Hall by KJ Charles: I was so excited to hear this surprise new KJ Charles book! And it did not disappoint. It's a part of the Lilywhite Boys series, though sufficiently separate from the earlier books that you could probably read it on its own (again, though, you'd miss out on an excellent historical romance series if you did...). In this book, we have a disgraced hotel detective and the man who caused him to be disgraced at a Christmas house party during which the detective intends to expose this man as a criminal. What actually happens is a lovely second-chance romance and a ridiculously fun plot to expose the real villain.
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish: If you've seen the movie The Holiday, the premise of this novel (house swap!) will be familiar. Greta needs to escape her overbearing, boundary-ignoring family, and Truman has just had his heart broken by his awful boyfriend, so a mutual friend suggests they switch houses for the month of December. Greta heads to New Orleans where she falls in love with the city and Carys. Truman flies up to small-town Maine where he falls for florist Ash and finds that his favorite author—whose books he's been reading forever and got him through everything—may have lived in that very same house. Of the two romances, Truman and Ash's was my favorite. It was just so lovely. And I adored his quest to find more about his favorite author. While Greta's romance didn't resonate as much with me, I loved other parts of her journey to find out who she is outside her family and build the life she wanted.
A Little Blessing by R Cooper: A new Familiar Spirits book! Yay! I can just say that, right? Sigh, okay. This series is filled with lovely, cozy, witchy stories, and I adore them all. This one brings us back to town around Yule and introduces us to Robin Blessing, who was raised by older relatives and then spent years caring for them. Now alone, he's running the family business and not taking care of himself—and he collapses at the feet of Lucas, the teenage crush he never got over (though that's understating a complicated relationship). What develops between them as Lucas and his family move in to Robin's home and life to nurse him through both the flu and his grief is warm and cozy and beautiful and develops in the perfect organic way. The only problem is that I need more—there are some interesting things set up here and I want to know what happens next for the Coven. I immediately went back and reread Holly and Oak, the book in the series most related to this one, after I finished (and loved it again). I also need to learn how to knit.
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas: This is book one of a Young Adult fantasy duology—be warned that book two isn't out yet (I will be waiting impatiently!). I'd heard this described as Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games, and it definitely has elements of that. Every ten years, some of the half-human children of the gods are chosen to compete in a series of trials. The winner becomes the next Sunbearer; the loser is sacrificed to replenish the Sun's power and keep the evil Obsidian gods locked away. Teo is son of the Jade goddess of birds is only worried about the trials in relation to his best friend Niya, daughter of a Gold. Only Gods are ever chosen for the trials (and therefore both prepared for it and given far more privilege), until this year when Teo and another Jade are chosen. The world building, based on Mexican mythology, is fantastic, and so is the LGBTQ rep. I loved so many of the characters and their journeys. And the twist at the end! Definitely looking forward to what happens next.
Hen Fever by Olivia Waite: This f/f Victorian Christmas novella was just delightful. A romance full of depth and feeling between Lydia, a spinster trying to always be on her best behavior (because she knows she is a disappointment to her parents), and Harriet, a soldier's widow trying to get over the absolute worst years of her life with her friends, who have inherited a manor house on the edge of Lydia's village. The lovely romance is contrasted with the approach of the village poultry show, a cutthroat competition that causes both hilarity and conflict. Short, but absolutely satisfying with beautiful writing...and a fantastic cover!
What have you read and loved lately?