Hello, reader friends. With my book reviews for December 2021, we wrap up another year of reading. I can’t believe 2021 has passed by so quickly! I know I say this every year, but doesn’t it become truer every year?
Last January I set my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge at 50 books. With the five books I read in December, I overshot my goal by 48% reading 74 books. Each story taught me a thing or two while enriching my life in some way.
If you plan to set a Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2022, let’s connect (aka be Goodreads friends) and support each other. I find so many great reads through my Goodreads friends.
The One-in-a-Million Boy
by: Monica Wood
The boy (as he is called in the book) is intrigued by world records. He counts things and makes lists. He is socially awkward and sometimes anxious. When he is unable to fulfill a commitment to 104-year-old Ona Vitkus, the boy’s dad steps in.
This one-in-a-million story is about loss and forgiveness, redemption and friendship, responsibility and love that endures. The characters are wonderful and wonderfully flawed—they will warm your insides and break you into tiny pieces. A not-to-be-missed charming novel!
Favorite Line: Because the story of your life never begins at the beginning.
Wintering: The Power of Rest
and Retreat in Difficult Times
by: Katherine May
As May faces personal health issues and difficulties with her young son, she takes a step back to rest and reflect and heal. The author’s writing is lyrical and poetic; she incorporates nature and literature into each “season”. While not everyone has the luxury of quitting a job and traveling to Stonehenge for Solstice, May’s overall message is soothing and applicable to everyone. Life flows in a series of peaks and valleys. At some point we will all be presented with circumstances that require us to hunker down and hold on tight. Like May, we too can learn the art of wintering, even if we do so in our own backyards.
I was drawn to the cover of this book as well as the idea of wintering. While Wintering wasn’t as I expected (really, I don’t know what I expected), I found reading it to be a gentle respite.
Favorite Line: Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.
A Christmas Carol
and Other Christmas Books
by: Charles Dickens
I have seen a variety of renditions of A Christmas Carol through the years—performances and movies and even Disney cartoons—but I don’t believe I’ve ever read the original story. Since I like to read something holiday-related each Christmas season, I chose this classic.
Everyone knows the story of bitter old Ebenezer Scrooge and his nighttime visitors, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. But reading Dickens’ words as he penned them in the 1840s provided an intimate, uplifting reminder of the Spirit of Christmas. His descriptions paint great contrast between poverty and wealth, holiday festivities and the feelings of bah humbug. It’s no wonder this story in particular is a masterpiece. Absolutely brilliant.
(I did not read the other stories included in this edition. I’ll save them for Christmas Seasons Yet to Come.)
Favorite Quote: I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
Blind Rage: A True Story of Sin, Sex,
and Murder in a Small Arkansas Town
by: Anita Paddock
My path has crossed with author Anita Paddock twice in recent months—she is delightful!—and even though I rarely read crime stories, the local buzz surrounding her writing steered me to read her first book, Blind Rage.
The story is based on a murder in Van Buren, Arkansas in 1981. Paddock’s straight-to-the-point writing grabbed me from the outset, and I read Blind Rage in a matter of hours. (It’s a quick, easy read at less than 200 pages.) The subtext of this story is perhaps the most important part of Blind Rage—issues of police/detective mishandling, how society is quick to judge and blame those deemed different, mental illness and abuse.
A quick, compelling read.
Favorite Quote: There was nothing entertaining about witnessing the steady, debilitating decline of a once brilliant mind.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars
by: Glendy Vanderah
Joanne Teale is an ornithologist living in a cabin in the forest while working on her graduate school project. She is also in the midst of dealing with the double blow of her mother’s recent death and her own recovery from breast cancer. When a young girl (Ursa) shows up barefoot and bruised, and claiming to be from another galaxy, Joanne lets her stay for a while. Ursa claims she can’t go home until she witnesses five miracles. Joanne fears for Ursa’s safety and doesn’t push it.
Gabe is the reclusive egg-selling guy who lives in the woods closest to Joanne. Joanne and Gabe strike up a friendship while trying to figure out the mystery of Ursa. These three rather broken characters create a strong bond over the course of a few weeks in summer.
Still, there is the matter of Ursa. No one seems to have reported her missing. She’s wise beyond her young age, understands Shakespeare, likes to draw, and good things happen when she’s around.
As Ursa closes in on her fifth miracle, her truth closes in on all of them.
Where the Forest Meets the Stars is fresh and captivating, a gem of a story about the fragility of life and relationship. I adored it.
Favorite Quote: Nothing like stars to show us our little arguments are meaningless.
Thanks for following along with my book reviews this year.
What was the best book you read in 2021? I’m not sure I could pick just one, so it probably isn’t fair to ask you.
Now that 2022 has arrived, I imagine all the new stories waiting to be read. And Lord-willing, my own next book will be available this year!
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
This musical pairing will make sense if you read Where the Forest Meets the Stars🙂