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December 26, 2021

Last Month of Reading for 2021

by Donna Huber


I can hardly believe that we are at the end of 2021. While this year was a little more normal there were times that I forgot we were in 2021 (maybe it is because it felt like 2020 didn't happen).  December was a good month with many days off from work, a lot of cookie baking, and definitely some good reading.

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Life...

I'm writing this the day before Christmas Eve and I'm trying to decide if I'm done with my holiday baking. I made cookie trays for our holiday hot cocoa bar at work and then I took a tray to my homesteaders holiday party. Some of what I've baked this past week are for gifts. I would like to make another batch of almond joy cookies as the batch I made is all gone and I didn't get ginger snaps made, but I might wait until after the holidays as I have quite enough baked goods in my fridge right now. Here's a list of what I made (links to the recipes that I basically followed)

Chocolate covered peanut butter bites (instead of mixing in chocolate chips, I melt Ghiradelli dark chocolate melting wafers to dip the peanut butter balls in it)
Pumpkin bars with cinnamon cream cheese frosting (you can use the frosting recipe and just add in a teaspoon or 2 of cinnamon)
Peppermint sugar cookies (instead of dusting with powder sugar after cooling I made a glaze with powder sugar, a little milk, and peppermint extract and then sprinkled crushed candy canes on top)
Dark chocolate biscotti (I substituted dried cranberries for the dried cherries)
Old-fashioned gingerbread cake (I dusted with powder sugar instead of the butterscotch sauce)

I also made a couple of Christmas crafts. My wreath kind of fell apart so I made a new sign for my door and with some leftover stuff I had around the house I made scented jars.


I've kept up with my French every day and I will continue it into next year. The same goes for my daily yoga. Yoga with Adriene does a special 30-day challenge in January as a way to get people doing yoga every day so if you have been thinking about starting a yoga practice at home then January will be a great time to start.

Blog...

On Friday, I will be posting the blog's year-end wrap up so I'll just highlight a few December tidbits that you might have missed in the lead-up to the holidays.

Popular posts


If you are still looking for a Christmas movie to watch, check out Alison's thoughts on A Castle for Christmas


Books...

Since I focus mainly on the blog in the year-end post, I do a little year-end wrap-up here of my 2021 reading. I was home a lot this month so I got quite a bit of reading to do. Since I was baking a lot, I put on audiobooks to listen to. I have managed to read all my December new releases except 1 and I caught up on some of the other ARCs I received this year. Even so, I still have about 20 - 25 ARCs I didn't get read this year. I knew I took on too many this year so I'm trying to be super careful for 2022. January is already looking like a lighter month so I'm hoping to start catching up on the 2021 ARCs I didn't get to. 

I met my Goodreads Challenge back in October so I read way more books this year than I thought I would - thanks to audiobooks. I again didn't read as many of my prior to 2021 review books as I had hoped. I will continue to aim for 12, and hopefully, I will find more as audiobooks for those that I had as ebooks on my old Nook so I can review them for Netgalley at least - I finally reached an 80% feedback ratio (I've been a member since 2011).

My goals for the year:
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 13/21 (YTD: 142/172)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 2 (YTD: 3)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 172/125

Books read

This month I read/listened to 21 books: 7 ebooks, 3 print books, and 11 audiobooks. 13 books were for review. 

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Spin
Goodreads

This was the December book for my post-apocalyptic book club. I don't read a lot of science fiction as it is one of my least favorite genres. I was bored through most of this novel. I found the last third the most enjoyable. I didn't feel much of a connection with the characters until Wun and Ina were introduced. My book club was pretty evenly split between loved it, it was okay, and couldn't finish it. I checked out the ebook from the digital library.

Buy Spin at Amazon

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor by Patrick Higgins

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor
Goodreads

Most holiday stories that I read are pretty fluffy. This one is not light. If you are looking for something more serious for your holiday reading, then I recommend this book. Read my full review. I received a free audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions.

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Chain of Command by Marc Cameron

Chain of Command
Goodreads

I really love the books where we have Jack Ryan, Sr. as more of a main character. Though he isn't the one gathering intel and burnishing weapons anymore there is just something that harkens back to the early days of the series that the books where he is barely mentioned lack. There are a lot of moving parts with this plot and it was fun to see all the threads come together. I even chuckled a little at the end. Read my full review. I received a free ARC via Netgalley but I checked out the audiobook from my digital library.

Buy Chain of Command at Amazon

Dark Night by Paige Shelton

Dark Night
Goodreads

I look forward to December every year, not because of Christmas but because it means a new book in Paige Shelton's Alaska Wild series. I enjoy her cozy mysteries, but I love this suspense-filled mystery series. There is a murder victim, but we get so much more about what Beth is hiding from. Read my full review. I received an ARC via Netgalley.

Buy Dark Night at Amazon

Her Second Death by Melinda Leigh

Her Second Death
Goodreads

I'm not a huge fan of police procedurals or short stories so I was a little hesitant to review this book. But I loved a short story collection of domestic thrillers that I read a few years ago so I'm a little more open to those that have are suspense or thriller. I'm glad that I took a chance. I liked the main character Bree Taggert and I think the dynamic with her partner will be great as the series progresses. It is definitely a great introduction to this new series. Read my full review. I received an ARC from the publicist.

Buy Her Second Death at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read for free)

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Key Lime Pie Murder
Goodreads

I've been trying to catch up with this series. I read the new books as they come out and listened to older titles as the audiobooks come available at the library. I think I might be growing tired of this series. The stilted dialogue bugged me more and I realized there is a good deal of telling when we could have been shown. I still enjoy the characters. I borrowed the audiobook from the digital library.

Buy Key Lime Pie Murder at Amazon

Hurry! Hurry! It's Almost Christmas by George Zarr

Hurry! Hurry! It's Almost Christmas
Goodreads

If you like radio shows this is a cute holiday production. I enjoyed it while baking Christmas cookies. It's short - just over 2 hours - but it is a full story. It feels like it would make a great theater stage piece. The whole family can enjoy this story. If you are traveling for the holidays and are tired of holiday songs, pop this story on instead. I borrowed it from my digital library.


Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney

Mistletoe Murder
Goodreads

I read the first book when it was a free Prime book but I haven't read any more of the series. I was looking for a Christmasy book to read and saw that this one was available as an audiobook at my digital library. It is a fun cozy mystery and the perfect length to accompany my cookie baking.

Buy Mistletoe Murder at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited members can read the ebook for FREE)

Simple Secrets to a Happy Life by Luci Swindoll

Simple Secrets to a Happy Life
Goodreads

This book has been sitting on my "to be reviewed" shelf for a long time. I tried to read it when I first got it but it was too much self-help so I shelved it. I decided I would try again and read it in small bits. Each chapter is only 3 or 4 pages so I would read a chapter whenever I had a few minutes - heating up lunch, while letting dishes soak, etc. I think that is actually the best way so that you can ruminate on each "secret" Swindoll shares before moving on to the next one. Read my full review. I received a free book from the publisher.


Head Shot by Otho Eskin

Head Shot
Goodreads

While this is the second book in the Marko Zorn series you don't have to read book 1 to enjoy this one. Marko is a complex character. It took a while for me to get into the story but the murder plot was interesting with a lot of twists. Read my full review. I received an ARC from the publisher.

Buy Head Shot at Amazon

A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry

A Christmas Homecoming
Goodreads

While not exactly Christmasy as we think of modern-day Christmas stories, but for the setting of the late 18oos it is typical of Christmas. A troupe of actors has been employed for a private performance of Dracula - a widely popular book at the time. It is to be a gift. Unfortunately, there's a murder and the person isn't actually undead. A snowstorm traps everyone at the house and they must discover the murderer. It was an interesting Christmas story as it is definitely different than most I've read. I borrowed the audiobook from the digital library.

Buy A Christmas Homecoming at Amazon

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews

Christmas Bliss
Goodreads

After discovering MKA wrote Christmas books I wanted to read some of her others. My digital library only had two in audio. So even though I haven't read this series I decided to give the book a try. Some authors will write a more or less stand-alone novel when doing a Christmas story as part of a series, but that wasn't really the case with this one. I think fans of the series would have loved the Christmas wedding. I enjoyed the story but it would have been better if I had more background knowledge of the characters. 

Buy Christmas Bliss at Amazon

Christmas Dessert Murder by Joanne Fluke

Christmas Dessert Murder
Goodreads

This is not a new story. It is two Christmas stories that had been previously published - Christmas Caramel Murder and Christmas Cake Murder. I had listened to the first book last year but I hadn't read the second. It is flashback to before Hannah opened the Cookie Jar. I liked it a lot - mostly because there wasn't really a murder to solve but it still had a good mystery. Read my full review. I received an ARC via Netgalley.


Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Once Upon a Wardrobe
Goodreads

I loved this book. I'm glad I saved it for my holidays because once I started it I didn't want to stop reading. I finished this shortly after midnight and I had just started it around 3 pm. I cried a little bit. Read my full review. I received an ARC from the publisher.

Buy Once Upon a Wardrobe at Amazon

Prior Violations by Jonathan Macpherson

Prior Violations
Goodreads

This is a short story - the audiobook is around 1.5 hours. It is a good introduction to the characters. If you are looking for a short suspense read, then this would be a good one to pick up. My review will post after the first of year. I received a free audiobook from the author.

Buy Prior Violations at Amazon

Midnight Clear by Kathy Hogan Trocheck/Mary Kay Andrews

Midnight Clear
Goodreads

I was looking for more Christmas stories from Mary Kay Andrews and this is one that my digital library had but it isn't really a Christmas story. It is set at Christmas and it is about family, but it is also about a custody dispute and murder. I have not read this series but this book felt like a standalone novel. I enjoyed the mystery and the characters.

Buy Midnight Clear at Amazon

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
Goodreads

This book has been in my TBR for a while. I got an ARC from Netgalley when it was first published but that was when I didn't have a realistic idea of how many books I could read. I found it available as an audiobook at my digital library so I decided now would be a good time to read it. If you like stories within stories then this would be a great book to read. When I started it I wasn't sure if I was going to like it but by the end I really liked it. It has a great unreliable narrator. 


The Mistletoe Pact by Jo Lovett

The Mistletoe Pact
Goodreads

I really liked the characters but I thought it dragged out some parts of the plot too long. I was hoping for a quick, snappy read. It felt kind of like I was reading a Christmas version of Emily Henry's Beach Read. Read my full review. I got an ARC via Netgalley.

Buy The Mistletoe Pact at Amazon

Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Old

Home for Christmas
Goodreads

I love Christmas short story treasuries. I love discovering old Christmas stories - from the 1800s and early 1900s. This one has 20 stories. What I found unique about this collection was that some of the stories were appearing in English for the first time. The stories are touching. Some will have you reflecting on your own attitudes. Read my full review. I received an ARC via Netgalley.

Buy Home for Christmas at Amazon

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

A Children's Bible
Goodreads

This is the book my post-apocalyptic book will discuss next week. It felt like the typical YA dystopian where the children have to save the world. I'm sure it will make for a good book club discussion but overall I was bored by the story. The audiobook is well done - I had no problem following the story. I borrowed the audiobook from the digital library.

Buy A Children's Bible at Amazon

Fixed. by Amy Herman

Fixed
Goodreads

A few months ago Amy Herman was the speaker of a professional development seminar I attended at work. She was fabulous - one of the most interesting speakers I've heard. I have her other book but I haven't read it yet. I enjoyed this book. It's not as good as seeing her in person but if you don't have that opportunity then this is a great choice. I recognized some of the artwork and what she was saying in the text as the same as what I saw and heard at the presentation. If you need to flip your thinking, then this is the book to read. My review will post in January. I received an ARC via Netgalley.

Buy Fixed. at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour



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12 comments:

  1. Your cookie list sounds fantastic, especially the peppermint! I hope you had a great Christmas Day.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm a baker, so I will be checking out these cookie recipes. I tried two new ones this year, one with chai and one with green cherries.

    I'm waiting for Once Upon a Wardrobe. Glad to see you liked it so much.

    Great job with your French and your yoga. I must resolve to practice both next year!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your baking sounds delicious. That's great you kept up with your French every day. I tend to do languages more in spurts.

    I'm also planning to read Once Upon a Wardrobe - I just reread The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for Narniathon so I'm in the mood. Hope it will come in soon from the library.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So many great books on your list. I'm looking forward to Once Upon a Wardrobe. It looks great.

    Hope you have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Merry Christmas! Your baked goodies sound wonderful. :)

    I always like the look of those Fluke books. Key Lime Pie is no exception! Books set in Alaska are always nice too...

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your baked goods sound great! Thanks for links to the recipes.

    It looks like you got a good amount of holiday reading in. I have heard so many good things about Once Upon a Wardrobe and the Alaska Wild series. I'll get to them eventually.

    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You got some great reading done and your baking sounds amazing! I am definitely checking out the ginger snaps, peppermint sugar cookies, and spiced Mexican chocolate!

    ReplyDelete
  8. That is a lot of fancy and varied Christmas baking. I alway try to make extra to give away and freeze but, overdid it this year. I also exceeded my GoodReads goal, probably because 40+ books were for children. Hope 2022 is a good year for you

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great month! I also listened a lot to audiobooks this month, thanks to cookie baking, lol. Yours look so yummy.
    Here is my December recap: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/12/31/2021-december-wrap-up/
    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Spin, Dark Night, and The Mistletoe Pact all look like books I'd enjoy. I thought about doing some baking to give as gifts to people at work this year, but then just didn't do it. Hope that you have a good January!
    Lisa Loves Literature

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ooo! Cookie baking! Those almond joy cookies sound so good. We didn't manage to get any done this past month. I suppose we could make some this month to make up for it. It looks like you read some great books in December! I confess I haven't listened to an audiobook in nearly two years. I hope you have a Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I too enjoy holiday baking and my peanut butter chocolate bars disappeared in a couple of days as well as my gingerbread cookies. Once Upon a Wardrobe sounds amazing and The Mistletoe Pact is a must read for me. Thank you for including links to recipes for me to check out after posting this.

    ReplyDelete

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