What I Read: December 2023

What I Read: December 2023

And just like that we are tying a bow on 2023.

I really don’t know where the time went. I know you always hear that the years go faster as you get older, but it’s so weird to experience. 2023 really did fly by.

December proved to be a strong month of reading, which included finishing up an 800+ page book that’s been on my list for a while:

  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • A City on Mars by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith
  • The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall
  • Long Live the Elf Queen by J.M. Kearl
  • The Only One Left by Riley Sager
  • Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Time for the reviews!

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This book has been on my TBR list for a few years, but I finally tackled it! At 848 pages, it was intimidating, but I did it.

Given the length, providing a short synopsis is difficult, so just know that there’s a lot more to it. But basically, the story focuses on a few key characters: Ead, Tané, and Sabran. Ead has infiltrated Sabran’s kingdom and is slowly working to earn her trust. Ead is determined to protect Sabran as it’s believed that her bloodline keeps the Nameless One locked away. But Ead uses magic, which is forbidden, and has entirely different religious beliefs that she keeps secret. Meanwhile, across the world, you have Tané, a dragon-rider, who gets involved in a scandal. Eventually, all of their storylines weave together as they must face a common enemy.

While I normally have a hard time with a large cast of characters (there are a lot more people I didn’t mention..), I didn’t find myself confused. This book was written in such a way that keeping all of the storylines straight was easy.

I enjoyed the book overall, but I do think it could have been significantly shorter. If you end up reading it and enjoy it, there is a prequel: A Day of Fallen Night. Honestly, I haven’t decided if I want to read it yet or not.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I finally got around to reading a classic! (Admittedly, a more modern classic, but still…)

Guy Montag is a fireman. But in this world, firemen are actually the ones that start the fires, not put them out. If books are discovered in a home, the firemen burn the house to the ground with everything inside. But eventually, Guy begins questioning his role in this system. His questions end up unraveling his life as he knows it.

This was a short read, so even though I didn’t love it, I’m glad I read it. The story, while quite rushed in parts (we’re just supposed to move on from the whole murder scene???), provides some food for thought.

Rating: 6.5/10

A City on Mars by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith

I think the book’s sub-header provides a very concise description of what you’re getting into: “Can we settle space, should we settle space, and have we really thought this through?”

The answer to most of those questions- at least right now- is no.

Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith dive into many of the unanswered questions we have about space and living in space. While they were focused on being factual, it did provide a negative outlook on the chances of a space settlement any time soon. This isn’t their fault, but it is a reality check to anyone who thinks we will be moving off-world in the near future.

This book did make me want to start reading the memoirs of astronauts!

Rating: 8/10

The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall

So, this was described as “Practical Magic Meets Gilmore Girls”, but I’ll be honest and say I didn’t really get those vibes.

Sadie Revelare loves her magic, her grandmother, and baking. But when her grandmother reveals she’s dying of cancer and that she’s been hiding a deadly secret about Sadie and her twin brother, Sadie’s whole life begins to fall apart. Add in the fact that her ex-boyfriend recently moved back to town with his fiancée, and things are downright messy. Can Sadie find a way to move forward before time runs out?

I felt this book was trying to do too much. I wish it had either gone in really deep with the magic storylines and the curses or gone in depth with the romance angle. Or, even grief and family reconnecting angle. Instead, it felt a bit rushed, which is a shame because it did have fun, small town/cozy vibes.

Rating: 6.5/10

Long Live the Elf Queen by J.M. Kearl

This is the second book in Elf Queen series, so be warned that spoilers for the first book may be ahead!

After really enjoying the first book in the series, I was excited to dive into this one!

The story picks up right where book one left off. Tenebris has returned with a grudge, battling his son for the role of High King. Layala and Thane are determined to stop him and the Pale Ones from bringing back the Black Mage. But there seems to be some unexplainable link between Layala and the Black Mage. Can she figure out who he truly is and can she and Thane finally get to live together in peace?

So, much like the first book, I highly recommend this as an audiobook! The voice actors do such a great job bringing this story to life. Unfortunately, I felt the story did drag in some parts as there was a lot of traveling involved. That said, the last few chapters added some new twists and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Rating: 7/10

The Only One Left by Riley Sager

I usually enjoy Riley Sager’s books and this was no exception.

Kit McDeere is a caregiver on her last straw at her job after a tragic incident with a former patient. So, when she gets assigned to work for Lenora Hope at Hope’s End, she has no choice but to say yes. But the home and its occupants are shrouded in mystery. Lenora is thought to have killed her parents and her sister decades ago, however, she was never convicted. Kit soon finds herself obsessed with the murders and getting to the bottom of what happened in the home.

I loved the gothic atmosphere of this book! It’s a creepy, crumbling mansion on a cliff that’s slowly tilting over the edge. The ending does get a little far-fetched with the way everything unravels and connects, but the main twist was shocking to me!

Rating: 8/10

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

From what I’ve read online, David Goggins is both an inspirational person and maybe a little controversial. I can see both sides. He seems to take everything to the extreme (often with not enough preparation) despite the cost to his body and nearly even his life.

In this book, David Goggins goes through his childhood experiences to his journey to become a Navy SEAL to ultra running and beyond. While I have no interest in doing most of the things he’s done, it’s super impressive and fascinating to read about! It definitely provides some perspective to some of my personal goals. I also like his thoughts on how our limits are often self-imposed, not true limits.

Rating: 8/10

Want more reviews? Check out what I read in November 2023!

Have a book you think I should read next? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.

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