We're done with the year! It feels like December flew by faster than any other month. By the time I blinked, a week was gone. When I got a break and looked at the date, it was the 21st—and the days passed faster after that.

December was my lowest reading month of 2023. I read one book in the first few days and suddenly two weeks had passed without me reading anything. I kept meaning to read but I didn't have time! I read 8 books and 6 of them were read in the last week of the month when I was on holiday.

I didn't care about the number, though. I had already finished 100 books in 2023 and didn't care much about hitting a number by the end of the year. I read only a few books and they were interesting.

princess academy by shannon hale

princess academy book cover

I added this to my TBR last year when I finished rereading Ella Enchanted and wanted to read more middle-grade books. It didn't sound very great honestly but I just added it. Recently, I've been trying to read more from my TBR so I picked this one up.

Princess Academy follows a girl who lives in a small remote village on a hill with a close-knit community. One day, a missive comes that it has been predicted that the prince's future wife will be from that village and hence the crown set up a "princess academy" to train the girls as required.

For a while, the book feels like it doesn't have a point. There is importance placed on impressing the prince but most of the book follows the girls as they study. I was quite bored for almost half the book but continued as it was easy to read.

Only later did it reveal to be a good book. The story is about the importance of education, local culture and traditions, and community. Instead of glorifying city culture and insulting the uneducated villagers whose main job is to mine stones, it shows how a village can be strong in a special way.

The book shows good morals instead of telling them which I liked. It's easy to read, has interesting stuff that middle-graders can relate to, and teaches good lessons. I recommend it!

didn't see that coming by jesse q. sutanto

didn't see that coming book cover

I've enjoyed the author's Dial A for Aunties so I checked this out when it was available as an ALC on Libro.fm. The blurb caught me because I love stories where the characters bond online and later meet offline. It creates a unique relationship that I'm fond of.

Didn't See That Coming follows a 17-year-old girl as she switches from a liberal school to a highly traditional Chinese school in Indonesia. Kiki has always been a fabulous and confident girl. When she switches to the new school, it is like she has joined a new world where the rules are backward and atrocious. And surprise, her seatmate is her online best friend. The story follows her as she deals with the changes.

At times, this is a difficult book to read because it features bullying, name-calling, public humiliation, and sexism. Kiki has a hard time right from the start and tries so hard to make every day better. It was heartbreaking to see her resolve break down due to archaic rules and bad teachers.

I found Kiki's situation relatable because my school was quite similar. We had a lot of the same rules and attitudes. I grew up in that school so I didn't see all of the issues back then and am still unlearning some mindsets that were fostered there. It's inspiring to see Kiki rebel against the rules and fight for something better despite being pushed aside a lot.

Because of all the stressful events, Kiki makes several bad decisions but it's plain to see that she's just trying her best. She goes through a big character growth arc in the book. I couldn't help but root for her right from the start and felt relieved when she had a happy ending with her family, friends, and partner.

The blurb sold it as a teenage romance but it was so much more than that. I highly recommend it.

how to be perfect: the correct answer to every moral question by michael schur

how to be perfect by michael schur book cover

I first read this as an audiobook in 2022 and highly enjoyed it. I was just getting into non-fiction then and this was one of the books that made my entry easy and made the genre appealing. This was an easy listen with simple and humourous writing and introduced a lot of concepts easily.

I wanted to annotate it and know the concepts better so I got the paperback a few months ago and finally reread it. Unfortunately, I didn't like the book as much this time. A combination of things made it less impressive.

Firstly, I quite hated the humour this time. The author is a well-known comedy TV writer so he tries to make jokes out of everything. A few times it worked but a lot of the time, it was dry (for me). I think the humour does better when narrated by the author and doesn't land as well while reading.

The jokes make the book much easier to read because there are many breaks in-between the terms and explanations. However, they also ruined the effect of the rest of the writing. There would have been a lot of sharable quotes if the humour was toned down. I wanted to annotate and share quotes but many times, half the sentence would be a joke. It ruined the impact of the statements.

Also, I'm more comfortable with harder non-fiction books now and hence found this a little underwhelming. It was great when I wasn't comfortable with non-fiction but not now. That is completely a personal thing but says a lot about who this book is for.

However, I still liked the summarization of all the philosophical concepts. Instead of diving deep into the concepts and writing a thesis, this book brings the concepts to us. They're easy to understand. I made notes in the index to map the chapters to the concepts mentioned so that I could reference them later. This is a good introduction to philosophy.

The author relates all of the concepts to common current life dilemmas that most of us can relate to. This is the best part of the book. Instead of using unrealistic philosophical situations, the author tests the concepts on real-life issues. Hence, the concepts are easier to learn and apply in real life.

The book is a light guide to making ethical decisions. It isn't a hard-core rulebook that says "you should do this". Instead, it gives us different tools that we can apply depending on the context and priorities. I recommend it if you're looking for an easy introduction to philosophy or non-fiction.

chain of thorns by cassandra clare

chain of thorns book cover

I honestly forgot about this series for a few months. I wanted a break from it so I set it aside and then forgot about it. When I realized that I still had to finish the series, I picked it up to finish it before the year ended.

I should have read the book sooner because I forgot almost everything that happened in the first two books and took a while to get into the flow. The first 10% had me going "oh, this happened?" 😂 Once the plot moved on a bit, it was okay.

In the last book, all the characters went through something drastic and went in different ways. Hence, this book starts with (what felt like) a hundred POVs to keep up with everyone. Each POV spanned only a few pages so the shifts were very frequent. It felt jarring and chaotic. Once most of the characters got together, it became better.

The love triangle was torturous in this book, I hated it. I hate it everywhere and this was especially bad. The romances between supporting characters were much better. Lucie and Jesse were <3 Alistair and Thomas were <3 I enjoyed Thomas's POVs so much because of his internal dialogue.

The book was unnecessarily long. I wanted it to end at 50% but there was still a lot left. There was a ton of chaos and random things happening. Characters mooned over each other in the middle of battles and made declarations. I'm glad the book ended.

The entire plot is basically about teenagers acting like adults in the middle of chaos. They can't make proper decisions but they get married and have their own houses. They take dangerous decisions and do what they want but they're not allowed in the Enclave meetings because they're under 18. It was funny.

Overall, it was kinda entertaining but I'm glad it's over. The first 2 books were better than this one, though.

killing commendatore by haruki Murakami

killing commendatore book cover

A few months into the year, I set a low-key goal of finishing three big books that have been on my shelf for years. Maximum Ride, The Priory of the Orange Tree and Killing Commendatore. I finished the goal in the last days of December.

Killing Commendatore follows a painter who lives in a small cottage in the mountains after his wife announces that she wants a divorce. He decides to pursue the art that satisfies him instead of what has been making money for him. Coincidentally, the previous inhabitant of the house was a famous painter.

When he is unable to make even one brush stroke on the canvas, he discovers an old shocking painting by the famous painter which hasn't been revealed to the public. The unravelling of that painting inspires him but also sets off a series of strange events.

I wouldn't say that the story has much of a point to it. Strange things happen, the main character meets other strange people along the journey, and he paints a few paintings before giving it all up and going back to the way his life once was. It's an interesting story, surely. However, I didn't understand it. Especially because he goes back to painting portraits that make money! These bizarre events did not change anything in his life.

The only thing I liked in the book was the description of the artistic process. It was interesting to get details on how this artist paints every day in the morning, how he starts a painting, what inspires him, and how he knows to stop painting. It made me want to set a routine that would allow me to be consistently creative.

Overall, the book was a strange ghost story. It was a little spooky, a little bizarre, and a little confusing. The author's writing was beautiful—the descriptions made me feel like I was in the scene—but I was disappointed by the plot. It was completely plot-driven but there was no point to it. The ending didn't even address the scene of the prologue.

If you like Murakami books, or mild fantasy books with great descriptions, you might like this. Don't pick it up if you want stories that have a point and end with a proper conclusion.

the shadow of the fox trilogy by julie kagawa

shadow of the fox book cover

I was bored and went to a café with my Kindle. I browsed through the books that I have on it and stumbled upon The Shadow of the Fox which I got years ago. I thought, why not, and opened it.

The story takes place during a time of change when people can summon a great dragon to grant their wishes. To do it, they need a chant that is split into three scrolls and has been hidden for a thousand years. The story follows Yumeko, a kitsune (half human half fox) as she protects one of the scrolls and voyages to warn the guardians of another scroll. On her way, she encounters a "godslayer" who is looking for the scrolls and recruits him to journey with her by lying.

The book follows the two as they journey for their missions, encounter various demons to battle, and make new friends along the way. It's a simple fantasy based on Japanese mythology. It is easy to follow, quick-paced, and has interesting characters.

The story is structured like a game. We start with two characters who have missions and team up to complete them. On their way to the capital, they get into various battles and win them. They make friends who join them on the journey and help with upcoming battles. The descriptions of various beings from Japanese mythology made it interesting to read.

The books were pretty long but felt short. I finished all of them in 3 days. Book 2 felt a little draggy and book 3 was very draggy. I mean, the final battle started at 50%! I was confused and then found out that it wasn't a simple battle. Bigger problems kept coming up as if to say "oh that wasn't the main thing". I wanted it to end.

The epilogue was nice, though. It made me emotional. The ending was good.

chat with me!

What books did you read in December? Did you find a new favourite in the last month of the year? Were you able to read everything that you wanted to in the year? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Tell me in the comments!

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Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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  • anoushka says:

    NO BUT LISTEN: "Characters mooned over each other in the middle of battles and made declarations. I'm glad the book ended." SUMEDHA I LAUGHED SO HARD AT THAT. the more i hear about them, the less i want to read the cassandra clare books apparently HA. killing commandatore sounds so intriguing though. it could honestly go either ways (although, from previous experience i'm betting on me hating it) BUT GOSH THAT DESCRIPTION MAKES ME WANT TO READ IT SO BAD OKAY. HOW DARE YOU.

    i've also been meaning to read the shadow of the fox trilogy for AGES, and a final battle that takes up 50% of the book? LMAO THAT SOUNDS HILARIOUS AND WILD. i'm so glad you enjoyed it though!!!

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      no but seriously it REALLY like that! i think i’m just done with teenagers fighting wars, only percy jackson is good 😂

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  • Jenny says:

    A great range of different books here, I haven’t read any of them but a few definitely piqued my interest!

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  • May @ Forever and Everly says:

    i feel like i would really love shadow of the fox, and i'm so sad i keep putting it off! i'm happy you liked it though - i love picking up books impulsively like that haha. and i'm glad you enjoyed the jesse q sutanto romance, i enjoyed dial a for aunties and was curious about how she'd do in other genres haha. happy 2024!!

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  • Clo @ Cuppa Clo says:

    Ah you read Shadow of the Fox!!! Gosh that series broke me at the end and I enjoyed my time with it so much, though I remember finding book 2 a bit draggy maybe? But the epilogue had be bawling as it took me off guard. I'm so glad you at least enjoyed the series though and were able to get some reading in 💜

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      i did! i was thinking that no wonder you liked it so much because it’s like a game and you love games like that (at least, i think genshin is similar? i may be wrong lol).

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  • Linda @Linda's Literary Lobby says:

    I read Shadow of the Fox a while back but remember that I enjoyed it a lot, haven't read book #2 and #3 yet so thank you for the insights! I also think it felt like a game, or movie or even anime which was kind of refreshing. Might have to finish the series at some point!

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      it’s not a great series (for me) but it wasn’t too bad! do give the sequels a try, the ending is definitely worth it.

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  • abookowlscorner says:

    Hard agree on Chain of Thorns!! I was snorting throughout your entire description of it because it was just so freaking accurate, and I'm so relieved I'm not the only one who detested the love triangle! Like, I am already in the minority of having hated the one in The Infernal Devices, and now I had to deal with it again, only done in an even worse way?? No thank you!!

    However, I did read Sword Catcher by Cassandra Clare in December and actually quite enjoyed that one, so I guess I'll be giving her more chances in the future... 😁

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      yeah!! i missed the dark artifices lol, i remember to have loved it so much and expected more from this because this was written after that. smh.

      oh is it? i didn’t know Clare wrote other books. i’ll check it out sometime!

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  • Yesha says:

    I still need to catch up with that new Cassandra series. I still need to try Murakami boks but I'm sure this one isn't for me. I hope You can read more both in quality and quantity in 2024.

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      yeah this Murakami book isn't the one to start with, I suggest Norwegian Wood. I hope you have a great reading year as well, Yesha!

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  • kymberli says:

    I read, but did not finish, "Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen. It was one of my bigger books of the year. And I found it to be incredibly boring. But the cover is pretty, lol.

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      well, classics are popular so we expect more but often they’re a miss for us 😅

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      • kymberli says:

        I ended up skimming the last 30 pages or so yesterday so I could finish it lol

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