December 2021 Must-Reads

Are you ready for winter reading? I’m sharing a stack of 14 new books to check out this month. Be sure to pin today’s post for your next library day and stock up on all of the best winter reads.

What a year of reading, friends! I have to say that this year was unlike any other year with our book club, blog, and brand new book podcast. Sharing books with you through all these avenues has challenged me as a reader and reviewer. Thank you for this gift and funny job.

I have one more stack to share with you before the year closes. Today’s post rounds out the last of my reading for this month and I’ll be back next month with another big stack of books for you. 

You will also get a special podcast on Friday (along with a blog post) that shares the Best Books of 2021. I will be sharing this episode with Larry, the fabulous GoodReads Top Reviewer, and he is generously sharing his best in books stack with us. Trust me when I say that is going to be one of your favorite episodes of the year.

In the meantime, give him a follow on Instagram and Goodreads.

We are so lucky to have him on the show. 

What’s Happening on the Book Gang Podcast

Even though the blog has been quieter, I’m still talking books every week on our podcast. The MomAdvice Book Gang Podcast has been so much fun to work on, and I’ve loved hearing your feedback on these episodes.

This month’s episodes were all about prepping your winter stacks! We talked about the best holiday romance novels and we put together a comforting winter stack that included how to set the winter mood in your favorite reading nook. 

I’m busy booking up our guests for 2022 and I can’t wait to introduce you to more of the bookstagram world, authors that deserve a lot more love this year, and a few familiar podcasting voices that I know so many of you enjoy hearing. 

You can listen to all of the episodes of MomAdvice Book Gang on Apple or wherever you stream your favorite podcasts. If you enjoy it, please consider subscribing, liking, and sharing it with your favorite bookworm friends!

click here for the momadvice 2022 book club books

In case you missed the announcement, your 2022 MomAdvice Book Club selections have been announced. I am so, so proud of this beautiful stack and would love to read with you this year. It would be an honor to be your reading tour guide for next year. I promise, these books will be among your favorites next year. here to Support My Patreon Community

Join the MomAdvice Book Gang Patreon Today (10% Off Annual Memberships!)

The time is NOW to join the MomAdvice Book Gang. January will begin our brand new book club together and this year is an exciting one because we will be offering our Patreon members exclusive access to an author interview series, playlists of music curated for each selection, and bonus digital downloads. 

You can join the MomAdvice Book Gang for just $5 for an exclusive one-of-a-kind reading experience, and let me be your tour guide. I have selected 12 phenomenal books to read together that were picked just for you.  These are thought-provoking stories that deserve discussion, and many are hidden literary treasures. Your $5 membership will grant you access to the following exclusive features.

Monthly in-depth video interviews with each of our chosen authors. Learn the stories behind each of their stories and what they hope you will walk away from each of their books.

Exclusive Bookstore Coupon Discounts. Our Fables Bookstore partnership will give Patreon members 15% off ALL the book club selections for our year. This can be applied to both paperback and hardback selections. 

Exclusive MomAdvice Book Gang Podcast Episodes & Early Access Book Reviews. Your stack will be toppling over with my real-time reviews each month. These reviews are available in both audio and printable formats.  

Monthly Themed Playlists & Digital Downloads. Pair your favorite thriller with my spooky playlist. Brew some tea and listen to an instrumental mix with your favorite classic. Embrace short story songs with my favorite storytellers. The playlists are endless and digital downloads are available for your reading journals.

Sneak Peek Upcoming Content. You will know before anyone else what to expect in upcoming podcast episodes and what I’m researching for our next shows. Be bookishly curious with me and give your input for these MomAdvice Book Gang podcast shows.

Get a FREE Book Just for Being a Prime Member

Did you know Prime members get a read for free every single month? 

Yup, I always try to remind you of this fantastic little Prime perk!

Grab YOUR FREE BOOK FOR December over here. (please note: this will load tomorrow for you!)

June 2020 Book of the Month

Check out the December Book of the Month Club Selections:

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
Somebody’s Daughter by Ahsley C. Ford
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw (HIGHLY recommend, read review below)


Now let’s talk about this month’s stack!

December 2021 Must-Reads

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

5 out of 5 Stars

The best part about doing this podcast is getting book recommendations from our guests. In our episode with GoodReads superstar Larry, he shared five books that we should read this year, and one of those was The Charm Offensive, and I’m just so glad he recommended it. This is now one of my favorite romances, and, as he promised, it delivered on a meatier plotline than expected. 

Dev is charged with scripting love stories for a reality series called Ever After in this story. 

In this year’s season, he is given one of his biggest writing challenges ever because his lead is only doing the job to rehabilitate his image, and he happens to be one of the most awkward men ever. 

Charlie is dashing and intelligent but doesn’t know how to navigate the dating world. Worse yet, he’s awful on camera too. 

This is a beautiful romance that left me with a goofy grin on my face.

This is a feel-good romance that also delivers on smartly written witty banter and surprisingly deep emotional heartstring pulling too.

Chocrun also delivers on exposing the hidden underbelly of reality television that is meant to toy with the dating contestants’ emotions and the viewer.

In short, this is charming and should be read immediately. Thank you, Larry for this gem. Lucky for us, Larry will be back later this month to share his best books of 2021. I couldn’t think of anyone better to dissect the year of reading with than him. 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

3 out of 5 Stars

So many friends have recommended this romance to me and have loved it.

First of all, I have to say that I didn’t realize that “grumpy meets sunshine” is a category for romance, but I told my husband that I think this might be the category of romance we fall under, and it might be why I find it so fun.

Olive is a third-year Ph.D. candidate and doesn’t subscribe to the idea that lasting romantic relationships can be found. But, using her scientific mind, she wants to convince her best friend just how accurate her hypothesis is, so she decides to kiss the first man she sees to prove she won’t feel anything.

It turns out, though, that the man that she randomly selected for her experiment is one of the top professors and known, in general, as an absolute jerk. It’s why she is surprised when he agrees to keep her experiment a secret and be a fake boyfriend.

I’m sure you can see where this is going, and it does follow this predictable romance formula as the relationship blossoms between the two.

This has a lot of steam, and I would add this to your pile, mainly if you are a fan of The Kiss Quotient because it embraces similar themes.

Overall, it was an enjoyable escape, and I can’t wait to see what Hazelwood writes next.

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella (on sale today for just $5.99!!)

5 out of 5 Stars

My Book of the Month selection this past month was this lovely little story that I can’t recommend enough. This story is set in a tiny city in Connecticut, and all are built around an interlinking tale of one couple, Freddie and Greg Tyler.

Our story opens with Greg, diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, struggling with this diagnosis and how this will impact his wife and daughter. This news has a ripple effect through this small town, and the reader gets to know many of the residents through each chapter. The story circles back to Greg’s family in the end, but this is a short story exploration through chapter-form as the stories weave together through this unique narration.

The way that this narration is set up reminded me a lot of Bill Clegg’s, Did You Ever Have a Family, which is equally stunning and heart wrenching (P.S.- read my interview with Bill and read about the astounding process for creating these characters in his story). If you like this novel as much as I do, I would recommend this book as your next book pick.

I was completely enveloped in this story and loved how it tied together in the end. As promised in the title, it is a hopeful and hope-filled story that I think you will devour. If you need a book, you can put it down and pick it up quickly through the chapters; this is one I would recommend too. It’s a surprisingly strong debut that hit all the right notes.

Ethan will be joining the podcast to share about writing his debut and I can’t wait to hear more of his story. If you want to read ahead before our episode, be sure to put this book in your stack.

The Collective by Alison Gaylin

4 out of 5 Stars

f you need a fast-paced thriller for your stack, this was one that I couldn’t put down this month. I love thrillers with profound moral dilemmas that allow you to embrace the gray in situations where things should seem more black-and-white.

Camille’s tragic death haunts her mother, and Camille’s life has spiraled out of control ever since this happened.

Unfortunately, the person responsible for her death is a privileged white guy who has been able to dodge the accusations and live his best life. It’s unfair and cruel, but what if Camille could do something about it?

Camille has openly bashed this guy to the point that she attracts the attention of a secret group of women who have all been involved in situations where the guilty get away with a crime.

They have formed a dark web community that makes these people pay for their crimes.

When Camille is invited into the fold, she is offered the exact resolution to her daughter’s case, but she also has to participate in helping others pay for their crimes.

As you can imagine, this story goes into really dark places as Camille learns more truths about the collective organization she has joined. What happens when innocent people are involved and at what point is making someone pay too much?

This kept me up way past my bedtime and came with some enormous trigger warnings, particularly for anyone who has experienced sexual assault or is the highly sensitive reader.

In this month’s stack is also False Witness and I did see some strong overlapping themes in these two. If you loved that one, definitely adds this to your stack too.

The Lady’s Handbook For Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

5 out of 5 Stars

As you know, I announced this one as our memoir selection for 2022 and I can’t wait to read it with you.

It’s a memoir about one woman’s fight to be heard and believed about her illness and the unbelievable journey she went through to receive her diagnosis. 

I read this entire book with a lump in my throat and, admittedly, had to put it down at times. If you have struggled to get answers to your chronic illness or had moments where you felt disbelieved by physicians, this one will hit some tender spots in your heart. 

As with many “secret lady clubs”, she discovered that many other women had faced similar circumstances when sharing her story. So why was this such a common theme, and why do we have to work so hard to be believed?

Sarah is a powerhouse for many reasons, this book is just one of them.

Not only is she a gifted writer, but she’s a gifted musician and also was a part of the writing team for Obama’s campaign in 2008.

I had the chance to sit down with her for an afternoon and talk through her story, and I have to say that this is one of the most powerful interviews that I’ve ever got to be part of. I’m so excited to share that with our Patreon community this year, and I hope you will read this with me!


A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

5 out of 5 Stars

This slim novella was chosen for our December 2022 book club selection, and I know that this one will touch so many of your hearts.

It’s everything I didn’t think I needed in a book, particularly in the world’s challenging times that we have been facing.

This is a science fiction novel, and it would be great to dip your toes into science fiction if you have never read this genre before.

In this story, the robots of Panga have decided to leave their jobs and put down their tools, never to be seen again.

One day, a tea monk’s life is upended by the arrival of a robot that has returned, and he won’t leave until he can answer this single question, “What Do People Need?”

I listened to this novel on audiobook, and I want to say that I was admittedly a little confused at first because this is the first book I’ve read with a “they” pronoun for a character. I know we will see this used in literature so much more, but it did feel notable as a reader. 

In book format, this would have had more context for the reader and would not have been less confusing as it was in the beginning as an audiobook listener.

This story is hopeful and like a comforting cup of tea on a cold day. If you enjoy this odd-couple story as much as I do, you will also be pleased to know that the second adventure with these characters will hit store shelves this summer.

Doctors and Friends by Kimmery Martin

4 out of 5 Stars

Last month, I read The Antidote for Everything as I was screening books for our book club.

It turns out; I’m happy that I did that because characters from that book are brought into this latest novel by Kimmerly Martin. You will find, in the beginning, that Kimmerly creates a cast of physician characters gathered from this novel and The Queen of Hearts.

You do not need to read these to understand the story, but some backstories are referenced (on occasion) where that might be helpful to understand the backgrounds of these relationships.

If you are unfamiliar with Kimmery Martin’s work, the author uses her background as an emergency physician in these stories, and she’s using her medical background, again, in this story.

I want to lead with that Martin was writing this story before the pandemic, which makes it even eerier and ambitious because this is Martin’s interpretation about what would happen if a pandemic hit our world. She also notes, in the end, that she tried to avoid making a lot of edits based on COVID but only added in some more minor details like our reliance on Zoom for meetings. She also shares that she ended up battling COVID herself and plans to write about “world peace” next since this ended up overlapping too much with reality.

In this story, three friends from medical school reunite in Spain for a much-needed vacation. Unfortunately, just as they arrive for their vacation, a fast-spreading virus starts to throw the world into chaos. Martin builds thoughtful hints of what is to come as they go on a tour of the town and then the excruciating dilemma if they should wait it out or travel back home, potentially exposing others to the virus.

The characters each are in different medical specialties, so it impacts each of their practices in different ways. Although they are all challenging, the scenes in the E.R. are, in particular, brutal to read about.

Martin also builds in a Sophie’s Choice type of scenario with one of the doctors and her children. This scene, in particular, caused me to step away from the story and was so hard to read, especially since we are still in the thick of the mess of this pandemic.

There was, honestly, a lot of thought and research that went into this book and if you are the type of person immersing yourself in pandemic reads as a coping strategy, add this one to your stack.

This fictional virus does give it some distance with some of the symptoms she has crafted around it. That said, it did hit a little too close to home at times, and some of the scenarios prepared are extremely difficult to read.

This novel is powerful and a tribute to Martin’s extensive research and background that it felt so challenging to read.

Last Night At The Telegraph Hotel by Malinda Lo 

4 out of 5 Stars

Booktok delivers AGAIN with this fantastic Y.A. historical fiction read that I just could not put down this month.

Have you ever read a book and you loved it and then read the author’s notes at the end, and the research makes you fall for it even more?

That’s what happened to me when I read this one.

This book won the National Book Award in 2021 and is a coming-of-age story about a seventeen-year-old girl named Lily Hu growing up in the 1950s in San Francisco.

If you have read Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, this reminded me of this exploration, but this story is geared more to the younger reader.

Lily has always felt a little different than her peers and family. When she begins to develop feelings for a classmate, Kathleen, she realizes why that is.

Their relationship blossoms when Katheleen takes her to a lesbian bar called The Telegraph Club, where she finds a secret world where people live more freely in who they are.

This isn’t an era where any acceptance is given though, in fact, you can be arrested for indecency and male impersonation.

Lo’s research, in particular, really shines in this story because clubs like this existed back then, and she utilizes tricky political dynamics, particularly with the risk of deportation for this family and the challenges that women faced that didn’t fit the mold.

Imagine if your father could be deported for your “infractions” and what that would mean for your family.

It’s these big moral dilemmas layered on a coming-of-age story of finding your first love that makes this such a rich story.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill (on sale today for just $4.99!!)

5 out of 5 Stars

This book is one of the most unusual and inventive stories I’ve ever read. It opens with this line that immediately grabs you, “I started collecting my sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old.”

Although categorically Horror, this is what some might describe as “gentle horror,” and the book has also been described as “If John Irving ever wrote a horror novel, it would be something like this,” by the gifted Stephen King.

You get the picture.

This rich story is about a family that all see monsters but deal with them in decidedly different ways.

The mother ignores them and pretends they don’t exist.

The father chooses to build a shrine in an immersive horror exhibit that he hopes to open to their community.

No one has co-existed in the way Noah decides to though when he meets the monster and lets the monster in.

It’s this relationship that spans Noah’s life that the reader gets to go on a journey with, and it is wildly unusual, beautiful, and strange.

This book will hit all the right notes, particularly with The Shape of Water fans.

Hamill’s novel was a GoodReads Choice nominee for Horror in 2019, but it isn’t one that I’ve heard anything about until it was chosen for Fables Books October Book Club. I’m so glad that I read this because it ended up being the perfect spooky book for our reading year.

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

5 out of 5 Stars

This debut novel is available for pre-order, and I feel it will be a big hit in 2022, not just with our book club readers but with EVERYONE.

If you were a big fan of The Gown or The Help, in particular, I think you will love this historical fiction pick.

Bright Leaf, North Carolina, is the tobacco capital of the South, and one woman has spent her days dressing these “tobacco wives” for all the significant events in town. When she unexpectedly falls ill, her niece must finish her projects for the party of the year.

The thing is, Maddie is new to town, and she sees the…wait for it…seams of these people a little more clearly than her aunt.

So as she uncovers a document that could change the industry, as the town knows it, she becomes desperate to find the truth about big tobacco and all its hidden secrets.

Next month, I am interviewing Adele for our author interview series on Patreon.

I am excited to hear more about the family member who worked as a beautician for these tobacco wives. I can’t wait to share that with you and talk about this fabulous debut.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

3 out of 5 Stars

This thriller sounded promising and reminiscent of Teen Killers Club (which I absolutely loved- add it to your stack immediately) so I couldn’t wait to dig into this one. 

In the first half of our story, the reader is set up for an unusual clinical study of psychopaths conducted on a DC-based college campus. This study lead by a renowned psychologist who utilizes a smartwatch to track the study participant’s moods and movements throughout campus. 

Having so many psychopathic students on one campus leads to what seems an inevitable murder on the campus grounds. The question is, which one of these study participants is responsible? Although they all carry this label, some have more potent psychopathic behaviors than others. 

Chloe, for example, exhibits low impulse control and has credible reasons for playing cat-and-mouse with a boy on campus. Korian twists the plot by changing the cat-and-mouse game a few times on the reader. 

The second half of this book dragged and didn’t hold the promise of the first half. As a result, I didn’t feel fully vested in the outcome and found the ending underwhelming.

For me, this one fell flat, despite the original and unique story promised.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

5 out of 5 Stars

This has been in my stack forever, but I have been a little worried that themes may have overlapped a bit too much with People We Keep, and I wanted a little space between these books. 

I admit, the themes between these two are very similar- chosen families, coming-of-age, and a solid musical backdrop. That said, I loved them both so very much and was completely swept away in this story. Don’t let the overlap discourage you from reading these two books. 

In this story, Mary Jane grows up in a conservative disciplined religious household in the 1970s. It’s a home that is always tidy, where the President is admired and loved, and where going to church is your top priority. 

Mary Jane’s first exposure to a world unlike her own is when she gets a summer nanny job for a neighbor. The neighbor is a psychiatrist specializing in addiction and has decided to do an intensive treatment program for one of his patients who happens to be a rock star, and the care extends to his actress wife. 

Mary Jane becomes the person who brings order to a cluttered and chaotic home. The people under this roof, though teach Mary Jane about a world where people disagree with the politics of their leader, where wardrobe can be a little scandalous, and where boundaries look so much more different than her own home. 

This book just made my heart so damn happy and reminded me of my own coming-of-age story. I loved seeing the world through Mary Jane’s eyes, and each of these characters is so wildly entertaining and endearing. 

I couldn’t put this beautiful book down- I can’t recommend it enough.

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

5 out of 5 Stars

I would suggest reading the letter to the reader BEFORE reading this one, which you will find tucked in at the back of this book. Slaughter chose to set this story during pandemic times, and it is laced with all the daily dilemmas we are finding ourselves in with our current pandemic and why she felt it was important for this story.

This story is very darkly disturbing, and every kind of trigger warning should be listed on this. Fans of Pretty Girls, though, will love this story, and I found it captivating.

A thriller with 448 pages should have dragged and had lulled, but this held my attention from the first page until the last one, a true testament to her solid standing as a dynamic thriller writer.

Leigh has recently separated from her husband and juggles co-parenting a teenager and her job as a defense attorney.
One night, while attending her daughter’s play, she is contacted by one of her firm’s partners that a high-profile client has requested that she represent his case. The name is unfamiliar to her, but when she meets him, she is reminded immediately of the secret she has been keeping and what could be compromised if she doesn’t represent him.

Leigh has been running from her past for twenty years, and the only one who knows the truth is her estranged sister.
Callie hasn’t been a part of Leigh’s life for quite some time as she battles a lifetime of addiction. The two sisters must come together, though, because time is running out, and life as they both know it could end.

This book is so gripping and has so many layers to it. The dynamics between how these two sisters weather the pandemic, the sympathy you find for Callie and her life’s journey, and the big moral dilemmas these two faces make this an incredibly captivating read.

The bits about the pandemic, at times, did distract from the plot and would be my only complaint with this book. That might be, though, because I didn’t want to be reminded so often of our current predicament and less a testament to Slaughter’s writing.

Make sure you clear your calendar if you plan to start this one. You will not want to put this down.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

5 out of 5 Stars

Were you looking for your next Bird Box? This highly original and profoundly imagined world is just what you need to escape with this month. I happened to snag this as my Book of the Month for December, and I’m SO GLAD because this is one of my favorite reads this year. 

Our story opens with a new assignment for Travis Wren, who has a unique talent for finding missing people. He’s been hired by a family who has been missing their daughter. This woman, Maggie St. James, is a well-known author of dark children’s books. But, unfortunately, it has to lead him to a place where many people believe to be only a legend. 

Years later, Theo, a member of the Pastoral commune, stumbles upon Travis’s abandoned vehicle beyond the borders of their community. It’s notable for several reasons, but one of those reasons is that the commune members are unable to go past the border because it could bring disease to their community. They believe that there is a disease that people can get and spread if they leave their community, and Theo has been testing this theory for some time. 

When Theo admits what he’s been doing, it threatens the world of his wife and her sister. But, they don’t know that this forest holds many secrets, including the ones that unlock their very own pasts. 

This story just blew me away, and I could see this one becoming a movie due to the cinematic qualities of the writing and the beautifully written twists. I wish I could say more about those twists, but the absolute joy is in discovering those for yourself.

Add this one to your stack IMMEDIATELY.


Published December 27, 2021 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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