December Summary

I got so caught up in the New Year that I totally forgot to do my monthly summary for December! I’m not sure if I will continue these into 2019 or not, but I wanted to do the last one to finish off for 2018. Here’s what I read:

Books read: 8
Pages read: 2,736
Main genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Favourite book: The Feather Thief

December is always a bit of a slower month because I go home for Christmas to visit my family. But I still managed to read 8 books. I started off with my favourite read of the month, The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson. This was a huge surprise to me seeing as The Feather Thief is about a guy who steals 300 bird carcasses from the Natural History Museum in order to sell the feathers to fly-tiers, but it was strangely compelling. I read it on Audible and I thought the narrator did a great job and I was totally enthralled with this little known heist for the entirety of the novel. Definitely recommend for history buffs.

I finally read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which has been on my TBR for ages. It’s historical fiction about female pilots in WW2 that is widely loved in the YA community. I didn’t love it quite as much as I expected, but I followed it up with the companion novel, Rose Under Fire, which I actually ended up liking a lot more. The second book is about notorious women’s concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and while it’s very upsetting, I thought it was really well written.

I read two mystery novels, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, and Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie. Truly Devious has been lauded all over Booktube and I was totally blown away by how much I DISLIKED it. I’m actually shocked by how many people love this book because I thought it was poorly written, poorly plotted, and extremely juvenille. I really wanted to love it, but it was a huge disappointment. I didn’t have too many thoughts on Murder in Mesopotamia. It wasn’t my favourite Agatha Christie, but still a fun 3-star read.

About a week before I was due to head home for the holidays, I received an early copy of The Wicked King by Holly Black from Hatchette. I was really excited to read this one because I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and as someone who liked, but didn’t love, The Cruel Prince, I was interested to see if the sequel was any better. I still didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else, but I did like it better than the first book and I am now pretty desperate for the final book!

Finally, I read two books while I was home for Christmas. I finally picked up Wildcard by Marie Lu, the sequel to Warcross, and read pretty much the entire book on the plane on the way home. Unfortunately, this was another disappointing book. I LOVED Warcross last year and while I still liked parts of Wildcard, I thought it was overwritten, with the plot being overly complicated and action for the sake of action. I finished off the year with the final book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. I didn’t love the conclusion as much as the first book, but overall I think this is a really strong contemporary series and I can’t wait to watch the sequel on Netflix this year!

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Murder in Mesopotamia

Rating: 
Author: Agatha Christie
Genres: Mystery
Pub date: 1936 (read Dec. 2018)
Series: Hercule Poirot #14 (these books don’t need to be read in order)

Agatha Christie was a new discovery for me last year. I absolutely loved And Then There Were None and proceeded to read a few of her Hercule Poirot books. So far I haven’t been able to find a book that can compare to And Then There Were None, but it’s fun to jump into one of her classic closed room mysteries every now and then.

Murder in Mesopotamia is set on a dig in Iraq and is narrated by Nurse Leatheran, who has joined the archaeological expedition to support the dig leader’s wide, Mrs. Leidner, who has been becoming increasingly antsy. Mrs. Leidner is distraught and seems to fear for her life, but the rest of the expedition chalks it up to anxiety. Some odd things take place in the compound where the entire expedition is staying and when one of the household turns up dead, the local authorities recommend calling in Hercule Poirot (who is just returning from his ride about the Orient Express). What follows is a classic character examination of all of the members of the expedition and a study of means, method, and motivation for committing the crime.

I didn’t love this book as much as some of her others because I thought it was a bit slow to get going and there are a lot of characters, so it’s a bit hard to keep track of everyone. That said, much of what happens in the early parts of the book set the scene for the rest of the book and are important in solving the mystery. I really like Christie’s closed door mysteries because you know the killer is one of the individuals in the room, so you’re never sure who you can trust. I did think this one was somewhat predictable (I had it narrowed down to one of two people), but the question of how they got away with it was clever and I liked that the crime had several layers to it.

I don’t have much to say about the book overall, but I wanted to review it anyways since I didn’t review any of the Christie books I read last year and I’m bound to forget about this one pretty fast if I don’t. I have a few more Poirot books on my shelf that I’d like to get to and I’m also interested to read some of her Ms. Marple series. Does anyone have any specific Poirot or Marple recommendations?

Ten

Rating: .5
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Pub date: Sep. 2012 (read Aug. 2018)

I picked this one up based solely on the fact that it was a YA retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which I absolutely loved. Sadly this couldn’t hold a candle to the original. In my opinion, it failed as both a retelling and a YA novel.

First of all, all of the characters in this book suck. It’s not that the characters were unlikable (they were, but I don’t have a problem with unlikable characters), it’s that they were not believable. I felt like a was reading a bad tv drama about teenagers. The tropes and stereotypes in this book were just the absolute worst. These felt like caricatures of teenagers rather than actual teenagers. Real teenagers are smart – they have depth and emotion – I felt like this was written by someone who hasn’t been a teenager in a really long time and just stole from a bunch of stupid, shallow stereotypes about young people.

I know that teenagers exaggerate everything and that stupid, trivial things can seem like a way bigger a deal than they actually are, but all of these characters were unnecessarily dramatized and I had a huge issue with how the author played around with mental illness as a plot tool in this book. Minnie is supposedly bipolar and the author purposely takes her off her meds to dramatize the plot and make everyone think she’s crazy and I just had a huge problem with that. I also really didn’t like Meg’s voice in this book, she sounded like a whiny 12 year old and I found her character totally unbelievable. I’m sorry, I don’t care how into a guy you are, no one is still actively thinking about romance after 5 people have been murdered in front of you.

I don’t think this worked as a re-write either. I read And Then There Were None last year, so the source material is still pretty fresh in my memory. I didn’t successfully guess who the killer was, so that’s good, but the plot structure was really similar and relied on a lot of the same red herrings. I would have preferred to see something a little more clever, although it was interesting how the author tied all the teenagers together in the end. I hated the ending though. That was one area where I would say if you’re going to do a re-telling, at least commit to the ending.

Anyways, needless to say this book wasn’t a win for me. I know it’s just supposed to be a fun, murder mystery/thriller, but I couldn’t excuse how vapid the characters were (there was a character named TJ, like come on!). I rarely give anything less than 2 stars, but I’m honestly at 1.5 stars for this book. I get mad just thinking about it. Avoid this and stick to Agatha Christie, she’s sold more books than any other author for a reason.

Top 5 Reads in 2017

This is the sister-post to my Top 10 Books of 2017 post. I read way too many books this year to pick only 10, so I split them into my 10 favourite new releases and my top 5 favourites that weren’t published this year (but that I read this year). Here’s the other 5:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Fantasy)

I talked up the Shades of Magic trilogy in my other post, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was definitely my favourite fantasy series that I read this year. This is the first book in a trilogy about a world of angels and demons that have been at war for decades, but the war is slowly starting to bleed into the human world. Karou is a art student in Prague; she was raised in the human world by two beings, Brimstone and Issa, that could only be described as monsters. Brimstone and Issa never enter the human world, but through their shop, Karou can open doors to anywhere she wants in the world and begrudgingly runs errands for Brimstone all over the globe. Until one day when an angel, Akiva, shows up a destroys all of Brimstone’s portals, disconnecting Karou from those who raised her and leaving her stranded alone in Prague.

It’s a pretty epic story and it had some really amazing characters. There were so many interesting concepts and fantasy elements introduced into the story and Taylor’s writing in this series is fantastic! But setting was key for me. I loved Taylor’s depiction of Prague and later Morocco. She created a really good atmosphere and I loved learning all about Karou’s Prague and Akiva’s world.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand (Young Adult)

If any book bridges the gap between genres, it’s this one. I’ve listed it as Young Adult, but it’s also part Historical Fiction, part Fantasy, part HILARITY. I picked it up because I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and pretty much every review I read compared it to My Lady Jane. Together they were definitely the two funniest books I read this year.

My Lady Jane is essentially the re-imagined history of Lady Jane Grey, the 9-days queen from the 1500’s who reigned for 9 days and then literally lost her head. It’s told from 3 different points of view – Jane, King Edward (who dies and leaves Jane as Queen), and G (her betrothed) – and it’s actually written by 3 different YA authors. The premise of the story is based in fact, but the authors take a lot of liberty after that and infuse some fun fantasy elements into the story. I loved it! Plus I discovered they’re writing two more novels about historical Janes, so watch for My Plain Jane next year!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Why have I never picked up an Agatha Christie novel before this year? They are so much fun!! I read 3 of her books this year, but And Then There Were None was definitely my favourite. From what I understand this is the quintessential Christie novel. 10 strangers are invited to attend a party in a mansion on an island owned by a wealthy mystery host, but when they arrive they find the host missing. One by one the guests start dropping dead and with no way off the island everyone starts to descend into a state of panic. After a thorough search of the (small) island reveals no one else is present, the remaining guests must face the dark realization that the killer is hiding in plain sight. So deliciously fun!!

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir)

Confession, I didn’t even know who Trevor Noah was until my book club picked Born a Crime as one of our monthly reads. I always say I dislike memoirs, but I may need to change that opinion because I’ve read several this year and I loved all of them! I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but Noah delivered a hilarious, yet sobering, story about his experience growing up ‘coloured’ (mixed-race) in South Africa both during and after Apartheid. If you’re interested in learning about how he ended up on The Daily Show in this book, you’ll be disappointed because he doesn’t talk about it, but if you’re looking to learn a bit more about what it might have been like growing up in post-apartheid South Africa while simultaneously having a good laugh, then this is the book for you! I loved Trevor’s writing and I’m now a fan of both his stand-up comedy and The Daily Show!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)

This was another book club selection that I was not interested in reading, but then loved once I started it! Dark Matter is one of those fast-paced, un-put-downable novels. I don’t even know how to describe this novel. Jason Dessen is abducted one day by a masked assailant and wakes up in a life that is not his own. In this new life he is a renown Scientist, but his wife is unknown to him and his son has never been born. Jason is pulled into a world he never knew existed, but more than anything, he just wants to return to the wife and son he’s left behind. In order to do so, he must go on an epic journey through both space and time. I thought the plot sounded so bizarre, but it was so enthralling! You don’t need to be a big sci-fi fan to enjoy this!