December book list

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein: I’d been wanting to re-read this one and putting it off because of the state of my TBR stacks. (I have three. They don’t quite reach the top of my bed, but it’s a near thing.) In the end, I just needed to read it, so I set everything else aside and engrossed myself in Medraut’s story. You guys, I can’t tell you how much I love this book, and how much I wish it and its sequels were better known. It’s like a piece of dark chocolate: intense and bitter and sweet and perfect. I love it, and I love Medraut, and I love Goewin, and Artos, and Ginevra. In general, I don’t do retellings that exonerate the traditional villain, but in this case, it works. ALSO! If you’re an Elizabeth Wein fan (or even if you’re not…yet) did you know that she has a book about WWII and women fliers out early next year? It’s called Code Name Verity and I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg: I was looking for something light to read on a Saturday night, and this fit the bill. I was struck, since I haven’t read this in awhile, by how sympathetically I remembered Claudia. Really, she’s a bit awful, but I was also the oldest and knew the injustice of having to wash the dishes and sweep the floor on the same night.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart: I had read this a long time ago, but have been reading more Stewart lately and wanted to revisit it. I was interested by how obvious the mystery seems on a second read, though I remember feeling surprised when the big reveal comes along. In some ways, I enjoyed it more this time through, and certainly I like it better than Nine Coaches Waiting or Madam, Will You Talk. Though perhaps not quite as much as Thornyhold.

Fox and Phoenix by Beth Bernobich: I picked this one up at the library, just on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Bernobich has created a not-quite version of China, where energy comes from the magic flux. The characters are nicely done and I liked the media raes aspect of the story–it starts after the princess has been saved and we slowly get the backstory filled in. All in all, it struck me as being very solid in setting, characters, and plot. There was a section in the middle that seemed a little flaccid, but that may partly be because of my personal reactions to journey motifs in general. Bonus: a nice romance and a great male narrator.

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer: Not much to say about this one other than that I enjoy it in general and enjoyed it again. It’s completely mad, and I admit to skipping some of the more drawn out sections, but it’s also great fun.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi: Second in the Old Man’s War series. John is entirely absent from the narrative and Jane is important but more peripherally. Really, this focuses on Jared Dirac, a Special Forces soldier with an even more complicated history than most of them. Scalzi’s writing is great: fluid and nearly transparent, which is perfect for this type of story. Once again, I found myself thinking of the Vorkosigan books, and comparing the two series in interesting ways.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd: Reviewed here.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan: I thought I ought to read this one. I had pretty mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed the first Will Grayson’s narrative much more than the second, which I think is largely due to preferring John Green’s style. I did find it interesting that the two styles and therefore writers were so clearly delineated–I’m sure they had input into each others’ sections, but there was no attempt to mesh the two.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: In general, I very much liked this one. It had a fresh feel to it, while at the same time it wasn’t too clever for its own good. I liked Casseus and his voice and the story. I did find myself a bit annoyed with Anna’s backstory which felt rather predictable and flat compared to the rest. Not that it wasn’t awful, but it didn’t quite explain the differentness of her versus the other ghosts. Anyway, I did like it a lot and am looking forward to the sequel.

Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter: I’d read the Kat Bishop books, and some Ally Carter was just what I was in the mood for. Of course, this was the middle of a series, which I hadn’t realized. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself, though I did wonder what would happen if Cammie and Kat had a showdown. (Kat all the way!) (Sorry, Cammie.)

The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan: I’m totally cheating and sticking all three books under one paragraph because this is late. And besides, this time I was focusing on reading the trilogy as a cohesive unit. I found the fact that I traced different through-lines and moments than I had in the past fascinating. That always happens with re-reads (part of the reason I love re-reading) but it seemed even more apparent with the end of the series business.

Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos: Non-fiction. Fascinating, and an excellent introduction to the subject. Despite the framing of the narrative within the authors’ family histories, I did feel a lack of personal connection. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does decrease some of the emotional oomph.

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd: Reviewed here.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie: It’s so odd, reading the very early Christies. This one establishes Hastings and Poirot, and yet neither of them are exactly as we see them in later books. I do prefer the later books, I think, simply because everyone is less wooden.

Planet of Exile by Ursula LeGuin: Reviewed here.

Tankborn by Karen Sandler: Reviewed here

Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott: For some reason, it took me a very long time to get through this book, even though I enjoyed it. It’s one of those where the worldbuilding is on display and the politics of the world are as important as the characters. I liked the multi-cultural aspects of the story, and the way that the two groups were portrayed. In fact, I can’t think of a single thing about it I disliked. At the same time, it didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped.

Night at the Vulcan by Ngaio Marsh: I was trying to use up a birthday gift card and bought this recently. It’s actually one of my favorite mysteries by Marsh, mostly because of Martyn. She also excels at the theater setting. But mostly it’s just that Martyn is a sympathetic main character. And the cameo from Mike Lamprey, hero of one of my other favorite Marsh books, didn’t hurt at all.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear: Second Maisie Dobbs mystery, and a book I am struggling desperately to remember. Ah, yes. There are several interesting twists involved, but I think I pinpointed my problem with the first book. I’m not very fond of Maisie’s detecting style. I mean, mixing in a bit of psychology is fine, but there were so few actual clues and so much standing around soaking in the atmosphere and then making apparently correct deductions from it. I’m afraid that for this classic-British-mystery fan, it was a bit much. I do have the third book out; we’ll see if I keep having this problem.

What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw by Agatha Christie: I know I’ve read this one in the past, but I didn’t remember it at all, and I loved it! My problem with Christie in general is that her characters are flat. Here we had not only Inspector Craddock, surely the most human of her policemen, but Lucy Eyelesbarrow, a lovely and able assistant to Miss Marple. Personally, I want Lucy and the Inspector to get married, because they’re clearly the nicest and most intelligent of the lot. In fact, I’m on the verge of writing crazy fanfic in which they do get married and go around detecting things together. It would be awesome, except for the fact that I can’t write mysteries.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye: I did a whole post last year about how much I love this book, and nothing’s changed. This is gushy, gooey love. I really kind of hope I have little girls to read this to some day. I think it would make a great read-aloud, and what fun it would be to do all the voices!

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel: I got this out after reading Habel’s Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s blog, because something about the post pricked my fancy. But I was still a bit dubious because zombies and steampunk are both in the category of things I would like to enjoy but often don’t. However, Habel proved that done right, both of these are fun! In fact, this threw in a hint of dystopia and a romance, and I still thought it was awesome. I wanted to write a whole post about it, because there are many things I could Say, but it’s a bit late now. So I’ll just say that if the idea of a slow romance, a society called New Victoria, mad scientists, and a bunch of zombies sounds at all appealing, you should read this book. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: I wanted to re-read the books in close sequence. I found, somewhat to my surprise, that I like Lola a bit more.

The Jewel of the Kalderash by Marie Rutkoski: I was a bit nervous about this, as I always am about the conclusions of series I’ve enjoyed. What if they don’t end well? What if someone I like dies? What if the right people don’t end up together? It is very stressful. However, Marie Rutkoski is fabulous, and this is a great conclusion to a wonderful series. I liked Neel’s bits especially–his tension between his personal desires and his responsibilities was great.

Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Shecter: An interesting light into a little known character–Cleopatra and Mark Anthony’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene. I liked it overall, but found the pacing of the romance a bit difficult.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey: Way back in middle school, I devoured this series and cried quarts over the third book. I thought I would try them to see how I thought they stood up. It was pretty cliched–very Chosen One who turns out to have ALL the powers–but it’s also deftly done, which helps a lot.

Cover Her Face by P.D. James: The first Adam Dalgliesh mystery. I was less impressed by it than I was somehow expecting to be, but still liked it enough to keep reading the series.

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd: Third Bess Crawford mystery. I felt it dragged a little more than the previous books, but I still enjoyed it.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi: Last in the Old Man’s War series. It skips ahead a number of years, which I wasn’t quite expecting, but we’re back to John Perry’s narration, which I enjoyed. This was where my knowledge of Zoe’s Tale kicked in–it was interesting to read about the same events from a different perspective. All in all, I felt it was a very satisfying conclusion to a well-done series.

A Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh: I remembered the solution of this, but I didn’t remember the whole plot, and it had nice characters, so I didn’t mind re-reading it.

Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder: This was a nice idea, but I personally was very bothered by the lack of system for the magic in the story. The rules didn’t quite seem to make sense to me, and I couldn’t help wondering why Rebecca didn’t have more questions earlier. She doesn’t seem to be in the realm of kid raised on classic fantasy who suddenly ends up in one, but still! So that sense of unreality that pervaded the book brought it down for me.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: I think I’ve decided that I just don’t do well with satire, or even semi-satire. So, although this was witty and enjoyable, I didn’t ever like it particularly.

Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart: A sort-of mystery, in a very gentle way. Not at all like her Gothic stories, but much more easy to deal with just before bed. I wasn’t particularly struck by it in any way, but did like reading it.

The Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart: Another mystery. There were spoilery aspects of this that I liked very much indeed, and the characters and motivations were nicely drawn. I think that this is one of my favorite Stewarts, besides Thornyhold and maybe The Ivy Tree.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: I was in the kind of mood where I wanted something light and a little silly. This fits the bill perfectly. It’s pure fluff but also smart and enjoyable. Having just read Anna, I realized that I actually like Lola a little better–which is odd because I also wanted to smack her for half the book because the solution is SO obvious and her reasons for not seeing it didn’t quite work for me.

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie: I remembered really liking this one, so I tried it again. It was okay, but I wasn’t nearly as enamored of it as I used to be.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: So different from the movie! I don’t think it’s a matter of better or worse, though the movie is certainly more exciting. But the characterization is different, the presentation of the backstory is different, the plot is different. All in all, I thought that it needed a bit more time spent on some of the big points–they were rather smoothed over.

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: I had fewer problems with this one than I did the first time through, partly because prior knowledge made the characterizations seem a little smoother. I was still annoyed by the one bit that had very much annoyed me before, and I do wish that the view of Raoul we get at the end was at least hinted at earlier in the book. But ah well.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson: A favorite re-read.

Point of Honour by Madeleine Robbins: A sort-of Regency mystery with a female detective. I found the world interesting, and Sarah nicely done, but had a hard time with the pacing and sort of the general atmosphere (I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly what I didn’t like about it, which is why that sentence is so vague).

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh: Another Inspector Alleyn mystery. I liked the beginning a lot, but found the end a bit tedious, unfortunately. Still, it features Alleyn at his investigative best, which is nice.

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5 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, monthly book list, reviews

5 responses to “December book list

  1. Pingback: Mary Stewart | By Singing Light

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