Recent reads: December 2023
Well, maybe it’s because I just finished them but I read two of the best books I’ve read in a long while in this round up; very different books but both really great reads. And this month has been good both in reading and in life. Even as I struggle with some aspects of this time of year in this culture, I’m also really grateful to be able to slow down and enjoy it, which in our household means very few plans and lots of time to enjoy the weather if it’s nice and do the things that bring us joy. Until next year, happy reading!
For the First Time, Again
The final book in the Take Them to the Stars trilogy was my favorite. We meet the main character as a young child and grow up with her as she navigates a world in which she’s seen as a predator or a freak and is protected by her greatest enemy. Aster is so wonderfully written and the twists at the end are so well done. This book doesn’t leave the end tied up with a bow, but it was incredibly satisfying. I enjoyed the series and was so glad the final book was so well done.
Book of Delights
Ross Gay calls these essayettes since some are incredibly short. He sets out to write about delight every day for a year, starting on his birthday. I read these slowly over the course of many quiet mornings and while I didn’t love every essay, it did get me thinking about and looking for delight in my own daily life. It also showed me how much defining delight is different depending on the individual.
The Perfume Collector
A story of a housewife married to a man striving in the world of 1950s London to continue moving up the social ladder finds out she’s got to go to Paris to see a lawyer about an urgent matter. When she gets there she finds out she’s inherited a great deal of money from a woman she never met. The story goes back and forth between the current time and the past as you learn who Eva was as Grace learns and searches more information. I really enjoyed this one.
I think I can say with some certainty that this is one of my top reads for 2023, at least for fiction. A woman who writes for a weekly Saturday night sketch comedy show meets the host who is also the musical performer and feels an attraction. Fast forward to the pandemic and they start emailing. The dialogue is so well written and the pacing so spot on that I couldn’t put this one down and ended up staying up quite late one night reading. But I also completely related to the woman, Sally, with her anxieties and her wondering about life and the hilarious way she thought about things. Highly recommend this one.
The Eyes of the Queen
Well, I went from one of the best to one of the mediocre reads of 2023. Spies during the Elizabethan era in England? Sounded good but the execution wasn’t great. It is short and action packed so I finished, but the ending was absolutely so cheesy and well, I don’t know that I’ll read the other two books in the series.
The Queen of Attolia
The second book in the Queen’s Thief series and I didn’t love this one as much as I did the first. The world building is still top notch, but I found some of the story line choices strange and I’m not sure I buy the main love story at all. But I finished it and I’m now contemplating if I’ll read the third one, I’ve got it on my list but it’s not at the top at this point.
This book pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until I read the last word. I loved it. I knew nothing about the practice of transport in England in the mid 1800s and was fascinated with how they shipped off their convicts to Australia, specifically in this book Tasmania. The story revolves around three women; Evangline who is sentenced to transport and 7 years labor after a false accusation, Hazel who is on the transport ship with Evangeline, and Mathinna an aboriginal girl who is brought to live with a high up official in Tasmania. Christina Baker Kline did amazing amounts of research as she talked about in her afterword and it shows, the story comes to life in so many different ways. While it’s not always easy to read what happens to these three women, there is a sense of hope in the end.
N or M?
Another Tommy and Tuppence mystery from Agatha Christie and I still love these characters. The dialogue between them is always a highlight in the books, but this time the mystery was quite good as well. Tommy is tapped to help root out a group sympathetic to Germany in 1940 England and of course Tuppence inserts herself as well. It was nice to read something a little lighter after The Exiles and to chuckle at how very British Tommy and Tuppence are.