December 2018 Books

This post contains review of books that were provided free of charge by the publishers, in exchange for a review. 

December-Books

Well why wouldn’t I be posting about December books in the middle of February? I’m nothing if not totally on-brand.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
I decided to read all of the Poirot books as one of my 37 Before 37 goals; I’ve read many of them before, but I thought it would be good to tick them all off. I haven’t actually decided if I’m going to read them in chronological order, but the first Poirot book seemed like a good place to start. I’ve read The Mysterious Affair at Styles before, but I couldn’t remember the salient details, and so the murderer did come as a surprise to me. Obviously there are various caveats that come with reading Christie, but I can’t resist as they are so entirely entertaining.

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens
Now here’s a series that has all the entertainment factor of Agatha Christie’s books, without any of the accompanying uncomfortableness that reading Christie’s mysteries give you. This is the second in the Murder Most Unladylike series; I’m late to these books, but I’m enjoying discovering them when I chance upon them in the library or in charity shops. This story takes us away from Deepdean school and to the home of Daisy Wells, the president of the Wells & Wong Detective Society, where a murder takes place, and once again Daisy and Hazel are thrust into the centre of the mystery. Wonderful stuff.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz*
December, as it turns out, was a very murdery month, in terms of books. This is also the second in a crime series; Anthony Horowitz has developed a story that includes himself as a main character. It’s an odd premise; it feels a lot like non-fiction, in that so many of the main parts of Horowitz’s life are used as plot points. His work on Foyle’s War, for example, is referenced frequently. But of course, the case itself, is entirely fictional: a barrister, known for his work on high-profile divorces, is found murdered, bludgeoned with an expensive bottle of wine. Suspicion falls on the ex-wife of one of his recent clients, and investigator Daniel Hawthorne is called in to help solve the crime. Horowitz (the character in the book, rather than the author himself) is writing the book on Hawthorne, so is once more brought along on the investigation.

As I said, it’s an unusual premise, and has the potential to feel like a gimmick, but I really like the set-up. The case itself is totally far-fetched, but I suppose that helps make the story more fantastical, given that the presence of the author as a character feels so weirdly normal. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did the first in the series, The Word is Murder, but it’s still a lot of fun, and I think there’s just enough more traction in the idea to warrant a third book.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper*
Read my full review of The Lost Man.

Black Roses by Jane Thynne
I find it very hard to resist stories set in the early 20th century, particularly if they centre around the upper classes. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated, I just am. Black Roses is set in Germany in 1933, a few years prior to the outbreak of war. Clara Vine is our central character, drawn to Berlin by the promise of an acting job at the famous Ufa studios. What she doesn’t expect is firstly to be drawn into a circle of Nazi wives, including Magda Goebbels, and then to be recruited by British Intelligence to spy on this group of women. This is a long book, but I devoured it while I was on holiday over Christmas. It’s the first in a series, so at some point I’ll be grabbing the next one to read.

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies*
This is another book I read while on holiday, having downloaded it from Netgalley without really having any idea what it was about. As it turns out, it’s about a woman named Julia, who thinks she is just unlucky enough to have had bad sex for the most part, but comes to realise that she’s actually been looking in the wrong place, i.e. at men. When she chances on a date with a woman, she realises what she’s been missing out on, and begins a very tumultuous relationship that is full of much more satisfying sex. This is not my usual kind of book: I’m no prude, but I just don’t tend to read books with graphic sex in them. And this is pretty graphic. But it was refreshing to read some modern fiction about someone who wasn’t straight (though as I acknowledged on Instagram, she was still late 20s, white, able-bodied, and living in London).

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen*
I’m planning a full review of The Other Half of Augusta Hope at some point, because this doesn’t publish until June, and I don’t want to preempt it too much. Needless to say that I absolutely loved this book; I’d be surprised if it doesn’t have a similar impact to last year’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s the story of Augusta Hope, a twin, who has never felt as though she fit in, and is nothing like her sister Julie. It runs parallel with the story of a young Burundian man, Parfait, whose life is dictated by the civil war that ravaged his country. It’s beautifully written, and made me laugh and cry, and it was the perfect book to finish the year on!

Books in 2018 – 51

Books marked with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

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