I made a quick video about audiobooks and how much I love them.
White Elephant (published 10/29/19) is a short novel where the majority of the action is centered around a gift exchange at a high-end home. It’s a pretty standard thriller and if you want something quick and easy to read, this may hit the spot.
I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t love it. The story is told through several first person POVs. Zara’s POV was quite honestly annoying. While I understand that it is first-person, I don’t want to read every “like” and “nuh-uh” that goes through the character’s mind.
My second issue is that the author used real-life famous people as part of the plot. Yes, that part of the story is in the past but it made me feel ICKY. Using Andy Williams and Claudine Longet felt…wrong.
Lastly, the ending. Oh, the ending. Without spoiling all I can say is that it didn’t make sense given the characters as written to that point. It didn’t work for me. Nuh-uh.
I know it sounds like I hated it. I didn’t. If you can turn off the analytical part of your brain (boy I wish I could sometimes), you will probably enjoy this quick read.
2.5/5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley for providing an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a perfect fall read. Is it a ghost story or a family drama? A gothic thriller or an old-fashioned mystery? You won’t know until you turn the final page.
Margaret Lea runs a vintage book store with her father and writes biographies on the side. Life is quiet but enjoyable until Margaret learns a secret her parents hid from her for years. Years later she is unexpectedly summoned to the home of Vida Winter, the world’s most famous author, to hear Vida’s life story. There she finds the web of lies and half-truths that make up Vida’s world. She has to untangle these threads to make sense of Vida’s history while dealing with her own ghosts.
“Tell me the truth.”
The intricate family histories of both Vida and Margaret will keep you guessing. Margaret’s strained relationship with her mother is complicated by their secrets. The author spends a lot of time examining the seemingly supernatural connections between twins. She also shows how households will hide a family member’s mental illness (sometimes even from themselves).
Setterfield created a gothic atmosphere reminiscent of not only Jane Eyre but Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. You can feel the dampness of the moors, the cool breeze coming in through the window, smell the fire in the air.
In some ways this is a love story. Not of two people but the love (obsession) between a reader and her books. There is a lot of classic novel name dropping. Jane Eyre, the book, even plays a role in the plot. From Dickens to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it’s clear that Setterfield is a lover of literature. There are even some indications that Vida Winter is inspired by Agatha Christie – which adds to the mystique.
“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.”
If you have enjoyed the classic gothic stories listed above, you will devour this novel. It’s also a good choice for someone who loved a more recent character driven book like “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo”.
Put a log on the fire, make a spicy chai tea, grab a blanket and settle in. Once you start reading The Thirteenth Tale, you won’t be able to stop until you know the truth. After all, as Setterfield says so simply: “Reading is dangerous.”
Murder in the Mews is a collection of four short stories/novellas featuring Hercule Poirot. Overall, they are enjoyable but I believe that Christie is at her best with full length novels. The first story, Murder in the Mews, was the star of this bunch. Is it suicide? Is it murder?
Now that I’ve seen all of the BBC Poirot adaptations (with the exception of Curtain which I don’t think I will ever be prepared for mentally), it’s interesting to match the written story with the screen story. I vividly recall the details of the MitM adaptation and it actually made reading this more interesting, which is rare.
3.5/5 stars and a must read for fans.
The first Harry Potter illustrated book has a 4.9 average rating on Goodreads. That should tell you something. We all know the story (and if you don’t love it, well then, move along) so I’m rating this based on the illustrations themselves. And, they are freaking gorgeous. Honestly, they couldn’t be better. Jim Kay, I bow down to you.
For this post, I’ve captured a few of my favorites to share with you. In a perfect world, I would go out, buy a second copy of the book, cut out the pictures and hang them all around my office. I’m obsessed. Can you tell? Anyway, enjoy these collages of my favorite illustrations.
Cards on the Table has an interesting twist – Christie gave us a finite number of suspects (4) and it’s clear from the start that the killer is one of that group. This results in a tighter net for Poirot and more focus on a limited number of characters. Overall, COTT is a strong addition to the series.
However, three things kept me from giving this 5-stars. First, the casual use of ethnic slurs may have been common at the time but it’s still disconcerting for a modern reader. In this case it’s the use of a slur against Italians. I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to tell if Christie herself felt superior or if she is making a point that her characters feel superior to certain nationalities, races or social strata. Either way, it pulls me out of enjoying the reading experience.
Second, and I believe this is the first time I’ve had this complaint with Christie, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when an author ‘learns’ a new word and overuses it. In this case the word is “Mephistophelian” to describe the look and demeanor of the victim. Use it once, okay. Use it twice, twitch but okay. Five plus times and I’m rolling my eyes. Just say devilish for goodness sake.
Lastly, the ending. While I am a fan of the red herring, this one didn’t quite work for me. I recognized the device and waited for the big reveal. There were too many conveniences and coincidences for my liking.
Okay, this sounds like I didn’t like it, but really, I did. 4/5 stars.
Well, January wasn’t quite as good a reading month as I wanted but I was still able to get through 8 books:
- In God We Trust
- Throne of Glass
- Death in the Clouds (part of my Agatha Christie 2017 project)
- One Fell Sweep
- A Murder is Announced (another Christie)
- Dorothy Must Die
- Wuthering Heights (January Classic)
- Life is Short
Unfinished: Cards on the Table, Royal Assassin, Firefight, Lord of Chaos and HP #1 Illustrated.
My favorite read of the month was Wuthering Heights. Deciding to go back and reread some classics that I had really forgotten was one of the best goals I made for this year.
Honorable Mention: One Fell Sweep. I am a fangirl of Ilona Andrews and this is now my #2 favorite book in that library; just behind Magic Bites.
How did January go for you?
I haven’t written my January wrap up yet but as you can see from the stack above, I didn’t quite hit my goals. So, here’s what I’m hoping to read in February.
January Carry Over:
Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
…assuming I will finish Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie today – fingers crossed
The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (my classic of the month)
They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Bedside Pile of Shame (aka ‘currently reading’ for months):
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (I really hit the wall with this one and need to just focus for a few hours and finally finish it)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone (Illustrated) by JK Rowling
What are you reading this month?