Reading recap: December

Happy New Year! I’m starting the year by rounding up the series of posts I did last year about the books I’ve read. December was a good reading month despite the fact that I was busy publishing my Two-Natured London Christmas short story collection. The Goodreads reading challenge counted nine books into my challenge, and even though two of those are actually very short stories, I think reading seven proper books is still impressive.

For I have Sinned by Darynda Jones

The stories were For I Have Sinned by Darynda Jones and Black Friday by Karen Chance. The first was a bit of a disappointment. The story – part of Charley Davidson series – was told from a ghost’s point of view, and it was nice. However, it was only a ten or so pages long and took about twenty per cent of the e-book. The rest was filler material I’d already read, so I kind of felt cheated out of my money. The second story was one of the many that Karen Chance offers for free on her website, a mad Christmas romp in Hell in the best Cassie Palmer style. It was about the same length than the first and not something I’d necessarily have paid money for. I’m not saying authors should offer all their stories for free, but at least inform your readers better about what they’re getting when they buy your filler stories.

Black Friday by Karen Chance

The first proper book of the month finished my Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence binge. The sixth book, The Ruin of Angels, started what the author called ‘a new cycle’ in the series and it showed. The story was very different from the earlier ones that focused mainly on the economics and the gods driving it. This was more character driven and focused on the relationships between the characters – again an all-female cast. The setting was new too, a strange city with layers from the past coexisting with the present as a result of the Gods War, but it featured a couple of familiar faces, like Kai from Full Fathom Five, who tries to save her sister from murder charges – a thankless job – and Tara Abernathy. Ley, the sister, was a thoroughly dislikeable person and if her ruin wouldn’t have meant the ruin of the entire city, I would have wanted her to perish. Still – or because of it – this was definitely the best book in the series – so far.

The Ruin of Angels by Max Glandstone

Sometimes books improve on a reread. I needed a short book to while away a couple of hours and read again Suzanne Enoch’s The Black Duke’s Prize, one of her earlier Regency romances. I’d given it two stars the first time, mostly because of a messy plot, but the second time round it turned out to be a perfectly charming story. Not in any way her best book, but delightful.

The Black Duke's Prize by Suzanne Enoch

I’ve had a similar disappointment with Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series. They sound promising, but the plots have been messy and Irene, the main character, is quite insufferable. But I gave the third book, The Burning Page, a try and I was pleasantly surprised with it. It still wasn’t a strong book, but the plot made sense and the secondary characters gained some – well – character. It felt like an end of a trilogy, but since there is another book out, the story continues.

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

A great new acquaintance was Murderbot from Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. All Systems Red was a compact book of a security android on a distant planet protecting a mining survey. The first person narrative was wry, and the Murderbot’s attempt to pass as a proper security robot instead of one that had hacked itself to be independent was interesting. The story was fast paced and good, and the ending a bit heart-breaking. I’ll definitely read the next book the moment it comes out.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
 
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet was another disappointment. I already disliked the first book – the tired plot of an abducted woman falling for her captor – but the second book was on sale so I bought it. I shouldn’t have. All the annoying things were still there, like Cat being all-powerful – and gaining more as the story continued. And I really don’t know why an editor would allow a publishing of a book where over half of the story is spent on a mission that doesn’t contribute to the overall plot at all and the goal of which is immediately made redundant by the last third of the book. However, the last third was good enough for me to give the book three stars instead of two. Add a LOT of gratuitous sex, and you have everything you need to know about the book.

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey gave me mixed feelings. The premise was interesting – an exorcist who’s given up his work after accidentally summoning a demon inside a friend of his – and the setting in London good. The story was great too, and, as it turned into a murder mystery, more complex than appeared at first. There were comparisons made in reviews to Harry Dresden and they weren’t entirely off. But what makes Harry and his world so likeable – his sense of humour and his animal sidekicks – were completely absent here. The overall feeling was glum and hopeless, and the feeling lingered long after I’d finished reading. I’m not entirely sure I’ll read another book in the series.

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

I like fantasy books with thieves as heroes, so I was eager to read The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung. Not much thieving took place, to my disappointment. Instead, it was a revenge story with a complicated plot to solve a murder. Amra was a great heroine, but despite the first person narrative, she remained distant. What drove her on was revenge, and though bits and pieces of her past were revealed, they didn’t really add much to her character. But the story was a bit above average and since the setting for the next book was intriguing, I think I’ll read the next book too.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung

So that was my reading year. I finished sixty books of the fifty-five I’d pledged in my reading challenge – or fifty-seven if you count out the couple of short stories I read along the way. Thirty of those sixty books ended up being from outside of my reading list, which means I didn’t read half of the books I intended to. But I don’t count that as a failure. I’ve started another reading challenge on Goodreads and pledged to read fifty-five books this year too. Those unread books from my list are waiting for me to read them this year.

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