My favourite reads of December list is notable for a few things: the interesting themes, the fatness of some of the books, and the lack of romance. The latter occurred because I’d saved a bunch of romances for the Christmas-New Year break only for it to prove much busier than I’d anticipated, leaving me with little reading time. Not to worry. I’ll just have to make up for it in January.
The choice of favourite for the month was a hard one, with two very strong contenders, but I’m going to bite the bullet and go for…
This is a monster-sized book, some 670 pages, which is partly the reason I’d never bothered with it before, despite recommendations. It was just too daunting and experience has taught that long books sometimes have a habit of getting bogged down.
Not this one.
From beginning to end, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair had me hooked. It’s basically a whodunnit, but with the main protagonist Marcus a writer and the titular Harry being a writing professor, it also features some commentary on the subject, which I enjoyed a lot. But that’s not why I loved the book. It’s LOADED with twists and turns and red herrings, and it seems everyone in small town Somerset, New Hampshire, harbours a secret. The moment you think you might have it figured out, you discover you’re wrong. Or are you?
A highly enjoyable historical murder-mystery set in 15th century Moorish Spain and starring English physician Thomas Berrington. A killer has infiltrated the Sultan’s palace and seems hell-bent on destroying the Sultan’s wives, and Thomas has been entrusted with finding him. In a world of intrigue where one false step could cost your head, danger lurks everywhere.
The first in what I suspect will prove to be a very interesting long-running series.
Another mystery-thriller and a beauty too. A private jet crashes into the sea and one man heroically swims the only other survivor—a four-year-old boy—miles to shore. But that’s just the beginning of the drama. As the crash investigation unfolds, questions are asked and conspiracy theories abound. How did a perfectly serviceable aircraft suffer such catastrophic failure, what secrets were those on board hiding, and why did a stranger board at the last minute?
This book takes quite a few stabs at modern society. There were characters whose narratives left me furious and others I felt enormous sympathy for, which I think was the point. I can’t say I love-loved Before the Fall, but it was compelling and I’m glad I read it.
Another big fat bonkbuster from Cooper, featuring all-time favourite naughty boy Rupert Campbell-Black. Rupert is obsessed with winning the title of leading sire for his stallion Love Rat and beating that upstart Cosmo Rannaldini, but at what cost?
As you’d expect for a Cooper novel, there are shenanigans galore in Mount! Mischief and mystery abound as Rupert’s efforts are thwarted at every turn and staff fall in and out of each other’s beds. I’ve been a Cooper fan for years and I really, really wanted to enjoy this book but with Rupert behaving so horribly, Taggie being such a wet-blanket and others acting like prats, I found it hard to barrack for any of the characters (except for sweet Safety Car, a horse). I appreciate this is an aspect of the world Cooper has built throughout the series, but the rampant sexism and homophobia of the characters made the book feel outdated, while the cliched and insensitive portrayal of other cultures was particularly problematic.
I picked this up after reading a couple of positive reviews in the Saturday papers, intrigued by the premise and the claim that it was, to quote the Sydney Morning Herald, “written in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code, though it’s more deeply imagined, pacier, and better written.”
The premise is seriously cool—someone is stealing and killing to obtain copies of Heinrich Bunting’s 1581 map of the world, but why? Certainly, the map is mysteriously accurate in its depiction of Western Australia’s coastline, but other parts are nonsensical. What secret does the map hide and who is after it?
Entertaining, page-turning fun, with a bonus dose of cartography history. Better than The Da Vinci Code (which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed)? I’ll let you be the judge!
My second favourite read of the month, and beaten only by a whisker. I bloody LOVE this Illuminae Files science fiction series. It’s vividly imagined, fast-paced, the heroes are sexy and the heroines kick-arse brilliant, and the unique layout makes it refreshingly different to other books.
The first in the series, Illuminae, was so fantastic (you can read what I said about it here) I had my doubts that Gemina would top it but it’s easily as good. Like Illuminae, the storytelling is done via a series of files that log instant message chats, interviews, video transcripts, visuals and even encyclopaedia entries, which might sound weird but works perfectly and keeps things pacey. I also adore how everything keeps getting worse for the characters, challenging them at every turn, and making them fight for every victory.
Hurry up book three!
As a side note, I read both Illuminae and Gemina as ebooks but for maximum enjoyment I think the series needs to be read in print. Even at the largest font setting there were parts that were hard to make out, in particular the graphics with text swirling across.
What were your favourite books of December?