Greetings again from the reading trenches and welcome to another wallet-draining edition of My Favourite Reads. There are many books you will want here, oh yes there are!
Hard to believe we’re in December, isn’t it? It’s been a weird year, where half of it dragged its feet like a stroppy child and the other half skipped the days away. At least, that’s how it felt for me.
One thing that has been brilliant this year is the books I’ve read. Ooooh, there have been some discoveries (Holmes on the Range being my greatest), along with many beloved authors who’ve found new ways to thrill me. It’s one of those who has taken out my November favourite read.
And that author and book is…
Mimi Matthews has been an auto-buy author for me since she completely wowed me with her utterly gorgeous historical romance A Holiday by Gaslight, but with John Eyre she’s taken my fangirldom to a new level. This was brilliant.
John Eyre is a gothic retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, a book I’ve never read (I know, I know…) and I had no idea what I was in for. Awesomeness was what. The atmosphere… hooly-dooly it was good. So sinister and that claustrophobic mist… yikes!
Then there were the characters. John is a complex man, with secrets that could cost him his tutor’s job, but he’s also courageous and fundamentally decent, and a worthy hero. Which is just as well because there is much darkness for him to tackle. Mrs Rochester was wonderful – fiery, smart, determined and oh so brave – and I really enjoyed how Matthews slowly disclosed her backstory. The other characters were excellent too, as was the description of Thornfield Hall and its valley.
With its supernatural elements and touches of horror, this was smack in my zone. Loved it.
I’m a big fan of Wendy James’ thrillers (The Accusation and The Mistake being my favourites) and was delighted when I heard she had a new release coming out, and even more delighted to score an advance review copy.
A Little Bird was incredibly atmospheric. Arthurville, the small town in the central west of New South Wales where this is set, is in drought and suffering, and the dust and despair of it is palpable. Into this environment comes journalist Jo Sharpe, a born and bred local who left town for good but is now back to run the community newspaper. And to pick up the trail of the mysterious disappearance of her mother and sister, many years before.
The slow uncovering of the town’s secrets, along with plenty of twists kept me guessing and turning those pages. I also want to mention how well-drawn the community was. Lots of good and bad and in betweens which made it feel real. There’s hope here too, in amongst the dust and difficulty. I found that really heartening.
If you haven’t read a Wendy James before, pick up A Little Bird or any of her backlist. You won’t be disappointed.
I really enjoyed this murder mystery. Digging Up Dirt was light-hearted – sort of like a cosy – but with sharp edges. It didn’t hold back from skewering those who deserved it.
Poppy was a likeable heroine, smart and courageous and with an intriguing job working for ABC television’s children’s department. She’s an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances when bones are discovered in the house she’s having renovated, and the specialist called in to assess them ends up murdered.
There was a romance thread too, which was satisfying (Tol is a sexy archaeologist and who’s not a sucker for one of those), and the suburban Sydney setting was great too.
I assumed Digging Up Dirt was a stand-alone but it’s the first in a series. Looks like I’ll be buying the next then.
One of my favourite Michelle Douglases so far. An absolute joy of a book that’s as warm and love-laden as its heroine, Monique. And Luca… sighworthy, beautiful Luca. What a hero.
Even the early chapters of Cinderella and the Brooding Billionaire had me choking up with emotion. That should have been a giant hint at how deep the black moment would pierce, but when it hit, it was full-on. I shed snotty tears.
God, I love romances like that. Go read. It’s fabulous.
Madeline Miller’s gobsmacking Song of Achilles and Circe has made me partial to a Greek myth retelling so when Ariadne popped up on sale I one-clicked that baby straight away. That gorgeous cover makes it hard to resist.
My knowledge of the Greek gods and heroes is limited. With Ariadne, I was aware of her role in helping Theseus slay the Minotaur but that was about it, so it was great to get a deeper look at her myth. There was stuff I had no idea about. Ariadne’s fate being one, her sister Phaedra being another.
Very interesting indeed.
Another great addition to the James Acton thriller series, with the usual gunfights, adventures, history, and the smart talk I’ve come to expect and, in this case, with a tasty subplot of forbidden love. These books are such a blast. Literally oftentimes, given the amount of blowing up that tends to happen.
Kennedy has written that he got the idea for The Viking Deception from the horrific assassination of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. It gives what would otherwise seem an outrageous plot some plausibility. There are still plenty of bonkers bits to love though.
If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range was my favourite read last month. That book proved to be such a hoot I went and bought the boxed set and am now joyfully making my way through the next four books.
On the Wrong Track sees Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer doing their “detectifying” on the Pacific Express, and getting into all sorts of strife. There are outlaws, legendary gunslingers, lots of adventure, oodles of laughs, scary train stunts, and much murderin’ to be solved.
If John Eyre wasn’t so awesome this would have been my favourite for the month. I bloody LOVE this series.
Next up, The Black Dove. Whoop!
For the writerly…
I’d already bought and read Becca Syme’s Dear Writer, You Need To Quit at the start of the year and found it very useful. Then an author buddy bought Syme’s three-book Quitbooks bundle and was very impressed so I thought I might give the set a go too.
I found Dear Writer, You’re Doing It Wrong a lot like book one. Basically, she tells you to question the premise of everything you do. For example, if the standard writerly advice is to write every day (this gets bandied about a lot and I’ve never understood it), she suggests you ask why and consider whether that is the best way for you to work. And so on.
I found the section on social media particularly useful because I’ve been struggling a lot with it these past couple of years and feel guilty about my lack of activity.
I’ll be interested to see where the final book of the bundle, Dear Writer, You’re Doing It Right, takes me.
What have you read recently that’s got you excited?