Hello, everyone! Does anyone else hate the new editor, or is it just me? I feel like it makes it really difficult to make gifs into featured images and that’s like my main schtick. Hopefully WordPress will just let me sneak by with the classic editor until I find a way around that bug…but anyway, books! I have some good picks this months: a mystery, a fantasy, and a history. No duds this month. Santa blessed me with some good Christmas pickings for this cold and rainy month. So what should you add to your 2019 reading list? These three might just do the trick.
Lethal White by J.K Rowling
Quick Summary: Picking up from the third book’s cliffhanger of a wedding, Lethal White finds Robin and Strike dealing with a case of blackmailing and a suicide that might just be murder. Amidst the frenzy of the 2012 London Olympics, Robin and Strike navigate the perils of her new marriage, Strike’s relationship problems, and their undeniable feelings for each other.
My thoughts: I audibly gasped when I saw this book on the shelves. I WAITED THREE YEARS PEOPLE! So yes, I was excited. I loved the character development in Lethal White, especially Robin’s maturation from rookie to full-fledge detective. Many mystery writers rely on the same tired beats from book to book, but Rowling really focused on letting her characters grow and overcome their personal demons. Strike’s character arc in this novel was less interesting, as it did tread the same territory when it came to his love life. Rowling pushed him to the back seat in this novel to give Robin the spotlight and I appreciate her choice because I’ve always found Robin to be more compelling than Strike. That said, the actual mystery in Lethal White was confusing, underwhelming, and dare I say (don’t shoot me) badly plotted. Usually Rowling is a master at crafting mysteries, but she stretched herself too thin with three interweaving mysteries instead of one. The stakes weren’t particularly high, the characters involved in the mystery were unsympathetic, and the explanation was too easy. Where her other Strike novels were cleverly complicated, this novel was confusingly convoluted. She sacrificed the meat of her mystery for her stellar character development, but I’m not complaining too much, and I can’t wait for the next installment.
To read or not to read? Definitely read it. Even when Rowling’s not on her “A” game, she’s still better than 90 percent of mystery writers.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Quick Summary: Set in Medieval Russia, the story follows Vasya, a cunning, adventurous girl with magical abilities, including the power to communicate with the mystical creatures that live in the vast forest. While Vasya recognizes the importance of continuing to honor the chernyi, the arrival of a charismatic Orthodox priest whips her village into a religious fervor and condemns the traditional spirits as demons. As her village falls deep into the priest’s clutches, Vasya must use her magic to protect her village from the terrifying god Medved, or risk losing her family forever.
My thoughts: This is everything you could ask for from a fantasy novel. Beautiful, restrained prose, detailed lore and world building, a compelling heroine, and a story that surprises at every turn and never falters in its confidence. Arden immerses you in her Old World Russia, expertly intertwining history with fiction, making the complex battle between Russian mythology and Orthodox Christianity into a conflict that is accessible for young and older readers alike. Even when Arden borrows from other works (as she does with her Frollo-Esmerelda inspired relationship), she keeps it fresh. Even better, this is a YA fantasy with no grossly abusive power dynamics and only the barest hint of a love-story. How refreshing! I can’t wait to read the next two books in the trilogy.
To read or not to read? This is a must-read. To the library, stat!
The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide, and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV by Anne Somerset
Quick Summary: Louis XIV’s court was known for its gossip, intrigue, and a poisoning scandal that pulled back the curtain on the malevolent activities of Versaille’s most elite. Somerset explores the event from its inception to its end, inviting readers into a web of characters from the upper echelons of society to the Parisian gutters.
My thoughts: Because of its niche appeal, Affair of the Poisons won’t interest everyone, but if you have even the slightest curiosity into the social machinations of Louis XIV’s court, Somerset will satisfy. The book can be sprawling and tangential. Somerset really sets the scene by covering everything from Louis’s religious practices to the personal lives of his many mistresses, but her attention to character and detail makes a confusing set of events more tangible for the reader. Somerset creates a enjoyable, darkly humorous romp from what other historians might have written off as a lurid, but unimportant tidbit of French history.
To read or not to read? Definitely read it.