December wrap-up (Part 1)
A quick preview of my full December wrap-up, since the last week of this month I've planned on doing retrospectives - so enjoy this preview!
The History of Magic (3★/5), by Chris Gosden: It was fine. I think he set himself too broad a span of both time and subject matter, so there was a lot of fast-forwarding through things that were interesting in their own rights. Also I'm not sure his differentiation of religion and magic is as stark as he makes it out to be, and I found the disparity in citations from chapter to chapter a bit jarring. Also he did this thing a lot where he went "let us go into imagined reconstruction" and "there is no hard evidence to support this, but we can imagine/guess" or "this theory is disputed" and then go on to make the rest of his points using the disputed theory, or his narrative reconstruction, or his best guess as absolute fact from which to build his argument, which annoyed the rigorous historian in me - which I think is why I was left broadly unconvinced. Also I don't know how introducing purification rituals into our everyday existence is going to solve the climate crisis, Chris, but you do you. Still an interesting, informative historical (if not rigorously historical) analysis. Will appeal to a lot of laypeople I imagine.
Just Haven't Met You Yet (2.7★/5), by Sophie Cousens: A fine romcom. Absolutely meh. Reviewed (sort of) here.
Small Things Like These (5★/5), by Claire Keegan: A splurge, spontaneous purchase after my first fiddle on the NPR Book Concierge of 2021. A beautiful, haunting novella about the last of Ireland's Magdalen laundries that is absolutely perfect for the 110 pages long that it is. Highly recommend.
The Patience of the Spider (3.7★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: Another strong Montalbano mystery. They have loads of steam in them, these detective puzzles.
Crossing to Safety (4.5★/5), by Wallace Stegner: A novel that was intensely compelling in a quiet, purposeful kind of way. It's a retrospective look on a lifelong adulthood friendship, and the sparing prose and incisive commentary made for a novel that I could not put down even though there's very little plot or action to speak of. Highly recommend.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (3.5★/5), by Balli Kaur Jaswal: I liked this way more than I thought I actually would! Reviewed here.
The Paper Moon (3.8★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: The story reminded me a lot of a previous Montalbano novel, and also somehow felt slower than I was used to - but still, an enjoyable murder mystery.
The Priory of the Orange Tree (1.5★/5), by Samantha Shannon: Ugh. Reviewed here.
Temeraire (2.5★/5), by Naomi Novik: It was fine. I'm not sure it deserves all the praise for inventive fantasy it's gotten - she basically just backdated the creation of the Air Force and wrote dragons as talking planes. I would have liked it better if the novel's parameters stretched beyond the very limited POV character of whatever-his-name (I've just finished and I can't remember what he's called, so shows you just how memorable a narrator I found him) to take into account the way history would have been changed by dragons. So, it was fine. Not interested enough to read anymore though.
August Heat (4.2★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: One of my favourite recent Montalbano books - very psychologically complex; an ambiguous and nuanced ending. I'm also really enjoying the Berlusconi digs.
The Holiday Swap (2★/5), by Maggie Knox: Fine. It was a fluffy, cheesy Hallmark holiday romance. That's literally all I have to say about it. I'm glad it only cost me £2.99.
Imperium (4.5★/5), by Robert Harris: A rare recommendation - but one that I very much enjoyed! I am looking forward to the other two books in this series! Reviewed here.
The Wings of the Sphinx (3.1★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: Not my favourite recent Montalbano. I tend to not enjoy the ones that feature Ingrid because I find that those puzzles rely more on coincidence than the other ones, but I suppose Camilleri knows best. Again, loved all the descriptions of food and the relationships Montalbano has with the other characters are just so funny and good. This is such an enjoyable series; I highly recommend it.
King Hereafter (4.8★/5), by Dorothy Dunnett: An epic book, both in its scope and its writing. I attempt to review it here.
See you next week for more wrap-ups!