• bookends

February wrap-up

A good reading month for me. I did hit my target of 15, but didn't quite get through the actual titles I was hoping for - Scales of Gold (book 4, House of Niccolò) is carrying over to my March TBR. Maybe I should make more of an effort to develop a social life - but until I do that, all my books are a good place to bury the loneliness!


Best book of the month: The Most Fun We Ever Had Worst book of the moth: The Silent Patient

Most 'pleasant surprise' book of the month: Things in Jars

Most disappointing book of the month: The Silent Patient

La Septième fonction du langage, by Laurent Binet (4.3★/5)

My first Laurent Binet book, and I think I may have picked the weirdest one to read first. The plot was wild - the murder of a French literary critic/philosopher in order to steal a document he'd written on the mythical 'seventh function of language', one that permits the user to convince anyone of anything. The story goes into bluffs, double-bluffs, triple-bluffs; and there's definitely a baseline assumption of familiarity about French philosophical and literary thought of the 1980s (I had to do a lot of Wikipedia-ing); and it's surprisingly gory and there's a weird amount of orgies happening. But it's deliciously satirical, and Laurent Binet pokes shameless fun at everyone and everything - including his own academic and literary circles; I do love a bit of tongue in cheek! - and the writing is crisp, easy to follow, and the characters are fun and fully fleshed out. I took 0.7 stars away because of the density of the plot at points, but all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Things in Jars, by Jess Kidd (4.5★/5)

I reviewed this one when I first finished it - read it here!

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (2.8★/5)

Reviewed here.

L'Oasis éternelle, by Luis Montero Manglano (trans. Claude Bleton) (4.6★/5)

A slightly weaker entry in the Corps royal des quêteurs series than the first book - but I do have a working theory that the second book in any series is always the weakest. The characters felt a bit more caricatural than they did in the first book, especially the villains - some of the villains were frankly cartoonish, they were so simplistic. Also Montero Manglano, in this outing, falls into the James Bond trap (i.e., his main characters seem to freakishly often escape death because they are up against the stupidest, worst shot bad guys that ever existed). Plus, I was just less interested in the esoteric adventure than the one in La Table du roi Salomon - it was less well-researched, I think, and also just didn't grab me as well because it didn't strike my interest points in the way the first book did. But it was still an incredibly gripping, enjoyable, high-stakes adventure thriller read with a fair dose of fantasy and spicy romance. I bumped into several people and things because I couldn't stop reading it between the tube stop and the office.

La Cité des hommes saint, by Luis Montero Manglano (trans. Claude Bleton) (4.1★/5)

So. You may remember way back when I first mentioned this series in my January wrap-up, I talked about how you only need a very minimum of suspension of disbelief to follow the story and enjoy it. By the last 300 pages of the trilogy, that is out the window – it goes to some, quite frankly, ridiculous places by the end of the story. That was a bit disappointing, to end a trilogy that relied on some very detailed, well-researched, and obscure history and theology with magic 1,300-year-old robots, and the ability of every single main character to miraculously avoid death, even when they get shot in the chest. Yeah. Also, this book was the least well-edited of the three – there were a lot of typos and editing mistakes that slipped through, which were a bit jarring. And, the big final reveal did come a bit out of left field and seemed massively rushed - we meet the big baddie and within twenty pages she's already been written out of the story; which was disappointing as she's been so nefarious and ominous and omniscient throughout the trilogy that I would have liked more pages dedicated to her, her machinations, and getting the best of her. But, having said all that, it was still a delightful, highly enjoyable, completely insane read – and, as my friend who I was telling about it called it, immersive. I was on the edge of my seat until the very end, and I had so much fun reading it. I hope it gets translated into English soon for everyone who doesn’t read French or Spanish!

Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (4.7★/5)

I have already reviewed this one here.

The Glittering Hour, by Iona Grey (3.3★/5)

Mixed thoughts on this one - you can read them here.

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan (4.8★/5)

I've already reviewed this one, and spoiler alert: I loved it. Read more here.

The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow (4★/5)

Bit of a mixed bag, this one. Read my review here.

The Spring of the Ram, by Dorothy Dunnett (5★/5)

I'm not going to review every book in this series, as it's 8 books long and ultimately I think my critiques of the books would get repetitive. I will probably do a more global review when I've finished all 8 of them, but for the moment, I will just say this - I wish I knew how difficult these books would be to get ahold of before I started reading them. Oh, boy, is it trying my patience having to wait ages between books because of how hard it is to track down copies of an obscure 1990s historical fiction series that is starting to go out of print.

The second book in this series is easier to read than the first - I think probably because you're already familiar with the characters and the personalities involved, so you're following along more than you are catching up. Also the intrigue is wider and more global, and involves more threads and puzzles - another excellent read.

Melmoth, by Sarah Perry (3.4★/5)

My second Sarah Perry book. Reviewed here.

Au service secret de Marie-Antoinette #1 and 2: L'enquête du Barry (3.8★/5) and Pas de répit pour la Reine (3.9★/5), by Frédéric Lenormand

Reviewed as a single entity here.

Race of Scorpions, by Dorothy Dunnett (5★/5)

Well into the thick of it with the House of Niccolò now. This one sees Nicholas and his skeleton crew in Cyprus, fighting to put James de Lusignan on the throne instead of his (legitimately born) half-sister Queen Carlotta. It's another stellar delivery from Dunnett, with more explanatory inner monologues than you got in the first two - and also I think it benefitted from not having a crammed-in confrontation with Simon de St Pol of Kilmirren, Nicholas's putative father, in at the end. Plus, the reveals of both the puppeteer pulling the strings and the emotional climaxes of the book were surprising and made me yelp out loud on public transport. This series is so good.

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo (4.9★/5)

My last book of February and the best book of the month for me. Reviewed here.

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I’m Amélie, I love books and reading, and I also love talking about them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be bilingual, so I read books in both French and English, and will talk about both of those on here – although I will do more in English, since I know that’s probably what the majority of the people who ever find this blog will be interested in!

I also like history, traveling, Shakespeare, coffee, cheese, musicals, Italian Baroque art, the ballet, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, flowers, makeup, high heels, and baking. Yes, I’m a walking cliché. I am aware.

Please do tweet at me with any suggestions/book recommendations/thoughts.

In case you’re curious – yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.