A very, very good month for reading for - with a couple of exceptions, the quality of books I read was mostly phenomenal (6 books that have gone into contention for my top of 2021 list), and 31 books read total.
Not gonna do much more talking as there's lots of books for you to read about, as ever, below.
TL;DR: Best book of the month: La Porte du voyage sans retour. Also Libertie. And The Colour Purple. And... actually just a lot of books that can go here; please go forth and read them all.
Most enjoyable book of the month: I'll go ahead and plonk the 6 Montalbano books I read this month here. They were good fun and I'm looking forward to stringing the 20+ plus books along the next year or so of my reading. Most 'pleasant surprise' book of the month: Once There Were Wolves. Wasn't expecting this to be such a powerful novel at all! But it was wonderful! Please go read this immediately!
Most disappointing book of the month: Two disappointing books this month; although one is a stinker and one is just okay when I expected it to be good: Well Matched. I expected a lot and while this was by no means a bad romance in the end, it didn't just quite live up to the expectations Jen DeLuca has set for herself with the previous books in this series. And then Never Fall For Your Fiancée. Very bad, expected it to at least be mediocre. Bad month for my romance picks, this. Worst book of the month: A Discovery of Witches. Garbage. Hot garbage. I'm angry at myself for the two days I wasted reading this instead of doing useful things, like cleaning my oven. And I HATE cleaning my oven.
A Discovery of Witches (0.25★/5), by Deborah Harkness: This is a garbage book about garbage people that, considering it's basically just plagiarism, I'm surprised any reputable publisher even touched. Don't read this book; read my review here instead.
The Terracotta Dog (4★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: A good, enjoyable, multi-layered detective mystery. Looking forward to diving back into this series now after a false start with the first book last year.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (4.2★/5), by John le Carré: A good, gritty spy novel with an appropriate amount of double-bluffs and triple-crossings. Has reignited my desire to make my way through John le Carré's back-catalogue. Reads pretty fast, too.
Orlando (3★/5), by Virginia Woolf: Have no idea what happened here. Please don't ask me.
In the Market for Murder (3.7★/5), by T.E. Kinsey: Good! Even more fun than the first one, I think - two completely separate mysteries that (somewhat fortuitously, but hey ho) did end up being interconnected, and was a light-hearted, enjoyable mystery that was an excellent way of getting back into reality (of a sort) after the bonkersosity of Orlando.
Week-end a Zuydcoote (4.5★/5), by Robert Merle: I liked the story and I liked what the author was trying to do, but he was using the same rhetorical tool to prove his point over and over and over again and after about 80 pages it got annoying.
Razorblade Tears (3.1★/5), by S.A. Cosby: Good, but I did expect slightly better. Reviewed here.
Well Matched (3.5★/5), by Jen DeLuca: Not the best in the series and I hope she course-corrects for Book 4. Reviewed here.
Once There Were Wolves (5★/5), by Charlotte McConaghy: In contention for my top of 2021 list. Reviewed here.
The Snack Thief (3.8★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: These books just get better and better the more I read! I am so pleased I decided to dive back into this series. This one was a good mystery despite going down the Grand Conspiracy That Involves All the Government route that I really don't like in my mysteries; also I can only ever imagine Giuseppe from Bake Off now whenever I think of Montalbano. The food descriptions and the sense of humour just make this for me.
Chocolat (3★/5), by Joanne Harris: Maybe this book was good, but I couldn't get past the fact that I hated the priest character and the villagers so much to enjoy it. What a paranoid, sanctimonious, hypocritical, manipulative, up-themselves bunch of people. Also, why won't anybody in this novel finish a sentence of their dialogue????? Why don't they speak to each other instead of just constantly dropping cryptic little clues????? Infuriating.
Talk Bookish to Me (1.5★/5), by Kate Bromley: Much potential; very little of substance. Reviewed here.
The Color Purple (5★/5), by Alice Walker: A modern classic of American literature that I'm actually very surprised was never required reading for me when I was in school. Very grim, but absolutely masterful. In contention for my top of 2021 list, even though it was maybe the darkest, most relentlessly horrific thing I've read all day and the kind of cruelty that gets thrown around casually made my blood boil (which was the point, I guess).
The Voice of the Violin (3.3★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: Another solid mystery; although the way the title made sense was kind of thrown in at the last and not as successfully tied into the rest of the plot as the first three novels handled the same framing device.
Never Fall For Your Fiancée (1★/5), by Virginia Heath: Wanted to like it; couldn't. Because it was very bad. Reviewed here.
The Passenger (5★/5), by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz: The story of how this book came to be published is great; the story inside the book is also great. Potentially a contender for my top of 2021 list. Reviewed here.
Arcadia (4.2★/5), by Lauren Groff: A book that was about a commune but also about a child of the commune who makes his life outside of it after it ends. There was lots going on here, and I think because there was so much of it a lot of it went over my head; but the writing was lushly gorgeous and Bit's head was an interesting place to be in. Very hard to read in parts, but I did, globally, enjoy the ride.
Excursion to Tindari (3.4★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: The way the mystery resolves feels a bit coincidental rather than the result of Montalbano's investigation; but another strong entry in this series. Similarly strong sense of place and I'm very much enjoying the ongoing food descriptions.
La Porte du voyage sans retour (5★/5), by David Diop: Another stellar novel by David Diop. Reviewed here.
The House in the Cerulean Sea (2.9★/5), by TJ Klune: I really, really wanted to love this - but it falls just a smidgen short for me. Reviewed here.
Titus n'aimait pas Bérénice (4.5★/5), by Nathalie Azoulai: Very typical of modern French literature, this. The storyline is a bit meta - Bérénice, in the 21st century, is left by her lover Titus who can't bring himself to leave his wife and the mother of his children, Roma (yes, you do get the joke) - and she finds solace in the works of Jean Racine, and the storyline flips back and forth between the fallout from Bérénice and the straight historical fiction about Racine's life and his philosophising on language and poetry and writing and the court of Louis XIV. Very weird, but I liked it a lot. No English translation as of yet, sadly for those of you who don't speak French.
The Scent of the Night (4.4★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: A mystery that actually resolved itself because Montalbano did some detective work. I also liked the literary reference to Faulkner. I'm quite enjoying this series and am glad I picked it back up.
A Crime in the Neighbourhood (3.5★/5), by Suzanne Berne: An unlikeable narrator and an intimate look at a fracturing family. It was a strong piece of writing but I also don't know how much it's going to stick with me.
It Happened One Summer (3★/5), by Tessa Bailey: Saved my month from being nothing but disappointing romance reads. Reviewed here.
Libertie (5★/5), by Kaitlyn Greenidge: A phenomenal book. Reviewed here.
Migrations (5★/5), by Charlotte McConagy: Another entry on the 'potential top of 2021' list. It's a beautiful literary mystery, an introspective tour de force, with a hefty dose of climate anxiety thrown in. I think it maybe suffered a bit from me reading it in the same month as her second book, and this one is clearly a debut whereas Once There Were Wolves is more assured; but still. Highly, highly recommend this one. The telescoping timelines are a bit more fractured and interesting in this one, too.
Rounding the Mark (3.6★/5), by Andrea Camilleri: A bit of a coincidental mystery solve again; but still. Remains fun. I wonder how long Camilleri can keep this going before Montalbano really does have to retire.
Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2.5★/5), by Alexis Hall: Disappointing after the heights of Boyfriend Material, the first Alexis Hall romance I read. The love triangle aspect of it didn't come off super well, and I feel like the hero was somehow less of a character or a person than the guy who ended up being the villain. Also, I got a bit tired of the fact that every single line of dialogue the main character had was a political point. The author used their main character as a cipher for their own views, which is fine, but it did make the narrative a bit flat by the end. It was also about 150 pages long - by the end I was just skimming in order to finish the darn book. Don't know if I'll read the next book in this planned series.
The Butchers (4.1★/5), by Ruth Gilligan: A bit of a weird book, this one - I liked the story and I liked the writing, and I think the atmosphere of the narrative was absolutely, blindingly beautiful and a fitting accompaniment to the narrative itself. I just think Gilligan got too caught up in the subtlety she was going for and so ended up not drawing the themes and storylines together in any meaningful way, so the book ends in a way that feels a bit unsatisfying. Still - some beautiful stuff here, and I'd like to read more of Gilligan's work.
La Voyageuse du soir (3.1★/5), by Annick Geille: A barely-veiled retelling of the story of Coco Chanel, but positioning Marie Pitanguy (the central narrator) as a provincial from Lorient. An interesting portrait in three parts of a woman's ambitions and how she reacts to those ambitions being realised. Lots of potential here, and some excellent moments; needed something a bit more to pull it all together into a memorable story. Lovely use of metaphor and a wonderful voice for the main character, however.
This is How You Lose the Time War (5★/5), by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: A wonderful, weird, beautiful little book. Reviewed here.
There you have it, folks! Hopefully some of these books appeal to you and make it into your own TBR stacks - and if not, ho hum pig's bum, I had a nice time reading (most of) them anyway.