Read in December 2022

December started out as a difficult reading month.
In theory this should be one of the coziest reading months of the year, with blankets and fairy lights, but in practice my mind was busy with so many other things that I had trouble keeping my attention. Once I got into a book and got along with the introduction of the characters and world, it went smoothly, but starting a brand new book turned out to be difficult.

I had had big reading plans for December, though. I wanted to catch up on my Fairyloot Adult books, which I was 3 books behind on at the time, and I wanted to finish Christelle Dabos’ The Mirror Visitor series before the end of the year.
At the beginning of December I started reading my 6th Fairyloot Adult book, namely Babel by R.F. Kuang, but just couldn’t get into it. I hope it wasn’t the book’s fault this time, but due to my mood, so I didn’t mark it as a DNF and will be giving it it another shot in 2023. I also tried starting a couple of other fantasy books from my bookshelves, but I couldn’t get into these either.
That’s why I decided to focus on finishing The Mirror Visitor. I hoped that a book where I was already acquainted with the world and characters would proove to be what I needed to get around my focussing problem. However, I had only just finished reading the introduction, when I started to worry that my recollection of the previous books was not detailed enough. I still knew an amazing amount of the previous books and immediately felt the world rise up around me again, but still, since I was going into the finale of this series, I wanted to be sure to have every detail clear in my mind. Which is why I decided to start over again, beginning with A Winter’s Promise!

In total I still finished 9 books in December, good for 3984 pages. The average December book comes to 443 pages/book.

As mentioned, some of the finished books were rereads, so the rating was already quite high. No book received less than 3 stars, but no book also received 5 stars, which says something about the finale of the aforementioned series! December’s average book comes in at 3.6 stars.

In terms of target group, I read 4 Young Adult books and 5 adult books.

The reason why I still finished 9 books and not just The Mirror Visitor books is thanks to audio books while being creative. For example, I read a total of 5 audio books and 4 physically owned books. One of those audiobooks was actually also a book I had on my physical TBR-shelves, so that’s another book that I can cross off.

For the genres, I switched between 4 genres, namely romance (1), thriller (1), mystery (2) and fantasy (5).

For the language I read the largest number of Dutch books of the year. Although Dutch translated from French, but still. I read 5 books in English and 4 in Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in December and my star rating.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially when it comes to sequels in a series!

  1. Lovett, London – Ice Cold Killer (Frostfall Island Cozy Mystery #3) 🎧 ★★★
  2. Dade, Olivia – Ship Wrecked (Spoiler Alert #3) 🎧 ★★★
  3. Dabos, Christelle – De Ijzige Verloofde (De Spiegelpassante #1) ★★★★
  4. Bardugo, Leigh – Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) 🎧 ★★★★
  5. Dabos, Christelle – De Vermisten van Maneschijn (De Spiegelpassante #2) ★★★★
  6. Dabos, Christelle – Het geheugen van Babel (De Spiegelpassante #3) ★★★★
  7. James, Simone St. – The Book of Cold Cases 🎧 ★★★
  8. Taylor, C.L. – The Guilty Couple 🎧 ★★★
  9. Dabos, Christelle – De Storm van de Echo’s (De Spiegelpassante #4) ★★★★

🎧 Lovett, London – Ice Cold Killer (Frostfall Island Cozy Mystery #3) ★★★

Genre: Mystery

Winter has blanketed Frostfall Island and while most of the tourists are long gone, there is still plenty of activity.
A hockey tournament brings a large group of ice enthusiasts to Frostfall. Anna and the gang are looking forward to the diversion. Aside from adding a bit of chaos to an otherwise sleepy, snow-covered island, the event stirs up controversy and brings to light old family grievances.
When Simon Snowstone, the richest man on the island, is found dead in his home, Anna soon finds herself snow deep in a murder case. Now she must untangle a family history to find out who killed the family patriarch.

Another great book in this series.
The island setting works really well to create the cozy village atmosphere, with a solid cast of characters and where everyone knows everyone. At the same time, there’s always a reason why outsiders come to visit, which then leads to grim and ominous situations that make for a juicy murder mystery.

The overly confident but wildly incompetent detective from the mainland does not fail to provide the comic relief, while Anna and her boarding house guests provide familiarity and warmth.
I am very curious if something will come from the storyline about Anna’s missing husband!

🎧 Dade, Olivia – Ship Wrecked (Spoiler Alert #3) ★★★

Genre: Romance

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand—and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.

This was okay.
The beginning was nice, but it dragged a bit. Didn’t like the final conflict at all, and it got a bit too sickly sweet for my taste.
I did really liked the not so veiled jabs towards Game of Thrones, especially the one in the epilogue about not being able to see due to it being too bright!
All in all, just a nice in between book.

Dabos, Christelle – De Ijzige Verloofde (De Spiegelpassante #1) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

Note: book translated to English as A Winter’s Promise

Long ago, following a cataclysm called “The Rupture,” the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands. Known now as Arks, each has developed in distinct ways; each seems to possess its own unique relationship to time, such that nowadays vastly different worlds exist, together but apart. And over all of the Arks the spirit of an omnipotent ancestor abides.

Ophelia lives on Anima, an ark where objects have souls. Beneath her worn scarf and thick glasses, the young girl hides the ability to read and communicate with the souls of objects, and the power to travel through mirrors. Her peaceful existence on the Ark of Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, from the powerful Dragon clan. Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancée to the floating capital on the distant Ark of the Pole. Why has she been chosen? Why must she hide her true identity? Though she doesn’t know it yet, she has become a pawn in a deadly plot.

Having trouble concentrating on anything new and wanting to read the last part of this series with as many memories as possible, I decided to read the whole series again, starting with book 1, of course.

When I re-read this book, it read a lot more smoothly than the first time, and I already loved it back then. The things that I found difficult to read at the time, I could now place much better, but I still found the characters too caricatured to really feel emotionally involved with them. The world and everything that comes with it makes up for a lot and also makes me want to dive straight into the sequel.

🎧 Bardugo, Leigh – Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. A dropout and the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved crime, Alex was hoping for a fresh start. But a free ride to one of the world’s most prestigious universities was bound to come with a catch.

Alex has been tasked with monitoring the mysterious activities of Yale’s secret societies – well-known haunts of the rich and powerful. Now there’s a dead girl on campus and Alex seems to be the only person who won’t accept the neat answer the police and campus administration have come up with for her murder.

Because Alex knows the secret societies are far more sinister and extraordinary than anyone ever imagined. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And sometimes they prey on the living …

This was really good!
This is me, sounding surprised, because I wasn’t really expecting that I would like this. I hoped I would, and when I saw the hype online about the sequel coming out in 2023, I decided to prioritise.. To get into it a little easier, I decided to read it as an audiobook, and this worked perfectly!

Let me premise this by stating that this is a really dark book. It tackles a couple of very heavy themes, but I thought they were all handled or at least framed very well.

In the end, this story turned out to be everything that draws me to the dark academia genre. Atmospheric, menacing and mysterious.

The way Bardugo introduces us to the elite academic world of Yale, through the perspective of a rather atypical main character, made me feel like I was being introduced to the world myself. And on the one hand it is very grounded in our reality, but on the other hand it is also interspersed with mysterious societies and dark magic.
The story starts quite slow and I admit it took me a bit of effort to get into it, but from page one there are so many intriguing elements that made me curious enough to read on. When mystery after mystery emerges, all of which are all intertwined in an intriguing way, I was completely sold.

Now I’m also so hyped for the sequel, especially with that teasing ending!

Dabos, Christelle – De Vermisten van Maneschijn (De Spiegelpassante #2) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

Note: book translated to English as The Missing of Clairdelune

Book Two in the Internationally Bestselling Mirror Visitor Quartet

When our heroine Ophelia is promoted to Vice-storyteller by Farouk, the ancestral Spirit of Pole, she finds herself unexpectedly thrust into the public spotlight and her special gift is revealed to all. Ophelia knows how to read the secret history of objects and there could be no greater threat to the nefarious denizens of her icy adopted home than this. Beneath the golden rafters of Pole’s capitol, Citaceleste, she discovers that the only person she may be able to trust is Thorn, her enigmatic fiancé. As one after another influential courtier disappears, Ophelia again finds herself unintentionally implicated in an investigation that will lead her to see beyond Pole’s many illusions to the heart of the formidable truth.

Book 2 also reread very quickly. I keep having the same criticism about the caricatured characters, although I now know what they remind me of. For some reason I imagine them as characters from a Miyazaki film.
The world remains really super interesting and I’m so curious how everything will be explained.

Dabos, Christelle – Het geheugen van Babel (De Spiegelpassante #3) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

Note: translated to English as The Memory of Babel

In this gripping third volume of the Christelle Dabos’s best-selling saga, Ophelia, the mirror-traveling heroine, finds herself on the ark of Babel guarding a secret that may provide a key both to the past and the future.

After two years and seven months biding her time on Anima, her home ark, it is finally time to act, to put what she has discovered in the Book of Farouk to use. Under an assumed identity she travels to Babel, a cosmopolitan and thoroughly modern ark that is the jewel of the universe.

Will Ophelia’s talent as a reader suffice to avoid being lured into a deadly trap by her ever more fearful adversaries? Will she ever see Thorn, her betrothed, again?

Glad to read again, thanks to the fact that we are learning more and more about god and the other. I did like it a little less than previous books. Too many new characters and too few developments or even mentions of previously introduced characters.
Now I’m ready for the finale! I’m on the edge of my seat.

🎧 James, Simone St. – The Book of Cold Cases ★★★

Genre: Mystery

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases–a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

A true crime blogger gets more than she bargained for while interviewing the woman acquitted of two cold case slayings in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

Hmm, this was really only so for me.
My unenthusiastic response stems from the fact (spoiler) that part of the mystery must be sought in the supernatural. While I am someone who likes fantasy and ghost stories, it seems like I can’t stand it as a solution in contemporary thrillers. This is mostly a me problem, and not so much one of the book, which ultimately tells a compelling and smooth story.

🎧 Taylor, C.L. – The Guilty Couple ★★★

Genre: Thriller

Five years ago, Olivia Sutherland was wrongfully convicted of plotting to murder her husband.

Now she’s finally free, Olivia has three goals: repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, clear her name, and bring down her husband – the man who framed her.

Just how far is she willing to go to get what she wants? And how far will her husband go to stop her? Because his lies run deeper than Olivia could ever have imagined – and this time it’s not her freedom that’s in jeopardy, but her life…

What an intriguing and infuriating premise, that pulled me in from the start.
Overall a good read, but there were just a bit too many characters that distracted from the main story. Plus, I also have such a hard time understanding the hateful motives behind it.
Nice at the moment, but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

Dabos, Christelle – De Storm van de Echo’s (De Spiegelpassante #4) ★★★★

Genre: YA Fantasy

Note: translated to English as The Storm of Echoes

In this thrilling finale to the Mirror Visitor saga, Christelle Dabos takes us on a journey to the heart of a great game to which the all-too-human affairs of her book’s protagonists are ominously connected.

The distrust between them has been overcome and now Ophelia and Thorn love each other passionately. However, they must keep their love hidden. Only in this way can they continue their journeys toward an understanding of the indecipherable code of God and the truth behind the mysterious figure of the Other, whose devastating power continues to bring down entire pieces of arks, plunging thousands of innocents into the void.

Ophelia and Thorn arrive at the observatory of the Deviations, an institute shrouded in absolute secrecy and overseen by a sect of mystical scientists who secretly conduct terrifying experiments. There, Ophelia and Thorn hope to discover truths that will halt the destruction and death and bring the world back into balance.

What a rollercoaster with unfortunately a bit of a lackluster ending.

What I loved was the fact that the author actually had an answer for all the questions asked throughout this series. Everything is explained nicely and clearly and every plot point is neatly rounded off with a bow. Very elegant and satisfying.

What I liked less was how the characters were handled, or even in many cases just not at all.
The emphasis clearly was on the plot where the author strove to have everything come together in a well-rounded and thought out story. But this left little to no room for the characters, their emotions or development.
This has actually been a bit of an issue throughout the entire series, where characters are very caricatural and their relationships have little to no build-up. This series is partly marketed as a love-story between Ophelia and Thorn, but they hardly ever have any scene’s together and when they do, they are rather brusque and emotionless.
The epilogue tries to round off all the character stories, but it just doesn’t cut it.

Overall, this book – and this entire series – gets 5 stars for creativity and world building, 3 stars for characters and interpersonal relationships. So a 4 is a nice average.