Read in December 2023

December is always a bit of a strange reading month for me.
On the one hand, I am in a kind of completionist phase, where I still want to complete as many series as possible so that I can cross them off my list. On the other hand, I also feel a kind of brake, where I feel like reading certain books, but I hold myself back because I’m unsure if I’ll be able to finish them before the end of the month. Carrying over books between months I already find difficult, so carrying them over between two years feels too much, lol.

So yes, in that sense it was good that I had started reading such a successful YA series in November, which meant that I immediately had two books in December that I would certainly be able to complete. In addition, there was a new reading club, where I read a book that I had already had on my shelf for a while because it intimidated me. Otherwise, this is a good month to read short story collections!

And so in December I read 11 books, amounting to 4318 pages. The average December book comes to 393 pages/book.

For ratings it was a fairly average month, with the average December book getting 3.3 stars.

In terms of target audience, I varied between 4 Young Adults and 7 adult books.

As always, I also varied in reading format, with 3 ebooks, 6 audiobooks and 2 physically owned books.

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

For the language I stuck to English again and I didn’t read a single book in my native tongue of Flemish/Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in MONTH 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! Sometimes I will also hide spoilers behind a black band, which you can read by selecting the text like here!

  1. Harper, Jane – Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) 🎧 ★★★★
  2. Hannah, Sophie – Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #5) 🎧 ★★
  3. Wang, M.L. – The Sword of Kaigen ★★★★
  4. Griffiths, Elly – Bleeding Heart Yard (Harbinder Kaur #3) 🎧 ★★
  5. Shusterman, Neal – Gleanings (Arc of a Scythe #3,5) ★★★
  6. White, Kiersten – The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) 🎧 ★★★★
  7. White, Kiersten – The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3) 🎧 ★★★
  8. Bardugo, Leigh – The Language of Thorns ( #) ★★★
  9. Jewell, Lisa – None of This is True 🎧 ★★★★
  10. Hallett, Janice – The Christmas Appeal ★★★
  11. Coldbreath, Alice – A Contracted Spouse for the Prizefighter (Victorian Prizefighters #3) ★★★★

🎧 Harper, Jane – Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) ★★★★

Genre: Mysterie

At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.

A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems.

Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

I think book three, and as far as I know also the last book, in the Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper is my favorite of the three.
Harper knows better than anyone how to build a character-driven story. The mysteries in this story are built up very slowly, while there is always an undercurrent of tension. Excellent storytelling.

🎧 Hannah, Sophie – Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #5) ★★

Genre: Mysterie

It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why.

Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, someone else – someone utterly ruthless – also has ideas about what ought to happen to Hercule Poirot . . .

This was just ok.
A good companion to listen to while crafting, but not really memorable. It is also one of those books where you just swallow everything while you are reading, but as soon as you stop and think about something, it starts to seriously show cracks. This one didn’t really succeed in giving me that typical Agatha Christie/cozy mystery feeling either.

Wang, M.L. – The Sword of Kaigen ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

On a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful fighters in the world, warriors capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For centuries, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their treacherous spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’
Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always know his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru ralizes that he might not have much time before he has to become the fighter he was bred to be. Even worse, the empire he was born to defend might stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of invasion looming on the horizon, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies ever reach their shores?

You could already read my review for this book here!

🎧 Griffiths, Elly – Bleeding Heart Yard (Harbinder Kaur #3) ★★

Genre: Mysterie

A murderer strikes at a school reunion–but the students are no strangers to death– in this propulsive, twisty thriller from the internationally bestselling author of the Ruth Galloway Mysteries

Is it possible to forget that you’ve committed a murder?

When Cassie Fitzgerald was at school in the late 90s, she and her friends killed a fellow student. Almost twenty years later, Cassie is a happily married mother who loves her job–as a police officer. She closely guards the secret she has all but erased from her memory.

One day her husband finally persuades her to go to a school reunion. Cassie catches up with her high-achieving old friends from the Manor Park School–among them two politicians, a rock star, and a famous actress. But then, shockingly, one of them, Garfield Rice, is found dead in the school bathroom, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent–and controversial–MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur, freshly promoted and newly arrived in London. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of them has killed again.

Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like it has nothing to do with Manor Park and she seems to be succeeding.

Until someone else from the reunion is found dead in Bleeding Heart Yard…

This started out interesting, but I actually lost interest pretty quickly. The characters did not appeal to me at all and the story as a whole was quite boring. The final reveals didn’t really save it for me either

Shusterman, Neal – Gleanings (Arc of a Scythe #3,5) ★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

The New York Times bestselling Arc of the Scythe series continues with “captivating…thrilling” ( School Library Journal ) stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge!

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years, humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor–winning Scythe truly is.

I loved the Arc of a Scythe series back when I read it in 2018/2019. I was a bit surprised to find out another book had come out in 2022, considering it was a well-rounded trilogy, but seeing it are additional short stories, it does make sense, since I do feel this world has a lot more tales to tell.
And all in all, I did enjoy reading these little extra’s, but I do feel that they would have been more to my enjoyment if I had read this closer to the original series.

🎧 White, Kiersten – The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

The second book in a new fantasy trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White, exploring the nature of self, the inevitable cost of progress, and, of course, magic and romance and betrayal so epic Queen Guinevere remains the most famous queen who never lived.

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

Against my expectations, this book does not immediately dive back into the story as set up by the end of the first book, but we get a couple of side-quests and storylines that some may find annoying because they did not progress the story, but I did quite enjoy it.
I love the alterations made to the Arthurian myth and the underlying message about the costs of progress, man versus nature.

“How unfortunate that nature was both the most peaceful and the most dangerous place possible. But that was its duality. It gave life and it took it, provided and withheld, offered beauty and danger in equal measure. Camelot was safe and ordered and structured, so many things put in place to separate people from nature. Roofs and walls. Pipes for water. Swords with men to wield them. The separation was a protection but also a loss.”

Being a YA-book, there were a couple of things that got handled way too quickly or made my adult eyes roll in my head, but overall I really enjoyed this meandering book. The ending was excellent, perfectly setting up the finale!

🎧 White, Kiersten – The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3) ★★★

Genre: Fantasy

The gripping conclusion to an Arthurian fantasy trilogy finds Guinevere questioning everything—friends and enemies, good and evil, and, most of all, herself.

While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere—it’s what’s been buried inside her.

Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.

Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past…even if it means destroying herself.

Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen—but what does it mean to be just a girl?

It’s a bit of a shame that the conclusion of this trilogy was also the weakest book. While this was still an enjoyable read, it was ultimately sloppy and somewhat disappointing, lacking charm and emotional depth.

The author clearly wants to convey a number of messages and make the book more culturally relevant, but she overplayed her hand a bit.
Characters suddenly start behaving differently and relationships are suddenly revealed out of nowhere, to the detriment of the overarching story, which ends up being handled a little too easily.

Although this finale stumbles across the finish line a bit, I am still glad that I finished this series. Absolutely admirable how the Arthurian legend was reinvented, resulting in a very unique and diverse story.

Bardugo, Leigh – The Language of Thorns ( #) ★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times—bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

For the last assignment in my Adventure in Aeldia I needed a book with a fox on the cover or in the title, so when I saw this one still unread on my bookshelf, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Moreover, there is something about the Christmas period that makes me want to read short stories, especially if they are fairy tales.

This was a really nice read. Very cozy, dark fairy tales, often with a small hint to a well-known fairy tale or myth.
The illustrations are also definitely an added value. The illustration gets something extra on each subsequent page, which is fun to discover together with the developments in the story itself.

Individual ratings:

  1. Ayama and the Thorn Wood – 4★
  2. The Too Clever Fox – 3.5★
  3. The Witch of Duva – 3.5★
  4. Little Knife – 3★
  5. The Solider Prince – 3.5★
  6. When Water Sang Fire – 4.5★

🎧 Jewell, Lisa – None of This is True ★★★★

Genre: Thriller

Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?

This was already the sixth book I read by this author. They were all always very immersive and this one was certainly no exception.
The audiobook made it all the more compelling, especially for the podcast and true crime show portions.

The story itself is one that is divisive.
Without spoiling anything, there are quite a few morally questionable characters and at times it was difficult to separate my opinion of these people and their actions from my opinion of the story. This is a compliment to the author, because this means that she completely engaged me and her characters truly read like real people. So I absolutely cannot question her writing talent!

What I do question is what on earth was true about the whole story?!
As a reader you are presented with various options and at the end additional doubt is cast on the story. This was clearly planned, given the title of the book. Really well conceived and executed!

Hallett, Janice – The Christmas Appeal ★★★

Genre: Mysterie

One dead Santa. A town full of suspects. Will you discover the truth?

Christmas in Lower Lockwood, and the Fairway Players are busy rehearsing their festive pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, to raise money for the church roof appeal. But despite the season, goodwill is distinctly lacking amongst the amateur dramatics enthusiasts. Sarah-Jane is fending off threats to her new position as Chair, the fibreglass beanstalk might be full of asbestos, and a someone is intent on ruining the panto even before the curtain goes up.

Of course there’s also the matter of the dead body. Who could possibly have had the victim on their naughty list? Join lawyers Femi and Charlotte as they read the round robins, examine the emails and pore over the police transcripts. Will the show go on?

You may already know that I am a fan of Janice Hallett’s books. Her breakthrough “The Appeal” is her most popular work to date, although not my favorite, which is reserved for “The Twyford Code”. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t like” The Appeal”, on the contrary. So when I saw that a new story with the same characters had come out with a Christmas theme, of course I had to read it in December!

The structure of this story is quite similar to its predecessor.
Two legal assistants receive a file full of correspondence from their boss and they are asked what they conclude from this. As readers, we get to read the correspondence – consisting of e-mails, chat and text messages – in the same way, so that we can puzzle along.

The format again made this a very speedy and compelling read.
Unputdownable, since I always wanted to quickly read the next message and the next. There were no clear breaks in the story, so I finished the book in no time.
And the messages! Some of them were so wonderfully catty and snippy, revealing so much about the characters and their relationships. Very ingeniously done.

However, in the end, I thought the final uncovered story was not that interesting. Its impact was minimal and it all felt quite pointless.

Coldbreath, Alice – A Contracted Spouse for the Prizefighter (Victorian Prizefighters #3) ★★★★

Genre: Romantiek

Theodora knows in her heart that she has star quality but sadly, no-one else in her theatrical family feels the same way. When her sister, leaves to get married, Theo is promptly axed from the bill and expected to take a back seat in the family business.
Clem Dabney, aspiring theatre owner and ex-prizefighter has built up his supper and song business as far as he can take it. In order to expand he now needs a theatre. When Theodora appears before him with her outrageous proposition, he sees his chance and devil take the consequences.
Their marriage is purely a business arrangement, so Theo is not worried about Clem’s reputation and Clem is not concerned about Theo’s distinct lack of feminine charm. Now that’s all settled and out of the way, both agree things should be straightforward enough… Why then, is Clem acting the jealous husband when Theo finds herself among a throng of new admirers?

Another one I read to check off a series.
At first I wanted to save up this book, because I am almost through this author’s backlist and I wanted to keep a book on hand for a rainy day. But on the other hand, I find the end of December a difficult time to start a book. I want something not too taxing and that I can finish before the new year, because I don’t like to carry over books. So in the end this turned out to be the perfect candidate from my TBR, while also contributed to a reading goal!

And yes, this one was just as great as the previous books.
Surprising, extremely original and fun to read. A bit long-winded perhaps, with too many additional characters and unnecessary drama, but in the end it did exactly what I wanted it to do: entertain and transport me, without having to think too much, while definitely not being a dime a dozen romance.

I’m a fan! And I hope there will be more books in this series!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.