books in piles

What I Read: January 2023

I’ve been wanting to get back to my monthly book wrap-ups for the longest time, so here I am. January was a free-for-all, but I’ve already planned themes for coming months. 

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
I follow the official Agatha Christie account on Twitter and Instagram, which runs a kind of informal book club. A different book is picked each month, following a certain theme. January’s was jealousy and upon finishing the book I didn’t really feel it was the best example to illustrate this emotion. You could argue that certain characters are motivated by envy, but I feel a better theme (and motivation) would have been greed. In a rare moment for reading Christie, I figured out the killer. There was another character I strongly suspected, and I did veer between them and the actual killer, but despite this uncertainty I still figured out the killer’s twist. Was it too obvious or am I just reading so much detective fiction that I’m getting better at spotting hints? What can be said for certain is that Christie definitely follows the rules of fair play.

Pizza Lover’s Mystery #1: A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender
Staying in the murder mystery realm, I started a new cosy mystery series. The title is quite cheesy (forgive the pun), but I enjoyed it. Set in North Carolina, the story follows all the usual tropes of this contemporary take on the genre: amateur female sleuth, best female friend (in this case her sister), love interest, and infuriated cop.  And yes, I did finish this book and then make pizza.

Coming Up for Air by George Orwell
Since I’ll be dedicating February to murder mysteries, I wanted to take the opportunity to read something else. And I generally try to vary my reading and not stay in one genre for too long – unless I’m following a theme or challenge, of course. Published in 1939, this book was written in the build-up to World War II with a self-absorbed yet insightful protagonist bemoaning where his life is and where the world is headed – all made quite eerie (when read today) by the accurate prediction that the world would change almost irrevocably after another war. I chose this book in an attempt to buy fewer books and read what’s actually on my shelf (and because I love Orwell!). Only upon starting did I realise the irony of reading Orwell while working on another season of Big Brother. I breezed through this because his writing is so flawless and gripping and his observations about life and society so astute.

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Shedunnit Book Club pick
And it was back to detective fiction. I’ve been wanting to join the book club associated with the Shedunnit podcast for a long time. I’d also never read Sayers. I enjoyed this book and I liked that her detective Lord Peter Wimsey is completely different from Poirot. Sayers’s tone is more light-hearted than Christie’s, at least in this book, which is also her first Wimsey novel. It’s only one book and admittedly I’ve read a ton more Christie, but so far I prefer the latter. I know it’s a lot of comparisons to make, but it’s inevitable since they wrote in the same genre at the same time.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Having nothing else to do on the set of Reyka season 2, waiting to interview the actors (set life!) I finished Whose Body? and started The Gun Seller. I bought this because I adore Laurie both in his comedic British work and also as the title character in House. This book’s tone and style are pure Laurie, leaning closer to the quippy humor of the former (although even House was very quippy if a lot more mean-spirited). It was hugely entertaining although I was confused by some of the outdated technology referenced…until I realised the book was published in 1996 which made the mention of typewriters make slightly more sense (although even by then they’d become quite outdated).

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I watched the movie adaptation years and years ago. I love the magical realism genre, and this was one of my first introductions to it. I first came across the genre in high school or varsity (I can’t remember which). The set work was another book set in this genre (for the life of me I can’t remember which book), but our teacher played Like Water for Chocolate to further illustrate the genre’s conventions. I loved the movie and have always wanted to read the book upon which it is based, and this was my chance since it’s been on my shelf for some time. I loved it and was even more delighted that it came with recipes. The book unfolds in twelve chapters, each representing a different month and told through the ingredients and making of a recipe. Alongside the twelve main recipes are others for homemade remedies and even matches. I just wish that the book could have been longer and the periods between each chapter (it tends to time jump between them), fleshed out.

Sweet Valley University #10: No Means No by Laurie John
A re-read and my childhood book for the month. As per usual, I remembered a lot of the plot points very well. What I didn’t remember was how insightful and sensitive this book was in dealing with the treatment of women, especially with regards to sexual relations and date rape. Of course, I was much younger when I first read it, so not as conscious of the important commentary it was making, but hopefully, in my youth, I was still absorbing its important messages.

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