Weekly Reads – December 18, 2022

It’s almost Christmas and things are in full gear here!

The kids are done with school of 2022, which we are all happy about. Last night, we had a party for the Girl Scouts and this afternoon I’m off to a holiday tea with some friends. Unfortunately, we have some appointments early in the week (including a trip to the DMV…yuck!), but we’re going to spend the last half of the week decorating cookies, making candy, and putting together some gifts for friends and neighbors.

Last week, I said I was going to get all my gift wrapping done and…I’m almost there. In my defense, I had some gifts arrive late after I did my big bout of wrapping. But, I still have Pat’s stocking stuffers to wrap and then I may boot the remaining gifts and the kids’ stocking stuffers over to him to finish. I did have an epiphany! We have lived in this house for 15 years and just this year I realized that the kitchen island is the perfect height for gift wrapping! I was able to dedicate much more time to the task before my back started hurting. Win!

And now, onto the books!

As usual, I’m linking up with Kathryn at Book Date and her It’s Monday…What Are You Reading? blog hop.

Last week, I finished reading:

Murder for Christmas (Mordecai Tremain #2 or 4) by Francis Duncan
Date finished: December 14, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/B

I’ve been leaning hard into Golden Age mysteries this Christmas season, and this one popped up unexpectedly on my radar. My curiosity was piqued enough–and the price was low enough–for me to pick it up and try it.

I have never heard of Francis Duncan, nor was I familiar with his detective, Mordecai Tremaine. But it has to be good with a name like that, right?

Well, mostly. This is actually a charming and truly Christmas-y mystery. It is so Christmas-y that the victim is Santa Claus himself! Sort of. It also has all the hallmarks of a good Golden Age mystery; an English manor setting, a diverse group of characters who aren’t really connected to each other, and a memorable sleuth in the middle.

Mordecai Tremaine is fun–I think the best description is that he would be the offspring of a Poirot and Hastings mating. He has Poirot’s mind but Hasting’s eye (for the ladies). He also seems the sort of person that people instinctually like. This is not the first of his mysteries. Depending on where you look, this is either the second or fourth book in the series. While I’m not holding this against the book, I do feel like starting here robs the reader of crucial parts of Tremaine’s backstory.

The mystery itself is strong and definitely delivers the holiday feels. However, it isn’t perfect. I had trouble keeping the characters’ cast straight at the book’s beginning. This is an issue I rarely have with Christie novels, so it isn’t just a byproduct of a large cast. I’m also not sure that Duncan played completely fair with this. Once I finished the novel and tried to think back to see if I could have figured it out (I actually guessed the culprit, but not because of anything in the narrative), I didn’t think the necessary clues were really there. Finally, the “reveal scene” lacked nuance. It was just a long recitation by Tremaine that quickly became boring.

I’m still glad I read this and would be open to reading other Mordecai Tremaine novels. For what it was, it was an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t quite match up to the greats of the Golden Age.

The Last Party (DC Morgan #1) by Clare Mackintosh
Date finished: December 15, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/B

The term “popcorn thriller” refers to thrillers that are fun to read but don’t stick with you. This is a buttery tub of literary popcorn.

I enjoyed this book. It is fairly fast-paced, and Mackintosh kept the reveals and twists coming at a good pace. It is also incredibly soapy. I don’t know how any book that features this many secrets among its cast of characters can not be soapy. This isn’t a bad thing–I did enjoy it. However, once it was over, it was easy to put this down and move on to the next title. I will admit that I never felt completely immersed in this story as if I was always watching it from the outside. Again, for this sort of book, that’s not a huge sin but rather another reason I would put it under the Popcorn Thriller umbrella.

This is the first in the DC Ffion Morgan series–which I found somewhat perplexing because Ffion’s partner (for this case) seemed to carry more weight. However, it also takes place in a small Welsh town and Ffion, not her partner, is from that town. I do wish the town was more fully realized. Mackintosh spends much time in the new resort development on the English side of the lake but little time in the town. Considering the role of so many townsfolk in this story, I found that quite strange.

Much of the action in this book takes place around New Year’s, so if you are looking for something fun to read between Christmas and the end of the year, this would be an excellent choice. It is an enjoyable read, as long as you don’t ask it to be more than it is.

Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman (Forward by Emma Thompson)
Date finished: December 17, 2022
Rating: Ratings do not apply here

Folks, I didn’t do a formal review of this. I just can’t. I will include a bit about it in my YouTube video for this week.. I feel like I have to talk through this, but I will give you the nitty gritty. Alan Rickman could write and he lived an amazing life. The fact that his widow gave this gift to the world is something for which I will always be grateful. I just can’t review it–it wasn’t written to be published and I think applying my rating scale to it is just downright disrespectful.

I enjoyed reading this, but I felt such loss. He was such a talent–not just on the screen, but also on the page. Because Goodreads (and Storygraph, and the like) require a rating, I did give a 5 or 4.5 star rating. Where I could give it a 4.5, the .5 is only because there were a few points where I suspected there may have been some editorial overreach.

Look, if you are are a fan, or have even heard of Alan Rickman, get this book. Even if it just sits on your bookshelf, it will be an asset to your world.

Sadie by Courtney Summers (narrated by a full cast)
Date finished: December 17, 2022
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/B

I tried reading this book a few years ago and quickly gave up. I thought this would stay a DNF, but I was convinced to try the audio, and–yes–that is the way to go on this! In fact, I wonder why this wasn’t an audio-only release.

Let’s start off with trigger warnings for violence, substance abuse, and child sexual abuse. These topics are hard, especially the last one, so take care.

I appreciated that Summers tackled this story head-on. There were so many possible exit ramps where Summer could have taken the easier, softer way out. Yet, she persevered and told a story that played out realistically.

I enjoyed the podcast setup for this, which is why I think that audio is the only way to go with this. They used a full cast instead of just one or two narrators, which made it feel more like a podcast than an audiobook, and most of the performances were strong (there were a couple of one-liners here and there that didn’t land quite right but that’s no big deal).

My frustrations with the book come more from my own preferences than from any shortcomings on the story’s part. Sadie makes decisions that I think are incredibly stupid, although I recognize that they are decisions that a teenager would make. Generally, Young Adult is not a genre that I read right now, and this is a strong Young Adult book that sometimes reminds you that it is a Young Adult Book. While I would never knock a book for being what it is, it isn’t something I enjoy.

I can recognize the many strengths of this book, and I would recommend it to others. It just wasn’t the type of book for me right now.

Right now, I’m currently reading:

I’ll only be posting this video this week. This period right before Christmas is just so busy and I have so much on my plate to finish. I will be posting my weekly update video next Saturday, instead of Sunday. I’ll write this post ahead of time and then schedule it for Sunday night as usual.

Anyway, here is what I’m currently reading…and my thoughts about Madly, Deeply.

12 thoughts on “Weekly Reads – December 18, 2022

    1. I’m almost done with wrapping. However, I can now blame my husband for my not being finished. He took all the wrapping paper into his office and I’m not allowed to go in and get any because my gifts are there. Ha!

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    1. Well, I’m finally done with cards and I’ve wrapped all the gifts I can wrap now because my husband has all the wrapping paper, so I guess I’m ready for Christmas? Maybe?

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  1. I read Murder for Christmas last year around this time I think. I remember thinking I kinda wanted to try more but haven’t yet. I think your review is pretty on. The MacIntosh one sounds good too. Another author I’ve been wanting to try…

    Wishing you a wonderfil and merry Christmas!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Francis Duncan is now on my “Maybe I’ll read more…someday…” list. It was enjoyable enough for me to want to read more, but it didn’t wow me to actively hunt down more books. Merry Christmas!

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  2. Our holiday plans are now up in the air with everyone being sick. It may be a very small family gathering this year. I am just waiting on one more gift to arrive (a book that is released today) and then I’m good to go. Every year, I divide the stocking stuffers into separate bags early on so when Christmas Eve comes I can quickly stuff the stockings with everything. My daughter is often up later than I am these days so it’s easier just to fill them while she’s showering and then my husband can take them down after she’s asleep. It was so much easier when she was younger! I can’t wait to get my stocking. Mrs. Claus always stuffs mine herself and she knows exactly what I might like. 😉 I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Melinda! Thank you you for the card!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your card as well!

      Yes, Christmas was much easier with smaller kids, which is surprising. Another thing that made it easier for me…I tossed out the Christmas Dinner tradition when the kids were little. They didn’t want to stop playing with their toys to eat and I didn’t want to check out of the festivities to cook, so I just did Christmas brunch. However, this year the kids are older, want a dinner, and my daughter informed me that she hates the casserole I always made for brunch…so dinner is back on the docket. Fortunately, it is just the 4 of us, so I chose to do something fairly easy.

      Merry Christmas!

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About Melinda