Oh, December. Month of merrymaking, joy, and reading slumps. I’m never able to close out the year as strongly as I’d like, distracted by school breaks and seasonal activities. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get any books checked off my TBR, completing four books and rounding my 2016 total to 48. Not too shabby, but in 2017 I’m aiming for the stars. This includes expanding my reading horizons, which I made quick work of in December by completing a mystery, nonfiction, and two contemporaries. Hopefully this trend continues! So on that note…let’s cut to the books!
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro- 2 stars
A Study in Charlotte is not a “bad” book by any stretch. It has a worthwhile mystery, strong dialogue, and promising writing. But what it does lack is a certain wow factor, something to make it stand above the masses. Even me, as a person largely unfamiliar with Sherlock Holmes lore, was aware of all the Holmes inspired plot points Cavallaro threw at us readers. I can only imagine how tedious the story would be if you’re a die hard fan. There’s no new twist on Holmes and Watson (beyond the former being a girl), which is especially problematic considering Cavallaro’s rendering of them is paper thin. What little I did learn about the two only made me like them less, and care little about their hijinks. With that being said, the ending was awesome and really blew open a lot of plot points I’m interested in for book #2. Whether or not I’ll read The Last of August remains to be seen, but it’s definitely a possibility.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin- 4 stars
I have almost nothing to compare Most Dangerous to (a nonfiction reader I am not), however I know a good story when it hits me in the face. Though you definitely must be interested in the book’s conflict, Steve Sheinkin excels in presenting information in an engaging, while still educational, manner. I learned so much about the Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers, as Sheinkin’s laser sharp narrative offers an unbiased and unfiltered perspective bent only on the truth. Better than any technical merit I can give, let me say this for the book: it made me angry. Really and truly mad at this pivotal point in America covered up by politics and slanted views. That is the true mark of a successful story; when it makes you want to get up and do something. My only minor (minor!) complaint? How I feel Sheinkin missed an opportunity to bring his points full circle. By not fleshing out recent whistleblowers I think he lost a bit of the extra gravity that could have been given to this book. All in all though, this was excellent!
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis- 3 stars
No book left me more conflicted in 2016 than The Female of the Species. It’s an incredibly important and invaluable book, one I believe everyone should read. Likewise, I think Mindy McGinnis is one of the few authors who could tell this story aptly. However (in my opinion) this isn’t “technically” a good book. And the problem lies, I believe, in the current state of YA publishing. In an effort to give this book a broader reach, it’s marketed as some kind of Dexter-esque revenge story. And while that’s fine (and actually seems like a really awesome book!), it offers very little to the story McGinnis set out to tell. The same goes for the romance which, while full of palpable chemistry, has no purpose here. And really, I’m supposed to believe a homicidal teen girl is going to be completely secure in a relationship within two weeks? Never mind that it’s also with her high school’s resident dreamboat? Yeah, no. However I still think TFotS is a necessary read, and one with a vital takeaway.
True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan- 2 stars
A lot of people are comparing True Letters from a Fictional Life to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but I would say it’s more closely related to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Not as humorous or noteworthy, but similar in regards to tone/message/character dynamics. Ultimately though the biggest problem with Kenneth Logan’s debut is how flat it falls on every note. There’s no real reason for anyone to pick it up, as it offers a very black and white take on coming out that’s been done countless times beforee. It’s inexcusably dull, essentially because there is no discernible plot (it’s really just a character study of James). Equally problematic is James himself, who offers up nothing for readers to sympathize with or relate to. Oh, and the letters (as well as their repercussions) have little baring on the story itself. This one’s cute in places, but don’t feel like you’re missing anything by skipping out.
What did you read in December? Anything worth me checking out? Let me know in the comments!