πŸ“š Books Read, Mar 2024

My thoughts on the books I read in March 2024:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. What a fun book. It’s every bit as good as the Muppet movie (which is spectacular). The diabolically charming Long John Silver steals the show.


Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

⭐⭐

Lifeless characters. Uninteresting mystery.

πŸ“š Books Read, Feb 2024

My thoughts on the books I read in February 2024:

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

⭐⭐⭐1/2

I appreciate the ideas in this book, I just wish they weren’t so broad and vague. Not enough detail. And not enough data. I want actionable and specific policies, written in plain language.


The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a standalone novel (no Poirot or Marple). The book crosses genres. It’s a little adventure, thriller, mystery, and romance. I found the plucky protagonist endearing. It’s not difficult to figure out who the Colonel is, but the journey is fun. Unfortunately, the ending was too “happily-ever-after.”


Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie

⭐⭐⭐

Not the best Poirot mystery. Good Poirot-Hastings-Japp interplay.

(minor spoiler πŸ‘‡)

Death by corn knife is an embarrassing way to go.

πŸ“š Books Read, Jan 2024

My thoughts on the books I read in January 2024:

A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Like many Christie novels, I guessed the gist of the mystery without placing all the smaller details perfectly. This novel reaffirms my theory that while the best Poirots might be better than the best Marples, the Marples are overall more consistent in their quality.


Post Office by Charles Bukowski

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My first time reading a Bukowski novel, and I loved it. The main character is Henry Chinaski, an alcoholic misanthrope with a brilliant intellect and no drive. I think we all have known a Chinaski at some pointβ€”someone who can be fun to be around, but whose demons ultimately bring everyone down.


The Only One Left by Riley Sager

⭐1/2

This book is infuriating. Excessive descriptions of mundane details do not add suspense. Withholding information that is commonly known and referenced by every character does not make for a good reveal. Stop beating around the bush and just tell us. The only saving grace is how self-aware the novel becomes by the end by leaning into the laughable and gratuitous twists.

🌌 Notes from Reading Light Bringer by Pierce Brown

(major spoilers below)

Light Bringer is a bit of a course correction after the Iron Gold and Dark Age flops. Quicksilver and The Figment were ditched. Sevro was quickly freed from imprisonment (without any brainwashing). The Abomination was barely mentioned. Volsung FΓ‘ and the Ascomani turned out to be frauds and not real threats (Darrow defeated them in a day without an army). The story went back to Darrow and his friends against the baddies, and that is a good thing.

Lysander doesn’t work as a character. Brown wants to tell a villain origin story from the villain’s POV, but the villain is an emotionless, vanilla character who never garners an iota of reader sympathy. Lysander is boring and his many betrayals are predictable.

It was obvious from the get-go this would be Cassius’ redemption story. He rekindles his bromance with Darrow. He bonds with lowColors. He makes amends with Sevro. His beauty and fighting skills are brought up ad nauseam. So it’s unsurprising when his death comes, as his arc was wrapped up nicely.

The obviousness of Cassius’ death could be forgiven if he didn’t die for such a stupid reason. Lysander has shown us who he is over and over again. There are no redeemable qualities. Only a fool would trust him. Cassius being that fool takes away from the emotional impact of his death. There were attempted explanations for this — Cassius was Lysander’s mentor and saw him as a sort of replacement for his late brother Julian. It’s just not enough of a justification to forgive Cassius’ stupidity.

Overall, the book was only OK. It’s still riding the coattails of the original trilogy. That’s fine with me. The more Darrow and Sevro content I get, the happier I’ll be.

πŸ‰ Notes from Reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

(major spoilers ahead)

The mystery is set up as if it’s a whodunit — island cut off from the mainland at the time of the murder with finite suspects. But really only one suspect ever makes sense. The crimes are sexual in nature and perpetrated towards women, so the suspect can only be a man. There is only one male suspect of an age or physicality capable of pulling off the crimes.

The book goes way too hard on the shock and torture porn. Making the killer a serial rapist, murderer, and animal abuser with his own torture chamber almost pushes the novel into parody territory. It undermines the statement the book wants to make about the reality of violence towards women in Sweden.

The novel is a middle-aged man’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. Let’s look at Mikael Blomqvist’s life by the end of the book:

  • He has an ongoing, no-strings-attached sexual relationship with his best friend.
  • He has a summer fling with a schoolteacher.
  • He has a third sexual relationship with a young, badass, punk-rock hacker chick.
  • He is an expert sailor.
  • He owns an expensive flat in Stockholm and a custom-designed vacation cabin in the woods.
  • He solves a decades-old murder mystery, then gets to play savior to a wealthy family by not ratting them out.
  • He is the CEO of a counterculture investigative magazine with a wealthy and benevolent benefactor.
  • He is considered a martyr for journalistic ethics.
  • He uncovers Sweden’s financial crime conspiracy of the century.
  • He is a best-selling author and media darling.
  • He is father to a mature, self-reliant teenage daughter who loves and worships him despite his abandonment of her.

Despite all of the book’s flaws, I still found it riveting and enjoyed my time reading it. I think I’m going to avoid the sequels, at least for now.

πŸ“• Notes from Reading Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz has quite the rΓ©sumΓ©. He wrote for Poirot, created two successful TV shows (Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders), was selected by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to write two Sherlock Holmes novels, was selected by the Ian Fleming estate to write three James Bond novels, and wrote a bestselling teen spy series (Alex Rider).

(spoilers ahead)

The problem with doing the story within a story is that the reader will prefer one story to the other.

I guessed the Ryeland mystery correctly. I did not figure out the PΓΌnd mystery, but I thought it worked wonderfully.

PΓΌnd comes across as an imitation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot with none of the charm or personality. I imagine this was intentionally done considering the picture Horowitz paints of Alan Conway.

Despite Ryeland’s disapproval of Conway’s use of anagrams and Easter eggs, I quite enjoyed them (outside of the distasteful origin of PΓΌnd’s name, but again, that’s the point). I don’t think they “cheapen the writing” at all. The more little puzzles, the better. It only becomes a problem when Easter eggs and references are employed in lieu of a good story (cough Disney cough).

Horowitz’s ability to write a classic whodunit reminiscent of the Golden Age of murder mysteries and a modern mystery crime thriller all in the same book is very impressive. I prefer the puzzle-solving of a classic whodunit to the theatrics of a modern thriller.

πŸ“š Books I Read 2023

πŸ“š Books I Read 2023

Below is a list of the books I have read in 2023, so far. They are organized in reverse chronological order. When I finish a book, it gets added to the top of the list. Five stars is the highest rating, one is the lowest.

TitleAuthorFormatGenreSubgenreRatingNotes
The WagerDavid Grannebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The HollowAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
Murder in the Mews and Other StoriesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
Five Little PigsAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐The same recounting gets repeated over and over and over again. The ending is satisfying, but it's a slog to get to that point.
The Murder at the VicarageAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐I like Poirot as a character more than Marple, but the Marple mysteries tend to be more consistent than the Poirots. Poirot has higher highs, but lower lows.
Light BringerPierce Brownebookfictionfantasy⭐⭐⭐See my notes here.
The Moving FingerAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Quite the collection of characters. I was wrong about the killer.
Crook ManifestoColson Whiteheadebookfictioncrime drama⭐⭐⭐⭐The sequel to Harlem Shuffle. Whitehead is a two-time Pulitzer winner. Well worth a read.
The Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg Larssonpaperbackfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐See my notes here.
Moonflower MurdersAnthony Horowitzebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐I guessed the Pünd mystery, but not the Ryeland. Fantastic sequel. I want more books than just a trilogy. There are nine Pünd "novels." There should be nine Ryeland novels as well.
Magpie MurdersAnthony Horowitzebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Consists of a story within a story, so you get two mysteries for the price of one. See my notes here.
The RithmatistBrandon Sandersonebookfictionsci-fi/fantasy⭐⭐⭐A fun YA book. It's only the first in a forthcoming series, so it feels a bit incomplete.
4:50 from PaddingtonAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐A Miss Marple.
Whose Body?Dorothy Sayersebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Somewhat straightforward. At least Wimsey isn't boring.
Cards on the TableAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐One of the few Poirots that is unsolvable to the reader.
Evil Under the SunAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
Gaudy NightDorothy Sayersebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐If Vane is indeed based on the author's self, then boy did Sayers have an ego.
Dead Man's FollyAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
By the Pricking of My ThumbsAgatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐A Tommy and Tuppence. Weaker than the first two.
Murder in MesopotamiaAgatha Christieaudiobookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
The Autobiography of Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklinaudiobooknonfictionbiography⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐So many lessons to take away.
N or M?Agatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐⭐Another Tommy and Tuppence novel.
Poirot InvestigatesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Excellent short stories.
Pastoral SongJames Rebanksaudiobooknonfiction⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Modern farming has gone too far, and we are starting to pay the price for it.
Hallowe'en PartyAgatha Christieaudiobookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐
The Secret AdversaryAgatha Christieebookfictioncrime thriller⭐⭐⭐⭐A Tommy and Tuppence novel.
The Mysterious Affair at StylesAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐The very first Poirot novel.
The Sun Also RisesErnest Hemingwayebookfictionliterary⭐⭐⭐⭐
Hercule Poirot's ChristmasAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Very little to do with Christmas.
Death on the NileAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Murder on the LinksAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐Hastings at his most annoying.
The Illustrated ManRay Bradburyebookfictionsci-fi/fantasy⭐⭐⭐⭐Scary and accurate dystopian stories.
EnduranceAlfred Lansingebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Peril at End HouseAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐Underrated and clever.
The Library BookSusan Orleanebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Big FourAgatha Christieebookficitoncrime thriller⭐⭐A major departure from the usual Poirot novel. More crime thriller than mystery.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and TomorrowGabrielle Zevinebookficitonliterary⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A moving story with many lessons about life, loss, friendship, and creative collaboration.
After the FuneralAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐Clever but immediately solvable.
The Body in the LibraryAgatha Christieebookficitonmystery⭐⭐⭐My first Miss Marple.
The River of DoubtCandace Millardebooknonfictionadventure⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐So good. It's more about the expedition and the Amazon than Teddy Roosevelt.
The Mystery of the Blue TrainAgatha Christieebookfictionmystery⭐⭐⭐Based on a short story, so the outcome was spoiled for me.