Hello all! December was a brilliant reading month for me. I may not have got through that many books ( 9 in total), but the ones I did read were amazing. There wasn’t a single Dec read that let me down in any way, so it was incredibly hard to not just stick all 9 in this post. Fear not. I’ve managed to narrow it down to a top 4. Did you have a favourite read/reads in December? Let me know in the comments.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
“Eleanor Faderman knew many books. But never before had she read a book that seemed to know her.”
“I never disclose my real desires or the texture of my soul.”
“Alex saw very clearly how dangerous a book like Mary’s could become in the hands of such impressionable girls, such privileged girls: girls who kissed and fondled and laughed as they read each other passages out in the woods; girls whose parents’ social standing had taught them that there was nothing at all in the world they could not subjugate, purchase, or ignore; girls who set fires only to watch as others tried, and failed, to put them out.”
This was one of those books that just shouldn’t have worked. A story, within a story, within a story. Told from multiple perspectives spanning centuries. It chopped between character and century at random intervals and yet they were perfectly timed, the story just flows with an incredible ease. It may be a little creepy, but the goosebumps are worth it for reading this brilliant book.
The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.
Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.
Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?
“Darling, Fucking What?”
“You can’t do this for me,” he said. “I won’t let you.”
“It’s not for you. It’s not a favor. It’s the cruelest thing I could do.”
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with.” She leaned down close until her lips brushed his skin, until her breath scorched the side of his face. “I’m not Sinegardian elite. I’m that savage mud-skinned Speerly bitch that wiped a country off the map. And sometimes when I get a little too angry, I snap.”
I knew going into this it would more than likely destroy me. Kuang did a brilliant job in showing us the reality of war, the endless marching and then what happens when you win & you have to run a country. She brings us charcaters we know and love as well as some new arrivals and it was the perfect end to a dark and gritty series.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Quinton Peters was the golden boy of the Rosewood low-income housing projects, receiving full scholarship offers to two different Ivy League schools. When he mysteriously goes missing, his little sister, 13-year-old Amari Peters, can’t understand why it’s not a bigger deal. Why isn’t his story all over the news? And why do the police automatically assume he was into something illegal?
Then Amari discovers a ticking briefcase in her brother’s old closet. A briefcase meant for her eyes only. There was far more to Quinton, it seems, than she ever knew. He’s left her a nomination for a summer tryout at the secretive Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari is certain the answer to finding out what happened to him lies somewhere inside, if only she can get her head around the idea of mermaids, dwarves, yetis and magicians all being real things, something she has to instantly confront when she is given a weredragon as a roommate.
Amari must compete against some of the nation’s wealthiest kids—who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives and are able to easily answer questions like which two Great Beasts reside in the Atlantic Ocean and how old is Merlin? Just getting around the Bureau is a lesson alone for Amari with signs like ‘Department of Hidden Places this way, or is it?’ If that all wasn’t enough, every Bureau trainee has a talent enhanced to supernatural levels to help them do their jobs – but Amari is given an illegal ability. As if she needed something else to make her stand out.
With an evil magican threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.
“Am I prepared for that? It’ skind of like how being a Black Kid from the projects makes Mr Jenson feel the need to watch me extra close every time I come in his store. Or how surprised my scholarship interviewers were that I could speak so well. People assume stuff about you based on things you cant change about yourself. So I just do my best to prove them wrong, to be the person they’re not expecting.”
“Keep that wildfire burnin’ inside you, lass. And let all of their doubts become kerosene. Because you know what I see when a lass is maligned for something she can’t help and yet she still shows up anyway?’ I shake my head. ‘Courage.’ Says Agent Fiona. ‘And that’s what separates the wannabes from the Agents in the end. Quinton did nominate you ’cause you needed a rescuer, he nominated you because he believed you can thrive here.”
I was so happy I signed up for this blog tour! Amari is such a fantastic characters & 31 year old me was completely swept away on her adventure. This is such a brilliant MG book, and I will definitely be carrying on with the series.
The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon
Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.
The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.
As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…
“There’s little honour in duplicity,’ be pointed out one night. ‘None,’ I agreed ‘but if everyone is duplicitous honour is a disadvantage.’ I threw down another card. ‘And whoever said there’s honour among thieves was talking absolute shite.”
” I would show the world I was alive. Except that I didn’t feel alive. Not fully. Part of me had been swallowed into that hall of stained glass windows, entombed there like a queen of old. The part of me that could never had drawn a blade across a human throat. The part of me that would have flinched. Now I felt nothing. Just as I had felt nothing when I washed the blood off my hands and face and neck. It had been a mercy kill, yet there had been no mercy in my hand. Only resolve.”
Ahhh my poor heart. I did not expect this book to hit me quite as much as it did. Shannon really felt the need to torture her characters and readers with this latest instalment to The Bone Season series, we get treated to some wonderful new characters as well as a new setting, and it’s filled with tortured romance and a character struggling with PTSD. Lets hope for a short wait for the next book.
I really want to read Plain Bad Heroines!!! It sounds really good… but it is so huge… I just can’t make myself brave enough to pick it up!!!!
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It’s definitely a chunk, and a read you have to take your time with but it’s SO worth it!
I can’t wait to read Amari and Burning God! 😍
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Ahhh I hope you enjoy them both 😀
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I’ve not read any of these but Burning God looks so good!
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It’s such a brilliant series!
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Yeees, Amari was fantastic and I loved your review for Plain Bad Heroines and it’s convinced me to add it to my TBR. I’m looking forward to continuing and hopefully finishing TPW series this year! Great list 😉
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Thanks Dini! And so glad to hear you added Heroines to your TBR, you won’t be disappointed ☺️