What I Read: June

I can’t believe the first half of the year is already gone, it went by so fast! It was a pretty good month for me, but I’m afraid I did not read much. In fact, I only read three books, which is weird for me. I, however, did some travelling (I’m really looking forward to posting about it here) and rewatched The Office. So not bad, right? Here’s what I read in June.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Boy is this novel intense. I don’t read as many graphic novels as I want to, but V for Vendetta had been on my list ever since I watched the movie. It is a pretty bleak story, but one I believe is very relevant nowadays, if not more so than at the time of its publication. David Lloyd’s art is marvellous and I spent a long time looking at each frame, the detail is unbelievable. Someone please recommend some more graphic novels.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Probably one of the worst things I have read in a long time, which is really sad considering how promising the premise is: a descendant of Salem witches doing a PhD in Oxford University finds a strange manuscript at the Bodleian library. She doesn’t know why, but other creatures—demons, vampires and witches— want this manuscript.

I don’t even know where to begin with this book though. The dialogue felt really forced, all the non-human creatures resembled Twilight vampires and the universe Harkness is trying to create in the book doesn’t really come together for me. Pass.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This book is awesome and 800 pages long, which is why I don’t feel at all guilty for having read only three books in June. I wrote a review for this one, so I can only say that I totally recommend it. When I was at uni I thought that literary issues were mainly discussions about which is more important, the plot or the narrative, this book is equally impressive on both aspects.

That was it! A very short list this time, let’s hope July brings more time—or a timeturner— with it. I am currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt, have you read it? It’s part of my Penguin Reading Challenge! I am pretty excited about it.

What are you guys reading now? Let me know in the comments!

My Top Ten Agatha Christie Mysteries

The right title for this post should be “Top Ten Christie’s Mysteries So Far”. Agatha Christie published around 80 mystery novels and many more short story collections during her lifetime and I haven’t read all of them… yet.

Mystery is definitely one of my favourite genres, and one I think few writers manage to master in the way Agatha Christie did. I believe that, along with Conan Doyle and Poe, she redefined crime novels, narratively and structurally. So, without further ado and because I’m the mood for mystery, I present to you my 10 favourite Christies (so far!).

Sparkling Cyanide

This was my first Christie! I still remember how thrilled I was to read this one, and how surprised I was at the end. No Poirot or Miss Marple here, but we have Colonel Race, a much quieter and traditional detective that appears in a couple of books. In Sparkling Cyanide*, the handsome, clever and rich Rosemary Barton sits at a table among her friends and family. The lights go out for a moment and, when they’re turned back on, she’s dead. Curiously enough, everybody at the table had at least one reason to want her dead, so who killed her?

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie was the queen of mystery, but also the queen of ruining nursery songs. “First there were ten”, ten strangers invited to a private island, each of them suspecting (but not knowing) who their host is or why they were invited. Each of them hiding something. And then they start disappearing, one by one… And Then There Were None* is easily the creepiest book by Agatha Christie I have read.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Umberto Eco praised this book for the impressive and innovative narrative style, and it’s really just awesome how Christie manages to pull this off. Do you ever read the ending of a mystery and then go back and double-check if everything makes sense? I almost always do, but when I did that with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd*, I was mindblown. Also, this is one of Hercule Poirot’s first cases.

Five Little Pigs

On this one, Hercule Poirot has to solve a crime that happened sixteen years before, and for which someone has already been committed. After the murder of her husband, Caroline Crale was declared guilty and sent to prison, but now her granddaughter is convinced of her innocence and hires Poirot to prove it. There were five people, “five little pigs”, with the Crales the day of the murder, can Poirot gather any evidence to suspect any of them? Five Little Pigs* will ruin another nursery rhyme for you, too.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The first Poirot mystery! This is a locked-door mystery in which an old woman is poisoned in her mansion, Styles. There are plenty of suspects, among them Hastings and Poirot, who happen to be staying there at the time. I think The Mysterious Affair at Styles* sets a pattern in Poirot Mysteries: mansions and elderly, rich women who happen to be murdered.

Murder at the Vicarage

The first Miss Marple! How can an elderly lady solve the murder of Colonel Protheroe, shot through the head at the local vicarage, almost without leaving her home? Mostly gossip and an exacerbated ability to read people, really.

The Body in the Library

A young and eccentric woman is found dead in the library of wealthy Colonel Bantry. Miss Marple joins forces with police officers to solve this one, and seems like Bantry has much more to hide. The Body in the Library* shows a Miss Marple ready for action, much bolder than the one from Murder at the Vicarage*.

Peril at End House

A young heiress hires Poirot to protect her after various almost-fatal accidents: she thinks someone’s trying to kill her. This leads to Poirot staying at Peril House, a creepy mansion on the Cornish shore. I like Peril at End House* because the crime has not yet happened when Poirot starts to investigate, and the constant danger makes it more thrilling.

At Bertram’s Hotel

I honestly think Miss Marple is my favourite detective, and her powers of observation are displayed to their full extent in this novel. This one was my first Miss Marple, and I just loved the atmosphere and detail of the novel. Here, Miss Marple takes a holiday at Bertram’s Hotel in London just when a series of bloody events start taking place. At Bertram’s Hotel* is different from other Miss Marple novels because it dwells more with the mafia and money-related crimes than with murders. How Jane Marple finds herself involved in all these sinister events is amazingly entertaining.

Dead Man’s Folly

This one is just delightful. There’s a recurrent character in Agatha Christie’s novels that is a crime novelist: Adriane Oliver. She’s friends with Poirot and in this book she’s invited to a mock murder hunt but, you guessed it, the murder happens for real. Dead Man’s Folly* is so sinister and fun, it’s like a night of playing Clue gone wrong.

Have you read any of these? What are your favourite Christies? I am currently reading and loving The Luminaries* by Eleanor Catton and I am definitely in the mood for more mystery books, do you have any suggestions?

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*Disclaimer: If you do buy any of the books mentioned through these links, I will receive a commission. This does not affect the prices whatsoever.

Five Mystery Books for Long Flights

Sparkling-CyanideSparkling Cyanide, Agatha Christie

I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan and this was the first book I read by her. Seven people sit down for dinner, the lights go off and when they’re back on, someone is dead. Who did it? This books is a classic whodunnit and there lies it’s strength. Following some basic detective fiction structures and creating new ones, Christie’s novel dwells on both the motives behind crimes as much as on the thrill of following clues and discovering patterns where there seem to be none.

This is a stand/alone novel, so you won’t hear about Poirot or Miss Marple, Agatha Christie’s most famous characters, but if you want to read a Hercule Poirot Mystery I recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder at the Vicarage for a Miss Marple story. 

  • 300 pages

3687The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

This novel presents a wholly different kind of detective, the kind that is neither a goodie goodie or a lover of truth, but just a very shrewd person trying to survive in a world of corruption. In Chandler’s noir California, Marlow solves crimes for money, and usually things get violent and dirty. Mafia men, underground detective networks, millionaires and evil women are some of the things you’ll find in Chandler’s novels, and The Big Sleep is a very good start. 

  • 200 pages

51RKUXU01fL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple

This is not a conventional mystery. The book is composed by letters, telegrams and other documents that give account of the disappearanceof Bernadette Fox, a notorious woman from Seattle who is a famous architect, the wife of an IT guru and also the mother of a 15-year-old who will do anything to find her. This book is both thrilling and funny, not exactly a YA novel or a mystery, but something in between… and a very enjoyable read.

  • 300 pages

Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier 

I would describe this novel as a psychological thriller more than as a mystery. A young woman marries a rich widower, Edward de Winter, and moves with him to his beautiful state, Manderley. Being of no noble birth, the new Mrs de Winter will face some social difficulties and the disrespect from the servants of the place, but her greatest challenge will be to compete against the memory of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca.

Everybody talks of how wonderful Rebecca was and her mysterious death still haunts the place, driving the new occupant Manderley to obsession. Does Rebecca’s ghost haunt the place? And what happened to her really? The plot of the novel takes some unexpected turns and the first person narrative introduces the reader to an obsession verging on madness. This book is a page turner and, if you enjoy period literature, you’ll enjoy this one too.

  • 400 pages

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

A young man, Daniel Sempere, takes care of his fathers bookshop in Barcelona during Franco’s dictatorship. The business is not going well, but Daniel’s father takes him to a secret place, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where he finds a rare book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Daniel becomes obsessed with the book and starts looking for clues about its author, noticing later that he is been followed too, by a man named after a character of the book, Laín Coubert.

Daniel’s life takes a strange turn as he begins uncovering the truth about the mysterious book, a truth that concerns him, his father’s bookshop and some of his dearest friends. This book is a metafictional adventure that book lovers will enjoy for its grand depictions of forgotten libraries and old bookshops, as well as for its many classic literature references. It is also a very exciting thriller, as the characters find themselves in dangers that go from the political to the fantastic every few pages.

  • 500 pages

Have you read any of these?

Which book has gotten you through a long flight?