I started the year off with great books. There were ten books I read in January, some new ones and some I re-read. I even read three non-fictional books, which are normally not my favorites.
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Chloe Gong: Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights, #2)
The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.
After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.
Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.
Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all.
Having read the first part last year, I also loved this sequel. While the theme of Romeo and Juliet lays down the general plot frame, the different site and the monster make the novel exciting. I didn’t know much about Chinese or specifically Shanghai history of the 1920s. But the book paints an interesting picture of the different colonial powers and Chinese political parties fighting for power. Of course, Juliette’s and Roma’s personal story is also exciting. And I enjoyed the monster hunt a lot because there are so many plot twists.
Eric Jager: The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France
The gripping true story of the “duel to end all duels” in medieval France as a resolute knight defends his wife’s honor against the squire she accuses of a heinous crime.
In the midst of the devastating Hundred Years’ War between France and England, Jean de Carrouges, a Norman knight fresh from combat in Scotland, returns home to yet another deadly threat. His wife, Marguerite, has accused squire Jacques Le Gris of rape. A deadlocked court decrees a “trial by combat” between the two men that also leaves Marguerite’s fate in the balance. For if her husband loses the duel, she will be put to death as a false accuser.
While enemy troops pillage the land, and rebellion and plague threaten the lives of all, Carrouges and Le Gris meet in full armor on a walled field in Paris. What follows is a fierce duel, the final one sanctioned by governing powers, before a massive crowd that includes the teenage King Charles VI, during which both combatants are wounded—but only one fatally.
We watched the movie a few months ago. Because of the excellent movie, I decided to read this non-fictional book that it is based on. It is indeed very well written and narrates the story of the last judiciary duel in France. I learned much about French history of the 14th century. There are many details about everyday life and the laws at the time. The book for example gave me more information about young King Charles VI. than the movie. I particularly liked that the book is based on facts instead of assumptions.
Milli Hill: Give Birth Like a Feminist: Your body. Your baby. Your choices.
Birth is a feminist issue. It’s the feminist issue nobody’s talking about. For too long women have been told, ‘a healthy baby is all that matters’. This book dares to say women matter too. Finally blasting the feminist spotlight into the labour ward, Milli Hill encourages women everywhere to stand and deliver, insisting that birth is no longer left off the list in discussions about female power, control and agency. From the importance of birth plans to your human rights in childbirth, and including birth stories from women across the world, this call-to-arms will help you find your voice, take an active role in your choices, and change the way you think about childbirth.
This book was incredibly enlightening to me. Up until I read it, I was very strongly of the opinion that birth is just horrible and we should make it pass as fast as possible. But then this book reminded me of the fact that women have given birth for thousands of years. I particularly liked how it interweaves experience, facts, and studies. That made me also realize that some numbers and studies my ob-gyn quoted are not necessarily correct or well done. She probably would have liked if I hadn’t found the book. – To me it was great because it encouraged me to change my opinion towards a natural birth and to speak up during my doctor’s appointments. (Not that my baby has cared about my opinion and just torpedoes my favorite birth plan by remaining in breech.)
Amanda M. Lee: The Wendigo Whoop-De-Doo (Charlie Rhodes, #10)
Charlie Rhodes has the one thing she always wanted but was afraid to admit. The parents who gave her up for adoption are back in her life, but the transition from orphan to adult child isn’t going to be an easy one. Before she can commit to the process, however, a new job pops up for the Legacy Foundation and she’s whisked away to upstate Washington.
A group of teens celebrating graduation and preparing for college have gone missing in Nighthawk, a former boomtown that has exactly one resident, a crazy old bootlegger who wanders the area dropping ominous warnings before disappearing into the darkness.
The Legacy Foundation is called out when several bodies are found, all with the sort of injuries that can’t be easily explained, and local law enforcement officials find themselves stumped. From the first day at the town, Charlie knows they’re in trouble as the memories of one of the missing teens threaten to overwhelm her. Is the girl still alive? Did she fall with the others and simply hasn’t been found? More importantly, what are they dealing with?
I enjoy Lee’s cozy mysteries and the series on Charlie Rhodes has so far been really good. There are always two plot lines: the actual mystery that Charlie and the Legacy Foundation have to solve, and Charlie figuring out her personal family history. I like that Charlie is both likeable and also slightly annoying. Plus the novels always go into detail about what the characters eat. That makes me super excited to travel to other parts of the U.S. and try different foods.
Amanda Montell: Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism
The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyzes the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.
What makes “cults” so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .
Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.
This non-fictional book is so interesting. It focuses on the U.S., their cults and how language influences them. I learned so much about both culture and history here, while in my mind comparing it with the German culture I grew up in. From my point of view, this book is excellent to learn how people are influenced by all kinds of leaders, influencers, and also ideas, how language is used for specific purposes, and why esp. U.S. Americans seem to more prone to fall for this. I hope that Rich reads the book, too, so that we can discuss the different aspects.
Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson & The Olympians (#1 – 5)
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. When his mom tells him the truth about where he came from, she takes him to the one place he’ll be safe—Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island). There, Percy learns that the father he never knew is actually Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon Percy finds himself caught up in a mystery that could lead to disastrous consequences. Together with his friends—a satyr and another the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
I re-read the whole Percy Jackson series in January. I looked for something fun to read, but also something I would fall asleep to when I read before bed and again in the middle of the night. Just like when I read the novels for the first time, I still like them a lot. Ancient Greece is one of my favorite historical interests and the books are full of that world. I love the young heroes’ adventures and how they encounter the many monsters, but also gods.