A Train to Stamboul

Since rekindling my love of reading, I have felt more like myself than I have in a long time. I wanted to make sure I brought that excitement and intention into the new year. And since I’m reading so much now, I decided I should probably break up my reviews into a monthly post, otherwise a post at the end of the year will be unwieldy. Here’s a look back at what I read in January.

hand holding the book A Court of Mist and Fury in front of a book case

I saved A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas to start on New Year’s Day. I started my reread of this series back in December, but this time I’m adding the books to my own personal library (with the original gorgeous covers, of course). I had forgotten so much of this book. I had forgotten how scenes from A Court of Thorns and Roses take on an entirely different meaning once more is revealed. This book is my favorite of the series and maybe that’s because of Feyre’s transformation, maybe it’s because I resonate so much with the Night Court, maybe it’s because of Rhysand (it’s definitely because of Rhysand), but I gobbled this book up in a week.

But I met his stare as I clinked my glass against his, the crystal ringing clear and bright over the crashing sea far below, and said, “To the people who look at the stars and wish, Rhys.” He picked up his glass, his gaze so piercing that I wondered why I had bothered blushing at all for Tarquin. Rhys clinked his glass against mine. “To the stars who listen – and the dreams that are answered.”

A Court of Mist and Fury
book cover for Bait by Jade West

A friend of mine and I were talking books in late December and she mentioned that she was ripping her way through books by Jade West and was currently reading her book, Bait. Jade West’s books are firmly in the erotic romance genre, some in the dark erotic romance. My friend cautioned me to make sure I had read the summary of Bait and that I was fully aware of what I was getting into before reading it. I appreciated her caution though, because there’s a good bit in this book that needs a trigger warning for sure. But, if you like tattooed, pierced guys and dark, unconventional smut – this is a good read. I tore through this in two days.

And speaking of tattooed and pierced guys . . . while I was reading Bait, it reminded me of an old Twilight fanfiction called Clipped Wings and Inked Armor. You may recall that I went back and read another old fanfic last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, so when Bait reminded me of CWAIA, I decided to dig it out. The basic premise is that Edward is a tattoo artist and part owner at a tattoo shop, he meets Bella who works at the bookshop across the street. She’s trying to start over and move on from a traumatic event in her past, and so is Edward. I admit that when I first picked this up, I was not convinced I was going to be able to read it. It just wasn’t holding my attention. But, the further I read, the better it got. I’m not really sure when it happened exactly, but I got hooked. So hooked that I couldn’t stop picking this up. It took me about a week to read what basically clocked in as about 700+ pages. I really enjoyed it, once I got going, and I’m so glad I reread it. The author has actually published this fic, but broke it up into three books.

After I finished Clipped Wings and Inked Armor, I went on a huge Jade West binge. I read one of her books where the main character is an art teacher (which was kind of the segue from Edward being a tattoo artist, and then I read the four books in her Dirty Bad series. Some I liked more than others, but I was basically reading them like potato chips. I kind of burned myself out on them, to be honest. So, then I went looking for something completely different to read, but I didn’t want something too long because my copy of the next book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series was on its way.

hardback book of Five Complete Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie

I decided to pick up a book that I started and never finished back in 2017, Murder on the Orient Express. I had originally picked it up to read when the movie came out. I read a ton of Agatha Christie in middle school and junior high, so I’m sure I read Orient Express then, but really had no memory of the plot. I am also a huge fan of the Hercule Poirot played by David Suchet in the tv series that I used to watch religiously in my college years. So, I decided it was time to pick this back up and read it. And actually finish it this time.

The first thing that struck me at the beginning of the book was the reference to Stamboul. Being unfamiliar with the term, I looked it up. Apparently, the city of Instanbul has been known by a number of different names. The most notable, besides the modern Turkish name, are Byzantium, Constantinople, and Stamboul. When I first read the name, I didn’t think too much about it. But later on the same page, within the same conversation with Lieutenant Dubosc, there is also a reference to Constantinople, which made me think that perhaps Stamboul was a reference to Instanbul. Now, why both names are referenced as though they are different places I’m not sure about. The other thing that struck me was the reference to La Sainte Sophie. I didn’t think twice about the reference, until I made the connection with Stamboul and Constantinople. It occurred to me then that perhaps the Lieutenant was referencing Hagia Sofia. I was telling some friends about these revelations and how it was coincidental that we’d just finished a show about the rise of the Ottoman Empire (which was basically the transition from Constantinople to Instabul) and my friend, Rachel, said “This makes the book that much more real to you, doesn’t it?” Which I thought was a very insightful statement. And she’s right. It all comes together and it sparks my imagination.

One of the things that really stood out to me, and perhaps it’s because I’m reading it with the filter of today, is that there are a ton of assumptions and prejudices the characters have. They believe Americans are a certain way, they believe that if someone is killed with a knife it is most likely by the Italian because they prefer knives and are also aggressive, that the English are cold and unfeeling, etc. Only Poirot, perhaps, sees past these assumptions (at least it appears so). But, it definitely gave me a lot of food for thought about the assumptions we make about people, which in some cases are also biases or prejudices.

I read Orient Express in about a week, which was pretty slow based on the rate I’d been reading at. But, I enjoyed the book and I think Death on the Nile will be my next Agatha Christie to read.

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