January – looking back and looking ahead

I thought that in 2020 I would try and mix things up a bit on For Winter Nights and have other posts than reviews (it’s probably about time considering that I’m now well into my tenth book reviewing year!), especially as my reading is a bit more all over the place these days. I always enjoy reading monthly reviews on other people’s lovely blogs and so I thought I would try and do the same, at least some of the time, as well as look ahead to what I’m looking forward to in the following month.

Reading and writing

Stasi Winter by David YoungI read eleven novels in January. This is quite possibly the lowest number I’ve read in a month since I started reviewing. I’ve been thinking about why this is as it does bother me. The obvious reason is that I’m now doing a lot of writing having caught the bug with NaNoWriMo last November. I’ve started another project so I’m doing another first draft. I’m now up to 40,000 words and my target is about 80,000. I’m really enjoying it but it’s hard work – I’m forever having to try and find places in which to write as it’s so difficult and distracting to do at home. I still leave myself two hours a night to read but I read much more slowly then as I’ve worn myself out! So that will explain fewer books read.

But the ones I’ve read have been corkers! My reading year couldn’t have started off better than how it did with David Young’s Stasi Winter. I love this series set in 1970s East Berlin and further afield beyond the Iron Curtain. Each book builds upon the others and I think Stasi Winter might even be my favourite. My review is up here.

I’ve read some great crime fiction all ready this year. I think my favourites so far are All the Rage by Cara Hunter and The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths (review to follow shortly). Cara’s books are set in my little bit of Oxford so they couldn’t be much closer to home and their accuracy is spot on. I love the way that Cara Hunter tells a story, combining extracts from interviews, trial transcripts, newspaper articles and tweets, and so on. As for The Lantern Men, I adore this series. Ruth Galloway is one of my most loved characters in fiction and I love the setting in the Fens and on the north Norfolk coast. The Lantern Men is the twelfth in the series and may even be the best, in my opinion. Definitely a series that is going from strength to strength.

I’ve also been enjoying some thrillers: Silver by Chris Hammer, Black 13 by Adam Hamdy and Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain and I can thoroughly recommend all three of them.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian TchaikovskyIn January I read three science fiction titles. How I love my science fiction. I need to get off world for a while at regular intervals. One of them, The God Game by Danny Tobey was set firmly on Earth but in it teenagers find themselves playing a lethal virtual reality game with a figure that knows far too much about each of them, their hopes, fears and dreams, and calls itself God. In The Eternity War: Dominion, Jamie Sawyer took us into deep space and a Galaxy, rich in alien life, torn apart by war and rebellion. Excellent! This novel completed a fine trilogy. I’m looking forward to seeing where Jamie takes us next. I’m a huge fan of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction and I couldn’t wait to read The Doors of Eden, which is published in May. This is set on Earth but the planet is being torn apart by cracks and fractures with other Earths and from these come monsters. Good news if you’re a monster hunter like our heroine but less good news if you’re everyone else. This is definitely one to look out for in the late spring.

I’m such a big fan of ghost stories and so, in January, I read The Small Hand by Susan Hill. I’d purposefully missed the dramatised version of this on TV over Christmas as I thought I’d like to read it first. I must admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped, mostly because it wasn’t frightening or even creepy. But I did like the main character, an antiquarian on the hunt for rare books, and the writing is beautiful.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna HicksonI haven’t read as much historical fiction as I’d have liked through January. I think this is partly because most of the historical fiction I have to review isn’t out until later this year, beginning with The Foundling in February by the amazing Stacey Halls, and because those published in January I mostly read last year, such as the brilliant The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson. But I have been trying to read some older novels that I’ve missed. One that I read late last year was The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey. I loved it! I wanted to read the earlier novel Letters to the Lost as soon as I could and that was a January highlight for me. Such a beautiful novel, telling the story of a wartime love affair between a young woman and an American bomber pilot. There were tears… I loved it.

I may have read fewer novels than usual in January but I bought loads! I must have bought at least fifteen novels, including novels by Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Jojo Moyes, Erin Morgenstein, Diane Setterfield, James Swallow and MJ Ford.

Looking ahead to February

I’ve begun February by reading another older book that I missed – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This gorgeous novel tells the story of a glamorous Hollywood filmstar and her search for true love, a search (as you can tell from the title) that was not without its problems – seven of them in fact. I must read Taylor’s most recent novel, Daisy Jones and the Six, as soon as possible.

The Lantern Men by Elly GriffithsThere are some fantastic books published in February. These include books I’ve already mentioned (The Foundling by Stacey Halls and The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths) and some others which are close to the top of my reading pile. These are the ones that I know about. There are plenty of others that I don’t. I always enjoy looking at what’s published each week as that week comes along so that I can go out and buy them immediately.

So here are some of the other books published this month that I can’t wait to read (in reverse order of being published): Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, When You See Me by Lisa Gardner, The Holdout by Graham Moore, Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz, The Guest List by Lucy Foley, Bury Them Deep by James Oswald, Cross of Fire by David Gilman, and Between the Lines by Eva Dolan. I also have an American edition of Sarah Pinborough’s Dead to Her, which is published there in February but much later here. I won’t be waiting to read that.

Then there are the books from January that I missed. I must read Alexander’s Legacy by Robert Fabbri (I loved his Vespasian series) and Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds as well as The Vault by Mark Dawson.

So, it looks as if I’m not going to run out of books to read anytime soon, although that is always the fear! I know there are many books I’ve missed and I’m looking forward to reading them. I hope you’ve had a good January and February is even better!

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