A new year always starts with good intentions, even this one, and so I am resurrecting my monthly reviews. I stopped doing these last summer for various reasons but, feeling rather rejuvenated, I thought I’d reboot them. There is the caveat that, if Lockdown drags on until 2022, the posts might just say ‘Ditto’. But what about January 2021? The best thing about January 2021 is that it’s over but the good news about it is that my reading powers were restored to me! I don’t read for as many hours a day as I did in Normal Times because I’m still working from home and still have no commute or a fixed lunch hour but I am reading much more than I did in 2020 and, more to the point, I’m enjoying it more. One reason for this is that I’m only finishing books I’m really enjoying. I read solely for entertainment.
I read fourteen novels in January and they brightened up a very Dry and rather dull month (and did I say Dry?). I’m behind on reviews but that’s because I seem to have spent 90% of the month in Teams meetings. They’ve been a good mix of books – historical fiction, science fiction (well, Jodi Taylor – I read so many of her books she should have her own section on FWN), spy thrillers past and present, action adventures, horror and crime. Three of the books were audiobooks – I love audiobooks so much! The Lockdown Revelation.
There were some great reading highlights. Favourite authors were greeted with open arms (hugging books is to be recommended in these Post-Hugging Times) – Matthew Reilly returned to give the ultimate action hero Jack West Jr a really hard time in The Two Lost Mountains. Mick Herron was back to continue his guided tour of Slough House, the unloved refuge for secret service rejects.
My favourite crime writer Stuart MacBride re-opened the Ash Henderson case files in The Coffinmaker’s Garden and Professor Tom Wilde must hide from Nazis and Allies alike in the wake of a prince’s mysterious wartime death in Rory Clements’ A Prince and A Spy.
I do much more reading of older books now. Perhaps because life is now slower, I feel that I want to give time to books I’ve missed or have newly discovered. Or is this an age thing? I really enjoyed Roz Watkins’ Cut to the Bone, which I missed last year (I love the Peak District locations). I also continued to catch up on Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s, gobbling up the audiobooks (so fantastically narrated/lived by Zara Ramm) of books 6 and 7 – What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (an awful lot) and Lies, Damned Lies, and History. The heroine Max is now a member of my family. I must write a post about these books.
Historical fiction continues to be my Lockdown Genre Of Choice and I read some goodies in January. Cathedral by Ben Hopkins is a massively ambitious and immersive novel about the people of Hagenburg, Germany, during the construction of their cathedral in the 13th century. The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn takes us back to one of my favourite periods of history, the English Civil War, and we view it from the unusual and insightful perspective of the Queen’s Dwarf Nat.
Other reading highlights in January include Chris Hauty’s Savage Road, in which secret service agent Hayley Chills returns to continue her battle to protect the White House from Russian interference. The stakes are higher than ever as the new cold war goes cyber. I love political thrillers and I’m now hooked on Hayley Chills. I’m also hooked on haunted house ghost stories and so I couldn’t resist Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims – a haunted house has become an entire haunted tower block! Perfect! As long as I don’t have to live in it.
February is starting in fine fashion. I’m reading The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper (a truly fabulous novel about the unfree women of Pompeii) and listening to Daughters of Night by the brilliant Laura Shepherd-Robinson. I have some other enticing books lined up for the month.
In addition to book reading, I have continued my activities as a Dissectologist. Due to popular demand (by two people) I will be incorporating a jigsaw update into each new book post. As you can see, jigsaw puzzles can be very educational.