Tuesday 31 January 2023

Books read in January

I can't believe January is behind us already, but there you go. I've even noticed that the evenings are starting to draw out just a 'little' bit and the light is also changing. I like winter a lot as a season but I also like spring and there's so much flu, covid, bugs, colds, coughs etc. around at the moment that I'm hoping as spring approaches it will ease off a bit. *Fingers crossed*

Anyway, books. I read eight in January and they were a varied bunch, not only in theme and genre but also in quality.

1. The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern (2 stars)

2. Lagoon - Nnedi Okorafar. This is a science-fiction story set in Nigeria. Aliens have arrived and taken up residence in the ocean off the coast of Lagos. A female marine biologist finds herself involved with first contact, along with a rapper and a soldier. It's mayhem and I found the book a bit too chaotic for my taste and somehow the depiction of Nigeria and Nigerians felt very one-sided. A few people were decent but mostly they weren't and I wondered how an actual Nigerian would feel reading this book. Not a great success for me. (3 stars because unlike The Starless Sea it wasn't 500 pages long and I liked the female marine biologist, Adaora.)

3. The Broken Girls - Simone St. James (5 stars) 

4. The View from Mary's Farm - Edie Clark (Very brief review.) (4 stars)

5. Two for Sorrow - Nicola Upson (4 stars)

6. The Pleasure of Reading - ed. by Antonia Fraser (Very brief review.) (3 stars)

7. There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag - Lyn Hancock. A book from the 1970s by the wife of Canadian naturalist and film maker, David Hancock. This recounts Lyn's life as a sidekick to her husband as they go on expeditions to count eagles, seals, various sea birds and so on along the coast of British Columbia and once or twice down to Washington state. They also end up with quite a menagerie themselves at their home near Victoria. This had a really strong sense of BC, the coastline and the people who live there but, for some reason, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. (3 stars)

8. On Basilisk Station - David Weber. To be reviewed but a good, solid sci-fi read. (4 stars)

So, five fiction books and three non-fiction. Of the fiction reads there were two science-fiction, one magical realism, one historical crime yarn and one gothicky, supernatural, historical crime story. Quite a mix and also quite a mix of ratings. This was my favourite book of the month:


The Broken Girls by Simone St. James was an exciting, creepy, well written, ghostly crime yarn and I absolutely 'loved' it. Honorable mentions: The View from Mary's Farm by Edie Clark which was delightful and Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson which taught me a lot about the sad history of baby farming.

I travelled around a fair bit in January too: Nigeria, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the USA, and BC, Canada. Oh, and into outer space with Captain Honor Harrington. 

So, a variable reading month, I did begrudge a whole week spent at the start of the year on a two star book. That did make me mutter darkly about hyped books. No matter, I will get over it... in a year or three. And it didn't help that the second book for 2023 was less than stellar too. But that's the way it goes with this great obsession of ours, you win some, you lose some. Onwards and upwards.

I hope you're all well and had a good reading month in January. What were your stand-out reads?


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I'm also hoping things will improve with the spring. I'm tired of this cold wet weather. My reading month has been similar to yours, 8 books read - beginning as you did with disappointing books, 2 and 3 stars, but picked up towards the end of the month. The Broken Girls sounds good and I haven't read anything by Simone St. James - one to look out for.

My stand-out read was Underworld by Reginald Hill, a Dalziel and Pascoe mystery - not so much of Dalziel, more of Pascoe and his wife Ellie. The only five star book of the month!

Sue in Suffolk said...

I started off reading slowly but speeded up somehow to end up with 10 read this month. And onwards into February with several to collect when the library van comes round - Lovely

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margot Kinberg said...

It is amazing, isn't it, Cath, how quickly the time goes by. Seems we just had the holiday season, and here it is nearly February! Let's hope it's an easy spring. At any rate, you had some nice books here, even though not all of them were quite what you were hoping. I've had months like that, too. I think that's the good thing about reading a mix of books; even if there are a few that aren't what you hoped, there are still some good 'uns in there.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

All my reading months are relatively slow compared to just about all my fellow readers / bloggers, but I am used to that now - so, onwards and upwards.

I have already added 'The Broken Girls' and 'Two For Sorrow' to my wish list, after reading your excellent review post and if I am being totally honest, the other half a dozen books I am quite happy to leave behind, although it is good to know that you found some small crumb of comfort from even the lowliest star rating.

I have also noticed that several of my blogging friends have switched genres away from their traditional fare of murder mysteries and psychological thrillers, and have turned their attention to the more phantasmagorical / magical / sci-fi selections - which I don't tend to favour.

I think my stand out read this month would be 'The Last Restaurant In Paris' by Lily Graham. I did tell myself no more WWII stories for a while, as I have had quite a run of them in recent months. However, this one was just a bit different, as the pre and post war periods also figure large.

I don't particularly like the wet and coldness of winter, but I do admit to enjoying the dark nights and mornings. There is something comforting about drawing the curtains of an evening, shutting out the world and cocooning myself away before bedtime. Also, I am always a 4-4.30am riser and I like to wake up to the darkness and silence of early morning, rather than being woken by light skies and birdsong even at that hour.

It takes all sorts!!! :) :)

Les in Oregon said...

The Broken Girls sounds like something I'd enjoy, so I'm adding it to my list. Like you, I'm looking forward to spring. We've had such a rainy winter and I'm eager to return to my daily walks! My reading was very good this month with three 5-star reads and three 4-star reads. I can't pick one favorite for the month, but I'll post my monthly summary later today or tomorrow.

Cath said...

Margaret: We do seem to have had an inordinate amount of rainy days don't we. I much prefer a cold, frosty winter to a wet and mild one.

I definitely think Simone St. James is an author to look out for as long as you don't mind a touch of the supernatural woven into the crime narrative. I thought it worked well but others might not like it as much.

It time I read one of the Reginald Hill books, I bet they're well worth it.

Cath said...

Sue: You had a good reading month. I have several reserved books to pick up from the library this week, can't wait.

Cath said...

Margot: I know, it's crazy. And not a little alarming as we get older. I still have so many books to read! LOL

Yes, and wouldn't it be just a little bit boring if every book we read was wonderful? The not so wonderful ones help us appreciate the wonderful in my opinion. So I'm fine with it really, but I do like to start a new year with something 'excellent'.

Cath said...

Yvonne: Yes, those two books are well worth adding to your list I think. Two out eight is not bad. I'm happy. :-)

I think with me it's not so much a case of switching from crime fiction to something else. It's more that my first love as a youngster was science-fiction and all I'm doing really is trying to recapture some of my love for that genre by slotting a couple of sci-fi books into the mix each month. It's one of my personal challenges for 2023.

I've added The Last Restaurant in Paris to my Goodreads 'want to read' list after reading your excellent review.

Wow, that 'is' an early start you get every morning! And I don't mind winter at all really, I particularly like drawing the curtains late afternoon and settling down in front of the fire with my book or a good TV show.

Cath said...

Les: The Broken Girls was my only 5 star read this month but to be honest it was such an up and down month I was glad to find just 'one'. Yes, there are months when I can't pick a favourite either. Sometimes because nothing stands out, other times because it was too good a month and all the books were terrific. I'll keep an eye out for your books of the month post.

Vallypee said...

What a reader you are, Cath. Some good recommendations here, but Mary’s Farm and the Broken Girls appeal to me the most.

Lark said...

That is quite the gamut of books, from 2-5 stars and everything in between. Most of the books I read in January were 3-4 star books, but I did have two 5-star reads...the Tanner & Louise novel I just posted about, and The Light In Hidden Places, a historical fiction book set in Poland during WWII. Two 5-star reads in one month is a bit unusual for me, so I'm celebrating. :D

TracyK said...

Even though you had a good number of disappointments in January, it does seem like a good month of reading overall. I think you are a more adventurous reader than I am and will try more topics and authors. And that is a good thing. I may try out There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag for the Canadian author and locations. And I hope I get to another Nicola Upson book soon (not sure where the next book is at this point).

I look forward to the On Basilisk Station review.

Cath said...

Val: Mary's Farm is a delightful, cosy sort of read that I would recommend to anyone.

Cath said...

Lark: Absolutely, two 5 star reads in one month is great! Mostly 3 or 4 stars is what I hope for in a month, thank goodness a 2 star is very rare for me.

Cath said...

Tracy: Yes, I think overall it was not a bad reading month. I've always been a bit adventurous with reading topics. To be honest it would be a lot less expensive if I was not because it means I want to buy so many books!

I'll hopefully get to review On Basilisk Station soon.

Susan said...

It looks like you had a great reading month with an assortment of books, some that worked, some that didn't. The only one I've read is THE BROKEN GIRLS and, I agree, it's a good read! I've read most of St. James' books and enjoyed them all, although obviously I like some better than others, of course.

Cath said...

Susan: I do like to mix the books up quite a lot. I will certainly be going on to read more by Simone St. James as I love her style of writing.