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Friday 19 January 2024

Books in January


Dear friends. It looks like I've been on a big reading spree this month but in reality most of the books were read last year, ahead of publication. It was an enjoyable month's reading with some very good thrillers.  They all came courtesy of NetGalley and the publishers, except for any marked with an asterisk which I bought.

Let's dive in and discover the first of my two 5 star rated books this month.

Leaving by Roxana Robinson (5 stars)

One of the best books I've read about heart break and divorce. Beautifully written with crisp, memorable prose. 

High school sweethearts, Sarah and Warren, have grand plans for an adventurous future together, but when a misunderstanding causes them to part ways, they end up marrying other people.

They meet again aged 60, and their old love is rekindled. But starting again is not easy when two people have separate lives, families and homes a long way apart. 

The two main characters were very real and showed vulnerability and resilience, particularly in the face of stubborn cruelty from one of the daughters. This book will remain with me. This book is published on 24 January. 

*The Seventh Girl (Detective Kat Ballantyne Book 1) by Andy Maslen  (4 stars)

My first Andy Maslen, and I immediately sought out #2 in the series which is not published until May. So that tells you I really enjoyed this. Andy Maslen does a classy and stylish job in creating a multi-nuanced police procedural. DS Kat Ballantyne and her colleagues are very believable characters, grounded in normality and humour. The modus operandi of the killer in The Seventh Girl is ingenious. I liked the pace and the heart stopping moments, plus the good old fashioned police work in trying to find links between deaths 15 years ago and now. 

The Actor by Chris Macdonald  (4 stars)

A bravura performance from Chris Macdonald, author and actor. Set in the world of acting, and in particular Method acting, The Actor has a memorable cast of characters, among them the revered Svengali figure of Jonathan, menacing teacher of "The Method" at the actors' Conservatoire.

There are parallels with real life and Daniel Day-Lewis, who fled a theatre mid performance as Hamlet, claiming he had seen his father's ghost. Day- Lewis has since denied that this happened.

I felt attached to "ordinary" Adam Sealey, inexplicably chosen by Jonathan to star as Hamlet after being urged to relive, and re-enact, childhood trauma to convince that he was right for the role. But the lengths he went to! 

The tension and dread that Macdonald serves up on Oscars Night is superb. Will the truth about Adam's role in the murder of a fellow student be exposed to ruin this, the pinnacle of his career?

Highly original and thought provoking.

Rabbit Hole by Kate Brody  (4 stars)

I'm not sure the book's description is aligned to the actual story. Although Teddy Angstrom does fall down the Reddit rabbit hole, as she tries to find out about her sister's disappearance 10 years ago, this is more a study in grief than a twisty thriller.

Teddy's family has been dogged by tragedy and scandal. As we start the novel her father has just killed himself by deliberately driving into a local river. It seems Teddy and her mother are ambivalent about him and his passing. But suppressed grief for her father, and the realisation that sister Angie may also be dead, sparks Teddy's obsession with mysterious 19 year old Mickey, and their often foolhardy pursuit of "the truth." 

I found the book went through several different phases, which meant it held my interest. A promising debut.

Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips (4 stars)

I was instantly captivated by the multi layered promise of the first chapters where 12 year-old ConaLee and her mother, Eliza were delivered to a lunatic asylum in West Virginia. Why hadn't Eliza spoken for a year? Who was the sinister war veteran who had forced himself into their lives ? 

I was disappointed when the timeline then switched to the civil war itself, and then slipped further back in time. It was sometimes challenging to understand the colloquial dialogue. Overall, a haunting and moving account of the impact of the civil war on ordinary people.

This book is published on 25 January. 

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston (4 stars)

Evie is about to meet her new boyfriend's girl friends. They're curious about her: she's a blow-in to their tight community. But Evie gives little away. Her seemingly perfect relationship has been manufactured by Evie to extract information about Ryan's business for her mysterious boss Mr Smith.

Evie, or Lucca as she used to be known, is effectively a con artist paid to gather intelligence, putting herself in perilous circumstances. She hopes to eventually make enough money to reclaim her real identity. Until she meets a woman who's using her real name and back story. And what's Ryan's role in all this?

An intriguing and gripping book that defies the normal stereotypes. The ending positions a perfect opportunity for a follow-up.

The Secret Graves of St Ives by Sally Rigby (4 stars)

Police work can be a bit mundane in Penzance, so when three women go missing within a short space of time, newly promoted DI Lauren Pengelly is at full stretch to find linkages and motivate her team into action.

Lauren is a complex character, on the one hand very emotional about her two dogs, who seem to be her whole world, and on the other, brusque and a micro manager with her team. Fortunately DS Matt Price seems to understand what makes his DI tick, and gives her gentle feedback when she's too direct. By the end of the book she seems to have relaxed into the role a little, but her earlier leadership methods could be used as a case study at Hendon College.

What sets this police procedural apart is the methodical nature of research and working on clues. Unlike many books of this genre, there are not countless red herring suspects, or diversions, raining down on us. This is how real policing works.

There's a dramatic finale with a police officer in danger, and the suspense and pacing is nicely handled by Rigby.

Good to see a book set in this beautiful part of the world.

The Last Resort by Heidi Perks  (3 stars)

Releasing repressed memories, and a therapist professionally in the wrong, are the themes of this novel. Erin seeks couples' counselling after she finds she's suddenly suspicious of her husband, and not feeling safe with him. Therapist Maggie's sister was murdered a few years ago and a man imprisoned for her death. But she has never heard the story around why Lily died, and believes Erin could hold the key.
An interesting proposition, but lacked pace.


Empowered Aging by Ellen Saltonstall  (5 stars) 

An amazing resource for people wanting to improve flexibility and keep joints mobile. The section on the effects of ageing on our bodies is a real eye opener. Various references substantiate the claims that yoga reduces many of the symptoms, if proof was needed.

The yoga exercises start with some fundamentals to understand the basis for each move. The exercises themselves are well explained with pictures and many variations. There are standing, prone and chair routines, so there are really no excuses for anyone to not get started.

There's a very valuable series of four exercises for hand and wrists, often overlooked but vitally important because we protect ourselves during a fall with our hands. And If time is short, there are short sets of exercises,

If only this type of knowledge and exercise could become mainstream for everyone over 60. We would lessen the burden on the NHS and lead healthier, more fulfilled lives for longer. 5 stars!

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These great sites are where I link. Sharing this January Post with bloggers  in the southern hemisphere for #WhatsBeenOnYourBookshelf. 


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  1. A great bunch this month ... I had Sat Bains' book on preorder and noted it came in yesterday - I can't wait to get stuck into it.

  2. I'm always looking for books to read. Thanks for sharing this round of reading.

  3. You did a lot of reading. I haven't read any of these, so thanks for the heads up.

    1. Hope there was something of interest
      Good to see you

  4. Such a great list. I am definitely checking out some of these. I really need to get on with my reading list!


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