I read all year round, but January and February are particularly good months to curl up with a book; it’s cold, icy or wet, dark and the nights are long. I’m already on my fifth and sixth books. I’m glad to be on a bit of a roll with my choices, so far so good anyway. I’m currently reading a debut novel, a detective story set in a wonderfully isolated place. I keep thinking about all sorts of practical issues. I love it when a book engages you so much that you find yourself wondering how you could manage, would you be able to live there? Also I have just started a non-fiction book, due to be published at the end of next month. If it’s interesting I’ll tell you all about it.
The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
What a fantastic start to the story! A snowy dark evening near Christmas, with a house party in full swing and detective Vera Stanhope nearby when a body is discovered. Plus there is the promise of some backstory about her family, what’s not to like?
Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius
Stolen describes the life of a Sámi community, many of whom are part of a reindeer collective in a small village in rural Sweden. It’s an unflinching look at the reality of life there for the people; who experience racism, threats to their way of life and the killing and theft of their reindeer herd.
Elsa is a vital part of her family; she has grown up to become one of the collective, which is against tradition, the role for women has always meant marriage and children, keeping the home fires burning. She’s a very memorable character who carries the story forward with her brave and outspoken ways. Elsa is very much a 21st century woman.
I did not know much at all about the Sámi (commonly known as Lapps, although I have learnt they dislike the term and prefer to be known as Sámi.)
The snowy setting is described so clearly by the author, you feel you are skiing along with Elsa. The winter world drew me in from the beginning. The tension and sense of a family and community under duress is well drawn.
It’s worth highlighting that there are some extremely gruesome parts which detail the harm and killing of reindeer by poachers. It is possible to skip those graphic paragraphs and carry on with the story, without losing a sense of the horror experienced by the community.
Stolen was a little slow in pace for the first part of the book, but I was never tempted to put it down and stop reading. Elsa is a compelling character, you will find yourself wanting to find out what happens to her and her family.
Stolen will be published this Thursday, 2nd February.
My latest audio book, this is the story of an aging Hollywood actress, once world famous. Evelyn Hugo finally decides to tell her story, detailing her rise to the top of the fame tree, the lives she intersected with, the men she married and a long held secret.
There is a dual storyline about Monique the journalist to whom Evelyn chooses to tell her story. Why did Evelyn choose a rather obscure writer? The story starts with Evelyn’s move to LA in the 1950s up to her decision to leave Showbusiness in the 1980s.
At first I was wondering why I would be interested, couldn’t really remember why I selected this book awhile back. Would it be a shallow story? Then… I really got into it! It’s a goodie. I recommend the audio book. The narrators are very convincing.
Then, if you’ve liked the style of writing try the author’s Daisy Jones and the Six. I liked that even more.
The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn
A transporting, irresistible debut novel that
takes its heroine, Cristabel Seagrave, from a
theatre in the gargantuan cavity of a beached
whale into undercover operations during World
War Il-a story of love, family, bravery, lost
innocence, and self-transformation. From GoodReads.
I’ve just read this book and loved it. I snapped it up when it was a Kindle Daily Deal for 99p. There is a big cast of characters, a brilliant seaside setting for the first part of the book, complete with a a rambling old house (we all love those, don’t we?), servants who become as close as family in some cases, World War II draws in and the story moves to France. It’s an absorbing novel with sympathetic characters. I would really love to read more about Cristabel, post-war.
As a side note; this was quite an interesting read too because I’m sometimes contacted by a blog reader who works as a transcriber, translating books into Czech for a publishing company. There are some phrases in this nove, which I probably wouldn’t have thought too deeply about, except they jumped out at me because I’d been sent several to provide synonyms, or explanations for. I hadn’t known which book she was transcribing when I received most of the emails. So found it fascinating to see how my take fitted when I knew the characters and the overall context.
The Paper Palaceby Miranda Cowley Heller
I’m quite torn about this book. I’ve thought of adding it here quite a few times and dithered several times since I read it last autumn.
The descriptions of the setting, the lake and woods I really enjoyed, and I can see why there are parallels with Where the Crawdads Sing. Heller’s writing evokes a very strong sense of place. It’s just unfortunate that all of the children, especially the sons, of boyfriends, stepfather and family friends are all so strange, if not downright unpleasant. Also nearly every boyfriend or step-father is weak, hateful, controlling or worse. Pretty much every character in-fact is unsympathetic. The only ones who you might feel you’d like to meet would be Anna and Dixon.
Eleanor’s mother has all the best lines, she’s the one with some humour and gosh it’s really needed by the end.
I completely agree with other reviewers that there should be trigger warnings on the blurb of this book and certainly on all the book selling sites. The content is not what you expect from what is essentially described as a love story, a love triangle. There are explicitly disturbing scenes from the beginning of the book onwards.
The Unseen by Katherine Webb
England, 1911. When a free-spirited young
woman arrives in a sleepy Berkshire village to
work as a maid in the household of The
Reverend and Mrs Canning, she sets in motion
a chain of events which changes all their lives.
For Cat has a past – a past her new mistress is
willing to overlook, but will never
understand ..This is not all Hester Canning has
to cope with. When her husband invites a
young man into their home, he brings with him
a dangerous obsession…During the long,
oppressive summer, the rectory becomes
charged with ambition, love and jealousy – with
the most devastating consequences. From GoodReads
I read this years ago, loved it at the time and as it’s shelved on my Couldn’t put down shelf on GoodReads, I thought I’d share it with you. I’ve read The Legacy and Half Forgotten Song, but The Unseen was my favourite, by far.
How have you been? Has January been good to you. It’s been a mix for me, I have to say. Not great, but that’s life. I can’t believe it’s the last day of the month already.
Have you been reading during the long dark cold nights of January? (Or are you in the Southern Hemisphere, basking in the warmth with a book and a cold drink?)