January Roundup

Who would have thought January 2012 would go so quick?  Is it wrong that when I went back to work I was counting the days until my next  break and whether I could fit in a day off between the 3rd January and the start of Easter?

You could say that other than work I have spent most of January reading (and eating things I should not but let me gloss over that, this is meant to be about books). An impressive number in 10 actually it is more 9 plus a short story.

So where to start, where else but crime; some new, some old and some comforting. New in terms of Tess Gerritsen and The Surgeon. I have seen plenty about this author in the last few months of 2011 and her Rizzoli and Isles series of books and so I thought I would give the first one a go.  I think  I have avoided these in the past, thinking that gruesome, graphic crime was not really my thing and the setting in America can sometimes grate me, how wrong I was. Great,  compelling read and now on the look out for book two and the others to catch up with I am told they get better and better.

Old crime has to be Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes and the short story A Scandal in Bohemia. My first Sherlock story and inspired by the fact that the wonderful BBC series adapted this story for their opening second series on New Year’s Day. I wanted to see how true to the story it was, my thoughts can be found at this post.

Cosy Crime can only come in the form this month of M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist, (not pictured above  – because I forgot!) where Agatha takes her angst abroad only for murder to find her. Also reading this allowed me to part complete one of the challenges I have set myself for the year. More about that later.

Cosiness continued with Jack Sheffield and Educating Jack which was kindly sent to me by Lynsey Dalladay from Transworld Publishers. Already at book 6 and I am glad to hear there will be some more, life is moving quite fast for Jack and the school where he is headmaster. Whilst all the events  in 1982/83 gets become even more baffling to the characters. These are great social history books and even more enjoyable (I think) when you can remember the events the first time around. Looking back with adult eyes makes you wonder. This was also the first time I had a critical comment on my Amazon review as well; by giving too much of the plot away. I thought I had not and only hinted at the content of the story and gave as much away as the blurb on the back? An interesting point which has certainly made me think.

Looking with adult eyes at a book I can say I have probably avoided for most of my life is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. We did not read many classics at school and although this book and many others featured on the shelves at home as well audio books, my knowledge of this story came from the television. I felt I wanted to rectify some of that, as it does not just apply to Jane Eyre but many other books. I started this back last year, and it is a book which I got into and read and read and then found I started to struggle with some passages and therefore sought diversion with other books, only to keep returning to this. I am pleased I have read this book and I can see that I will certainly be reading it again because I feel I may have missed so much that I will pick up a new perspective next time round.

Trying to keep in theme is difficult for some of the other books I have read in January. History could be said to be found in Below Stairs by Margaret Powell, but it was quite a boring book which did not enlighten me about anything to do with servants and I fell victim to a republish to cash in on Downton Abbey. This is the only book that I would say came under History.

At a stretch (and a very long one) you could say that Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern had a historical element. What it actually has besides being a cracking good read, is the story of a house (I am a fan of such books) where two different time periods are covered by the occupants of the house. Finding out about who was before them and whether the future will actually heal the past.  Reflecting back on the many books I read, I am always steered to such books as these, two stories running seemingly independently of each other, set in different times but crossing over and coming together at some point throughout the book. I am sure it is my love for history that inspires me to read so much of these and also I think a secret burning desire to write such a novel myself. If only….

Even though it sometimes could be said that I stick to genres and books that I know and love the best, I am not afraid of trying something new and see if it takes. With a debut author, so a new author and a new book for everyone I struck lucky with Rachel Joyce and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This book is so beautiful, and for that I just do not mean the cover and the wonderful map but the writing and the story. It is a must read for 2012 and it has already featured on the Waterstone’s 11 (I cannot remove the apostrophe at the moment, give me time) for this year and is published in March.

With one to read, I must say that French Lessons by Ellen Sussman is one to avoid.  A book that could have been so much more really disappointed me and I felt cheated in some ways. However the structure of the book, featuring one day was very clever and this was repeated for me when I read Sue Welfare and The Surprise Party (review to follow soon). This sort of method could actually put some people off, how possibly are they going to fit a story with a decent plot and good characters if all the action happens in one day. Well in Sue Welfare’s case surprisingly effectively which resulted in me being hooked on the book. In Ellen Sussman’s case not so well.

Finally mention must go to my challenges. I pondered long and hard about whether I should sign up for the many challenges which are around the blogosphere to do with books, but I felt I was never going to be able to give my full potential to them and end up getting in a panic for not completing them. So I set myself some and they can be found at the top of the page so you can see my progress.

I was doing ok with the book buying but I forgot all about buying books on my kindle, somehow I told myself that would not count! So not a great start. But I have completed Jane Eyre and read one of the Agatha Raisin books so I am well on my way at a nice steady pace and I know that I will be adding new challenges throughout the year and have already done so with the newest challenge up there  – to read another Jospehine Tey Novel, my apologies but I cannot remember who was blogging about her and it spurred me into adding this as a challenge. Thank you anyway.

A small reference must go to my kindle, because a number of these books 4 this month have been read on this device. There is no pattern to how much I read as in ‘real’ books or on the kindle, it’s as my reading mood takes me I find. That said I end January reading a book – Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book – on my kindle as it was a bargain daily deal a few weeks back.

Everybody ready then, let’s get on with February.