January Reads

Stack of old, beautifully bound books in greens and creams standing on a white table with a vase of white flowers next to them.

This year I have decided to split my book reviews out of the quarterly This Sparks Joy! posts and do a monthly review post containing everything which I’ve rated 3 stars or over. All these reviews have already been posted to Amazon UK, Goodreads and The Storygraph but having them here as well allows me to both keep everything neatly in one place and include links to a variety of places to purchase them, should my thoughts on them make you want to do that.

Currently, having asked quite a few authors and a couple of small publishing houses what helps them most, I’ve included links (where they exist) to the author’s own website or their page on their publishers website, a link to Amazon UK (on the basis that I’m in the UK and I think most of my followers are too), a link to Blackwells who do international shipping, a link to Audible if I listened to it as an audio book, and a link to Bookshop UK, which supports UK indie bookshops and ensures they have a direct marketplace online that doesn’t rely on Amazon.

The Bookshop UK link is an affiliate one so if you purchase through them then I will get a little bit of money to help keep my house heated as well as the indie bookshops getting the business too.

So, with that little bit of housekeeping out of the way, here are the reviews:

Treacle Walker by Alan Garner
5 stars

You get from this novel what you bring to it. Give it your time, your close attention, an imagination filled with folklore and a mind open to magic and you will have sight of something special. I know I will be drawn back to this time and time again as I search for the beginnings and ends of the threads Alan chose to weave this tale with. It is luminous and shines with glamour. 

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
4 stars

Well written, compelling, but deeply unsettling.
An exploration of abuse and power and control set in rural Northumberland that sings with unease. I had to keep putting it down because the anxiety rising inside me was overwhelming but then I had to go back to it because I couldn’t leave it unread. If you’ve experienced abuse you should be aware of how distressing this book may be to read.

Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

This Charming Man by C. K. McDonnell
4 stars

Thoroughly enjoyed this continuation of The Stranger Times series. The characters continue to grow (all of them, this ensemble cast works really well), the plot was tight and well executed, and the writing remained witty and amusing. Can’t wait to see what we get from book three, which I already have on pre-order and will be released in February. 

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

Clamour and Mischief edited by Narrelle M Harris
4.5 stars

A wonderful anthology of corvid based stories that offers something for everyone in terms of plot whilst having a consistently high standard of writing. My favourites were Branwen and the Three Ravens and The Language of Birds but found all sixteen stories fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed each one. 

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven by Juno Dawson
4 stars

As someone who used to work as a tax accountant and who is both queer and a witch (although not the type of witch Juno has imagined) I don’t think there was ever any doubt I’d read this book at some point. There are so many things to like in this book and yet when I finished the last page I was out of sorts and unsettled. Part of that is down to the obvious set up for further books in the series but it also, I think, stems from the setting and world building that grounds the book. If you want a magical romp that takes you out of the utter mess of our current political climate then this is absolutely not the book for you.

I really appreciated how the various issues it dealt with were handled but, like the real world, there were no easy solutions to the hatred and fear it highlighted. Right now that feels like an honest place for a fictional story to go but if you are queer and fiction is currently your escape from the issues our community is facing this may be one to keep on the tbr pile for a little while longer. 

It is a really good book though. The writing is wonderful, the characters vivid and engaging (even the awful ones) and the way the magic is built into and around the real world works very well indeed. Whether or not the characters that I love will eventually get a break I do not know but I am looking forward to getting my hands on the second book in the series to see where Juno takes them next.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging – Volume Blue edited by Atlin Merrick
4 stars

This is wonderful anthology full of hope and weirdness (in the best way). There were a few stories in here that were not really my sort of thing but every single one was well written and the variety within the theme is unmatched. I read it a few stories at a time with my morning coffee and can only say that I’m so glad there’s another volume (silver) so that this adventure into the myrid of cryptids is nowhere near over.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells

The Girls in the Water by Victoria Jenkins
3 Stars

A well plotted and well paced thriller with a realistic and interesting main character in DI Alex King. Chloe Lane also makes for a compelling “side kick” even if her characterisation is a bit off in places. I read this in one sitting and enjoyed it but I won’t be rushing to read the next in the series as I didn’t quite gel with the author’s writing style.

Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

Dark, Salt, Clear by Lamorna Ash
5 stars

Like the sea this book defies categorisation and is deeply bewitching. Nature writing, travel memoir, history, politics, slice of life … this work is packed so full of interest. In other hands I think this could have been an exhausting read, as imparted so much information, but Lamorna wove each thread together so skilfully and lightly that it felt as easy as floating. I listened to the audiobook version of this and felt that having the narration done by Lamorna herself added another subtle layer to the work. I came away with a new understanding of the fishing industry, Cornwall, and what good writing can be and do. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Audible | Bookshop UK

The Last Remains (Dr Ruth Galloway #15) by Elly Griffith
4.75 stars

Given that this book was released and appeared on my kindle this morning (thanks to having it pre-ordered) and I’m writing this review at 2pm on the same day I think it is fair to say that this is a gripping, fast paced, fantastic read.

You would, I think, need to have read most of the previous 14 novels in this series to fully appreciate the number of threads woven together in this latest instalment, yet I suspect you could read it as a standalone and still appreciate how good it is. I have loved the setting, characters, and the way history and archeology are the foundations of each mystery from the first book and this does not disappoint.

If you are avoiding books that include mention of the pandemic then this might not be the book for you but I found that it added to the story without being overwhelming.

I really appreciated the uplifting ending and, although it could be seen to be a natural closing point for the series as a whole, do hope we see more of Ruth in the future.

Author Website | Amazon UK | Blackwells | Bookshop UK

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