January 2021 Wrap Up

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! Today, I’m here to talk about the books I read this month. I kicked off the year with a total of 8 books. So without further ado, let’s begin, and fair warning, there may be spoilers.

The first book I read this month was Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, which is an adult horror. This is the sequel to King’s original novel, The Shining, which followed young boy Danny as he learns about his mysterious ability, whilst his family take over caretaking duties at the Overlook Hotel. Doctor Sleep picks up years later, as Danny struggles with alcoholism, and is haunted by his mistakes. It isn’t long before his life is changed – even more so when he meets a young “shiner”, Abra… A bit of background – I tried reading this in 2020, but my brain was having none of it and so I put it aside. After watching the Doctor Sleep Kill Count on YouTube on the horror media channel, Dead Meat, I decided I should try the book again. This time, I felt more confident, as I was aware of the plot. This does feel like King’s experiences with alcoholism, and meetings with AA. Danny, even though he can be awful, has enough humanity in him that you feel his pain and suffering. Abra, on the other hand, is a fierce, joyous character, and is wonderful to read about. The villainous True Knot are eerie, and there was a moment where I swear I felt my skin crawl. King’s writing seems the best it’s been at – it’s not too overwhelming, nor does it go off on too many tangents, unlike his earlier work. It’s subtler horror, not bloody violence for the sake of it. I did find it slow to get into though, and thematically, it can be upsetting. Jack and Danny Torrance, and King himself, have struggled mentally and physically with addiction, so it can be occasionally harrowing. This being said, I did enjoy this, and rated this 4 stars.

I then picked up A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which is a NA fantasy. This is the second book in the Blood and Ash series – the first book, From Blood and Ash, was gifted to me at Christmas by my best friend. The series follows Poppy, a Maiden, who is destined to help her people. She is sheltered from court life, and is guarded heavily. When her path crosses with handsome guard, Hawke, life begins to change… This is an incredibly popular and addictive series. Although it is very trope heavy, it still draws you in. Poppy is headstrong and capable, but vulnerable, making her more likeable. Hawke, meanwhile, is tall, dark and handsome, and can definitely handle himself in a fight! This being said, the paperback editions seem strangely printed at times, and these are not small books! I feel like the plot does meander slightly more in the second book, although the romantic and sexual tension keeps the reader engaged. I have found these books to be more romance-centric, than the actual fantasy side of things – it can be very confusing at first! This being said, I don’t want to give away spoilers, especially as this is the second book in the series. Book one I read in December, and book two I read this month. I rated them both as 4 stars.

The next book I read was Baptism of Fire by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is an adult fantasy. This is the fifth book in The Witcher series, and in this instalment, Witcher Geralt is injured but determined to find the missing princess, Ciri… I found this a little difficult to get into, but I think it’s because I’ve been away from the series for several months. Geralt is getting older – that much is clear. This doesn’t stop him from trying to do the things he used to, although he seems more snappy this time. There is the huge backdrop of war and its consequences. There were several new characters I enjoyed, such as archer Milva, Regis and Zoltan. There remains action, intrigue and magic, however, I do think I’d appreciate this more on a reread. I rated this 3 stars.

The next book I read was on Kindle, and that was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, which is an adult thriller. This follows the Richardson family, as their lives become entwined with their new tenants, the Warrens. Their arrival won’t be the first thing to upset the pristine Shaker heights – soon everyone is in disagreement over the case of an adopted Chinese baby… I’d heard a lot of good things about this, and the writing is definitely one of them. Ng creates such realistic characters, but over dramatises them just right. The reader is transported to this clean, neat community, which contrasts to the Warren family, who arrive in an old car and buy their furniture and homely comforts from charity shops and the sides of roads. I was captivated by the two differing lifestyles – the Warrens nomadic life is appealing, whereas the homely comforts of the Richardson’s is also high up on a list of things to want. Sadly, I found this less thrilling, and more like a family drama. There was a lot of information told to the reader, and it is very info dumpy. This drags the pace down and made it harder to become invested in the story. I found this to be an average read, and ended up rating this 3 stars.

The next book I read was Troy by Stephen Fry, which is an adult historical novel. This is the third book in Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology series, where Fry recounts the myths and legends of Ancient Greece. In this book he’s going into detail on the battle of Troy… I was sadly disappointed with this. Whilst Fry’s wit and charm is present throughout the book and its footnotes, this is a story that has been told in so many different ways. Fry’s account adds little to it. Whilst there is a wealth of detail about gods and goddesses, relationships and the battle, something just doesn’t feel right. This being said, it is a gorgeous book and looks great with my collection. In the end, I rated this 3 stars.

The next book I read was The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse, which is an adult historical novel. Set in 1928, Freddie is lost. Lost in his grief for his brother, and lost in a hilly area of France. He soon comes across a village, where he meets a young woman, and Freddie finds he can talk to her… This was a beautiful story. Mosse is adept at creating realistic characters, getting to the heart of who they truly are. The theme of loss, love and grief is present throughout, and it’s powerful and emotive. The isolated location adds to the feel – so cold, and separate. My only criticism is that it’s quite short, and I would have liked more. I rated this 4 stars.

The next book I read was an eBook, and that was The Guest List by Lucy Foley, which is an adult thriller. This follows Jules and Will who are preparing to get married on the coast of Ireland. It isn’t long though before old friends, past grudges, and hidden jealousies begin to surface. The cake has been cut, a storm is raging, and then a body is found… I was disappointed with this. The gorgeous lives of the rich contrast well with the poor, however, it feels very snide at times. This is often seen through the eyes of the various characters, who each have their own secret to hide. Some are obvious. Some are not. This definitely does feel like someone is saying “boys will be boys”, however it soon gets turned on its head. This being said, I did enjoy the writing style, and I was engaged throughout – no pun intended. I rated this 3 stars.

The final book I read was also an eBook, and that was The Burning by Laura Bates, which is a YA contemporary. This follows Anna, who starts at a new school in Scotland. She has a new surname, and all her social media is gone. Her old life cannot be traced, however, whispers soon start. Anna soon finds herself drawn to the tale of a local girl, accused of witchcraft… This was an incredible read. Bates’ writing style was so easy to be engaged with, and her characters are so realistic. It’s been a while since I was at school, but some of Anna’s experiences run parallel to mine, making this novel so much more believable. Another parallel is the tale of witchcraft. This is bold, and historic. The content of this novel is brave, with fierce feminism running throughout. I highly recommend this – it’s such an important read. I rated this 5 stars.

So that completes my monthly wrap up – the first of 2021! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of January – whether it’s paper/hardback, audio, eBook, graphic novels or manga. They all count! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know!

– ReadWriteZoe.

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