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January has come to an end! Doesn’t it seem as though 2022 has been around for much, much longer than these 31 days? Sadly, the events happening here in Canada this past weekend put a strain on what had hoped would be a better year and one filled with promise and light. So, that is all we can continue to do now, hope and continue to look for the light and promise.

What has been very promising for me however has been my reading! I’ve been on fire and my reading mojo is back! I’ve read so many great books in January. It’s hard to believe I read these just in this first month of the new year. Shall we take a look at what I’ve been reading?

The Predatory Animal Ball by Jennifer Fliss. Years ago now we were all involved in an online book club and met Jennifer because of it. We’ve always read Jennifer’s work and now get to send congratulations on the publication of her flash fiction book, The Predatory Animal Ball. We ended up choosing this to read for our in-person book club. It’s a great collection and here are my favourites:

Sex Drive: It’s two pages and I absolutely loved it. I laughed out loud at one particular scene, I just thought it was clever and this story is such great play on “Sex Drive” – it’s about a street named Sex Drive. “Her sex drive is not the same as his sex drive. She sees oak and maples and the peeling paint of the house across the street. He sees the wife across the street mows the lawn in very short shorts and that their lawn is very closely cut.”

Intimacy of Brushing Teeth: She captured in 5 pages the frustrations and irritations of daily married life.

The Mourning Light – I just wrote this deserves an honorable mention. So good!

Yolk: Sadness in 5 pages that leaps off the page. This is a story about losing a baby.

Candy Necklace: my favourite. All the power you would expect and have known Jennifer to write. Excellent story. (This story was mentioned by others at our book club meeting too so you know it left a lasting impact on many and not just me.)

Thank you Jennifer for the opportunity to read your work! We look forward to more.

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne. This was our other choice for January’s book club. It is Boyne’s highly sarcastic and scathing look into the obsession and control social media has over us. We are taken on this wild and snarky journey with the Cleverley family through cancel culture and all forms of ridiculousness because of our obsessive consumption of social media. There were many laugh out loud moments but sometimes, while it being completely spot-on, was so over the top it became too silly. I’m sure that was the point, but I became exhausted by it just like my ever growing aversion to what I see on social media exhausts me.

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer. This was a fantastic work of fiction! I started listening to this back in early December and finished with the paper copy. Richard Armitage narrates and while I wasn’t too keen on his Russian accents at first, he was wonderful as always. Seriously a great story that unfolds in parallel timelines. Which, I didn’t get at first, because I was listening to it, so it took me a hot minute to figure that out. It really shouldn’t have, but for some reason it did. I guess it only confirms I’m a visual learner? Anyway, Alexander Karpenko must flee Russia with his mother and is faced with two choices – get into the ship’s container headed to Great Britain or the one headed to the US. This is where the parallel storylines come into play. So, so many moments where your pulse was racing, sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering what was going to happen to Alex/Sasha. So, so good! I totally recommend! And unbelievably, this is the first time I’ve read Archer. I have so many of his books on my TBR and I look forward to now digging into as many as I can. What a storyteller!

Something to Hide by Elizabeth George. Oh was this ever so worth the long wait! I flew through it! (Which seems unfortunate now doesn’t it? I now have to wait again for more Lynley!) I truly feel this was one of her very best and was glued to it the entire time. Truly I’m experiencing a book hangover because I’m not reading this anymore.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the main issue here and it can make for heavy reading at times. I read an article where George said this was one of the most difficult Lynley books she’s written and I feared she was perhaps closing down the series because of that statement. But that wasn’t the case, it appears that this topic was giving the difficulty. And it was very well researched and presented in my opinion.  This part in particular gave pause, the struggle of wishing to maintain cultural norms while living in another country. It is explaining why the mother of an 8-year old Nigerian girl wishes to have her cut:

“…to have Simisola made pure so that she could proceed into womanhood. Despite having found a location where Simi could be cut under medical conditions – with anaesthetic, with sterile surgical instruments used by someone trained, and with aftercare – it was still having her cut, and in this country, it was against the law. Monifa had no hope of making this police detective understand any part of what was meant to happen in Simisola’s life. He wasn’t of their culture, so there were things he would never be able to grasp. She and Simisola were, after all, females. The purpose in each of their lives was to serve the males to whom they were bound through marriage or tied to through birth. This was how it was. Her own mother was living this way, as was her mother-in-law, as had lived her grandmother, her great-grandmother, and the women who had come before them. To their people, this was all part of being a woman. Being cut meant being cleansed. Being cleansed meant being pure. Being pure meant being marriageable.”

We get the continued character development of Lynley, Havers and Nkata and of the St. James’s too, indeed Deborah St. James features heavily in this instalment, but the characters involved in the murder mystery and the overall storyline were all so very good, I miss reading about these people. I wonder how long George will make us wait for the next one? I do hope it isn’t 4 years again!

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw. I just finished this book yesterday. What an amazing cover eh? The writing inside was absolutely beautiful – I said often it was like butter. There were sentences where I thought I was reading poems. This, and the last 100 pages made this an enjoyable book for me. The middle of the book was dragging because I felt it needed to take a giant leap forward and it just wasn’t doing that. It felt like it was spinning around with the same things being repeated over and over. So because of this I am so pleased with myself for resisting the urge to buy this one (a lot of that urge was based on its lovely cover) and instead borrowed it from the library. Love your libraries! This is a story about two people that disappeared into the woods and also about life on a commune gone wrong – the usual story about their chosen leader becoming consumed with power and control and wanting to keep everyone away from outside society and influence. Very good, and it was because of the writing that I enjoyed this one.

This is the very first sentence, to give you a taste: “Death has a way of leaving breadcrumbs, little particles of the past that catch and settle and stain.”

What am I reading right now? Well, in audio, I have Rock, Paper, Scissors on the go. Richard Armitage narrates the husband’s point of view and Stephanie Racine narrates the wife’s. I think she sounds like Emma Thompson and I’ve been loving listening to her voice because of it. So far so good, but I’m not very far into it.

I’m going to crack open Still Life by the wonderful Sarah Winman tonight (another stunning cover right?). I sent Hoarder Elizabeth a photo of Still Life and The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, asking her to choose which one I should read next? She said the audio for The Lincoln Highway is amazing, so I’m going to put myself on the hold list for it from the library. I may have also mentioned this to our former Hoarder Jackie last night (wink) so I think she’s put herself on the hold list before me. That’s okay, I do own the hardcover so I can always read it if it’s months and months before I can listen to it.

Hope you’re having wonderful reading experiences too and let the good reads roll on into February!