January/February roundup

Hello dear reader! How are you? It’s been forever. You look fabulous, as always.

I did mean to do a January roundup following my ‘How do you read so much?’ post, but then life got in the way (yes, I was reading more books), and before you know it, February has arrived (along with more books), and then you blink and it’s the end of the month and not only have I not done a January roundup, I don’t appear to have written very much at all this year.

Ooops. I blame Elden Ring (and Jackson Ford, who kept saying it was awesome) and appear to have lost *cough* hours into it already. Double oops.

It’s so pretty though. That’s me, about to go an investigate a castle to give a letter to some dude called Edgar (I think). I’m really not very good at keeping track of what’s going on and there’s no obvious ‘go here and do this’ list.

So yeah, been playing a LOT of Elden Ring and taking a bit of a break from the old blog/newsletter/everything. But I’m back! Cue fireworks/cake!

What have I been reading, I hear you ask? Well settle in kids, cos it’s a LIST. (the kind you don’t get in Elden Ring, grumble grumble). Super short reviews, might dive back in and write up some longer ones later!


It Ends At Midnight – Harriet Tyce [Wildfire, 2022]

Delightfully twisty thriller, starting (and ending, as the title suggests) at midnight on New Year. Seemed to be a good choice as I started it on 31st Dec and finished it on New Year’s Day. Full of unreliable narrators, kept me guessing until the very end. Enjoyed it a lot.

End of Story – Louise Swanson [Hodder, March 2023]

Oh this book is amazing. Loved Louise’s earlier books (writing as Louise Beech), this is her first foray into a dystopian sci-fi. 2035 and fiction has been banned. Writing novels is a crime. Reading stories to children is punishable by law. The writing is beautiful, the setting is horrific, and it finishes with an ending that’ll leave you stunned. Hugely recommended.

Needless Alley – Natalie Marlow [Baskerville, January 2023]

From a dystopian future to Birmingham, 1933. William Garret, private enquiry agent, specialises in helping men with divorces, but it all goes awry when he meets the beautiful Clara, the wife of one of his clients. Gloriously gritty Brummie Noir. A hugely impressive debut, and one which I highly recommend.

The Vicar Man – Amelia Crowley [2021]

Utterly splendid historical fantasy, with a lovely line in folk horror and humour. A young priest turns up on the island a week before the equinox, and the villagers are looking for someone… special to help with the harvest. Enjoyed this enormously, though it took me far too long to twig about the title!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

What’s there to say about this one? A classic Christie, one which gets talked about a lot. I’ve read shockingly few of Christie’s books. I enjoyed it, and had fun trying to figure out whodunnit, albeit unsuccessfully. Will I read more Christie? Sure.

The Devil Takes You Home – Gabino Iglesias [Mulholland, 2022]

Stunning. A father takes a job as a hitman to save his daughter and goes on a journey into darkness. Dark and bleak, but breathtakingly good. Not for the faint-hearted, but when I finished it, I knew that it will be top of my books of the year list, and I was only eight days into the year. It’s THAT good. If you read one from this list, read this one.

The Spare Man – Mary Robinette Kowal [Solaris, 2022]

Off into space for a locked room (well, locked spaceship) mystery. Tesla Crane is on her honeymoon on a space liner heading for Mars when there’s a murder and her new husband is promptly arrested. Cue lots of investigating, banter, cocktails, and the best dog, Gimlet. Delightfully entertaining.

The Daughters of Izdihar – Hadeer Elsbai [Orbit, January 2023]

First in a duology by debut author Hadeer Elsbai, set in an alternate Egyptian-inspired world featuring elemental magic and some seriously badass women fighting for their rights in a male-dominated world. Very much looking forward to book 2.

Grave Expectations – Alice Bell [Vintage, May 2023]

Enormous fun. Claire is a medium, Sophie her best friend, who also happens to be a ghost. And very sarcastic. A lovely murder mystery at an old country house with some brilliant characters, excellent banter and a cracking story. Fabulous debut, I shall be looking forward to what Alice Bell comes up with next.

Failure Is An Option – Matt Whyman [Vertebrate Publishing, 2022, Audible]

First non-fiction and audiobook of the year. Matt Whyman goes from being an average runner taking on the saturday morning parkrun to someone who runs ultras, and ultimately taking on the famed Dragon’s Back Race, a six-day event some consider to be amongst the toughest. Funny, honest and told with a wry sense of wit, I loved this book. Though I think I’ll stick to parkrun and the weekend trail run through the woods, I must admit I did look at a couple of longer running events…

Freeze – Kate Simants [Viper, March 2023]

A new reality TV show in the Arctic with a bunch of mostly unlikeable characters all vying for the win. What could possibly go wrong? Lots of things, that’s what. Who will win? And more importantly, will there be anyone left to claim the prize? Cracking thriller, pack your thermals!

Legends and Lattes – Travis Baldree [Tor, 2022]

Utterly delightful cosy fantasy. Viv the orc hangs up her sword (literally) and opens the first ever coffee shop in a little town. Not huge on plot, but a lovely cosy tale with characters you’ll come to love. I enjoyed it enormously.

The Other People – CJ Tudor [Penguin, 2020]

A missing child and a father’s quest to find her, even though the police think she’s dead. Fab suspense thriller dealing with love and loss, splendidly creepy. Loved it.

Phew! That was a lot of reading for one month. I don’t normally read that much, as is evidenced by…


Thirty Days of Darkness – Jenny Lund Madsen [Orenda Books, May 2023]

I was hugely fortunate to get a super-early sneak peak at this from the lovely Karen at Orenda Books, and appear to have been the first reader! Danish literary author Hannah is challenged to write a crime book in thirty days, so heads off to a remote village in Iceland. How hard can it be to write a mere genre story? Then there’s a murder, and suddenly everyone’s a suspect. Lovely vein of dark humour in here, enjoyed it a lot, and looking forward to book 2 already (and book 1 isn’t out for a couple of months!)

Games for Dead Girls – Jen Williams [HarperVoyager, March 2023]

Huuuge fan of Jen Williams’ books, so very excited to get my hands on an ebook proof of Games for Dead Girls. Played out over dual timelines, a macabre game in the past turned into tragedy, whilst present day Charlotte returns to the caravan park to research local folklore and uncover the secrets of what went on all those years ago. Stitch-faced Sue is a fantasticly spooky creation which will linger long after you’ve finished. Just hope she doesn’t come for you…

The Ugly Truth – LC North [Bantam Press, March 2023]

Melanie Lange has disappeared. A video shared on YouTube claims her father is holding her at a secret facility. He claims that she’s been admitted to a private medical clinic. Her friends say she’s been kidnapped. Who is telling the truth? Told through snippets of emails, transcripts of interviews and a Netflix documentary, you’ll change your mind a dozen times before you get to the end. Fascinating!

There we go. Sixteen books read across two months. Some to add to your watch lists, some to dive into now. Huge thanks to the publicists and publishers for the advance copies.

Have you read any of them? Any take your fancy?

Keep your eyes peeled for fuller reviews – and do let me know if there’s any you’d like to know more about!

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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