Books I finished in January 2018

This was the month I embraced the joys of NetGalley! I’d used it previously to access a book for a Green Parent feature but now I’m all signed up as a Reader and loving the opportunity to preview some great new books! And it’s making me read more, which can only be a good thing. If I can keep up this rate I will burst through my Goodreads reading challenge this year.

The New Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2018 – Lia Leendertz

This was an absolutely fascinating read full of facts about the world around us here in Britain, from tide times and sun rises to seasonal vegetables and countryside lore. It’s the perfect size, whether you prefer to dip in and out or read the whole thing cover to cover as I did. I’m planning to go back at the start of each month and re-read the relevant chapter, to help me tune in more deeply to the turning of the wheel of the year. I’m looking forward to finding the constellations and making all the recipes too. I am happy to confirm that January’s recipe – apricot, date and pecan sticky toffee pudding – was every bit as delicious as it sounds!

Three Daughters of Eve – Elif Shafak

I love books set in Oxford and downloaded this when it was on offer on Kindle, having read an interview with the author a while ago. I think I must have missed the point of this one though – it seemed to take an interminable age to get going, and even when it did, nothing really happened… Even the big mystery of what Peri had done as a student seemed like a huge anticlimax to me when it was finally explained. I kept going until the end but I probably shouldn’t have bothered. Having said that, it was interesting to read a book by a Turkish author and to see into a culture that I know very little about, juxtaposed with the strand of the book which was set in Oxford at the tail end of my own time there.

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind –¬†Shoukei Matsumoto

This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but it wasn’t a disappointment – it just touched me in ways I didn’t expect. I’m clearly not a Zen monk living in a temple in Japan – I’m an English mum with two young sons and a cluttered house, and a cluttered mind to match. Perhaps naively, I didn’t expect this book to be literally about keeping a temple clean, but despite the huge gulf between our everyday situations I found plenty of common ground and thought-provoking reflections. Much of the advice appears basic on the surface, but somehow it’s so basic that you can easily overlook it, for example the importance of noticing and honouring the change in the seasons. I was planning to give this quick and quirky little read three stars, but I’ve gone for four because I suspect I’ll be drawn back to it again in the future, not least because of the charming illustrations and deceptively simple insights in the human condition. (Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy)

The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway 10) – Elly Griffiths

I’ve been a keen reader of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series since those long nights of breastfeeding my oldest son, who was born in 2011 and is the same age as Ruth’s daughter Kate. Sometimes long-running series run out of steam after a while but this one – now at its 10th title – shows no sign of slowing down. The Dark Angel sees part of the action taking place in Italy, and while I initially longed for the blue-grey of the Norfolk salt marsh rather than the sunny August climes of Lazio, I managed to suspend my scepticism of this plot device and just enjoy the ride. To be honest, I don’t really read these books for the actual plots – it’s all about the tangled web of relationships involving characters that I feel I have really got to know. Just when you think it’s all going to resolve itself, the next twist occurs and throws everyone into turmoil again. I wouldn’t say it is my favourite in the series, but it definitely carries things forward, and I can’t wait for the next one. (Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy)

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