My January 2021 reads and reviews

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It’s a new year and we can start counting from one again! And I must say… it has been a GOOD reading month for me! We have hit another lockdown, closing of all stores and schools for over a month now. It’s far more severe than the last one, including a couple of days of riots because of curfew. It’s a bit weird, but books are still the same. They were here before, they are here now.

As you can see from my theStorygraph reading goals below, I am on track for the both of them! And they were all good, my average rating is 3.9 stars. Four out of eleven books were from the library. And on top of these ten, I also DNF-ed one after reading one-third of the book.

There is a tiny bug in theStorygraph though, where it didn’t finish two of my prompts for the IGGPPC reading challenge after finishing reading my first book this year. But as I am sure this will be fixed soon, I am quite enjoying my experience so far and am already letting go of Goodreads!

So let’s get to it! What did I read this January?

1. Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough (library, translated to Dutch, 4 stars)
This was a good read for the first days of the year. While reading I kept hearing Sir David Attenborough’s voice narrating his own written words. The first quest book did come off a bit superficial and without much emotion, somehow I expected a bit more as his filmed documentaries are always filled with such passion. This luckily got better in the second and third quests. I devoured the stories. The discoveries of animals. The meeting with people. The adventure! I have laughed out loud many times, read parts to my partner and even got upset together with David and Charles when the local people did something stupid or when they themselves were too naive. It was my first time reading any of David A’s books and can certainly recommend them to any nature lover. Also, it’s very enjoyable to watch the Zoo Quest documentary AFTER reading this.

2. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (ebook, English, 4 stars)
The start was a bit confusing, as it wasn’t always clear which past you were reading. The 1908-past or the past before that? After the first part of the book this became clear though, and I had a hard time putting it down.

So many mysteries pile on top of eachother, all linked together to the house in the woods, near the Devil’s hand. Stories of folklore, memories, what is real? What actually happened?

We get to know what happened to Auntie. And what happened to Gary also seems pretty clear. But what about Gertie and her Mum? And Ruthie’s parents? Why did her father have the heart attack? And what happened to Alice? In the end all mysteries are solved, but it’s dark and both spine chilling as heart warming to get there.

3. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice (ebook, English, 3.5 stars)
I am wishing for snow and wow snow is what you get in this story!

In a reservation somewhere in Canada, the internet, television and phone services start to fail. Next, suddenly the power goes out too. Everyone is still preparing for winter and panic rises fast. Snow starts to fall. It soon turns out that these outages aren’t a local thing. Strangers come to the village. Food starts to run out. But the snow keeps coming as you and the villagers lose any sense of time.

There is a bit of slang to get used to when you meet Evan and his family. But after that it’s a good read. The pace and events in this story are truly realistic. What probably must have felt a very dystopian story when the book was written and released, now feels even more real. It is a short novel, and it reads slow- to medium paced. There are a lot of loose ends though. This story is by far not complete. But it powerful enough to still like it.

4. Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke (physical, English, 4.5 stars)
This sequel to City of Lies was even more enjoyable as it leaned a bit more to Adult, as the three main characters have grown older a couple of years. The pace of the story was the same (but reading it went faster), alternating between Jovan and Kalina. I again enjoyed this way of storytelling a lot.

Both are unraveling another threatening mystery within their country and city. There is a lot of politics (including bureaucracy) and conspiracy, a fair bit of action, poisoning and folklore magic and (what I always like best) is of course the “detectiving”. While the end first makes you feel hollow and grieving, there is an open lightheartedness. I wasn’t sure about this series before, but will probably end up reading every book that will be written after Hollow Empire.

5. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (reread, ebook, English, 5 stars)
It was only two years ago when I first read this and already I longed for reading this Russian winter fairy tale of courage, bravery and sacrifice. The aesthetics are so pleasing to the mind-eye, it calms and relaxes, telling it’s ancient stories. I always read too fast, enchanting as it is. Luckily there are two more following. And I have now bought them all in hardback to ensure I will enjoy them again someday. If there is any winter-read I am pushing on people, it are these three!

6. The Owl Always Hunts at Night by Samuel Bjork (library, translated to Dutch, 3.5 stars)
Again, there any many things happening in this Samuel Bjørk novel. The case of the Owl has a long back story, but also is one of coincidences. It was written well and I read it almost at once (there was some sleeping in between).

Even though it was so good, there were two things that annoyed me a bit. Don’t read along if you don’t want it spoiled!

The first thing was that Miriam was again victim to the perpetrator. She and her father haven’t been well together for over ten years, that started to change after the first book of Munch and Krügers new department. But he has been a cop doing weird cases most of her life, and now she’s run into them twice in a year? Seems too easy…

The second thing is, Samuel Bjørk seems to want to be all up to date about technology and throws some random words around about hacking and computer technology. But that’s what they are. Random words. It doesn’t add up and it doesn’t really work well. I don’t mind him introducing hackers, but if you don’t get the culture or technology, keep it as seen from Munch and Krügers perspectives, don’t throw around names just for the sake of the names.

7. Watercolour with Love: 50 Favourite Motifs to Paint by Lena Yokota-Barth (library, translated to Dutch, 3.5 stars)
This book mostly exist.of examples you can paint, explaining in 5 pictures how to build up the layers and with a couple of sentences giving more tips. There are some new tips, I didn’t know yet and I like all the cacti and plant forms. But what I really want is to paint the alpaca!

8. Dead to me by Cath Staincliffe (library, translated to Dutch, DNF)
I received this book in a lockdown mystery package made by my library. I figured I would like it because I know the television show is really good. But instead I decided to DNF on Scott & Bailey. I got so annoyed by them being so annoyed with each other… and after 88 pages the case itself didn’t stuck with me either. Maybe it was the wrong book at the wrong time, maybe it’s just that I don’t like it written in words. Either way, I didn’t finish.

9. The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves (physical, translated to Dutch, 3.5 stars)
There are several clues give into the story, and it was easy to pick them out, but it was hard to pinpoint how they all came together. Even though I could read all of it at once after the first stage, it was all a bit too incoherent. The writing style was something different though.

The book is set in three stages. In the first stage you follow three women, going through the same couple of days, from their own perspectives. In the second stage you follow the story after the first murder, when the detective enters the stage. You’re reading more from the outside, following every one of the persons involved. In the third stage you only follow the detective, unraveling the last bits of the mysteries.

As I did like the story itself, the landscape and the teeny tiny bits of science scattered about, I didn’t love it. Maybe it was due to the incoherence and my brain couldn’t focus enough on that? In the end I don’t think I will read the second of these series.

10. The Survivors by Jane Harper (ebook, English, 3 stars)
Again… something was off. By this point I was doubting myself on my choices of books. I really loved the first three Harper stories. But it might just have been the wrong moment to read this. It was only recently released, but all this talk of summer and the beach held me back from connecting well to the story, when rain and snow are falling outside my window.

Despite that, the story sucks you in anyway when you follow Kieran, being back in his home town, remembering a tragedy from over 14 years ago when another has happened right in front of them. Unlike the precious three Jane Harper stories, I picked up on some clues early. In the end I was still wrong though, disconnected the dots. But I also wasn’t far off!

11. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (library, translated to Dutch, 5 stars)
I had to restrain myself for not reading this in one day. An emotional story about utter loneliness, the longing to belong somewhere, the fear that comes with that and a deep strong love for nature, as that is the only thing to understand. Just like Tate and Chase I fell in love with this girl, growing into a woman, struggling but also brave enough to catch an opportunity.

Even though the stories are intertwined from the beginning, the court case and Kya’s life in the marsh feel like two different books to me. I simply did not want to believe the Kya I got to know and love, would come to her end in a prison. Not even when all evidence seemed to point at her.

And that was it! These were my January reads. Not a bad start for 2021! Have you read any of these too? What did you think about them? Do you have a recommendation for something similar? Or is there anything you would like to know? Ask me in the comments!