The Language of Spells – Sarah Painter- 07.02.22  The Secrets of Ghosts – Sarah Painter – 11.02.22

I love Sarah Painter’s Crow Investigations books – an urban fantasy series up there with Ben Aaronovitch’s novels in my opinion, so I gave these earlier books by her a go.

These are kind of urban fantasy, but much more cosy mystery/romance in feel. I thought the heroines were all obsessed with men and their bodies and thinking about sex all the time and that got quite annoying.

There was quite a lot that I did like – nice wise woman/witch wisdom – using herbs and superstition to help people with all kinds of problems from the mundane to the serious, and of course the women did have actual powers that they had to discover and come to terms with.

On the whole I would say I liked but didn’t love these two books.

The Nothing Man (Audiobook) – Catherine Ryan Howard (Author), Alana Kerr Collins (Narrator), John Keating (Narrator) – 04.02.22

Covid hit me really hard – there were three weeks when I could barely get up from the sofa and during that time I spent a lot of hours listening to audiobooks (and sewing a felt Christmas wreath for my daughter that I started over a year ago and never got around to finishing until now!)

This was another Irish narrator audiobook – I prefer Irish narrators as British audiobooks often have really posh narrators and that annoys me.

I’ve enjoyed other Catherine Ryan Howard books -whodunnit type novels set in contemporary Ireland and I enjoyed this one too.

The premise was that a woman who survived a vicious attack on her family as a child has written a memoir about it, and the man who killed her family and many others and was never captured is reading the book. We get chapters from his perspective, and then chapters from the memoir as he is reading them and then his response to what he reads. I thought the structure was clever and the tension ramped nicely. I found the ending satisfying too.

The Fowl Twins – Eoin Colfer (AUDIOBOOK) – 01.02.22

After listening to Nomadlands I wanted something light and fun (also because I was ill with Covid at the time and not concentrating super well) and this kids book was perfect. I’m a fan of Eoin Colfer of old – my favourite of his books (and one of my favourite books ever) is the less well known young adult novel The Wish List. I’ve enjoyed the Artemis Fowl books as well, and so I gave this off shoot about Artemis’s younger twin brothers a go.

As I hoped, it was fun – witty with sometimes irreverent humour and a nice Irish narrator. The twins are both ‘special’ in their own way, and their bond is sweet and uplifting and of course I love anything with magical folk involved.

The Fine Art of Invisible Detection – Robert Goddard – 04.02.22

From the title and the book cover design, I was expecting a sort of Urban Fantasy, Magical Realism type of book, but it really isn’t – it’s just a thriller. Saying that, I really enjoyed this book. The main character is a middle aged widowed Japanese woman who finds herself embroiled in a big criminal investigation spanning several countries.

She is badass – her ‘skill’ is in being unobtrusive and easily overlooked (yay – that’s my superpower – the forgettable Sarah Wray!) although as well as that she is brave and determined and clever.

The story is told part in flashbacks and part in present day and involves characters from England, Iceland, America and Japan. I was gripped, and also moved and a couple of times laughed out loud at funny moments. I may have read it thinking it would be something else, but I’m glad I did because it is a great book in its own right.

A Night in the Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny (illustrator – Gahan Wilson) – 29.01.22

Wow – this book was really strange and I’m not quite sure what I made of it (and I have a high threshold for strangeness!).

The story is narrated from the point of view of a dog who is the ‘familiar’ to a dark and shady character and his group of animal friends and acquaintances who are also familiars to other ‘human’ (or near human) characters.

It pays homage to many horror classics and there’s a bit of fun to be had in spotting the horror literary characters.

I wasn’t always sure who were the ‘good guys’ and therefore who I should be rooting for and I was a bit confused overall at times about what was actually going on. Maybe just me being thick?

I think I liked it??

Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century (AUDIOBOOK) – Jessica Bruder, Karen White, et al. – 27.01.22

I loved the film adaptation of this book, and since the audiobook was going cheap, and usually books give more insight than movies, I gave it a go.

I think what the book lacked over the film was the gorgeous cinematography – the film was just so visually stunning and showed the vast expanse of the American scenery in a way that the book couldn’t. On the other hand, I think for me the book emphasised the hardship and difficulties that drove so many Americans, often middle aged or older, to have to take up this lifestyle. Crippling housing or healthcare costs forced many to become virtually homeless – migrant workers ‘slaving’ away at minimum wage well into middle and older age.

While there is a romantic side to life on the road, and the community that exists between the travellers, it’s clearly not an easy option. I found the book thought provoking and interesting.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises – Fredrik Backman – 25.01.22

This book is written by Fredrik Backman, who wrote A Man Called Ove, which I read a couple of years ago and loved. It was a news story in my Facebook feed about the American remake of the Swedish film adaptation of A Man Called Ove that led me to both watch the Swedish film (which was excellent) and read this book.

Ironically, it is similar in theme to the previous book I reviewed: The Wish List by Ruby Hummingbird, but whereas that was an example of taking a good premise and ruining it with atrocious writing, this took a good premise and made it better.

Elsa is a small girl who shares a strong bond with her grandmother even sharing a made up language and stories about an imaginary place beyond dreams. When her grandmother dies, Elsa is sent on a treasure hunt which leads her to discovering the back stories of many of the other residents of the apartment building where she lives as well as her own family’s story.

There are a lot of difficult and quite adult themes to be worked through, and although it is a ‘feel good’ book ultimately, it is by no means superficially nicey nicey.

I liked it a lot.

The Wish List (Audiobook) – Ruby Hummingbird (Author), Lucy Paterson (Narrator) – 24.01.22

I wanted to like this book – I’ve read a few others with similar premises which I have liked, even loved, but this one not so much.

A sad old lady, Maria, meets a sad old man, Alfie, once a week for tea and cake in a local café until one day he doesn’t show up. Turns out he died and left her his flat and quite a lot of money as well as a list of nice things he was trying to do to help the people he loved or just wanted to help before he died. Since he wasn’t able to finish the list, Maria takes on the mantle and in helping others she helps herself to get through her grief etc. All good, except ….

I found the style of writing really repetitive and dull. Lots of explaining, and overexplaining and then explaining again like it was written for people with single digit IQs. Things were so signposted before they were ‘revealed’ that you’re thinking, finally rather than ‘oh I didn’t see that coming.’

It wasn’t completely awful, but it was quite bad.

Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air (The Frost Files Book 2) – Jackson Ford – 24.01.22

I find this kind of urban fantasy really fun if its done well, and so far I’m enjoying this series very much. The main character, Teagan Frost, has powers of telekinesis thanks to genetic modification work carried out on her and her two siblings by her parents. As far as she knows, the rest of her family are dead and she is kept in check by a government agency who used to keep her in a faculty, but now allow her to live by herself if she works for them.

In this installment, a small boy has similar powers, and an evil plan to destroy the western edge of the USA by manipulating the tectonic plates and causing major earthquakes. Teagan and her crew must try to find him and stop him before it’s too late!

Fun, fun! There are two more books in the series so far and I look forward to reading them too.

Snow – John Banville (AUDIOBOOK) – 21.01.22

I found this book quite unsettling and disturbing as well as, I’m afraid, quite dull. Set in an Irish stately home during the 1950s a policeman is called in to investigate after a priest is found dead at the bottom of the stairs. Did he fall or was he pushed?

I thought the characters were quite caricatured and the blasé talk of child abuse was really unpleasant and sickening.

I didn’t enjoy it at all.