As a reading year, 2020 has started with a bang! I read five books last month, with an average rating of 4.5, a new TwoBooks record!
I had two 5-star reads, and three 4-stars. Here are the books, in the order I read them.
TRICK OR MURDER?
By Debbie Young
Genre: Cozy Mystery
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐
When the strange new vicar arrives in Wendlebury Barrow, his ban on Halloween not only upsets the whole village, it also threatens to scupper Sophie Sayers’ fledgling romance with charismatic bookseller Hector Munro. What is the dark secret that the vicar is keeping about Hector, and whose is that body buried at the bottom of the vicarage bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night?
To my mind, Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series is a cut above the usual standard of cozy mystery in characterisation and writing style, and this one was no exception. The denizens of this Cotswolds Village are irresistibly reminiscent of the characters from The Vicar of Dibley, and Sophie herself is an engaging and likeable heroine.
MURDER IN THE MANGER
By Debbie Young
GENRE: Cozy Mystery
When a mysterious stranger interrupts Sophie Sayers’ Nativity play to accuse the whole village of murdering a baby, Sophie Sayers’ imagination runs wild, as usual, not helped by the surprise arrival of her ex-boyfriend just as her new romance with charming local bookseller Hector Munro was starting to hot up. What secrets is the stranger hiding, and whose baby is it anyway?
Yes, another Sophie Sayers book. January was so hot, dry, dusty and smoky here that a snowy English village seemed like a perfect place to escape to. Another fun read.
DON’T READ THE COMMENTS
By Eric Smith
GENRE: YA Contemporary
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight.
My first 5-star read of 2020!
And who would have guessed it would be a YA Contemporary? Not me. But it’s absolutely brilliant: engaging, thought-provoking and just so entertaining. If you missed my full review, you can find it here.
BLACKBIRCH: THE BEGINNING
By K.M. Allan
Genre: YA Fantasy
Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.
Blackbirch: The Beginning is a great story with tons of atmosphere. A really exciting debut from K.M. Allan. And I have a strong feeling that now that everything has been set up so well, Book Two will be even better.
If you missed my full review, you can find it here.
SHIP OF MAGIC
By Robin Hobb
Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River?
Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes.
Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…
I found copies of all three books of Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy at a Lifeline Book Fair last year and snapped them up, knowing I wanted to read them some time. An opportunity to do a buddy read of Book 1 with a lively group of lovers of Epic Fantasy on Goodreads was the perfect opportunity.
Firstly, this is a long book. 880 pages in the edition I had, and it’s not one I wanted to skim. Hobb’s writing deserves more than that. So it took me almost the entire month of January to make my way through. And it was spectacular. Hobb’s world-building is detailed, stunning and wholly believable.
And her characters make you want to either hug them, cheer for them or throw them overboard to the sea serpents. Despite the blurb above, this story is by no means all about Althea. There is Wintrow, who wants to be a priest but is forced to bond with a liveship by his greedy father; Kennit, a very good pirate and a very bad man; Amber, who is mysterious; Malta who is infuriating in the way only a thirteen-year-old can be. And so many more. And then there are the liveships themselves, and even the serpents.
I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll leave it here and just say this is my kind of epic fantasy and I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy. Oh, and the buddy read was a blast.
Your turn! What did you read in January? Any 5-star recommendations?