January round up … the longest month ever!

I have always hated January. There is just no getting away from the fact that it is dark, cold and ridiculously, almost supernaturally long. Add in another Covid lockdown and this month was destined to be a bit of a trial!

Books as always have been my salvation, my salvation and often my window on the world. So welcome to January’s round up; I hope you find something here to catch you eye.

I started the month with a very special book, special initially because it was given to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends. Life in Pieces by Dawn O’Porter was a reflection on the authors time in lockdown with her young family in LA. There was much we could all identify with here; the sense of panic and disbelief, the fluctuation of emotions, the inability to stop eating or to remember which day it is. But there were also personal challenges too, because Dawn entered lockdown in a state of grief having lost her dear friend Caroline Flack to suicide just weeks before. This book is raw, heartbreaking and hilarious, sometimes at the same time. A delightful first read of the year.

Next up was Old Bones by Helen Kitson , published this month by Louise Walters Books this is a delightful story of regret, loss and evolving friendships. You can fine my review here.

In fact this month has been an absolute gem for new releases and I am thrilled to have been able to read and review a fair few. Whether it’s the competitive world of snowboarding, found in the thriller Shiver by Allie Reynolds, the complexities of growing up in Catholic Ireland, The Rosary Garden by Nicola White or the beautiful and deadly beaches of Barbados, How the one armed sister sweeps her house by Cherie Jones the books published this month have literally had something for everyone.

Sticking with new releases, one of the patches of light in these strange dark days has been the opportunity to attend online book launches and events. It was a joy to see both Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden and Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden off on their publishing journeys.

I am thrilled, as always, to be supporting some cracking blog tours this year. Laura Purcell’s The Shape of Darkness was another perfect gothic offering, and next week I will be sharing my blog tour reviews of Lucy Jago’s A Net for Small Fishes and Inga Vespers A Long, Long Afternoon. Both very different books, but both completely immersive and vibrant in their own unique ways.

My month has been pretty fiction heavy this month as far as new releases are concerned. But Alexa, what is there to know about love by Brian Bilston was a delightful detour into poetry. Anyone who has spoken to me in real life this month has had this book continually and wholeheartedly recommended. And I have been making quite a bit of Twitter noise about it too.

My one and only non fiction book this month has been How to be a Refugee by Simon May. An incredible story of survival at any cost, you can find my Instagram review here.

And finally to two more books I have read but not reviewed. The first of my Daunt Books subscription books was Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor and it was a cracker! This is the tale of Sir Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker. With Oscar Wilder and Jack the Ripper as bit players this book was just incredible!

And in a bid for just good old fashioned comfort reading I have persuaded my book group to read the first of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles The Light Years . I have been bathing in the warm glow of the audio book but also slightly dreading what will happen if my book friends don’t love these stories as much as me!!

And there ends January! Who knows what February has in store – but remember there are always books!

Rachel x

Book review: The Rosary Garden by Nicola White

One of the absolute pleasures of book blogging is when someone send a ‘new-to-me’ author my way. And this is exactly what happened when Miranda Jewess sent me a copy of The Rosary Garden by Nicola White, published this week by Viper.

Set in Dublin in the mid 80’s, a teenage girl finds the body of a new born baby in the grounds of her Convent School. Just on the cusp of leaving a life filled with restriction, her future shimmering ahead of her Ali Hogan is suddenly pulled back into a past she had almost forgotten. And it threatens to hold her there.

Because this isn’t the first dead baby that Ali has discovered. Years before, hard on the heels of the death of her father Ali found a scrap of a newborn on Christmas Day in her Aunt’s farmhouse. Concealed from view then, it hasn’t been spoken of since.

Now current events are stirring up the past, and it’s ripples are felt throughout a number of close knit huddles. Through the Convent, through Ali’s own family and friendship group, and through the tight community in the home town of Buleen.

But the truth is hard to come by, for this Ireland of the 1980’s, where the voice of the Catholic Church rings loud, where illegitimate babies are not discussed and alternative solutions need to be found. But never divulged. And for Detective Vincent Swan these issues are very close to home.

This is a case that threatens to run away with the lives of all involved and suddenly Ali’s world is turned upset down, as her role in the tragedy comes under the harshest of spotlights. What exactly is Ali’s role in this crime and how can anyone be persuaded to break their silence?

In this novel it is true the past meets the present but the issues remain the same. Within the narrative we find a sensitive, authentic exploration of the women’s rights. With skill the issues of contraception, the intervention and power of the church, societal pressures and so much more are woven into a compelling and compulsive novel.

So much more than a crime novel, this book tackles difficult issues head on and will open up debate. Highly recommended.

Rachel x