Monthly Roundup – January 2021

Happy New Year! I haven’t offered this greeting to many people as it feels strangely inappropriate in current circumstances. Nevertheless, I started the month on my usual raft of good intentions. The house was undecked and cleaned. I resumed my weekly running schedule. I started a 30 day yoga programme at home. I cycled to the gym for strength training, intending to build up slowly after injury. After just one gym visit the country was placed in Lockdown3 and the facility had to close.

So far, this lockdown has been the hardest to bear. The weather turned decidedly wintery making cycling without a destination unappealing – I do not possess appropriate cold weather gear. Thus I focused on running our local lanes, until the recurrence of foot injuries left me all but housebound again. I do my best to adhere to the prescribed rules so only interact with those outside my little family when on daily exercise – greetings shared while passing at the recommended distance. I miss the fresh air and occasional glimpses of others so am impatient for my damaged feet to heal, well aware that if I rush the process I will not properly mend. It is all immensely frustrating.

I find myself getting cross at things of no consequence, such as adverts for holidays. ‘Treat yourself to a Spring Break’ they implore as businesses try to navigate their way out of the imposed financial quagmire. As I have stated before, I will not be staying away from home until the hospitality industry is permitted to be hospitable again – no masks, social distancing or requirement to sanitise hands. I wonder if hotels and restaurants will be allowed to open up in this way any time this year – how many will survive.

Thinking of survival, I read in the news of the stresses suffered by those working for the NHS. When the call went out for help, daughter cut short her visit home, returning to London early to work shifts on the COVID wards. Thankfully, we all remain mostly well and I must focus on this.

Younger son has been sitting exams remotely. I hope his university takes into account the extra pressures students have had to deal with this year when marking papers. He has not been impressed with his term of distance learning, finding face to face teaching more effective yet no longer available without accepting solitary confinement in halls.

Husband is still working from home, going out during his lunch break for air and exercise. We look forward to daylight lengthening that our evenings may not be quite so housebound. For now we make use of our son’s subscription to Netflix and Prime. We have yet to find films or series we would rave about but there is enough to provide distraction.

I still have my books. As well as reading early copies of upcoming titles, I have been delving into my TBR pile. I am trying, this year, to read more of the books publishers have sent that I didn’t manage to review ahead of publication, and also to actually read a few of the titles I buy for myself. To achieve this I have had to exercise restraint in requesting new, tantalising titles from publishers – so hard when they sound so good.

Four books that I have agreed to take are the titles shortlisted for the inaugural Barbellion Prize, a literary award dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. I posted about this here.

I reviewed 9 books in January: 8 fiction (2 translated, 1 for children) and 1 non fiction. Robyn added 12 more, including the final book in her Cosmere Christmas series and the first in the Bridgerton series. It is a rarity for her to read romantic fiction so I was interested in her thoughts.

As ever in these monthly posts, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.



The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan, published by Serpent’s Tale
The Priest and the Lily by Sanjida O’Connell

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, published by World Editions
The Absent Therapist by Will Eaves, published by CB editions

Absolution by Paul E. Hardisty, published by Orenda


Translated Fiction

Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by David Warriner), published by Orenda
Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París (translated by Christina MacSweeney), published by Charco Press


Children’s Fiction

Sunny and the Wicked Lady by Alison Moore, published by Salt


Non Fiction

Coasting by Jonathan Raban, published by Eland


Robyn Reviews

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, published by Gollancz
The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens, published by HarperVoyager

The Witchling’s Girl by Helena Coggan, published by Hodder & Stoughton
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, published by Pan Macmillan

Nophek Gloss by Essa Hansen, published by Orbit
The Ravens by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige, published by Hodder & Stoughton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, published by Walker Books
We Lie With Death by Devin Madson, published by Orbit

The Cousins by Karen McManus, published by Penguin
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera, published by Simon and Schuster

The Duke & I by Julia Quinn, published by Piatkus
Shadow in the Empire of Light by Jane Routley, published by Solaris


Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also received a number of hard copies, including some birthday gifts from generous online friends.


I was very happy with the books I received in January, all from small presses.


As ever I wish to thank the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. Your continuing support is always appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx


6 comments on “Monthly Roundup – January 2021

  1. Happy New Year to you too Jackie. Let’s be hopeful. ❤📚

  2. Happy New Year Jackie. Like you I am really struggling this time. Life feels so constrained and pointless but we can only look to the future and hope for the best. We have booked some stays away – but in our own motorhome if sites are open so that we can maintain our own Covid free environment and hopefully get out into nature to lift the spirits. Here’s to a happy and successful 2021 for you and your family x

  3. heavenali says:

    Happy New year. I have spent huge amounts of time sheilding. Only two months since last March spent actually at my place of work, the rest of the time at home. Yet, like you, it is this month that I have struggled the most. The holiday adverts enrage me too. I am looking for signs of spring in my garden and trying to appreciate being safe, well, paid and having more books than I know what to do with. Take care.

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