January Book Reviews

Is one month of the new year already over? Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, it is. And since it’s a Tuesday, it’s time for my January book reviews.

I’ve set my Goodreads challenge at sixty books this year. I’m right on track to complete that goal. These are the books I read last month.

Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper

My first read of the year had been on my Kindle for several weeks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ellie Jordan is a ghost trapper. She and her sidekick, Stacie, set out to help the Treadwell family remove a ghost from their home. Once there, they encounter the ghost of a past resident who tells them to leave. They successfully “trap” the ghost and take it to another location, thinking that will be all.

It isn’t. Turns out the house has multiple hauntings. Their boss insists on bringing in a psychic medium to help. What follows is a night of terror where they attempt to rid the home of the malevolent spirits.

I liked the fact that not only was Ellie a “ghost trapper,” she also investigated the history of the home. The author has her using more scientific rather than supernatural means—something I wasn’t too fond of. There was also one thread regarding Ellie’s past that I hoped he’d wrap up, but maybe he’ll cover (or has covered) that in one of the subsequent stories. I also think he could have done a better job with character development—something male authors writing female protagonists often fail at doing.

Overall, the story flowed well, and it was entertaining—not scary or gory. Three and a half stars rounded up to four for review purposes.

Two Shorts and a Snort

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Two Shorts and a Snort is a quick read that is easily done during a lunch break.

Obsessed is the story of a West Texas oil field worker who comes to a decision regarding a woman in his life.

Maggie is a wonderful story about a couple who longed for a child. The husband, a rancher, finds a special gift in the snow thanks to a wayward longhorn cow.

Friends Instead of Lovers is a poem that reads like a song. And knowing Jan’s love of music, I suspect she may have had that in mind.

Jan Sikes has mastered the art of short stories, packing powerful messages into these pieces of fiction.

Lightning Strike

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read my first William Kent Krueger book last year and vowed it wouldn’t be my last. Iron Lake was one of my top books for 2021. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

Lightning Strike is the eighteenth book in William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series. While I want to read the books in order, Lightning Strike is a prequel to the series, set in the summer of 1963.

Cork O’Connor is a twelve-year-old boy who makes a gruesome discovery—the body of a man hanging from a tree at an abandoned logging camp. The victim, Big John Manydeeds, was a man young Cork admired.

The death was initially ruled a suicide, but it’s up to Cork’s father, Sheriff Liam O’Connor, to discover the truth. The Ojibwe who live on the reservation are convinced Big John didn’t kill himself. Most of the white people of Aurora believe otherwise. When a young Native American girl from another town goes missing, her disappearance only serves to further divide the two sides.

In the meantime, young Cork senses Big John’s spirit is still present, and that he has unfinished business. Cork, along with his friends Billy Downwind (nephew of Big John), and Jorge, set about on their own investigation. Their excursions into the woods near Iron Lake leads them to discover important clues and help Cork’s father ultimately solve the crime.

The book is not only a murder mystery but also a wonderful coming-of-age story with strong family dynamics. Krueger’s vivid descriptions made me feel as if I was right there along with the characters in Northern Minnesota. There was a brief mention of a historical event that wasn’t accurate time-wise, but since it was a minor, it doesn’t deter from the story.

Four and a half stars rounded up to five for review purposes.

Now that I’ve read Lightning Strike, I plan to read all the other books in order.

The Hay Bale

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve never been much of a horror fan, but after reading reviews of The Hay Bale, I was intrigued.

After suffering several miscarriages, failing adoption criteria, and separating from her husband, Claire needs to get away for a while. She rents a rural Virginia home for the summer.

The town has an assortment of weird people and the house she rents, Smallclaw, has a sinister history. There’s also a strange, solitary hay bale that people warn her to stay away from.

Although the story is less than fifty pages, Bettis packs a lot within the contents. The book is chilling and creepy, but light on the gore. Claire is a strong person, her character well-written. The ending leaves me wondering not only about her, but the other people in the town as well. I’ll be thinking about this story for a while.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles was Agatha Christie’s first book. She began writing it in 1916, and it was first published in 1920. It’s also the book where she introduces us to Detective Hercule Poirot.

The book is the classic murder in a locked room, something that has been overdone in recent years. However, Christie had a gift of keeping readers guessing up to the end. You think you know, but you really don’t.

Despite the differences in literary styles from a century ago, I enjoyed this book. One can easily see why Agatha was known as the Queen of Mysteries.

That wraps it up for January. Pretty good start for the year, don’t you think?

32 thoughts on “January Book Reviews

  1. Great reviews, Joan. I’ve read and enjoyed The Hay Bale – what a creepy story, and I have Jan’s book on my radar though I’m desperate to read her White Rune books. The others sound excellent, especially Ghost Trapper and Lightning Strike. Congrats to the Authors!.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had quite a variety this month, Diana. It’s funny, I’ve passed trucks and tractors carrying hay bales and I’ll never look on them the same! Jan’s short stories can be read in a short time. I’m on the second White Rune story now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your reviews with us, Joan. A few of these are new to me and I’m really liking the covers and the way you describe them. I think I’m most intrigued by The Hay Bale. Maybe it speaks to the country girl in me that likes spooky things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful reviews, Joan. I will be adding more to my bursting Kindle. Like you, I enjoyed The Hay Bale. The story is captivating and the images linger.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read three of these five and enjoyed them. The Ghost Trapper books get better as the series progresses. There’s a few that fell short for me and one thread I wish the author would abandon, but overall I’ve enjoyed the 8 books I’ve read (I think he just released #16).
    Lightning Strike has been on my reading radar for a while now.
    Great collection of reviews, Joan, and a nicely diverse selection!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You had a good reading month, Joan 🙂 I saw many I enjoyed. I would like to reread The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I always was a huge Hercules Poirot fan.

    Liked by 2 people

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