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Most of the time, I spend so much time writing that I don’t read as much as I would like to. I didn’t set a a reading goal this year, but I decided to make a conscious decision to read as much as I could because books bring me joy. During December 2021and January of this year, I read a lot. I didn’t keep track of the books I read last year, but this year I have. So far, I’ve read six books, five of them in January. Here they are.

  1. The Old Girls’ Network by Judy Leigh
  2. The Good, The Bad, and the Dumped by Jenny Colgan
  3. Breath: The New science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
  4. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  5. Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Just for the record, I love a paper book. I love the smell of them, the feel of the in my hands, but I’ve been using my Kindle more than I ever thought I would. Of all the formats for books, I prefer reading a trade paperback most of all, but I’ll read most anything, including a box of cereal if that’s all that’s available! Of those above, I read the first two on Kindle, two of them I borrowed from my public library, and one I borrowed from my youngest son.

The Old Girls’ Network was a charming story set in Winsley Green, England about two sisters both in their 70s, stubborn, aloof, and never married Barbara and sweet, trusting Pauline, who is widowed. After Barbara suffers a fall, she goes to live with Pauline. Shortly after that, Pauline accidentally hits a “vagrant” with her car, so she takes him in until he’s better. The tension rises between the sisters and their house guest, who is not at all what he seems. All three of them must learn to compromise and make changes within themselves to move on with their lives. I loved this feel-good story set in the English countryside and didn’t want it to end. It made me want buy a cottage in Winsley Green and live amongst the people there! This was the first Judy Leigh book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Jenny Colgan’s books are the kind I love: HEA (happily ever after) romances. In The Good, The Bad, and the Dumped, a woman named Posy is engaged to be married, but shortly after her fiance proposes, she talks to a woman who knows one of Posy’s exes. After that, Posy sees a Facebook post from another ex, which makes her wonder why none of her relationships ever worked out. To keep from making any mistakes with her fiance, she decides to visit her exes and ask them why their relationships didn’t work out–without telling her fiance. Yikes! When he finds out, he dumps her in the kindest, most patient way, which she can’t believe. Posy continues her quest, which results in some truly cringe worthy but funny moments. I rooted for her through it all, and my heart broke a little when I found out why Posy’s relationships didn’t work out before. Jenny Colgan’s dialogue sparkles with witty banter and genuine emotion, and her characters are fun, funny, flawed people. This is the sort of story I’d like to see on the big screen, à la Four Weddings and a Funeral. LOVED this satisfying HEA romance!

Breath: The New science of a Lost Art by James Nestor fascinates with every page. It’s non-fiction and explores the idea that humans have lost the ability to breathe the way we were designed to breathe and that that loss is having catastrophic consequences on us all. The book opens with the author sitting in a breathing class, which was recommended to him by his doctor because he’s had pneumonia two years in a row. There is no teacher, only a cassette tape recording. For twenty minutes he was bored but persisted. And then something happened. He “woke up” drenched in sweat but feeling better than he had in a long time, and he spent the next five years trying to figure out what had happened to him and why. His journey took him from pulmonology labs to ancient burial sites to secret Soviet facilities and more, and he relates all of it in this book. I read a library copy of this one and plan to buy it to practice the breathing exercises he includes at the end. Highly recommend it to everyone!

My son loaned me the acclaimed book The Midnight Library, which has a unique premise that there is a library between life and death where someone can exchange the life they’ve lived for another to find out what would have happened had they made different choices. After numerous disappointments in her life, the main character, Nora Seed, finds herself in the library, which contains infinite lives that represent the infinite choices she could have made. But the idea is that Nora (and, by extension, we) must answer the most important question of all: What is the best way to live? This book made me think and I stopped many times to savor passages along the way. I highly recommend that you read it, but don’t rush. Let yourself appreciate the simple language which Haig uses to convey deep ideas. It’s one I’ll read again.

The last book I read from January was possibly my favorite. Portrait of a Scotsman was a historical romance, but as one of my friends said, “Evie [Dunmore] does an excellent job of elevating the genre…. She’s great at turning a phrase.” Not only is Dunmore a wordsmith, but she draws compelling characters. Harriet Greenfield is a London heiress, art student at Oxford, and a suffragette. She ends up marrying a man named Lucian Blackstone, a financier, who has a terrible reputation for financially ruining London’s elite. But he’s also an art collector, which is how they meet and where Harriet takes one chance too many, ruining her reputation and giving Lucian a chance to acquire her as his bride. Dunmore’s writing is a delight, as are her love scenes, lots of open door heat, but the best part is the HEA ending! Highly entertaining and romantic. I loved it.

I doubt I’ll read as many books this month as I did in January. I was waiting for the edits of my historical to come back from my editor, but I have read a really good one by a friend of mine and am also picking up two more by Evie Dunmore! If you have any good suggestions for me, let me know in the comments!