Somehow, January feels like it’s gone incredibly quickly and incredibly slow simultaneously – three weeks in, I couldn’t believe it had only been three weeks and now we’re approaching February and I’m not sure how we’re already one month down.
It’s been a very challenging month with my partner getting into a road accident on an electric scooter (yes, he’s been called stupid on a variety of occasions by the people who love him most) and after spending six hours in A&E, getting 7 stitches for a laceration in his eyebrow, getting a sling for a fractured elbow and being given a tuna mayo sandwich at 2am to help with the nausea of missing dinner and not eating for 12 hours, we were home and I had the responsibility of looking after my one armed husband who could only just manage to get dressed on his own and was stubborn enough to try everything without asking for help.
So this month has been a lot of watching TV (we’ve been binging Taskmaster on All4), doing a surprisingly complex Harry Potter puzzle (I’ve included a picture both for reference and because I’m unjustifiably proud), making things with my Cricut and cuddling the sad boy while he watched YouTube and I read!
Having finished 2022 by reading 7 books in December, I was hyped and motivated to bring that energy into 2023, as well as being desperate to finish the Alex Rider series because whilst I knew if I didn’t read it all in one hit I would forget certain details and characters, I was also so ready to read something else.
So far I’ve finished five books this month and I’m hoping to finish my current read by the 31st on Tuesday, so I’m really proud of the start I’ve made! Here are the books I managed to finish in January.
Russian Roulette (Alex Rider #10) – Anthony Horowitz
The first Alex Rider book that isn’t about Alex Rider – following the upbringing of Yassen Gregorovich, the assassin who worked with John Rider (Alex’s Dad) and is employed to kill Alex on a variety of occasions. It was actually a really lovely story of an anti-hero who never really wanted to be an assassin but life never really gave him a chance. Even as an assassin in the previous books, he’d been somewhat endearing and principled so finding out about his life as a teenager in Russia was lovely – a solid 4 star read to start the year.
Enna Burning – Shannon Hale
For context – at our wedding, for gifts we asked our guests to bring a copy of their favourite book so we could have a little snapshot library of all our favourite people from this specific moment in time. This included my cousins kids (aged 9 months and 2 years), my godmothers kids (6, 10 and 11) and all of our family and friend. I’ve decided that I want to read one book from the wedding library each month this year and Enna Burning was my first choice! A gift from my oldest friend.
I was a bit disappointed to only give it 3 stars, but I think this is entirely down to the fact that it’s the second book in the Books of Bayern series and unlike the Alex Rider books (which granted are aimed at middle grade readers, so perhaps are assumed to not remember things as well?), the narrative assumes you’ve read the first book and understand the magic system and the key words and the pre-existing relationships. With not having that context, I didn’t feel the connection between the main character and the love interest at all and it took me a long time to understand the friendship between Enna and the first book’s protagonist, Isi. However, the climax and resolution at the end of the book was actually very powerful and poignant. I’ve added the original book, The Goose Girl, to my tbr and will definitely re-read Enna Burning when I have the full context and anticipate it’ll get a higher rating then!
Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) – Anthony Horowitz
And with the wedding library read done for the month, I was determined to finish the last three Alex Rider books before February!
This book is the one that was never really meant to exist – originally the series was going to end with book six, then another trilogy came out, then the interim story in Russian Roulette was meant to be the end. I’m not sure if it’s a mix of me getting fatigued with this character or knowing that this series has been on going for over two decades, but I can’t figure out if this was a genuine love project where Horowitz had more of Alex’s story to tell, or is it a money grab from a successful series that will inevitably continue to profit.
Either way, I’d committed so I wasn’t stopping now.
Never Say Die was the first book in this series since the first book to only get three stars – it felt very slow paced and really dragged in places and I kept getting bored and having to take a break. The mission itself was very ambitious and the fact that MI6 didn’t really believe what Alex was investigating and he had to do it himself with no gadgets, no back-up and limited resources was impressive, but it took so long to get to the end game. And the title is really cliche.
Secret Weapon (Alex Rider #12 – Short Story Collection) – Anthony Horowitz
If it weren’t for these seven short stories, I’d have really struggled with finishing the series – I planned to read one at a time, but ended up reading the whole thing in three days (this is fast for me). It was nice to revisit some of the earlier missions and fill in some of the gaps between previous novels. I was particularly a fan of ‘Tea with Smithers’. The perfect break between the full length stories – another four stars.
Nightshade (Alex Rider #13) – Anthony Horowitz
I finally made it to the last novel (so far, but I’ll get to that)! Nightshade had been set up to be the most deadly enemy that Alex has ever faced and everything that was missing in ‘Never Say Die’ was back for Nightshade – the pacing was fantastic, the stakes were constantly high and although some of it was a bit predictable (which I’ll allow, because the target audience is 8-12 year olds according to the shelf labels in Waterstones), it actually introduced yet more incredibly interesting and nuanced characters that I really hope continue to feature in future novels.
Which there will almost certainly be, because in the last line of this book it’s practically confirmed that there will be another sequel – Nightshade was released in 2020 and I’m reliably informed that the next book is due for release this year, but there’s no confirmed information yet. Will I buy it and read it? Absolutely – Nightshade was my first five star review of the year and I’m a completionist, so I’ve got to make sure I’ve read everything. Currently, I feel like it’s all being dragged out a bit but that might be because I’ve just read thirteen books in the series and I need a bit of space from it.
And I’m currently 58% through Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimon – I finally got to pick another title from my tbr jar (which I set up in Summer ’22, then picked Alex Rider and have only just finished it!). This was on my list of 23 books I want to read in 2023 which rounds off a very good start to my reading year; finishing a long series, starting the wedding library and ticking off one of the books from my 23 list!
I’m still really excited about reading this year and at this rate I’ll hit my goal by the summer, but maintaining this reading speed feels incredibly optimistic so I’ll just play it by ear!
Thank you so much for reading,