Following my TV binge in December, I went on a bit of a reading frenzy in January and managed to get through five books this month — that’s more than a book a week!

My excitement for reading this month also motivated me to take part in a reading challenge organized by my local library: the Toronto Public Library system. There is a basic list and an advanced list of categories, which altogether challenge participants to read 26 books over the course of the year. [See the full pdf list here.] Where relevant, I comment below about which of those categories the book can satisfy.

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Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey was the first book I chose specifically for the reading challenge since it is able to fulfill the category of “a book about mental health”.

The book is about an elderly woman suffering from dementia, who believes that one of her friends has gone missing. The process of trying to find out what happens reminds her of the time when her older sister went missing right after World War II, and the two mysteries quickly become intertwined in the novel.

I really loved this book. It is at times a heartbreaking novel, and a nice mystery that has the reader piece together the puzzle pieces along with the protagonist.

Indemnity Only

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky is the first novel in the V. I. Warshawski series. The series starts in the early 1980s, and Warshawski is a female Private Investigator living and working in Chicago. In this novel, she is hired to find a young woman but instead stumbles upon the dead body of the young woman’s boyfriend, and soon finds out that the man who hired her isn’t who he said he was.

I had read one or two of the V. I. Warshawski books before but couldn’t quite get into the series. I had decided to give the series another shot after having watched the movie last month, and I’m glad I did since I loved the first book and can’t wait to read more. This tells me that this series is important to read in order since the character grows and ages and undergoes some major changes in her life. If you read a more recent novel and then read an older one, it may be difficult to understand why things aren’t the way you expect them to be.

Finally, although everywhere I looked it said the V. I. Warshawski movie was based on the novel Deadlock, it seems like parts of Indemnity Only still made it into the movie, such as particular lines and the fact that she’s taking care of a teenage girl.

As the Pig Turns

As the Pig Turns by M. C. Beaton is the 22nd book in the very popular Agatha Raisin series, which has been adapted into a TV series on Acorn TV. This particular novel revolves around the case of a pig roast hosted by a Cotswold village that turns out to have had the pig swapped out for the body of a policeman.

I had read this book before learning about the Toronto reading challenge, but it turned out to be able to fulfill the category of “a book I previously tried to read and gave up on”. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the series. While the premises are often interesting, and the characters and stories can be enjoyable, I became very turned off by the writing itself. The books have always been sloppily written/edited, and the more recent novels in the series particularly remind me of the Little Britain sketches where an author realizes that her book is too short and just keeps tacking on extra nonsense.

Thinking about this book from the point of view of the reading challenge has made me realize that I should really just give up on the series entirely.

Two for the Dough

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich is the second book in the Stephanie Plum series. I really enjoy the series and I write about it a lot. You can see my thoughts about this book in particular in this earlier post.

The Man in the Brown Suit

The Man in the Brown Suit is Agatha Christie’s fourth novel and second to not star her most famous detective Hercule Poirot. Because of Poirot and Miss Marple, I think Agatha Christie gets the reputation of been very “old”. However, this novel’s heroine is a young woman, so it’s important to remember that at the time this was published, Agatha Christie was just 34 years old.

Like the previous non-Poirot novel, The Secret Adversary, in addition to featuring a young female heroine, The Man in the Brown Suit deals with some international intrigue. The heroine, the daughter of a recently deceased professor, decides to take her meager inheritance and hop on board a ship headed for South Africa. Why? Because she had picked up a piece of paper that hints to the importance of this particular journey — a piece of paper that was dropped by a man who had caused another man to fall onto the train tracks of a London underground station.

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