Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

May appears to be the month for me to read outsdie my comfort zone. ‘Shadow and Bone’ is not a book I would ever had picked up before, as it is YA fantasy. Yet bookstagram and Netflix made me do it – and I do not regret anything.

I am no YA fantasy – or any fantasy – expert, despite Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse being a huge fan of the genre. However, I was gripped with this this book from the first page. So much so, I was finding sneaky reading time before work as I need to know what going to happen. So, it is safe to say that this is a page-turner.

I am probably the last person in the world to read this book, but I still do not want to spoil it just in case there are still some bookworms who need to pick the book up. However, what I loved about it is that there was a clear plot (as sometimes fantasy is all over the place – yes I said that) and there is a strong female lead in Alina. She demonstrates great strength and dedication to the things she believes are right. She may be a little misguided at moments, but she soon realises her mistakes and makes some better decisions.

I cannot wait to read the second book in this trilogy, and become even more immersed in these novels and this world.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

As ‘The Women’s Prize for Fiction’ shortlist has been announced, I have a joined a great bunch of wonderful bookstagrammers in reading the titles before the winner is announced.

Our first book was ‘Unsettled Ground’ by Claire Fuller. This is a book I am still thinking about because, as I read it, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. I could not put it down as I was totally caught up in it all, but I could decide if I actually liked the book. It was quite a conflict for me as I read it.

‘Unsettled Ground’ is beautifully written, and that draws the reader in from the first page – and quite a devastating start. Jeanie and Julius have the world they know turned upside down after the death of their mother. They realise that the world they have known for 51 years may not be quite as it seems. Both almost have to work out how they can survive and if they both see the future the same way.

This is almost like a coming of age tale for an older generation as the twins start again. Jeanie finds a world beyond the cottage of their childhood and Julius tries to work out how their world can continue.

This is an emotional read and the characters show resilience in a world that they realise they may not have fully fitted into before.

So, after my ramblings and stepping away from the book, I did enjoy it. Because it stayed wth me after the last page was finished, it made me think and it is truly beautifully constructed.

This is a book I may not have read without my book buddies and I cannot wait to see what the other titles have in store for us.

The Glass-Blowers by Daphne Du Maurier

This was my pick for April for ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2021’. I have read ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Jamaica Inn’ as I am sure many of you have; however, ‘The Glass-Blowers’ was a book I was not familiar with.

This is actually a really fascinating read, as Daphne Du Maurier based it on her own family history. Based in France at the time of the French Revolution, this tells the story of a family of glass-blowers, the path the siblings take, and the choices they make based on their beliefs and ideals – creating divides and secrets in the family, some with tragic consequences.

At times, the story is truly heart-breaking as Sophie is at points torn between each of her siblings despite loving each of them dearly. Unfortunately Robert is quite a disagreeable character. Ideas above his station, and poor life choices, lead to him leaving quite a trail of destruction in his wake. Although, that is all part of the story, as many of the characters are also not his biggest fans.

This is a book that has reignited my interest in the events of the French Revolution. And, as you would expect from any work from the pen of Daphne Du Maurier, it is beautifully written and engaging. I really enjoyed this piece of historical fiction and, for me, it cements Daphne Du Maurier as a truly great novelist of many genres.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

I was lucky enought to be selected for a global readalong of ‘The Notebook’ as part of ‘The Tandem Collective Global Readalong’, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this book’s publication. (Yes, I know 25 years – what?)

I know ‘The Notebook’ from the film and, like so many others, I have sobbed. I was really intrigued if the book would be as emotional and if, maybe, the film would be better than the book. (I know I should hand in my bookworm card now, as that is a terrible thing to say).

‘The Notebook’ is a beautiful book. Told in the present through the reading of the notebook, we follow the romance of Allie and Noah – a truly lifelong romance. I do not want to spoil the tale in case there is one person out there who doesn’t know it. Other than to say this is a true love story between two people who are ideally suited, even if the society of the time is not so sure.

It has been a while since I have seen the film (and I have not yet braved a revisit), but I will say the book is better. Noah is a much more sympathetic character throughout compared to the film, certainly less gruff. Allie is an impressive lady who knows her own mind and, despite expectations, is willing to follow her head and her heart.

It is a really emotional and heartbreaking read. But it is also hopeful. I absolutely loved it and think I should probably read more of Nicholas Sparks’ novel (once I have recovered from this one).

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

I am not sure I can do ‘Moonrise’ the justice that it deserves. Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse is one heck of a powerful story, the sort that will stay with you for eternity.

Joe has not see his brother for a long time. His brother is away. His brother is on death row. Joe visits his brother reguarly in the days and weeks leading up to his execution date, trying to get to know him again, reflecting on the events that got them there and the memories he has of his older brother as his greatest protector from childhood. It all creates a completely heartbreaking story as the family looks for hope in the darkest times, right up until the very last moment.

It also really makes you reflect on the system that is supposed to offer fair justice. I found it particularly poignant with current events in the media from America. But, also hopeful that it will encourage readers of all ages to reflect on what justice means.

This is a beautifully written book that demonstrates again the power of verse to crate a narrative full of emotion.

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean

This is a beautiful book that can provide so much for children and adults alike.

Things are changing for Archie: his dad has moved out and his dad has a secret. When Archie accidentally overhears what that secret is, he knows life will never be the same again, but he is determined to help his dad be happy. With the help of his two best friendsm Seb and Bell, he thinks he can his dad find happiness at the end of a brilliantly colourful rainbow.

This adventure takes the three friends to London Pride, where they find a whole host of brilliant characters who help them discover the answers that they are looking for. And they realise that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and difference deserves to be celebrated at all ages.

This is such a happy book with a wonderful and supportive message for people of all ages about how we live in a wonderfully colourful world, which we should all be supporting and celebrating. This is the sort of book I wish was around when I was growing up, because it is just a perfect story.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

The pick for the month from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ was ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’. Now, this caused quite some excitement, as this was the latest paperback release from Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’. However, I have a confession – I have never read it – so this was my first Rachel Joyce novel.

First, I must talk about the cover of this book. It is just so inviting, with so many little touches that mean so much as you work your way through the book. I returned to the cover once I had finished the book and could not believe how perfectly it fully represented the story.

‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’ is a complete joy of a book. Set in the fifties, Margery Benson makes the rather dramatic decision to leave London and go on an expedition to find an almost mystical beetle. She advertises for an assistant, and this brings Enid Pretty almost crashing into her life. And the adventures do not stop from that moment onwards for this unlikely pair. One of the most remarkable and solid friendships blooms and both women end up on a journey of self-discovery as well as a journey to the other side of the world.

I was surprised by what an emotional read this book became. Each character so beautifully created and two such fascinating women at the centre of it all. It also had so many wonderful elements to it – there was mystery and intrigue as well as adventure. And, well, you just wanted to keep reading.

Rachel Joyce also kindly shares her inspiration for the bookat the end. And that is as fascinating as the book itself.

So, now I have inspired to pick up more books by Rachel Joyce, because I have clearly been missing out.

Thursday Thoughts – My TV Detectives Challenge

I am a huge fan of TV detectives – Morse, Poirot and Dalziel and Pascoe, to name but a few, are programmes I can watch over and over again. Yet I have realised, after a read of a Dalgleish novel, that I have not necessarily read the books where those figures started.

So, I have made a decision (which will add to my tbr pile, no doubt) that I am going to try to read about thse detectives in the books where they began in my own ‘ TV Detective Challenge’. I will not be giving myself any kind of time limit or pressure to do this; I will just be giving myself the opportunity to discover some new authors and some new books. I am also hoping that I will be able to find some of these books in the local charity bookshop (I walked past the other day and there was a boxset of detective novels).

So, let us see if I can correct something that jars for a bookworm and find these detectives on the pages where they belong, and not just on TV.

Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James

For ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2021’ bonus prompt, you had to select a book from your fabourite genre, Now, that is quite a challenge for me as so many genres are my favourite – however, I made the decision that crime fiction is my favourite (right here, right now).

Therefore, ‘Death of an Expert Witness’ was plucked from my tbr pile. Dalgliesh is a detective that I have always meant to read about, as I have listened to radio adaptations and TV adaptations of the character.

I was not disappointed by my choice of book. I really enjoyed this style of detective story – it was very character-driven as Dalgliesh interviews all of those who could have been involved in the murder of Lorrimer at the lab. Although the pace is ‘slow’, it simply reflects Dalgliesh’s thoughtful and serious detective style.

P.D. James clearly took her time to compose the cleverly structured stories. And, despite the date of the book, researched the latest ideas about forensic science and the most up-to-date policing styles (of the time). At points, the book shows its age as we know the pace that science and technology move on. However, this never takes away from the story as an excellent piece of crime fiction.

Picking this book up has cleared a book from the tbr pile, but it does mean that I am now keen to read more of the stories of the poetry-writing Dalgliesh, which means that my wishlist will increase again.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

I have had my eye on Holly Bourne’s books for a while and, in a lovely bookswap for spring, I was sent ‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’. And, I do think this is YA at its finest – this is a book that I hope all young people will read. It is quite an eye-opening story about relationships and what makes a healthy one – something that many young people may think they understand but possibly don’t.

Ameliw and her family move from Sheffield to the South of England. For Amelie, this is a huge change as she starts her new college, and is anxious about fitting in and making friends. Then she meets Reese and falls in love – or so she thinks.

As she attempts to understand the relationship she believes she had, she revisits all the places she cried in public. We embark on this journry with Amelie and, with her, we discover that Reese was not the boy she believed he was. Amelie reframes her memories and begins to see the relationships for what it really was – and education for her and for readers. Especially as experiences do not have to define us.

This is a beautifully written story – and Amelie is a great representation of the feelings, emotions and fears of so many young women. But she also demonstrates the strength of so many.

This does tackle some of the worst traits of unhealthy relationships, so some may find it a challenging read. However, it is a powerful book that shows how important YA fiction can be for its readers. I will certainly be giving more of Holly Bourne’s books a read.