Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

This is a novel that I was sent in a fabulous little bookswap in the summer. Not a novel that I would have picked up myself, but that is the beauty of all these brilliant bookswaps – they invite you to read books that you may not have picked up otherwise.

‘Clock Dance’ is a great novel, almost a coming-of-age novel, but for an older character. Willa Drake has lived her life the way she feels she should. However, it has not always turned out the way it should. Her mother was difficult, she became a widow young, and she doesn’t have the relationship with he family that she thought she would and, even, should have. So, when a chance phone call leads her to be the person looking after her son’s ex-girlfriend and he daughter, her life takes a very different path.

This story is a wonderful tale that shows that you do not always have to stick to the life path you are given and that sometimes taking a chance can lead to a different outcome.

A heart-warming tale told with humour, you really hope that Willa will take the opportunities that are thrown at her and throw off the limitations that she gives herself by doing what is expected of her. The final paragraph is one of the best in a book that I have read in a while.

This will encourage me to try some more novels from Anne Tyler, as this is only the second novel I have read and, for me, it was a 5-star read.

Have you found any new authors through bookswaps?

National Read a Book Day – or Not!

Do not let the title of the blog post confuse you – I am over the moon that it is ‘National Read a Book Day’ – however, I have been thinking about not reading books. Do not despair, I am not giving up books; I could never do that. Yet, do we have to finish books that we do not enjoy or say we love a book just because everyone else does?

While contemplating this question, I have decided that life is too short to read books that you do not enjoy. Or telling people you enjoyed a book that, let’s be honest, you didn’t.

Sometimes, it really disappoints me that I have to retire a book to the ‘Did Not Finish’ pile. A recent example of this was ‘The Secret Barrister’. I was so excited to receive it in a recent bookswap and actually give it a go. However, it just was not for me, despite my best efforts. Remember, this does not mean it is not a good book – it just means it was not the book for me. I am sure, for many readers, it was the perfect book.

This is a similar idea to the #blacksheepofbookstagram created by the lovely ‘Silver Linings and Pages’ and her bookstagram account. This is based on the principle that you may not enjoy that book that everyone else in the book world seems to hold in high esteem. My recent experience of that was ‘East Lynne’, a book club read that just was not as fabulous for me as it seemed to be for everyone else. But I have finally accepted that it is okay – after all, the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

So, as much as ‘National Read a Book Day’ is a perfect day for us bookworms, it is also okay to like what you like and not like what you don’t like!

Happy reading!

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage by Erin Green

Erin Green’s fourth novel has hit the shelves, and her first published by Headline. An exciting August publication for all, readers and author.

‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ is an absolutely wonderful novel; I enjoyed every moment of this tale that was inspired by a recent trip to Brixham that Erin went on with friends (and by the end I am pretty certain you will want to visit it too).

Three women are thrown together as they each book a ‘solo’ holiday at Rose Cottage. At first they appear an unlikely trio to become friends – but they all have a strong connection: the need to find new beginnings.

They have quite some adventures as each embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, their friendships blooms and creates strong bonds that are unlikely to be broken.

The characters in the book are relateable, but my favourite of all was Benni – in fact, by the end of the book, I decided many of us need to ‘be like Benni’. She is just fabulous but, for me, certainly blooms into the beautiful butterfly she deserves to be by the end of the novel.

Erin Green never disappoints with her books. And, although I have a terrible craving for fish and chips and a seaside holiday now I have finished the book, it was a great read and I am looking forward to the next story in 2020.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Again, I am late to the book party. ‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been all over the book world since it was published, however I was never sure it was the book for me. Yet I gave in and decided to give it a go. My word, it really is a book for me.

Adam Kay has shared with the world his diaries from his medical days. His own secret diaries from his shifts on the front line working for the NHS. This is one of the most revealing books about life on the hospital wards that you are likely to read.

There is such humour in the writing (not sure it is always intentional) some moments of horror (especially if you are squeamish) and real heartbreak. In fact, never has a book had quite such a powerful ending.

What is clear about this account is that it has not been written to name and shame the NHS. However, it does show the frustration that Kay felt working in such a profession that is being forced to survive in such difficult circurmstances thanks to outside factors. It is obvious why so many are forced out of such careers, despite their best efforts.

This is a book that I hope mamy of the readers in the UK – and maybe even the world – will pick up to educate themselves and raise their awareness of the medical world.

Have you read a memoir that is like an education?

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

One of the best thigs about summer is that I seem to fit a lot of reading time in. Therefore, I discover some gems which have been on my ‘to be read’ pile quite some time, and ‘The Cactus’ was one such title.

I had seen a lot of love for ‘The Cactus’ on social media and in the bookshops, so I was quite excited to give it a go when it became the next book to read.

‘The Cactus’ is such a charming book, full of warmth and humour throughout, even as it tackles some tough subjects. Susan Green has always thought she is fully in control of every aspect of her life; a strong, independent and very organised lady. She does not need anyone else, and enjoys her own company. That is, until she is 45 and life appears to be changing, in ways she can not control – in fact, was it ever as she thought it was?

This book creates characters you can really warm to, and probably represent people we all know. You really find yourself rooting for Susan as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery she didn’t know she needed. In fact, by the end, it is almost as if she has become a new person.

This is a novel that fans of ‘The Rosie Project’ or ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ will enjoy. Not sure I could rank them, as they are all marvellous in their own way – but if you have not read ‘The Cactus’ yet, make sure you do soon.

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

When I spotted that ‘Rose, Interrupted’ was out in the world I knew I had to read it. ‘Orangeboy’ and ‘Indigo Donut’ had both been books which I adored and I could not wait to read more from the pen of Patrice Lawrence.

I did not even read the blurb to this novel because I was convinced that, whatever the tale may be, I was going to enjoy it and I did. Patrice Lawrence again tackles some key topics that become entwined in the fascinating tale of Rose and her family.

Rose, and her brother (Rudder) and their mother are now part of the ‘real’ world after leaving a strict religious cult which their father is still part of. However, neither Rose or her brother, are really fully equipped for some of the modern dangers that young people face everyday with our internet world. So, they may now have more freedom, but does that also mean more danger – was the world with their father safer after all? Or does it have dangers of its own?

This book does not just tell a fascinating tale, but handles the ideas of liberty, identity and internet safety really well. It educates the reader as well as engaging them in the story of Rose and Rudder.

This is a YA book that I would recommend all young people and adults should read, as I think we could all learn a lot from such a wellcrafted tale.

I hope that there is more to come from Patrice Lawrence because I have enjoyed every book that I have read so far, and would love to read even more.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

This was a book I knew nothing about other than that I had seen it in the bookstgram world. Oh my word, I am glad that I had found it in the real world, because it was quite a read.

The brilliant thing about YA fiction is that many of the authors have the confidence to tackle some topics that, not so long ago, people may have considered a little taboo. ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ tackles the subject of mental health, which is something that is becoming much more talked about – and rightly so.

When new girl Suzanne arrives in Brighton and becomes friends with Rosie and Caddy, she turns their lives upside down. Is she new and exciting? Or is there something deeper that appears to fuel this fun-loving girl? As the story unfolds, and clues to Suze’s past begin to be revealed, Caddy and Rosie are forced to reflect on themselves and their friendships – and how far do things have to go before things go too far?

Sara Barnard creates characters that are relateable and reflect experiences many people have as teenagers, especially that difficulty many have in finding their identity. However, the bond of friendship is often the strongest, and young people are often far more willing to see past the potential character ‘flaws’ in others and support those around them to offer strength.

The subject of mental health is handled well, with great sensitivity, but is also makes it accessible as a subject. The great thing about books is that they start conversations and remove the stigma from some topics.

I can’t wait to read more of Sara Barnard’s work, as I could not put this book down. Have you read any of her novels? What are your thoughts?

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

July’s pick for ‘Maidens of Murder’ bookclub was ‘Destination Unknown’; one of the only works by Christie not to have been brought to life on the screen – big or small.

This has more the feel of a thriller than Christie’s usual works. A standalone novel set against the early days of the Iron Curtain it is a tale of secrets, science and suspicion. There is, of course, a hint of murder, but it is not quite as central to the tale as it would be with some of Christie’s more well-known works. However, it is enjoyable to read something that is not traditional for Agatha Christie, and that really reflects the post-war era she was writing in.

However, it is a little worrying that a novel that is 65 years old is still relevant today or seems to be as we live through some turbulant times. Certainly thought-provoking.

So, thank you again ‘Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read a Christie I would never have picked up otherwise. As always, looking forward to next month’s pick.