The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd

Avon Books were kind enough to gift me a copy of ‘The Arctic Curry Club’ and I saved it specifically for the December. Although, not a festive read, it is a perfect wintry story. And, I have said it before, but you certainly should not judge a book by its cover, or even possibly its title, because this book was far more than I could have imagined it would be. In fact, this book could be one of my books of the year.

I don’t think I can sum this book up perfectly because there is so much among its pages to cover. However, what I found brilliant about it was all the issues it tackled, such as mental health, but with heart and sensitivity. Our central character Maya ends up on quite an adventure of self-discovery when she moves to the Arctic and her dad moves to India to remarry. Family secrets start to resurface, which leads Maya to question what she knew, but also leads her to create ‘The Arctic Curry Club’ using her Mum’s recipes.

This is honestly a wonderful book that is really not what you would expect; I will be recommending it to lots of my fellow bookworms.

(Please be aware it does cover some sensitive issues).

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Cosy crime is one of my favourite things about Christmas. So I chose some cosy crime for younger readers this time – although I believe we can all enjoy Children’s books, whatever age we are. It is perfect escapism (and I do wish these had existed when I was a child).

This time we are, as the title suggests, on a Christmas adventure with our two amateur detectives. Daisy and Hazel are spending Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy’s brother and Aunt. And, as you can imagine, they stumble on all sorts of mysteries, secrets and, of course, a murder…or two. And with a rival agency in town, too – who will solve the crime?

No spoilers here, but this was an incredibly fun read and it is always great to find strong female leads to inspire readers. I also thought that despite this being set in 1935, it did challenge some of the views that we would not accept now. It is always important to take lessons from books, too, and it is handled so well in these pages.

This is my secon ‘Murder Most Unladylike Mystery’, and I will definitely be returning (and reading them in the right order).

From Shetland, With Love at Christmas by Erin Green

This is our second trip to Shetland with the writing of Erin Green and it is just as wonderful as the first time. I kicked off my festive reading with this gem – got me ready for Christmas.

The beautiful craft centre at Lerwick Manor is now open and preparing for the Christmas season. All our favourite characters are there, just like before, but this time we are on an adventure with Nessie (a blacksmith), Verity (a new recruit) and Isla (baker extraordinaire). Each woman is on their own path through life, and work, on a quest for happiness.

This book is like a hug – and even though life is not always as smooth as you would hope, with friends, love and support a silver lining can be found. I have to be honest, I may have had a little cry towards the end of the book. This story is like making new friends and certainly means that you will want to visit the beautiful Shetland Isles (well, I assume it is beautiful – I am really keen to find out).

I absolutely cannot wait for our next trip to Shetland and the next fabulous characters we will meet – or be reunited with.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

I usually read a Shirley Jackson in October; well, I have the last two years. However, this year it moved to November as my choice for the prompt: ‘a book published before 2000’.

Shirley Jackson novels are always strangely compelling, if not a little weird. And ‘The Sundial’ is no exception. In fact, it is a clever study of human nature, especially in strange times. The Holloran family are told, by the long dead original patriarch, that the world is about to end and only those in the house will survive. This throws the occupants of the house into a strange ‘world’ of preparing for this event.

It has all of Jackson’s favourite things: a family with secrets, a house of secrets, and all the spooky vibes. It was a real page-turner and even though at points, I was not entirely convinced I fully understood what was going on, I still enjoyed reading every single page.

How to Belong by Sarah Franklin

The November pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ was ‘How to Belong’ by Sarah Franklin. Set in the Forest of Dean, this is a story of ordinary folk trying to find their way through life and all of its challenges.

Jo has returned from London to her quiet rural roots. She hopes she can save the family butcher’s shop, but is this really where she belongs?

Tessa has returned, too, because she thinks she can’t face the future. But is the past, and her own fear, holding her back from belonging?

As their two tales collide, can they help each other find their place in the world? Is this a friendship they did not know they needed?

This is quite an interesting read as Sarah Franklin leaves some of it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. Although it does leave you with questions too, but it does mean that you ponder the book beyond the final page.

This is a cosy read for these winter months, and an easy read, so do not be put off by the cover and give it a go.