The Book Share by Phaedra Patrick

This month’s pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ was ‘The Book Share’ by Phaedra Patrick. And what a perfect book for these times: something light-hearted and hopeful, to allow you to engage in some fun escapism.

Bookworm Liv has been working as a cleaner for her favourite author, Essie Starling, and is regularly in the background as Essie is working away on her popular novels. One day, Essie dies unexpectedly and leaves Liv with what seems like an impossible task – to finish her final novel. This allows Liv to follow one of her dreams: to write the sort of story she loves to read – but will it also have Liv rewriting her own life story and future? Is there, in fact, more to Liv’s life than she has been experiencing? And is her past not quite as it seemed?

Although this book seemed to have a slightly slow start (though that could have been my levels of concentration, rather than the book…), as the story developed I was so engaged with Liv and her story, I could not wait to see how it would turn out. Phaedra creates wonderful characters in her writing; you really will love the characters she wants you to love, but you will be less keen on those who may be a little less favourable. (Poor Jake – when you know you know.)

This book is certainly one that I enjoyed, and it was lovely to discuss it at book club. I have definitely found another author that I would like to read more from – I think these are going to be some lovely, feel-good books when you need that pure escapism from the stresses of the world around us.

Like A Charm by Elle McNicoll

I was a huge fan of a ‘A Kind of Spark’ by Elle McNicoll, so when I knew that ‘Like a Charm’ had been published, I knew that I had to read it. (Especially as, again, the cover was absolutely beautiful and just makes you want to read it).

This is another brilliant read, a wonderful journey into fantasy rooted in the city of Edinburgh. Ramya Knox is drawn into this fantastical world as she discovers that her family have a few hidden secrets which connect them to that world. In fact, she soon becomes a symbol of hope for the Hidden Folk as they have to protect themselves from the Sirens, especially as Ramya appears to be resistant to their ‘charm’.

This is another story that celebrates difference, as Ramya discovers that the thing that makes her different is also the thing that makes her as special as she is. That, in fact allows her to help the Hidden Folk and find her special place in the world – and in her family.

I was gripped by this book and I am excited that Ramya’s tale will be continued for us all. It is wonderful that Elle McNicoll writes stories for young people with neurodivergent characters, as representation in literature is becoming ever-more important. We live in a wonderful world of difference, and we all need to be able to celebrate and understand these differences, and great stories are one way to support us all in being able to do that. And, when we see people in books that also help us understand ourselves or our experiences, then they become even more special to us – and that is what Elle McNicoll has done for so many young people with her books.

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare

I was kindly gifted a proof of ‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare, and what a beauty it is. A book with a cover this glamorous is surely going to be a great read – and it was!

‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ is a brilliant piece of historical fiction set on the Queen Mary as it sails to New York in early 1936. Lena Aldridge is one of its passengers, as she has been promised a new life in New York which will make her a star – or so she believes. However, as the ship’s journey progresses, she is drawn into the lives of the rather wealthy Parker family – but not everything is quite as it seems. And, once murder takes place, Lena is thrown into a dangerous game.

This is a great piece of cosy crime fiction, and fans of Agatha Christie will be fans of this book. In fact, the Queen of Crime herself gets a mention in the novel. However, it is also a little more than just a classic ‘locked room’ crime story; there is clear commentary on the society at the time and its issues. Lack of gender and race equality is a theme throughout the book, and plays a part as a catalyst for some of the events that subsequently take place. I found that as fascinating as the tale itself.

This is a well-constructed story, and I really enjoyed the way it was told, from the current events on the ship, previous events which had taken place before Lena left London, and odd notes from the murderer to punctuate the tale. I worked out one part of the mystery, but did not work it all out, so the reveal did bring with it some insteresting surprises. For all you crime fans out there, I would certainly recommend this book – especially if you are a fan of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ or ‘Death on the Nile’.

Anatomy of a Scandal – Readalong and Watchalong

Tandem Collective UK not only kindly allowed me to read ‘Reputation‘ by Sarah Vaughan, but also gifted me a copy of ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’, which has also been adapted into a Netflix Limited Series.

So, let us start with the book – this is really a book for our time as the reputation of a leading politician is on the line as he is caught out for an affair with a junior aide. However, things become far worse for Mr Whitehouse, as he is to stand trial for the rape of the same woman.

This is not an easy read – and would carry some trigger warnings – yet it sensitively tackles the issue of consent and what really constitutes consent. But it also raises all those issues surrounding the ‘old boys club’ mentality of the corridors of power, and how gender and social equality is still not as it should be in those very same corridors. This is a novel of twists and turns which has you turning every page keen to see what may be revealed next – some of the secrets may seem to be clear, but I do think that the conclusion leaves some additional questions for the reader; is it really all tied up at the end?

As I read this, I did consider that it would make a great television courtroom thriller. I could even see some of the characters portrayed by certain actors. So, I was excited to start watching the series when it was released on Netflix. As TV adaptations go, it is pretty accurate to the story (maybe a couple of liberties) and the characterisation, overall, is excellent, just how I saw it as I read the book.

It is definitely a bingeable series with the same important messages that are carried through the book (carrying the same trigger warnings). In fact, as we watched, Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse muttered the words ‘and this is who we have running the country’, which is a key reason that I think that this is a novel for our time, as it reflects so many of the concerns we have with those who are in power.

Sarah Vaughan’s careful observation of the world around us and the issues that are constantly being raised in our society is bringing some brilliant books to the public. Books that will leave you reflecting on the world we are in, and possibly even reflecting on your own moral ideals. She has definitely become an author that I will always be keen to read more from – especially as she continues to create some fantastically strong female leads.