The Poet by Louisa Reid

Louisa Reid is one of the authors I was introduced to by The Tasting Notes Live – one of the greatest joys of book events is being introduced to new authors.

I was kindly gifted a copy of Lousia Reid’s latest book, ‘The Poet’, at The Tasting Notes Live Event.

‘The Poet’ is an adult free verse novel, and I really enjoyed it. Centring on a relationship between a professor and his ‘muse’, and once student, it tackles unhealthy relationships and how, sometimes, they can be difficult to escape – even when you know you should. This was a powerful read, and the beauty of free verse is that it often evokes a strong response, as there is so much skill in putting a whole narrative together in this way.

Also, having Louisa Reid read some of her free verse aloud, it makes you appreciate it even more – it is a text that should really be read aloud (although I appreciate we may not always want to sit and read aloud to ourselves), but it certainly makes you realise that you should not always speed through books, but take your time to read the verse.

Published on 2nd June, I recommend that you pick up a copy of this fantastic piece of free verse fiction.

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Jenna, host of The Tasting Notes Book Club, selected ‘A Tidy Ending’ by Joanna Cannon for May: a book I knew nothing about and an author that I have not read before, so I was really looking forward to diving in and seeing what the book was all about.

Well, dive in I did. In fact, I sped through this novel, as from the moment I started reading, I had to find out more. Told through two timelines, we meet Linda, now and then: a woman who seems to be ‘invisible’, who does not really seem to fit in, and who struggles to make friends as people seem to avoid her. Married to Terry, she appears to be living a fairly uneventful life – until a series of murders happens in the local area. From that moment, life starts to change – even more so when Linda makes a new friend in Rebecca, the woman who had lived in her house before Linda and Terry purchased it.

I have to keep this review spoiler-free, as there are twists and turns throughout this book that will keep you guessing and sending you off down different paths of thought. It is a book that probably crosses genres; a thriller in some ways, contemporary fiction in other ways, and a bit of an old-fashioned murder mystery in other ways. All of these ingredients, combined, do make it a great read – Joanna Cannon does constantly leave you wanting to find out more, never revealing too much too soon, and keeping you guessing. But that final page will really stay with you!

This is a cleverly constructed story that I would probably have missed if I was not a member of the fantastic Tasting Notes Book Club – it definitely reminds me why book clubs are such a great thing for all book lovers to belong to.

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann

Second from The Yoto Carnegie Shortlist is ‘The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann. This is a wonderful free verse novel told from dual viewpoints that are cleverly linked together throughout the book.

I am not sure I can do this book the real justice that it deserves. It is a truly inspirational and heartbreaking piece of literature.

Natalie and Sammy’s stories are cleverly entwined through the free verse narrative, as the story of one leads to the story of the other all the way through the book. Both of these young people are feeling lost – Natalie after the death of her mother and her brother becoming lost to the world of far-right gangs, and Sammy, as he has fled his home in Eritrea for a better life in Europe. But his journey is set to be incredibly dangerous. They both face ‘the crossing’ of the channel: Natalie to feel she can achieve something her mother had always wanted by swimming the channel, and Sammy desperate for a better life. A twist of fate brings them together, but will they both find a way to mend their broken world?

I read this book from cover to cover one Saturday morning, as I felt so incredibly invested in their stories. I needed to know how the story would end – rooting for them both – and hoping that everyone who reads this book will understand the need for a better world and education that helps us all understand each other.

If this and ‘Cane Warriors‘ are examples of the calibre of book on this year’s shortlist, I do not know how the judges will make any kind of decision, because both of these books have been special in their own way – and carry an important message for all readers.

Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle

This year, I seem to be really enjoying a shortlist challenge and, this time, it is the Yoto Carnegie Medal Shortlist.

Miss W sent me a copy of ‘Cane Warriors’, so I knew it had to be the first book that I chose to read from the shortlist. And, of course, with the day job being all about history, I guess it was an obvious place to start.

I absolutely devoured this book and hope that so many young adults will read it. There are so many lessons amongst its pages – and not just the history lessons.

Moa is fourteen years old, and all he has ever known is life on the plantation; a life that has consumed him, his mother, his father, his friends and, soon, his younger sister, too. However, he understands that this is not the only way that life has to be and, maybe, there is a way to fight for their freedom and their rights. This leads to Moa becoming a Cane Warrior, fighting for the freedom of the enslaved people on the island of Jamaica – however difficult the challenges he will face will be.

This novel follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica in 1760, and really brings the events to life for the reader. Especially from the point of view of a young adult character.

This is a book that I really hope so many people will pick up and read, because it’s a really significant story for all readers, and will certainly leave you with a desire to find out more about such significant events.

Dear Mrs Bird by A.J Pearce

What an absolute joy of a book – a cosy historical read set during the events of World War Two in London. This book was like a hug in a book and is full of characters who you feel like you are ready to make friends with as they come to life on the page.

I was lucky enough to meet A.J Pearce and hear her talk about her book, ‘Dear Mrs Bird’, and her new book, ‘Yours Faithfully’, and I think that led to me to loving this story even more. However, one thing that she told us was that she uses photos to help her visualise her characters and, for me, this came as no surprise, as they are so vividly created for you on the page. I absolutely adored every character – even the ‘baddies’ had something appealing about them, in the way that they do in a cosy read.

So, Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and, when she lands a job with a magazine, she believes her dreams may well come true. But having not quite read the job description carefully, she actually becomes the typist for Mrs Bird – an agony aunt – and finds herself with the desire to help the women who are writing in for the answers to their burning questions as they deal with life in 1940s Britain. Of course, as you expect, Emmy’s helping leads to events and adventures that she had not quite expected. There are moments in this story that will make you laugh, and moments that may well make you cry but, overall, you will be left with that warm, cosy feeling of a great, uplifting read. (And you have to make sure you appreciate Clarence when he makes his appearences.)

I really recommend this book for any time you are looking for a book that will give you a little pick-me-up and help you escape from the real world. Just wonderful.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister

Believe the hype – end of post!

No, in all serious, this book is worth the hype. I picked it up as a result of attending ‘The Tasting Notes Live’ event, and I do not regret it one bit. In fact, I even read past my bedtime as I could not leave it not knowing how the book ended. As with all thriller books, it is so hard to review, as I refuse to spoil it for others. However, I will try and help you understand exactly why you should pick this book up.

This book made me audibly gasp at least three times (page 159 was the loudest – and that moment still sticks with me), had me trying to play detective alongside Jen, and it got my heart racing at points as the tension grew.

It may seem strange that this novel so easily uses time travel (not a spoiler) as a realistic concept to help Jen find the answers that she is looking for – but it works. You do not feel like you are reading any kind of fantasy or unrealistic story; you are drawn into Jen’s adventures as she unpicks the story of her and her family, which she thought she always knew.

You will be hooked from the moment you start reading; you think the most shocking thing that can happen is in those first few pages, but how wrong you will be. Gillian McAllister is a very talented writer.

This book has secured all her other books a place on my tbr pile, and I absolutely can not wait to read more from her, as I know so many bookworms who love her work.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

A bit of a flashback Friday book review from me today, as I have had a hectic few weeks and have just not managed to review ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982’. I picked up this book so I could join in with a Tandem Collective Voices readalong with a number of other book lovers. It was also a chance for me to read something I would not neccessarily have picked up before – and to read a piece of translated fiction.

As soon as I started reading this book, I was fully invested in the life of Kim Jiyoung and her experiences growing up South Korea through the 1980s and the 1990s. This is a powerful piece of fiction that is clearly established in the reality of growing up in this nation. For many of us, it may read like an outdated story but, sadly, it is the reality for many of the women growing up in some of these countries at the time.

As I read it, I became frustrated with the outdated ideas towards women and the role that women were expected to play. But it also had me closely reflecting on the freedom and chances that I have had growing up – my destiny almost defined by geography as much as by my family. And, despite no society being completely without sexism and women still fighting for true equality, there are definitely more advantages for some rather than others.

This is a book that I think all men and women should read. It is certainly enlightening and educational – as it raises questions about the influence of a strongly patriarchal society on the experiences of women, even from the moment they are born.

I really recommend this book.