Mother’s Boy by Patrick Gale

I have always wanted to read a book by Patrick Gale, but I have been a little intimidated by his books, and to be honest that is simply because I may have judged them by their cover.

However, the fantastic ‘The Book Taster’ picked ‘Mother’s Boy’ for the February book club pick and I was really excited to have the chance to read a novel by Patrick Gale. And, spoiler alert, I absolutely loved it and will definitely be reading more of his books when I have the chance.

‘Mother’s Boy’ is a beautiful piece of historical fiction about the writer and poet Charles Causley, who grew up in Cornwall in the early twentieth century with his mother Laura (after sadly losing his father Charlie at a young age). Patrick Gale has focused on Charles and Laura Causley’s life until just after the Second World War, and I found it fascinating, of course keeping in mind that it is a fictionalised version of events but, clearly, well researched. Although Gale admits that he has to fill some gaps with the evidence he could find, I feel he has done this carefully and with respect. Nothing appears to have been written to sensationalise, shock or show any kind of disrespect to the Causleys.

I just could not put this book down, as it is so beautifully written and I just wanted to see how the characters would develop, and how their experiences were shaping them and their views of life. The relationship between mother and son was fascinating and though, at times, it clearly had its odd strains, it appears it was always loving and caring.

And, like all good books, this has sparked an interest in me for the works of Charles Causley, although he is mainly a poet, which is not always my go-to genre, I am intrigued to read what he has written and find out even more about this man. His life was not easy in those early years, and being drawn into World War Two as a member of the Royal Navy would have left quite an impression on him, and maybe offered him a connection to his father Charlie, who had experienced World War One.

Patrick Gale’s talent as a storyteller is obvious from the very beginning of this book, and his ability to really bring characters and places to life for his readers is something quite magical. And I am really looking forward to reading more of his books and discovering more of his stories.

So, again, thank you to ‘The Book Taster’ for bringing another author into my life that has brought me so much joy.

Just. Got. Real. by Jane Fallon

Tandem Collective UK kindly gifted me a copy of ‘Just. Got. Real’ by Jane Fallon as part of a readalong campaign.

This was my first introduction to Jane Fallon’s books, and it was an absolute delight to read – I think I may well be looking out for more of her books.

At first glance, this may appear to be an obvious romance novel, especially with its fantastically pink cover (which is amazing), but actually this story is so much more than that. This is a wonderful book about grief, loneliness, friendship – and rediscovering yourself when you may have slightly lost your way. And a fantastic revenge.

Now, as regular readers of my blog will know, I hate to give anything away in my reviews, so I am going to keep my little summary brief. Joni’s marriage has ended in divorce, her daughter has moved away and her best friend has died in a car accident. Joni has created a life of routine for herself for each day, but it is not quite a life full of adventure. However, when she decides to get back on the dating scene thanks to an app, her life becomes far more adventurous than she ever could have imagined – with an opportunity to make two new wonderful friends.

I found that I could not put this book down, as I just kept wanting to know what would happen next. This book is fantastically written and the characters are so beautifully created that you could imagine sharing a glass of white wine with them when they have their girly get-togethers.

So, if you are looking for a read with strong female characters, then this is the book for you.

Must I Go by Yiyun Li

This book has been on my TBR list for over a year, it was one of the titles I selected as part of my Rare Birds Bookshop advent calendar, Christmas 2021, and I finally managed to pluck it off the shelves with the help of my TBR Pile Tarot Cards.

I think, despite the beautiful cover, I have avoided this book as I felt that it would be a very serious read that would require a large amount of concentration. However, I need to not let impressions like that put me off reading a book – as, in fact, this was a wonderful read, and one that I will be recommending to people.

‘Must I Go’ introduces us to Lilia Liska who has reached the grand old age of 81, and lived what may seem like a fairly ordinary life surrounded by family. However, there is a slightly different narrative to her life that she has not shared quite as readily with the world, and decides now is the time as she begins to reflect on her past. There was once a man, Roland Bauley, who held her heart and she carried as a secret – and now she is annotating his diaries with the alternative history of her past to leave for one of her granddaughters, and one of her great-granddaughters, to help them understand the truth of the past.

I was so drawn into this story because it is so beautifully told and Lilia seems such an ordinary elderly lady at the start of the story, but as we are shown the secrets of of Ronald Bauley’s diary, she becomes such a fascinating character. And I just had to keep finding out more once I had started reading.

If you like a beautifully written story about love, family and hidden pasts, then this is the book for you. You will find yourself eager to find out what happens next, and even wondering how the story may have continued once that annotated diary is read by those who it was intended for. And that, to me, is a sign of a good book.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

I have finally joined the local library. In fact, it was listening to the author Jan Carson that convinced me that I had to make use of my library, and so I did.

And the first book I took out: a YA graphic novel, one that had been on my wishlist quite some time – ‘And the Ocean Was Our Sky’ by Patrick Ness.

This book is absolutely stunning; the illustrations are truly beautiful and so clever. They are sybmbolic as well as supporting the story, and you are left with some of them to use your imagination to add more to the moment. They are, in every way, just enough to bring the story to life for the reader.

I guess I should talk about the story. Inspired by ‘Moby Dick’ (which I have not read, despite Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse insisting that I should), it is the story of the whales as the hunters of man, rather than the other way round. And what a powerful story it is. Patrick Ness has really flipped the tables on the classic, in such a sophisticated and meaningful way. This is not a gimmick of a story, but one that really makes you think about the impact of whale hunting on those beautiful mammals of the sea – and Patrick Ness really brings them to life for the reader.

However, this is not a tale that preaches to its readership; it makes the reader think. You will consider how not everybody that hunts supports what is happening, but there is also that survival instinct kicking in. It is fundamental to all to want to survive, even sometimes when the things that are needed for that to happen may not always sit comfortably with our ideology. So, on the pages of this book, we have quite a study of human and animal nature.

If you like a thought-provoking and powerful read, then this is a book I would suggest you pick up, I would love to know how other readers respond to this graphic novel. And always remember: YA books are not just for younger readers.

An Unwanted Inheritance by Imogen Clark

I was due to read ‘An Unwanted Inheritance’ back in December, when I was kindly gifted a copy by Tandem Collective UK – however, it never made it. I had give up hope and just thought it was one of those things that was just not meant to be – however, out of the blue it appeared on my doormat, so I had my little readalong on my own.

‘An Unwanted Inheritance’ is an excellent study of human relationships, especially within the family unit. When three siblings are left with a suitcase full of cash after the sudden death of their father, everything that they thought they knew is brought under the microscope. We follow the three siblings as they try to make decisions about what the right thing to do with their ‘unwanted inheritance’ is (well, it is more unwanted by some than others) but, also, as they try to solve the mystery of where exactly the money came from or who exactly their father was.

What keeps you reading, however, is the character study. I enjoyed seeing how each character reacted to the situation, or at least the situation as they saw it. How, sometimes, people can not see what is right under their nose, or accept what is in front of them. And how money can really impact people in so many ways, some often being very negative.

So, if you are a fan of a book that is character led (although, do not expect to like all the characters, because I certainly did not) and a plot that is guided more by the characters, then this is the book for you. It may even make you reflect on your own character at times.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

I have recently seen a lot of love for the writing of Matt Cain, and when I saw a sneaky opportunity to snap up a bargain-price copy of ‘The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle’ – I just knew I had to.

This book did not disappoint me at all; in fact, I may go as far as saying that this could well be one of my books of the year – if not my book of the year. I absolutely adored every single thing about this book. It is a true hug in a book, which really should be a genre.

Albert Entwistle has never really revealed who he really is. He has spent his life as a postman, following a routine every day, and keeping people at a distance. However, when he finds out that his retirement is on the horizon and starts to open his eyes a little more to the community around him, he starts to make some changes to his life. And, maybe, he will finally address the past that has held him back for so many years – having the courage to find the man he had lost so many years before, and who he has never forgotten.

This is almost a coming of age story for the older gentleman, and a story of acceptance. Nobody should ever be scared to reveal their real self.

I think Albert Entwistle is one of my favourite characters that I have ever discovered in a book. You just want him to find his happy ending and see all the love and acceptance that is around him, and that he no longers needs to hide in plain sight. And I would like to thank Matt Cain for bringing Albert to life for us all.

So, if you have not read this book, I really recommend you pick it up, as it is a story that will stay with you forever – a truly heartwarming read.

The Fire Starters by Jan Carson

In January the Tasting Notes Book Club pick was ‘The Fire Starters’ by Jan Carson. As you all know, I do not read any blurb, so I did not really have the faintest idea what to think about this book.

As I started the book, I have to admit I was not really sure what was happening; there seemed to be two completely unrelated stories taking place – only connected by being set in Belfast. However, as the stories continue of two main characters, Sammy and Jonathan, you realise that they in fact have quite a lot in common, and a similar story to tell. These men are both dealing with their relationships with their children; they are both men who love their children but are also troubled by them, almost in fear of them because of who they have become – or who they may become.

Sammy is a man who fears that his past character has become that of his sons. Sammy was a man who was actively involved in the violence on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Troubles (which we must acknowledge have not ended), and he is worried that this has led his son to become involved in a new wave of incidents in Belfast. Is he really responsible for the decisions his son has made? And is he the only one who can stop him?

Jonathan’s new daughter is magical or cursed, depending on Jonathan’s feelings on any given day. But can he do something that many would think is unthinkable to protect people from his daughter?

As I reached the end of the book, I understood a lot more about how these two apparently individual stories were similar, and how they brought a richness to the novel I may have missed when I first started reading. This is a book that I may not have chosen to read, but I am glad that I have discovered the beautiful writing of Jan Carson. And I do have my eye on reading ‘The Raptures’, as that is another book that sounds incredibly intriguing.