The Vintage Shop of Second Chances by Libby Page

Libby Page is an author that has only come to my attention this year – when I read ‘The Lido‘ and loved it just as much as everyone else I know in the Bookstagram world. So, as a treat, I dedicated some reading time to ‘The Vintage Shop of Second Chances’ to kick start the summer break – and I am so glad that I did. This book is just beautiful, and I even shed a little tear.

Lou decides to finally follow her dream and start a vintage clothes shop back in her home town. In this shop hangs a beautiful yellow dress that belonged to her mother, but little does she know that the beautiful yellow dress is going to take her on a whole adventure. (And that is all that I am going to give you on the plot, as I really believe that you need to read this book). But, alongside her, Maggy and Donna also embark on adventures that they were not expecting and, together with Lou, learn something about themselves that they were probably not expecting. In fact, everyone has a second chance – but you will have to read it to find out what they may be.

Something that Libby Page does brilliantly is not just give us strong female characters, but also beautiful friendships across the generation gap. I love that the characters do not ever seem to be just friends with peers, but it demonstrates that friendship can blossom between all sorts of people and for all sorts of different reasons. This makes the story even more special.

This is a fabulous read about family, friendship, community and self-discovery. It proves that you are never too old to learn something new or make a fresh start – and that you should never be scared to do either.

If you are a fan of Libby Page, I would love to know what your favourite book is.

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas

This month’s Tasting Notes Book Club title is ‘The Family Retreat’ by Bev Thomas.

I was not sure what to expect from this book as, I am sure you have gathered by now, I do not read blurbs – so the only idea had about it was that it may be considered a psychological thriller. Although, if you judged a book by its cover, I am not sure if that is the category that you would place it into as a reader.

However, having now read the book, I am not sure that I would consider it a psychological thriller. In fact, I am not even sure it is a thriller. It seems more like a piece of contemporary fiction, but it certainly evokes an atmosphere of the long English summer.

This book is told from the point of view of Jess, an overworked GP who is taking some time away from London with her family. We soon learn that this may not just be a simple family holiday, but that there is more to her decision to take this break. She meets a number of different characters during her time away, who all seem to have their own struggles, which Jess appears to get drawn into. The timeline of this tale is not always strictly chronological; there are moments when Jess reflects on events in the past, which for me did cause a little confusion in the story, and I am not sure they always really added to the narrative.

There are a large number of issues covered in this book, such as mental health issues and unhealthy, controlling relationships. I understand that it is important that such issues are covered in books, but I did feel that in this book there were a number of issues covered and maybe this led to them feeling like they had been touched on rather than fully tackled. They did not neccessarily add to the narrative of the story, although it can not be denied that it could and should start conversations about some of these issues.

This is certainly a book that will be worth discussing by book clubs and book groups – I think it will create a whole range of different opinions.

The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley

I was lucky enough to win a dedicated copy of ‘The People on Platform 5’ by Clare Pooley and I was so incredibly excited. Although I had been late to the party with ‘The Authenticity Project‘, only having read it about a year ago, I knew I could not leave ‘The People on Platform 5’ on my shelf for quite so long. So, I chose it for the prompt of ‘Joy’ from ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2023’.

And this book did bring me so much joy. As someone who commutes on the train everyday, I loved the idea that people on the train may not be afraid to speak to each other, and even form friendships. Clare Pooley creates a wonderful collection of characters who are thrown together by catching the same train every day. They may not seem like the usual people you would put together to make friends, but they help each other in different ways – and probably each needed the others even if they did not realise it.

Iona, almost the matriarch of the story, is one of the greatest characters to grace the pages of a book. She is definitely someone who proves that growing older does not mean that you have to give up on life. And she proves that to so many around her, with a little bit of help from her friends. (I quite like her rules for the commute too; I may have to employ some of them in my routine). There are so many fantastic people that Iona manages to bring together and support in realising how important or special they are in their own way. You will certainly enjoy finding out more about them, just as Iona does.

This is a fantastically uplifting read, leaving you feeling full of joy as you finish the final line. Just like ‘The Authenticity Project’, it is going to become a book that I recommend to so many people, because I want everyone to be able to be reminded that there is a lot of good in the world. And that it is never too late to aim for what you really want, or to make the change that will make you happy.

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

I have only recently discovered the books of Clare Mackintosh and I am so glad that I have as she writes a great thriller. And my thriller and crime phase does not seem to have left me yet – it must be the escapism of it all.

‘Hostage’ was a little bit of a slow burn of a book but once the pace picked up I could not put it down and needed to know what was going to happen next. I do not want to give any of this story away, it definitely needs to be read to be appreciated without any spoilers. However, I was impressed that the real twist came at the very, very end of the book. And it was a twist that I genuinely did not see coming; it was a very clever move by Clare Mackintosh.

I am not sure the characters were particularly likeable in this book but they were fascinating. You needed to find out more about them and try to understand the decisions that they make. I was often left contemplating what I would have done in some of their situations. It was definitely a strong study of human nature and emotion.

Despite this book having been published in 2021, it is one that still felt very bang up to date, with some of the references made to some of the social and political issues within the plot are ones that we seem to still be and possibly always will be facing in the twenty-first century.

Just with the last book I read by Clare Mackintosh (The Last Party), I am keen to read more. Maybe they will pop up in my summer reading over the next few weeks, although I must remember that I should be shopping my shelves – haha!

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

The second of ‘The Seven Sisters’ brings us the story of ‘The Storm Sister’ – the second sister, Ally.

I was gripped by this book from the first page, just as I had been when I picked up ‘The Seven Sisters‘. Ally is an adventurer; she is a yachtswoman and is about to embark on her latest adventure when she hears of the death of Pa Salt. As her life changes the path she thought it was following, she decides that, like her sister, she will follow the clues that have been left by Pa Salt to see if she can find out a little more about her roots. This adventure takes the reader to Europe – Norway to be precise – as she discovers that her other musical talent may have come from her ancestors as she unravels their story.

The way that Lucinda Riley weaves the sense of mystery and discovery into these stories makes them real page-turners. The dual timelines leave you wanting to find out more all the time, as the reader wants to know the answers to the mysterious past, and how the clues and discoveries may impact the future for Ally.

By the end of the book, I was fully rooting for Ally to have a happy ending; I felt after all the adventure of the book she deserved that. And I felt like I had been on another wonderful adventure (just adding Norway to places I would definitely like to visit). It always makes me want to find out more about my family history, because I think it is so fascinating to find out where we have come from and how that may impact who we are today – even if we may not realise it.

I am very much ready to find out more about the Seven Sisters, and I think it is safe to say that ‘The Shadow Sister’ will be on my summer reading list, as I am keen to find out about Star and her family past.