Tell Me How This Ends by Jo Leevers

The October pick for ‘The Book Taster Online Book Club‘ is ‘Tell Me How This Ends’ by Jo Leevers. This was not a book I had heard of, but it has been a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick and the cover is beautiful, so I was intrigued to pick it up and get started.

I loved this book; I found it so difficult to put it down, and every evening I was desperate to settle down and carry on reading because I just had to know – well – how it was going to end. Henrietta and Annie are thrown together as Henrietta gets a job recording and writing people’s life stories, and she is given the task of helping Annie record her story. This experience blossoms into a friendship as they both (without realising it) support each other in coming to terms with their past, and some of the ghosts and mysteries that haunt them. Although the idea is that Henrietta is writing the stories of those who are aware that they are facing the end of their lives, this is not a sad story. In fact, it is a clear story of hope and friendship. Even in the toughest of times, there can be a light, as both characters are freed from those who have not allowed them to shine as they should.

I am not sure I can do this book justice without giving too much away. But I found it so engaging, and I was rooting for Annie and Henrietta throughout – just pleased that they had found friendship with each other. It is a friendship that crosses the generations and these are some of the best friendships in fiction. It reminded me a little of the friendship in ‘Lenny and Margot’, although the gap is not quite as large. And I considered the new friendship that was found again at the end of the book an absolute joy.

Please be aware that this book does tackle the subject of cancer and grief, but this is handled so beautifully and, throughout the book, you know that these characters have been able to bring so much to each others’ lives. But, if you are a fan of ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine‘ or ‘A Tidy Ending‘, I think you may enjoy this book, too.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

This is a book that has all the hype – in fact, it has not just had all the hype, it also has a film.

I read this book with quite high expectations and I am still not entirely sure what I thought of it. I enjoyed the concept; it is brilliant to read such representation of the LGBTQ+ community in books. It is brilliant that this book does not just tackle boy meets boy, but also looks at some of those concerns and issues that follow those who are expected to behave a certain way due to their position and how isolating it can be for those who just want to be their true selves.

I enjoyed reading about these characters and I think it really had some thought-provoking moments, but there was something that just stopped it having real sparkle. Now, this could be a moment of ‘it is not you, it is me’ – I could just have been too tired to invest in this book the way it deserves. But I think for me it was just a little too long and my focus wandered occasionally, and I feel I probably skim-read some of it rather than really taking it in.

I understand why this book is so loved, and Casey McQuiston knows how to write a story that will make you really think about the world we live in. And she creates characters you would quite like to hang out with and have a catch-up (and discuss a little bit of politics or the state of the world, potentially). But, for me, it just missed the spot ever so slightly.

However, do not get me wrong, I will probably invest an evening on the film, as I would love to see how this book has gone from the page to the screen. Always happy to see if the hype is deserved.

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

When I popped this book into Storygraph, I was surprised to see that one of the adjectives used to describe it was ‘funny’. However, as I read this novel, I realised that, actually, there is some humour in this book; a dark humour, but almost a satire of how ‘the other half’ live – all woven into a great crime story.

I was kindly sent this book by a Bookstagram buddy and, when I saw that it had been chosen as Waterstones’ thriller novel of the month for October, I knew that it was time to pick it up and give it a read. And I was hooked by the tagline on the front: ‘You know how they live. This is how they die.’

I really enjoyed this book. As with all thrillers it is quite hard to write blog posts, as you do not want to give away any of the twists or the thrills. However, what I enjoyed about this book was the slightly cynical look, that almost became a satire of the rich/poor divide. How it may appear that some of those with privilege can sometimes manipulate the situation in order to achieve what they want while never considering the consequences of their actions or some of the devastation that they leave behind them.

Detective Caius Beauchamp was a great character and is someone that I would like to read more about in other books. Especially as you feel that the story leaves you with a desire to find out a little more about this man. And our villian Rupert Beauchamp (no relation but, sadly, historically these families were linked – with Rupert’s as lords and masters and Caius’ as far less…) is a very well-created enemy of the peace, but is also almost a caricature of ‘the other half’ and how they live.

There are some uncomfortable topics in this book, so please consider this before you read it, but as a rule this is a great thriller, and I hope we will see more from the pen of Charlotte Vassell.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

My lovely bookstagram buddy ‘Life in Two Worlds’ sent me ‘The Drift’, as I had spotted that she had been reading it. And I feel very lucky that she did – this is a fascinating read and such a clever concept for a book.

I absolutely cannot give any spoilers in this post. So, this is going to be a very difficult post to write as the twist in this book is just perfect, and I absolutely did not see it coming – and I am still thinking about it now. What an incredible author C.J. Tudor is to have been able to write such a book with such a twist, and keep it all so well structured, while never losing that thread.

This is a virus novel: there is an outbreak of a dangerous virus and we follow a number of different characters as they deal with their experiences in an isolated area of the world. The characters are all fighting for survival in some way or another, and experiencing the paranoia that is established between those who are thrown together, and just want to be able to survive at whatever cost. The sense of place is fantastically created, so you feel you are among them in their snow drift, or stuck in the cable car – and you feel the tension as the characters do.

However, this is all I can really say about this story’s plotline, because you truly need to read this to appreciate the skill that has gone into writing this book. Although it is a bit of a slow burn and probably needs quite some concentration, it is a book that I recommend if you like a well-written thriller that leaves you guessing until the very end.

And I must remember to read more of C.J. Tudor’s books.