Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

What seems a lifetime ago, I was one of those readers that was sucked into the world of ‘P.S I Love You’. It was a book that made me a firm of the work of Ceclia Ahern.

So, when we knew that we would have the chance to meet Holly again, seven years after the story of ‘P.S I Love You’ ended, I was very excited. It has taken me a little while to pick the book up, simply because I knew that it would be an emotional read. And I was not wrong.

There is joy as you are reunited with Holly, her family and friends. But there is so much emotion as we realise that Gerry’s ghost is still playing a big part in Holly’s life and maybe she has not come as far in seven years as she thought she had. However, Holly meets some people in the ‘P.S I Love You Club’ who take her on a journey of self-discovery she may not have ever realised she needed.

Ahern tells the story in her usual beautiful style. Her books are so readable and, for me, this was like returning to an old friend. A perfect read in these strange times – a hug in a book.

So, if you have not met Holly yet, grab ‘P.S I Love You’, and – if you have – remember to read the ‘Postscript’. And, when you have done that, why not pick up a pen and send some happy mail?

Armadale by Wilkie Collins

I think – well I know – I have a book hangover from this glorious novel. Read as part of a buddy read-along, I actually finished ahead of the game, because I could not put the book down. In fact, at the moment, this may be my favourite book from the pen of Wilkie Collins.

Collins’ characterisation in this novel is outstanding, which is a key reason that I found the book engaging. The characters embody the narrative, each so clearly individual and representative of the role they are going to play. The villains are fabulously villainous although, as the tale progresses, Miss Gwilt (if that is who she really is) starts to become a little conflicted.

This book, some may say, could have been ahead of its time, as the strongest, most determined character in the book is a female. We all know that there is a continuous debate about females being represented in fiction, but Collins packs no punches with his character Miss Gwilt. Strong, determined, independent – she is fabulous (although you are probably not supposed to be a fan of her).

The tale is excellent, as with many of Wilkie Collins books. There is mystery, intrigue, mistaken identity, scandal – the list goes on. It is all just wonderfully thrilling from the word go (No Spoilers!).

If you have not read a book by Wilkie Collins or a Victorian sensation novel, then this could be a great place to start.

Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

I have been desperate to read this book for ages – so decided to order a copy as a lockdown treat. And what a treat this book is – I am not sure that I can do it justice.

This is a stunning novel, in more ways than one. Just starting with the cover; what a beauty. The illustrations throughout the book are beautiful and bring the wonderful words to life.

We follow Michael in this coming of age story. Michael blossoms into the beautiful Black Flamingo – as his find his identity and place in the world as a gay man. This touches on so many subjects, like racism, homophobia, realtionships (of all kinds) and identity; all handled so well through the beautiful writing of Dean Atta. His perfect prose tells Michael’s story with such warmth and emotion, creating a beautiful page-turner that is impossible to put down.

This lovely YA book is one that I will be recommending to everyone to read, as it is absolutely brilliant – I can already see a re-read on the horizon.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

‘Queenie’ has been everywhere over the last year or so. However, as usual, I was late to the ‘Queenie’ party. It had been on the wishlist and thanks to a bookswap with the lovely ‘Priarie Chicken Pages’ I finally had a copy to read.

‘Queenie’ had been billed as the new ‘Bridget’. Now, being part of the ‘Bridget’ generation, having loved the books and the films, that was a bold claim. However, it is also an unfair one, because Queenis is so much more. Queenie is a leading female character for a whole new generation. She is not the new Bridget – she is Queenie Jenkins.

What makes ‘Queenie’ a really special novel is that Candice Carty-Williams has had the confidence, and skill, to tackle some topics which can be taboo. Mental health, identity and relationships are tackled head-on in the story of Queenie Jenkins. Occasionally, her story is painful but, at all times, you are rooting for and supporting the wonderful Queenie. Don’t get me wrong, she has her flaws, but she has her flaws, but she also has an amazing inner strength that maybe we should all search for.

The writing style is easy to read but there is so much warmth and emotion in each and every sentence. There is also a clever use of memory throughout the narrative to help us build a full picture of Queenie, past and present.

I would highly recommend this book because I don’t think it will be what you expect – I think you will find that it is far more than you expect it to be. It was certainly far more than I expected it to be. Do not compare Queenie to anyone else, because she is a hero in her own right.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

Miss W lent me this book quite a while ago and I am ashamed to say it has been sat on the shelf for a while.

If I am totally honest, if I had judged this book by its cover, I would probably not have picked it up. It looks a little like cheesy chick lit, which is not my usual bag. However, I would have missed out on a gem of a book if I had done that – so, as they say, ‘never judge a book by its cover – use Miss W’s recommendations.’

This is a beautiful story of self-discovery about three fabulous characters. Although they may not be your usual trio, together they form a strong bond, mainly revolving around their love of music. As Grace thinks her world is falling aprat (not for the first time) and it has all been fiction, Nadia (a rather headstrong teenager) and Mr Williamson (he is eighty you know) help her realise that maybe she hasn’t really started living. In fact, maybe they can each help other start living.

By the end of the novel, you will be desperate to visit Paris and Italy (mulitple parts). You will wish you could play an instrument (if you do not already), and you will definitely realise you have to appreciate all the friendships you have in your life.

It has been wonderful to discover a new author and I look forward to more from the pen of Anstey Harris.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

One of the wonderful things about the bookstagram work is that it can encourage you to read books you may not usually read or that have been on that to-be-read pile for quite some time. So, when one of my bookstagram buddies, Mrs D, suggested a buddy read for ‘Vanity Fair’ I jumped at the chance (especially as we can’t do our usual fun of sharing photos of our lovely manicured nails and pretty books).

Now, ‘Vanity Fair’ looks pretty daunting at nearly 900 pages, and I was really hoping that I would enjoy it. I had basic knowledge of the story from TV and film adaptations and had enjoyed those, so I was hopeful, but you can never be sure with these classics.

However, I had nothing to fear once I started. Although it takes a while to get used to the writing style (it is very much of its time), once you have embraced it, there is no stopping you. It is simply beautifully crafted with excellent chracterisation to represent the best and, at times, the worst of society. Becky Sharp must be one of the greatest characters ever created for readers to love to hate (or thoroughly dislike).

The book has all the best themes interwoven into the narrative: romance, scandal, humour, and at moments, sadness. However, this thing it does best is present a satire of society, and really comments on the weaknesses that are created by vanity, especially the vanity of men. And how easily those that suffer from such a ‘curse’ can be manipulated, especially by the fairer sex.

However, Thackeray does allow true goodness to eventually triumph in this wonderful piece of classic literature.

So, if there is that book on the shelf that you have been a bit unsure about tackling, take a chance and pick it up. You may be missing a great adventure!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This novel has been around the bookblogging and bookstagram community for quite some time – and it has probably been on my shelf for as long. I picked it up as I has been reminded I owned it, and thought maybe it is time to give it a go.

Now, I am not sure I share the same love of this book that so many of you do. I understand why so many readers would love it. I am just not one of those readers.

It took me a while to warm to the story. I found it picked up pace about half way through. I was more invested in the loves of Marianne and Conell once they were at university.

I can see the significance of this tale – I can understand the importance of the title ‘Normal People’ to the narrative – and some of the issues it tackles are challenging. However, for me, it was just not a favourite.

I am not even sure what was missing, as I started this book expecting to love it. There was just a little bit of magic missing for me.

The novel is beautifully written and Sally Rooney is a talented author. I would like to read ‘Conversations with Friends’ to see how I find that book. Maybe as reader and book we would be more compatible.

Have you read Sally Rooney’s novels?

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I have enjoyed all of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s books that I have read. So, as you can imagine, I was excited to give ‘The Mercies’ a go. You may have noticed that I don’t often read the blurb that goes with books by authors I admire, and that was exactly the case with this book – and, on this occasion, that paid off as I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, so I may have been a little put off. However, with this novel, the history is not the star (don’t get me wrong, I want to learn more) but is simply one part interwoven into an excellent narrative. This book is about so much more; it is about relationships, beliefs, ideals and the misconceptions that can come from misinformation and some unfounded beliefs.

‘The Mercies’ is inspired by the real events of 1621 in Vardo. The focal point bein the witch trials and the attempt to spread Christianity in the belief that it could civilise the people (a story that has been repeated throughout history). But this novel also, reflects so much more. It also investigates gender roles and the impact that these have on people’s lives, and how any attempt to break away from a predefined ‘norm’ could lead to suspicion an misconceptions.

I really enjoy Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s writing style, which means, for me, that become really beautiful books to read and page-turners.

So, if you’re looking for a lovely lockdown read, support a bookshope and order ‘The Mercies’.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Sara Barnard writes books that tackle some excellent key issues. I didn’t read the blurb before I read the book – I just dived straight in. I was struck immediately by the subject of this novel. Barnard tackles the subject of ‘grooming’ in this YA book. However, this is not the only significant issue – relationships of all kinds are tackled, adoptive parents and their children, that ‘perfect’ family and what does it really mean to be ‘best’ friends?

In the eyes of Eden (who feels she is not quite as good as she should be), Bonnie is perfect and the friendship is perfect. Or is it? Is there, in fact, any such thing as perfect?

I really enjoyed this book, it really is a thought-provoking tale. And really brings to the attention of readers some key issues that may not be discussed quite as much as they should be.

I have enjoyed every book I have read by Sara Barnard but I feel that this was the best. Engaging, thought-provoking and wonderfully written, it is a book I hope a lot of young people will pick up and take important lessons from. Especially about relationships.

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary

Oh wow – I am LATE to the party with this novel. Every single bookstagrammer and bookblogger in the world seemed to have read this book – so, I finally gave in. Well, I am glad that I did decide to give it a go.

This is not just a tale of romance with two charming central characters, but it dares to tackle some harder topics. The control of Tiff’s ex comes under real scrutiny. It is interesting that the book tackles something that really should be discussed more; great that it brings it to a wider audience.

However, the real charm of this book is, of course, the developing relationship between Leon and Tiff. How two complete strangers , yet also two flatmates, manage to help each other discover the life they really should be living. Of course, there is the odd bump in the road (a risk of social media), and, a few false starts, but love always seems to find a way. Even for the lovely Mr Prior, which was one of my favourite plots in the book.

I can understand why this books has such a loyal band of followers. It is a charming story with a lovely collection of characters. The perfect comfort read for these strange times – a clear reason why reading is a perfect piece of escapism.