Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthrew

YA fiction is probably one of my favourite genres and ‘Blood Moon’ is an excellent example of this. And this is a book that is full of incredible messages and lessons for young people (and adults alike).

This book is written in blank verse and has a beautiful rythmn to it as you read it. But, this also makes the message clear and accessible.

‘Blood Moon’ is about period shame, the impact of social media on young people and sometimes not knowing how to handle a situation for the best. This is a book that should be read by all young people to support their understanding of growing up and some of its challenges. And many may think that this is a book only targeted at girls, but boys would find an education amongst these pages too.

Having been lucky enough to meet Lucy Cuthew at ‘The Tasting Notes Live’ event, I have more respect for this book an the positive motivation behind it. (And, Sara Pascoe loves it, which is pretty cool).

The Last Library by Freya Sampson

September’s pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ was ‘The Last Library’ by Freya Sampson. And this is a perfect book for a booklover; I mean it is a book about books.

The library is at the heart of the community of Chalcot. Quite a collection of characters congregate there everyday, for all sorts of reasons. June has known this community for most of her life and her mother was the librarian before her. However, now the library is under threat, are everybody’s lives about to be turned upside down?

This is another story that is like a hug in a book. You fall in love with all of the characters and find yourself really reflecting on the community areound you – do you really know everybody as well as you think you do?

It is another book that will probably leave you with a readling list. I certainly noted some titles but also absolutely can’t wait to read more books by Freya Sampson. And, yes, I shed some tears.

Freckles by Cecelia Ahern

One of my favourite authors is Cecelia Ahern. Ever since I read ‘PS I Love You’ cover to cover in one day (I have probably told you that before).

So, I was over the moon when ‘Freckles’ came out and I had another chance to have a little Irish adventure. And this was a wonderful adventure. Allegra Bird, ‘Freckles’, has moved to Dublin and meets Tristian. They may not have the most conventional meeting, but when it is suggested you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with, Allegra starts to re-evaluate her life.

Does Allegra have five people? Who really are the special people in her life? Or is this a chance for her to change her story?

This is a beautifully written page-turner. You almost want to become one of Allegra’s five. This story swept me away and, as I read the final chapter, I even shed a little tear. But you also begin to think about the five people in your life.

Simply put, this is Cecelia Ahern at her finest; creating a magical tale of fantastic characters that leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling. This is a perfect autumn read – and definitely an excuse to start reading the books of Cecelia Ahern.

Red Bones by Ann Cleeves

My next book in my ‘TV Detective Challenge’ was a trip to Shetland with Jimmy Perez. (Shetland has been a bit of a theme in 2021 – and I really hope I make it there one day.)

I really enjoyed this cosy piece of crime fiction. A tradtionalt piece of slow-burn crime fiction as we follow Detective Jimmy Perez investigate the death of an elderly lady in a small community, just after the discovery of human remains at an archaelogical dig. Is there a connestion between the two – are the red bones not as old as they seem? Or are they connected to a feud between two local families – are there secrets that need to remain hidden?

This is a beautifully constructed narrative. Where the landscape is as much part of the story as the characters that Ann Cleeves has created. This is the sort of book that should be read on a cosy evening.

This was my first introduction to the writing of Ann Cleeves and the character of Perez on the page. I will definitely be returning to read more, especially as I need to read about Vera too.

The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams

What a perfect summer read – I mean, I know you should not judge a book by its cover, but this book cover certainly says ‘perfect summer read’. In fact, you should be reading this somewhere hot and sunny – or, failing that create your own summer escape. (Which the wonderful Book Taster helped us do this month with all our lovely goodies).

Anyway, back to the book. This book was a great read for the summer break. Annie’s wedding is called off – as she arrives at the church. For some, this could be the end of everything but, for Annie, it becomes a whole new adventure, because she takes her honeymoon anyway – with another man. On her Australian adventure, she takes the chance to re-evaluate life, and realise maybe it was all a lucky escape – and should she be following another path?

This is a light-hearted read with a big message. Maybe we do need to remember sometimes that we do not have to follow the path that society makes us feel we have to – I mean, afterall, one size does not fit all. But, also, you do not have to stick to the plans you have made.

I just found this book an enjoyable read and almost like a little holiday.

Looking forward to hearing all the book clubbers share their thoughts – and if they all want to rush off to Australia too?

The Duchess by Wendy Holden

I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in ‘The Duchess Readalong’ with Tandem Collective UK, and they kindly gifted me a copy of the book by Wendy Holden too.

I am always a little cautious of historical fiction, as I have known people to read it and take it as fact. However, ‘The Duchess’ had me hooked, especially as I do have quite a fascination with Wallis Simpson and her impact on the royal family.

This is a beautifully written book. Totally absorbing. And fascinating as this is really about Mrs Simpson before she became ‘the woman who stole our king’. If she ever actually was – the story will certainly have you questioning that popular culture view of her. This novel presents a very sympathetic view of Wallis Simpson, and I think that is what keeps you reading as you realise what a complex character she actually was.

You can also not read this book without falling down a ‘royal rabbit hole’. I was keen to find out more about so many of the figures of this book. And, as I was doing this, it was convincing me that Wendy Holden had certainly done her research to write this book – and the narrative throughout this novel also supports this, as this is not written to over-dramatise any of the events.

I reallt enjoyed this book and feel very lucky to have had the chance to read it. I am certainly keen now to read ‘The Governess’, as – let’s be honest – the British royal family is an institution that is full of stories.

Thursday Thoughts: Theatre is Back!

The most wonderful thing is the return of theatre. And August has been my lucky month – as I have been able to return to both Stratford and London to enjoy all things theatre – and it has made me so incredibly happy.

In Stratford, it was the chance to see ‘The Comedy of Errors’ at the RSC’s outdoor theatre. It was an absolute joy, and the perfect way to be welcomed back to The Royal Shakespeare Company. Played completely for its joyful, slapstick comedy, the company appeared to be having the time of their lives (come rain or shine), and you cannot feel anything other than sheer happiness being in the audience. This is also a fantastic play if you are looking to dip your toe into the Shakespeare experience.

The West End was a chance to see ‘Hairspray’ – selected as I hoped I would see Michael Ball but, unfortunately he was indisposed. However, this did not take away from all the musical magic of ‘Hairspray’. The moment the first note was heard in the theatre, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Another outstanding performance from the whole company. In fact, so brilliant that there was cheering and clapping throughout – and even a standing ovation after ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. ‘Hairspray’ has so many important messages, that are still so important today, that it is just a timeless show – and if you can see it, I would really recommend it.

So, the theatres being back has just been the most wonderful emotional rollercoaster. Let us all hope that the show goes on because, oh my goodness, I have missed it.

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

The rookie error of a bookworm – needing an emergency book because you have finished the one you have with you. However, often that leads to some wonderful book discoveries, and that is how I found ‘Wranglestone’. I was aware of the book but did not know a great deal about it.

‘Wranglestone’ is a book about acceptance, but wrapped up in a zombie story. Wranglestone is a settlement of those that are ‘alive’, trying to stay safe from the ‘dead’. Peter lives with is dad and is in love with Cooper (although he is pretty sure he does not see him). However, Cooper has seen him and together they find out that the life they have accepted may not all be as it seems.

I really enjoyed this book – and the message that it delivers to its readers. This would not always be my first choice of book, but I am so glad that I took a chance on it, because it is a brilliant YA read.

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

For ‘The Unread Sjelf Project 2021’, the August prompt is ‘A book from an independent bookstore’. so for me, that was ‘The Miseducation of Evie Epworth’. And what a joyful read this book is. I would love to have an Evie in my life.

This book felt like a hug – just a wonderful piece of escapism and a spot-on read for the summer months.

Evie Epworth is 16 years old, and it is the summer after her O Levels. She has dreasm of taking her education further. although her soon-to-be stepmother has other ideas. After all ‘girls don’t need an education’. However, Evie is not a fan of this scarlet woman who had he claws into her father, ‘Arthur’. So, with a little help from her friends (a great collection of characters), a plan is put in place that will hopefully prevent the gaining of the unwanted stepmother. And, maybe, Evie will find out a little more about her deceased mother too.

There is just so much humour and charm on every page of this book, that it was simply a joy. And I am not too proud to admit that I may have shed a couple of tears reading the final pages. I think we should all be a little more Evie.

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

We have been reunited with Pip for one final time as we reach the end of her trilogy. Like so many, this was a most anticipated read of 2021 for me. I was so excited to see how Holly Jackson would conclude this for us all.

You can feel the tension from the first page of this YA thriller. Pip is clearly suffering from the events of her last case, but there is still a mystery to solve. Who is taunting her and stalking her? And why? And is it linked to the case of the Duct Tape Killer and another miscarriage of justice?

This book has everything we love: Pip, Ravi, Pip’s family and friends, and her usual determination. However, as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I am not sure if all of the action was ‘realistic’ or true to the Pip we know. I realise that this is about Pip dealing with trauma and her own ideas about a miscarriage of justice, but I was just not completely convinced I could see some of the behaviour as true to her previous actions.

But, don’t get me wrong, I loved the book and, like so many, I am sad that we have come to the end of Pip’s story. And I am definitely imagining the best future for her…and Ravi.

Holly Jackson has given us a wonderfully engaging YA trilogy, and I hope that we will hear more from her soon.