Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

I have rejoined reading along with ‘Maidens of Murder’. I only took a break as I had only just read the June choice. However, July’s choice is ‘Appointment with Death’, a story with my favourite Christie character Poirot.

This was a classic Poirot, for me. I really enjoyed reading this book from the moment I started. This was a fabulous read, as it has the Queen of Crime’s best signature ingredients. There is the exotic setting of the red cliffs of Petra; there is the really rather villianous Mrs Boynton; a colourful collection of other travellers and, of course, a murder.

This was a page-turner for me as it reminded me of my favourite, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. A murder takes place and there is quite a psychological study of the characters along the way. However, a theme that everyone involved seems to return to is the idea of sacrifice for the greater good. Does the death of the victim create a much better life for many of the other characters? Christie creates quite a philosophical question within the novel – just as she does with ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

If this is a Poirot you have not yet read, then I would highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed if you love a classic Poirot murder mystery.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

A creepy house in the highlands of Scotland, slightly strange children and a poison garden – what a recipe for a novel.

‘The Turn of the Key’ is an excellent thriller, clearly inspired by the chilling 19th-century ghost stories – a well-crafted, serious page-turner. Ruth Ware has managed to bring thrilling, chilling stories bang up to date.

A dream job very quickly becomes a nightmare. Rowan answers an advert for an idyllic-sounding nannying job in Scotland. However, the family’s state-of-the-art house does not make the job easy. There are many unexplained goings-on and the children are not accepting Rowan the way she hoped. However, there is far worse to come…

This book, told as a reflective letter, is a compelling read. I found myself keen to know what was going to happen. In fact, I did not see any of the twists coming. On reflection, there were hints of one or two, but the biggest twist was the excellent reveal.

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys thrillers and mysteries. A really enjoyable and well-written read. I am glad, again, to have discovered a new author. My only regret is that i did not read it during Autumn, as it would be perfect foe those darker, stormier nights.

The Truants by Kate Weinberg

This is book that I had seen a lot of hype about. However, I am not sure it is quite up to the hype, for me personally, anyway.

I felt that this book was lacking a little something – I saw all the twists come other than one. And I did not really feel a bond with the characters, other than a couple of the fairly minor ones.

It was wonderful the way it worked a study of Agatha Christie and her books into the plot. And, as a fan of her novels, I am tempted now to research more into the life of the Queen of Crime. Especially that famed disappearance that clearly has been an influence on the plot of this book.

This book was not unenjoyable to read, and I did want to know what conclusion would be reached. I needed to know that very final piece of the puzzle that I had not quite worked out. Although, I am not sure it is really truly concluded for you – you are probably required to reach your own conclusion.

I wouls suggest you give this book a go – however, if you are a fan of ‘whodunnits’, you may not be surprised by much of the book.

Say Say Say by Lila Savage

This book was a lovely surprise in my first ‘Books That Matter’ box, which I was kindly sent by Tiffany for the ‘Lockdown Lit Bookswap’ from Busy Mama Bookclub. The fabulous thing about this swap was that I have been introduced to a book that I would have been unlikely to encounter otherwise.

This book was an interesting read and was making a rather interesting commen on the role of a carer (or caregiver as it is an American novel). Not just the employment but the relationship that they build with the families that they work with.

Ella takes on the role of the caregiver for Jill, whi has been left unable to look after herself after a car accident but whose husband Bryn has been doing his best to look after her at home. Ella is not living the life she was expecting but, as she becomes more involved in the life of Bryn (who she begins to idolise) and Jill, she evaluates the path her life is taking. The love she witnesses also causes her to take a look at her relationship with Alix.

This was an interesting comment on the role of the carer. How relationships build with families, but also the good and bad days that can be experienced – although, ultimately, there was love for the job. However, I found the relationship Ella built (mainly in her head) with Bryn uncomfortable to read. There was clearly a wonderful friendship at a time when they both needed a friend; however, I feel that would have been enough – there was enough to make you think in this book.

Overall, I am glad to have found a book that I would not have read otherwise.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evarista

I am not usually one to pick up a book if it is award-winning. I don’t avoid them; I just don’t seek them out. However, as it is pride month, and there is so much support (as there always should be) for diversity of all kinds in fiction, this book seemed like a great choice. It was also a chance for me to discover a new author.

This book is engaging from the word go and really difficult to put down. It is a really clever tale about 12 women who have stories that interlink, even if ther are not aware of it. However, it is not just their stories that absorbing, but all the themes that are explored throughout this book. There is the exploration of gender and what it means to be a woman – is there a set rule? There is an exploration of racial and heritage identity which was probably the most fascinating to me. It is such a complex issue, which we are fully aware has been thrust to the forefront of all our minds at the moment.

I do not feel that I can give this book the justice it deserves. Especially without spoiling it for others who may like to read it. Yet, it is true that it is a book that will stay with you. It will make you think about the world around you. And you will certainly be reflecting on your relationships, friends, family, acquaintances and lovers. Do you really ‘know’ everyone?

I really do not think I can express how utterly stunning this book is, other than to urge you to read it if you haven’t. I will certainly be seeking out more of Bernadine Evaristo’s books…hearing amazing things about ‘Mr Loverman’.

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green

Now, it is not often I read a sequel so quickly, but as I am reading with pride this month, I had to find out what happened next to Noah Grimes.

I enjoyed this title even more that the first one. I mean, poor Noah’s awkward adventures do feel like they only happen to him, but – just like the first – I think we all remember how everything seems like such a big deal when you are young. Especially, in this case, if you took part in a school exchange (mine was to Italy).

However, what is really important in this book is the development of Noah and Harry’s relationship. There is such a minefield to teenage relationships and the insecurities that come with it. I felt it was handled really well in Green’s novel, He makes it clear, through Noah and Harry, that there is no ‘normal’; all relationships are individual. By the end, I think Noah learns a very important lesson about love.

There really are a lovely light-hearted read, especially in these strange times. I mean, who can’t help getting the giggles at the thought of a goose swallowing the diamonds (although I did wonder if this was a nod to ‘The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle’ by the wonderful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). And, if you are a fan of pretty much any detective novel, you will relate to Noah’s rather over-active imagination.

There books are simply a delight, with a colourful cast of characters finding their way in the world (and that is not just the teenagers) and through relationships.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I would like to thank my lovely bookstagram friend Mrs D for encouraging me to have a ‘Great Expectations Buddy Read’. This is a book that I remember having a go at about 10 years ago, but I didn’t get very far. I think Dickens has always seemed daunting, so I needed a bit of a push to give it a go.

‘Great Expectations’ is a story that I am sure so many of us think we know. It is certainly a tale I thought I knew from various film and television adaptations. However, there is so much more to the book that I think you would ever be able to transfer to the screen. It also struck me that this always seems to follow set ideas when it is adapted. Pip always seems to be played as an innocent, Miss Havisham as so old and odd, and Estella as simply cold-hearted. That is, of course, part of their characters but not the be all and end all. Dickens has such a creative way of crafting his characters that they are never so simple.

The story of Pip and his coming of age is a great adventure but also highlights some real flaws in human nature. Especially some of the expectations we and society place place on ourselves and, sometime, there expectations are also our undoing. However, there is also the ease with which some people are manipulated or moulded into a certain way of being and thinking about themselves or others.

Dickens’ writing style brings every single moment of this story to life. You really feel you are on the marshes and in London – and especially when you are in the walls of ‘Satis House’, that famous home of Miss Havisham. The settings are as much part of the story as the characters and the action.

Reading this has certainly given me the bug to read more Dickens. Although, I cannot deny that I am still a little intimidated by some of his larger books.

Do you have a favourite Dickens novel?

The Paper & Hearts Society – Read With Pride by Lucy Powrie

This is the second novel from Lucy Powrie about ‘The Paper & Hearts Society’, and this novel focuses on Olivia Santos founding member.

This is a fabulous book for any lover of books and great stories. This is not just a story – it is an education, too. Olivia Santos has found her book-loving people in The Paper & Hearts Society (Tabby, Cassie, Ed and Henry). However, as the new school year starts, she starts to realise that maybe she can help other people find their people and do something about the fact that freedom of choice has been removed from the school library. Why should pupils be stopped from reading LGBTQ+ books?

Yet, as Olivia becomes more involved in the project, can she juggle all her personal expectations? Or will the pressure that she is putting on herself cause her to burn out? Not only impacting her but also those that she loves.

A real positive about this novel is the fact that it entertains and educates. It discusses the importance of diverse representation in novels and for people to feel seen. It also discusses the importance of wellbeing and good mental health. But possibly the most important this it shares is how significant great friendships are.

However, a danger of these fabulous books is that you will probably finish them with another reading list. It was great that so many books I have enjoyed were mentioned and, also, so many more ideas.

So, if you love books, YA novels and great characters, then this is the book for you.

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

June continues, as does my readin books with Pride. This next one was another I chose because of Bookstagram (maybe I am easily influenced) but, in all fairness, I have had my eye on ‘Noah Can’t Even’ for a while.

Now, to begin with, I was worried this book was farce. A little too silly and far-fetched, over-emphasised the awkward humour of being a teenager. Specifically, a teenage boy. However, my opinion changed as I read more of the book. In fact, as the story and characters developed, it became more charming.

Noah Grimes’ journey of self-discovery could certainly be relatable to so many readers. I mean I am pretty sure that many of us would agree that those early to mid-teen years are a bumpy road. Especially when it comes to fitting in (although we all know now that is not the be all and end all), and the pressure surronding sexuality. Although, poor Noah Grimes does seem to experience a series of unfortunate events on his journey. He thinks he wants a ‘normal’ life but, really what is ‘normal’?

Noah is such a great character who, at times, you may think is not making the best choices, especially when it comes to his best friend Harry. But you really do hope he will find his happy ending. And, maybe, he should accept a new idea of normal.

This is probably a younger YA book and would probably be a great one if you have some reluctant readers. But, to be honest, if you love to laugh and enjoy a good story, I would recommend this book.

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

This book was in that I chose to read as June is Pride Month. It is a book that, again, I have discovered thanks to the Bookstagram community.

‘Hideous Beauty’ is quite a book. There is so much amongst its pages to think about – this is certainly not just a story. This is a book that tackles some really complex issues – well, to be honest it should not be complex but sadly for some people it is and it is reality.

This book is clever. It has within its pages a mystery that needs solving – what are the secrets that Ellis has been keeping from Dylan? However, is it just about Ellis’ secrets? This is quie an investigation of relationships. Relationships of all kinds – romantic, family, friendships – all are tackled in this book and, in parts, quite closely examined. Sometime with surprising outcomes and, sometimes, with really tragic outcomes. (There will be tears).

However, as William Hussey says himseflf in a letter to his readers, he has tackled some of the ugly reality faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. For some, that may make for uncomfortable reading, but if it makes for people think and causes them to take responsibility for their education, or re-education that can only be a good thing.

I feel I can do this book justice. It needs to be a book that is read to be fully appreciated. It is a real emotional page-turner that will stay with you for a long time. If you are going to pick this novel up, know that it does contain a trigger warning for some of the issues it tackles.