The Maid by Nita Prose

I have read ‘The Maid’ as lovely little readalong with my bookstagram buddies. As always, it was lovely to read and talk about books – but I feel a little bit of a let down, as I liked the book, but did not love the book.

The characters were lovely: Molly was just the thought of character you root for and know deserves a happy ending – even if the road to it may not always be smooth. And, well, how can you not adore a fan of Columbo. Plus, her friends are perfect for her.

However, for me, the plot was too obvious. Nothing particularly surprised me throughout, so it was not quite as thrilling as the opening page suggested. This does not make the book unenjoyable – just a little obvious but it is, overall, a nice read, and perfect when you just need a book to relax with and bring you some happiness during your treasured reading time.

You’re the One That I Want by Simon James Green

I was lucky enough to win a copy of ‘You’re the One That I Want’ by Simon James Green and it has been on the TBR pile a little while. However, when a novel by Green was suggested as one of my ’12 in 22′, then I knew I had to pluck this one off the TBR pile and get reading. And, as always, what an absolute joy this book was. A delight to brighten cold winter days.

As a group of college kids prepare for their production of ‘Grease’, the drama is not just on the stage. Freddie is challenged to say ‘yes’, and not stop holding back and missing out on fun – because being Mr Nice Guy doesn’t seem to be bringing him all the joy he expects from his teenage years. However, when he meets the new kid on the block, Zach, he ends up on a journey of romance and self-discovery – and realises that maybe being Freddie is not so bad after all.

Simon James Green writes YA fiction with a heart and the most fabulous characters, representing diversity, which is so important for the modern world, and the young people growing up in it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

My first title for ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2022’ was ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness. This is a book that has been recommended to me a number of times, but it had sat unread on the shelf. And, as usual, I am now unsure why it has taken me so long to start the ‘Chaos Walking Trilogy’.

I absolutely do not want to spoil this for anyone who has not read it, so I am going to keep my post as spoiler-free as possible.

This is a great concept for a book. A world of ‘noise’ where there is no silence for many and no secrets. And some strange ideas about what the ‘new world’ should and could be. Interpretations can be so different amongst different people depending on the knowledge that people have received – their world view so easily influenced.

This book ends on a real cliffhanger, which means I am determined to continue with this trilogy. I have to know what happends to Todd and Viola, and if their world will be changed forever.

The Fell by Sarah Moss

I actually had no idea what this book was about – I was simply attracted to the cover and the title. As well as having seen quite a few fans of Sarah Moss on bookstagram.

Well, it turned out to be my second piece of pandemic fiction in January – unintentionally. ‘The Fell’ s quite a poignant reflection of life in lockdown. The impact that the events had on four different individuals: a mother and son, an elderly neighbour and a mountain rescue volunteer. Quite a tense read, it really highlights how suffocating lockdown could be – even in the most open of places – and the impact it had on the wellbeing of so many. And the need to survive.

A beautifully written book, you will find yourself reflecting on it for quite some time. And it is certainly a reminder to be kind and support each other, as the world will possibly not be the same again.

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson

This month’s book pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ was ‘I Know What You’ve Done’; the first thriller for book club, so I think it will spark quite some discussion.

This is my first Dorothy Koomson thriller – I have read ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ which, like so many, I loved – and this is certainly quite a different style of story.

Thrillers are always harder to review because I absolutely do not want to risk any spoilers. However, this is an interesting study of life at Acacia Villas and how relationships between characters develop, and the effort many go to ‘to keep up appearances’. After all, what do all of these characters really know about each other?

Although, it also becomes quite clear how simple it can be to misinterpret information and create alternative truths about events.

The question is – exactly what did Priscilla know, and about who, to lead to her attack?

We are kept guessing until the very end, as we should be by any good thriller. I’m looking forward to finding out if my fellow readers solved it or if everyone was left guessing until the end.

The Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

When I attended the fabulous ‘The Tasting Notes Live’ event last year, I was lucky enough to hear Marianne Cronin talk about her brilliant book ‘The Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot’.

Now, this book is probably not something you expect to be an uplifting read when you discover the subject matter – however, it is just that. Lenni and Margot have a combined age of one hundred years – Lenni has led a relatively short life before she has had to face death, and Margot a much longer one. Yet, they form a beautiful bond of friendship through art and stories, recognising key events of their combined one hundred years. For Margot, it is a chance to remember and, for Lenni, it is almost a chance to forget. But, together, they feel they can face the future, however it may occur.

This is a real life-affirming novel. It really celebrates the theme of friendship and, although I cannot promise you won’t cry at some point in the book, you will certainly enjoy meeting these two fantastic ladies.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

I have peaked too soon? Have I already read the best book I will read in 2022?

‘Still Life’ was a novel that I had seen all over bookstagram and BBC Two’s brilliant book show ‘Between the Covers’. So, when I spotted it in the sales, I decided to pick up a copy, especially as it is so pretty.

I am not sure I know how to put my love of this book into words. It is so beautifully written, and the descriptions of Florence and Italian life are just perfection. I was transported to Florence and it made me long for a trip to Italy (although I have to confess that my heart probably belongs to northern Italy and Venice, I love the whole country).

But what truly drew me into this book was the wonderful collection of characters and the relationships established between each of them, and with the city of Florence and Tuscany. I was invested in everyone’s story and each personal journey – I laughed, loved and lived with each of these characters.

It also really emphasised the impact that one simple moment can have on your future. And how missing those moments can have just as much of an influence on the path someone may take through life. Evelyn and Ulysses are two wonderful examples of how to make the most of the life we are given.

This book truly got under my skin, and I am convinced that it is one I will return to – it will be lke returning to old friends and memories.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

As January is a bit of a grey month, sometimes we just need to read something that will bring us a little bit of joy. A book about books is bound to bring bookworms joy and ‘The Cat Who Saved Books’ is one of those.

This novella is a charming tale about the importance of books – and the love of them. Rintaro’s grandfather has died and Rintaro is left with a bookshop and a feeling of lonliness. However, then the cat, Tiger, arives and enlists Rintaro to help him save books. Leading Rintaro to learn a lot about himself along the way.

This book reminded me of ‘The Little Prince’ (which is referred to amongst its pages) – a tale with a heart, and a reminder that sometimes, as we get older, we forget about some of the things that are important, or the little things we should appreciate.

This is a perfect book to snuggle up and read, especially on these cold January days.

The Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior

The December book club pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ from ‘The Book Taster’ was ‘The Call of the Penguins’ by Hazel Prior.

This was a perfect read for this time of year – quite a cosy novel, but with a bit more about it. And, certainly, not a book you should judge by its cover – as, although it is beautiful, it doesn’t quite do the book the justice it deserves.

This is a book about penguins and how these wonderful creatures have brought together a bit of an unusual mix of characters. But they have more in common than you would realise, and a lot to learn from each other. And also, great themes are covered, such as environmental issues, relationships, identity and mental health. And, of course you are never too old for an adventure, which Granny McCreedy definitely teaches us.

So, if you are looking for a cosy read with a heart, this is the book for you – whatever time of year, because penguins are not just for cold places.

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Whenever I see that there is a new book from Karen M. McManus, I always have to ensure I have a copy – and it was exactly the same with ‘You’ll Be the Death of Me’.

I am a huge fan of crime fiction and really enjoy when it collides with YA fiction. And Karen M. McManus does this well.

However, I was not instantly gripped with the start of this book. I think I found the characters a little difficult to engage with and was not sure how it was going to lead to a thrilling read.

Yet, once the pace picks uo and we are drawn into the mystery, I enjoyed the book, and the characters became more engaging. I even thought I had solved it – or at least caught on to one of the clues; only to be thrown into confusion when things continued not to be quite as they seem.

This was not my favourite of the novels from the pen of McManus, but it was still a satisfying piece of YA crime fiction, and I continue to be a fan.