Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean

This is a beautiful book that can provide so much for children and adults alike.

Things are changing for Archie: his dad has moved out and his dad has a secret. When Archie accidentally overhears what that secret is, he knows life will never be the same again, but he is determined to help his dad be happy. With the help of his two best friendsm Seb and Bell, he thinks he can his dad find happiness at the end of a brilliantly colourful rainbow.

This adventure takes the three friends to London Pride, where they find a whole host of brilliant characters who help them discover the answers that they are looking for. And they realise that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and difference deserves to be celebrated at all ages.

This is such a happy book with a wonderful and supportive message for people of all ages about how we live in a wonderfully colourful world, which we should all be supporting and celebrating. This is the sort of book I wish was around when I was growing up, because it is just a perfect story.

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

The pick for the month from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ was ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’. Now, this caused quite some excitement, as this was the latest paperback release from Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’. However, I have a confession – I have never read it – so this was my first Rachel Joyce novel.

First, I must talk about the cover of this book. It is just so inviting, with so many little touches that mean so much as you work your way through the book. I returned to the cover once I had finished the book and could not believe how perfectly it fully represented the story.

‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’ is a complete joy of a book. Set in the fifties, Margery Benson makes the rather dramatic decision to leave London and go on an expedition to find an almost mystical beetle. She advertises for an assistant, and this brings Enid Pretty almost crashing into her life. And the adventures do not stop from that moment onwards for this unlikely pair. One of the most remarkable and solid friendships blooms and both women end up on a journey of self-discovery as well as a journey to the other side of the world.

I was surprised by what an emotional read this book became. Each character so beautifully created and two such fascinating women at the centre of it all. It also had so many wonderful elements to it – there was mystery and intrigue as well as adventure. And, well, you just wanted to keep reading.

Rachel Joyce also kindly shares her inspiration for the bookat the end. And that is as fascinating as the book itself.

So, now I have inspired to pick up more books by Rachel Joyce, because I have clearly been missing out.

Thursday Thoughts – My TV Detectives Challenge

I am a huge fan of TV detectives – Morse, Poirot and Dalziel and Pascoe, to name but a few, are programmes I can watch over and over again. Yet I have realised, after a read of a Dalgleish novel, that I have not necessarily read the books where those figures started.

So, I have made a decision (which will add to my tbr pile, no doubt) that I am going to try to read about thse detectives in the books where they began in my own ‘ TV Detective Challenge’. I will not be giving myself any kind of time limit or pressure to do this; I will just be giving myself the opportunity to discover some new authors and some new books. I am also hoping that I will be able to find some of these books in the local charity bookshop (I walked past the other day and there was a boxset of detective novels).

So, let us see if I can correct something that jars for a bookworm and find these detectives on the pages where they belong, and not just on TV.

Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James

For ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2021’ bonus prompt, you had to select a book from your fabourite genre, Now, that is quite a challenge for me as so many genres are my favourite – however, I made the decision that crime fiction is my favourite (right here, right now).

Therefore, ‘Death of an Expert Witness’ was plucked from my tbr pile. Dalgliesh is a detective that I have always meant to read about, as I have listened to radio adaptations and TV adaptations of the character.

I was not disappointed by my choice of book. I really enjoyed this style of detective story – it was very character-driven as Dalgliesh interviews all of those who could have been involved in the murder of Lorrimer at the lab. Although the pace is ‘slow’, it simply reflects Dalgliesh’s thoughtful and serious detective style.

P.D. James clearly took her time to compose the cleverly structured stories. And, despite the date of the book, researched the latest ideas about forensic science and the most up-to-date policing styles (of the time). At points, the book shows its age as we know the pace that science and technology move on. However, this never takes away from the story as an excellent piece of crime fiction.

Picking this book up has cleared a book from the tbr pile, but it does mean that I am now keen to read more of the stories of the poetry-writing Dalgliesh, which means that my wishlist will increase again.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

I have had my eye on Holly Bourne’s books for a while and, in a lovely bookswap for spring, I was sent ‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’. And, I do think this is YA at its finest – this is a book that I hope all young people will read. It is quite an eye-opening story about relationships and what makes a healthy one – something that many young people may think they understand but possibly don’t.

Ameliw and her family move from Sheffield to the South of England. For Amelie, this is a huge change as she starts her new college, and is anxious about fitting in and making friends. Then she meets Reese and falls in love – or so she thinks.

As she attempts to understand the relationship she believes she had, she revisits all the places she cried in public. We embark on this journry with Amelie and, with her, we discover that Reese was not the boy she believed he was. Amelie reframes her memories and begins to see the relationships for what it really was – and education for her and for readers. Especially as experiences do not have to define us.

This is a beautifully written story – and Amelie is a great representation of the feelings, emotions and fears of so many young women. But she also demonstrates the strength of so many.

This does tackle some of the worst traits of unhealthy relationships, so some may find it a challenging read. However, it is a powerful book that shows how important YA fiction can be for its readers. I will certainly be giving more of Holly Bourne’s books a read.

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

This book was the March thriller of the month from Waterstones and may have been an accidental purchase when I was shopping for presents. I picked it up as my latest read because I was in a thriller mood. However, I have to admit that it was not my favourite thriller that I have ever read.

I think for some, the subject of the book may be difficult, as it deals with postnatal depression and a potential case of child abuse. However, it is handled with care as part of the narrative.

I like elements of this thriller. It made you aware of checking in on people that sometimes you do not know what people are carrying around with them. There was an interesting study of the characters and their relationships. Especially, the idea of friendship and how they are handled by different people. Also, how far will some people go for their friends? However, it was a little slow and this did not add to the story unfortunately. The slower pace led the book to lose some of the thrilling factors.

I think some people will enjoy this thriller, if they enjoy stories that are very character-driven, but for me it was slightly lacking.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

I have kept my eye out for this novel since it was recommended by Kate Riordan at the second Tasting Notes Book Club meeting. I could just sense it was going to be a book that I would really enjoy – and I was not wrong.

‘The Lamplighters’ is a stunning debut novel from Emma Stonex. This is a wonderfully atmospheric mystery set in a lighthouse in Cornwall. Three lighthouse keepers go missing in the seventies and their families are not entirely sure that the official story of events is the real one. We switch between the events of the seventies and the families revisiting their memories of the events in the present day.

I really cannot give any of the story away, because I would really encourage everyone to read this book. However, I can say that this book brilliantly weaves together a study of himan nature, the atmosphere of ‘life at sea’ and a thrilling mystery. I found it so engaging and was so intrigued about how the story was going to conclude.

If you want to discover a new author, I highly recommend Emma Stonex. Especially as I think, even though the year is only a quarter of the way through, I may have found one of my books of 2021 in ‘The Lamplighters’. (Would also quite like to visit a lighthouse again.)

Asking for a Friend by Andi Osho

It is book club pick time and I have been so excited to read this month’s choice from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’. ‘Asking for a Friend’ is from the pen of comedian Andi Osho and it did not disappoint – in fact, I would say it is a perfect tonic for lockdown (although it did really make me miss London with my besties).

We join three friends Simi, Jemima and Meagan as they face the challenges of relationships and careers in good old London town. Three best friends, but three very different ladies when it comes to relationships – and what they are willing to admit is a ‘perfect’ MAN. So, they start taking on the dating game and picking each other’s dates. And, well, let’s be honest: it takes them on quite some journeys of self-discovery – as well as reflecting on other areas of their lives.

This is a book written with so much warmth and humour that it is quite a page-turner. You feel as though you become part of the gang – and although none of the ladies are perfect, they clearly balance each other out in a wonderful support unit.

This is a celebration of female friendships, even their ups and downs. And a real reflection of what healthy relationships of all kinds should look like. A fun read, especially in the current situation. Really looking forward to discussing this book with other readers!

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I love the Simonverse and was so glad that this book took me back there as my March choice for ‘The Unread Shelf Project 2021’. Becky Albertalli books are beautiful pieces of YA fiction that I honestly believe can and should be enjoyed by readers of all ages. And ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ is certainly a book I wish I could have read as a teenager.

Molly was the perfect star of the novel for me. She has all the insecurities that I remember having as a teenager – and all the worries. But, through Albertalli’s great storytelling, we see how Molly tackles world – and this is something that I think so many readers could relate to and find comfort in. Especially about the complex world of relationships of all kinds.

As always, there is also a brilliant collection of characters. Diversity is celebrated, as it should be, through these fantastic characters. However, flaws and issues within society are also tackled. These books educate as well as entertain, which, to me, is a perfect read. And, of course, there is the fact that you want to become best friends with Molly and her gang.

If you are looking for a comfort read, then this is a book I really recommend as Becky Albertalli gives us another story full of joy.

The Lottery by P J Venison

Today is my day to showcase ‘The Lottery’, which I was kindly gifted.

What would you do if you won the lottery? More importantly, what would you do if you won the lottery with a ticket you did not buy? These are the questions facing Maggie and Greg after they discover a lost lottery ticket.

The novel asks a lot questions through its narrative. Does money really make our characters happy? Can money bring good fortune? Or does it become something that is destructive?

The story is an insteresting study of how both Maggie and Greg react to the dramatic change in their lifestyle. The path each character takes begins to impact on them individually, their family and their friends – in fact they probably find out more about themselves than they think possible.

This is certainly a book that can cause you to reflect on your own life. After all, you do not really know how you would react to a situation until it happens. A life lesson for both Maggie and Greg with two very different endings.