‘The Thursday Murder Club’ was my last read of 2020 – and one I had been really looking forward to – it was a joy to find under the Christmas tree.
There is always a fear that, when a book has been surronded by hype, it may not be what you expect. However, this fear was not realised with this book. ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ is a perfect piece of cosy crime fiction from start to finish. A joy to read and quite a page-turner.
You may have heard Richard Osman speak about a retirement village would be the place to find ‘The Thursday Murder Club’, as there is such a variety of skills and people in the place. Ande that is certainly true of his four key characters: Ibriham, Ron, Joyce and Elizabeth. Possibly not a quartet who would usually spend time together, but their love of cold case crime solving leads them to become quite the powerhouse when there are not one but two murders on their door step.
I found this such a joy to read. You feel as though you are on an adventure with the characters. The style of writing is like a soothing voice to bring that cosy crime genre to life.
This novel is a wonderful piece of escapism – and could well the equivalent of a warm hug in the form of a book.
Possibly my proudest moment of 2020 reading, or possibly of my reading ever, is the fact that I have read ‘Les Miserables’ (along with a lovely group of bookstagrammers).
This is a story that I am sure so many of us think we know thanks to the wonderful musical, or maybe more recently the BBC dramatisation. I certainly thought that I knew and loved the story. However, I was wrong. For obvious reasons (mainly the length of the book), the musical is an adaptation of the tale and excludes parts of the story. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that but I would now certainly recommend that you take the chance to read the book to enrich your understanding of the tale.
This book holds a beautiful story; a chance Victor Hugo has taken to pass comment on the France he was exiled from and the society it was becoming. There are some chunks of history used to contextualise some of the characters and events – however, if they are not for you, it is possible to skim-read those sections. Yet, for me they were part of the rich tapestry of the book.
Jean Valjean has become one of my favourite characters in literature. Quite a complex character but demonstrating some of the best characteristics of human nature, yet he is considered (by true identity) to be one of the worst members of society. Overall, I found him a hero who Hugo seems to think is a victim of the society he has the unfortunate luck to be part of.
All the characters Hugo creates are so alive on every page. They have so much about them – they are all fascinating characters.
This book is simply beautiful. Please do not be put off because it is rather large. It is a story that we can all enjoy and possibly learn a little about ourselves from. So, if you can, pick up ‘Les Miserables’, because it could well become one of your favourite reads – as it has for me.
I will be completely honest that the cover of the beautiul hardback edition is what caught my eye. However, I do also love cosy crime and Agatha Christie is the queen of that exact genre.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is just a wonderful piece of classic crime fiction for the festive season. Set over the Christmas period Poirot ends up investigating the murder of Mr Simeon Lee. A locked room mysterym with a household of motives and suspects, and – well – many who are not exactly what they seem.
This novel is a brilliant piece of cosy crime, which has all the ingredients of a classic Christie. Especially that wonderful reveal, as Poirot offers us all his solution to the problem.
I really enjoyed this book this festive season, and it may well become one I regularly revisit to spend some time in the company of the great Hercule Poirot.
The December choice for The Tasting Notes Book Club was ‘The Six Tales of Christmas’. And what a beautifully festive read it was. This is a book for book lovers.
It tells the story of Nora and Simon Walden, owners of The Stowford Bookshop, one Christmas time. Their little bookshop is not doing as well they would hope, but this does not stop them from thinking of ways to bring community spirit to their little village – after all, they believe in the magic of books.
As a random act of kindness, six books are delivered to six members of the community. This starts a series of events for so many that brings some Christmas magic and even changes lives.
This is simply one of those books that is a joy to read, especially at this time of year. It is hopeful and really reflects on the need for community, love and friendship. After all, we all need a helping hand sometimes.
Also, as the bookshop and books are so important to this tale, you will end up with more books to read – or at least the desire to revisit some classics.
We may be approaching the end of this festive season, but this is a book that would be a joy at any time of year. Or, you could mark it down as one to have ready for next year.
This little book is simply a gem.
A Solitaire novella from Alice Oseman, it takes you to Christmas with Charlie and Nick. However, the focus is mainly on the Spring family, as Oseman again does not shy away from difficult but incredibly important subjects.
Christmas seems even more challenging this year, as Tori is worried about her brother Charlie. He has suffered from an eating disorder and Tori worries that this will make Christmas hard for her brother.
This sensitively written book focuses on mental health, family and romantic relationships, and will make readers really evaluate what is important at Christmas time.
This may not be your traditional festive read, but it will definitely be enjoyed by fans of the work of Alice Oseman – her brilliant natural storytelling and great illustrations.
A great piece of YA fiction that will really make you think this festive season.
I was lucky enough to win this beautiful book in a lovely giveaway on bookstagram. And, I am not sure much else could be so perfect for this time of year as some ‘cosy’ crime.
This book is a collection of tales from the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. They are all stories that have been published in other collections of short stories; however, they have been brought together here because they all have a wintery or festive feel.
You meet all your favourite Christie detectives including, of course, Marple and Poirot. My favourite tale was the third in the collection, as it reminded me a little of ‘An Inspector Calls’ which is another favourite at this time of year.
This collection of tales is just a perfect piece of escapism: classic crime. You may solve some of the mysteries ot you may just wish to let it unfold around you.
Either way, grab your favourite festive treats and settle down with some Christie classics.
November (I know, a little late), ‘The Dead Secret’ was picked for the buddy read for all of us who love a sensation novel, in the Victorian Sensation Book Club.
I had not heard of this novel from the pen of Collins, but that is always the beauty of a readalong – you find new titles.
I really enjoyed this book and, if you are not used to classics, this would be a great place to start. It has all the ingredients of an engaging read – a colourful collection of characters, a secret and a big old house with closed rooms. Elements of a gothic setting along the way.
I found this a real page-turner because the mystery is in place almost immediately, as the death of the lady of the house, a letter and a lady’s maid that the rest of the staff find a little strange disappearing draws you into ‘The Dead Secret’. I enjoy the narrative style of Wilkie Collins and, despite working out small parts of the mystery slightly before they were revealed did not take away from the enjoyment of reading this book.
I also felt that this was a book where you could see the friendship between Collins and fellow author Charles Dickens. As I read, some of the characters such as Uncle Joseph had a vibe of Dickens about them. That, for me, just made the book even more fascinating, as I love the idea of great literary connections.
So, if you would like to have a go at a novel by Wilkie Collins, I would suggest that you start with this piece of esacapism.
Today is my stop on ’12 Days of Clink Street’ and I have had the joy of being gifted ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch’ – and it really is a joyous read.
1940, rural Yorkshire, and the villagers of Little Hope are doing their best to keep going despite the events of World War Two and mainland Europe. Hilda Ffinch decides her contribution is to become the agony aunt for the local newspaper. As lady of the manor, and completely unshockable, she tackles any problem the villagers throw at her, although often with very little tact.
This is a wonderfully comic novel. Told in a series of letters and replies full of clever use of language to create subtle humour throughout. And the advice is always wonderfully entertaining – you do wonder if anyone would be tempted to follow it.
I love the nostalgia in this book; it reminds me of all the great comedies hat could be found on the radio and TV during the fifties, sixties and seventies. Gentle humour to make you giggle and bring you cheer.
If you want to read a book that really demonstrates the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude as we reach the end of a very strange year – this hidden gem is for you.
November’s pick of ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ from the fantastic ‘The Book Taster’, was ‘The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney’ by Okechukwu Nzelu. And I absolutely loved this book, reading it in one weekend.
This the the debut novel from the pen of Okechukwu Nzelu, and I thought it was such a fantastic story and so readable. This book has a range of characters whose lives are entwined as they are all on a voyage of discovery about themselves, their identity and their place in the world. Nnenna has never met her father, and as she is reaching her late teens and thinking about moving out into the world, away from home, she starts to think it is time to find out more about her heritage. This impacts many of the relationships around her and lets us find out about the past, as her mother tackles this changing relationship too.
However, this novel does not just tackle identity, but also so many other key issues, such as mental health and racism.
It is an absolutely fascinating book and really had me thinking about all of the things that shape us and our beliefs. And sometimes how that leads us to make some tough decisions.
Nzelu is a talented writer with clearly a lot that he wants to share with the world. I would love to read more from him, especially if it happend to be the story of Maurice or Jonathan (just an idea – haha!).
So, if you want to discover a new author with so much to share, this is the book for you.
As part of a ‘Collective Voices Readalong’ for Tandem Collective UK, I read ‘Take a Hint, Dani Brown’ by Talia Hibbert.
This is probably a book that I would never have picked up without that encouragement. It really is not a book that you should judge by its cover – that suggests a whimsical romance story; a hero and his girl. However, this book tackles so much more and so skilfully.
This is the tale of Dani Brown, who has convinced herself that romance and relationships are not for her – her ambition is enough, as long as she has a bit on the side. Zaf is a lover of romance novels and really likes Dani, if only she would notice, or at least see him as more than a friend. This may sound like a trope-filled romantic fiction novel, however underpinning all this are themes of identity, grief, mental health and healthy relationships. It becomes a real page-turner as you want to know more about Zaf, Dani and their stories. And, of course, if they will get their happy ending.
Nowm this quite a sexy book and, in some ways, it is quite liberating to read a book which is not afraid to be quite so liberal. However, it won’t be for everyone. Although, you could easily skip this without losing anything from the book.
I do now feel invested in the finding out more about the Brown sisters, so will be reading more of Talia Hibbert’s books. This a well-written, contemporary piece of fiction – with a sexy edge.