Fault Lines by Emily Itami

This month’s ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ pick is ‘Fault Lines’. A book which was shortlisted for ‘The Costa First Novel Award’. This, and I know I say it a lot, is not a book I would have picked up without the book club.

A piece of contemporary fiction, this tells the story of Mizuki, living in Tokyo with her family. With two young children and her hard-working husband, who does not seem to be around or present all too often, she is living the life of a housewife. A life that many may envy her for, as she has a nice city-centre apartment and appears to want for nothing. Yet, Mizuki does want something: she wants more; she wants to feel alive and thinks maybe there would be more to life if she had made different decisions along the way. And when she meets Kiyoshi, she gets a glimpse of another life, and events lead her to having to make some decisions about what exactly she wants in life.

I found this an easy read and well-written, nothing too taxing, but it is not a favourite read of mine. I did not feel attached to any of the characters and, rather than feeling involved as a reader, I simply felt like an observer of events. And, do not get me wrong, these events seemed perfectly feasible, but it just did not have me all the invested in what is happening – I was not too fussed which path Mizuki chose.

This does not mean that I would not read any other books by Emily Itami, as her writing style is lovely, and I would like to see where she went next with her books.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

This book is one of the most brilliant books I have ever read – in fact, for me, I am pretty sure it could be one of my books of the year. I am very grateful that Miss W lent it to me.

This story is told within three hours – as the police try to prevent a secondary school and its pupils from becoming the victims of shooters. I really do not want to give away the plot in too much detail; this book has to be read to be fully appreciated.

The novel is well constructed and told through the eyes of different characters living through the titular three hours – those that are in the school, and those trying to prevent potentially tragic events. You follow their experiences, their investigation and their strength – often through their personal thoughts, rather than what they are sharing with others. It is a dramatic read, but not sensationalised, which is one of the things that makes it such a fantastic read. You really are really are reading a page-turner, right up to the very final page.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and found itself right at the top of the tbr pile as soon as it arrived. And it was just as expected, brilliant.

Nora Seed is not really enjoying life and makes the decision that she does not really want to carry on. However, this takes her to the Midnight Library, which offers her the chance to see other paths her life could have taken if she had made slightly different choices. This gives Nora the chance to reflect on life in a way that she never thought possible.

What I love about this book (very similar to ‘How to Stop Time’) is that it feels like possible fantasy. Could there really be an opportunity for us all to reflect on the choices we have made through life? Or, maybe, this book is a lesson to us all to consider how we make our decisions and the path that our lives are taking.

There is a little piece of Nora in all of us. We have all wondered about some of the choices we have made and the life we have been living. However, when we have the time to reflect, life can be the greatest gift we have been given.

Matt Haig’s writing is beautiful. His characters are engaging, and, the tale is thought-provoking and may even lead you to make some changes. Or appreciate what you have a lot more.

Lot by Bryan Washington

I have been lucky enough to be part of the ‘Lot’ blog tour – and I feel very privilaged to have been. (Especially as Barak Obama was a fan).

Lot is a collection of short stories all based around one community of friends and family in America as they work each day, in some cases, simply to survive. The majority of the tales focus around our narrator, the son of a black mother and a Latino father, as he journeys along the complex path of self-discovery. There are regular challenges of identity, family life and survival as he works in the family’s restaurant, and discovering he is gay (which does not go down well with everyone). However, everyone whose tale we come across is facing personal struggle, often about identity, culture and trying to be accepted and successful.

However, all the way throughout the book, there is a constant theme of love. Maybe not always obviously, but it is clear that it keeps all these friends and family ticking along.

There is so much in this book that makes it beautiful – even if not all the stories are happy ones – they are certainly thought-provoking and a reminder that a little kindness and acceptance can go a long way.

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’.

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.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

Miss W lent me this book quite a while ago and I am ashamed to say it has been sat on the shelf for a while.

If I am totally honest, if I had judged this book by its cover, I would probably not have picked it up. It looks a little like cheesy chick lit, which is not my usual bag. However, I would have missed out on a gem of a book if I had done that – so, as they say, ‘never judge a book by its cover – use Miss W’s recommendations.’

This is a beautiful story of self-discovery about three fabulous characters. Although they may not be your usual trio, together they form a strong bond, mainly revolving around their love of music. As Grace thinks her world is falling aprat (not for the first time) and it has all been fiction, Nadia (a rather headstrong teenager) and Mr Williamson (he is eighty you know) help her realise that maybe she hasn’t really started living. In fact, maybe they can each help other start living.

By the end of the novel, you will be desperate to visit Paris and Italy (mulitple parts). You will wish you could play an instrument (if you do not already), and you will definitely realise you have to appreciate all the friendships you have in your life.

It has been wonderful to discover a new author and I look forward to more from the pen of Anstey Harris.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This novel has been around the bookblogging and bookstagram community for quite some time – and it has probably been on my shelf for as long. I picked it up as I has been reminded I owned it, and thought maybe it is time to give it a go.

Now, I am not sure I share the same love of this book that so many of you do. I understand why so many readers would love it. I am just not one of those readers.

It took me a while to warm to the story. I found it picked up pace about half way through. I was more invested in the loves of Marianne and Conell once they were at university.

I can see the significance of this tale – I can understand the importance of the title ‘Normal People’ to the narrative – and some of the issues it tackles are challenging. However, for me, it was just not a favourite.

I am not even sure what was missing, as I started this book expecting to love it. There was just a little bit of magic missing for me.

The novel is beautifully written and Sally Rooney is a talented author. I would like to read ‘Conversations with Friends’ to see how I find that book. Maybe as reader and book we would be more compatible.

Have you read Sally Rooney’s novels?

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Hayley always seems to pass on the most fabulous books and this was no exception.

I had not heard of this title (clearly my head had been in the sand) but I was intrigued when I read the blurb on the back. I love a mystery novel, so was more than happy to give this book a go.

From the moment I started this book I was hooked. In my first sitting I read 125 pages; I just could not put the book down (pretty sure I should have been doing something else but clearly that was forgotten). I loved how the novel was structured, the narrative came from a variety of characters, which kept my interest in the novel even more. Jewell smoothly transitions between the viewpoints of different characters, bringing depth to the story.

I always find it difficult to blog about mystery novels as I never want to spoil any part of the plot. The twists and turns in this plot are not always a surprise, but this does not take away from the novel as the story is rich enough.

After having finished this novel, I would be keen to read other titles by Lisa Jewell. This was, after all, the perfect summer mystery read.

Have you discovered any new authors this summer? Any recommendations?