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.

The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd

Avon Books were kind enough to gift me a copy of ‘The Arctic Curry Club’ and I saved it specifically for the December. Although, not a festive read, it is a perfect wintry story. And, I have said it before, but you certainly should not judge a book by its cover, or even possibly its title, because this book was far more than I could have imagined it would be. In fact, this book could be one of my books of the year.

I don’t think I can sum this book up perfectly because there is so much among its pages to cover. However, what I found brilliant about it was all the issues it tackled, such as mental health, but with heart and sensitivity. Our central character Maya ends up on quite an adventure of self-discovery when she moves to the Arctic and her dad moves to India to remarry. Family secrets start to resurface, which leads Maya to question what she knew, but also leads her to create ‘The Arctic Curry Club’ using her Mum’s recipes.

This is honestly a wonderful book that is really not what you would expect; I will be recommending it to lots of my fellow bookworms.

(Please be aware it does cover some sensitive issues).

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Cosy crime is one of my favourite things about Christmas. So I chose some cosy crime for younger readers this time – although I believe we can all enjoy Children’s books, whatever age we are. It is perfect escapism (and I do wish these had existed when I was a child).

This time we are, as the title suggests, on a Christmas adventure with our two amateur detectives. Daisy and Hazel are spending Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy’s brother and Aunt. And, as you can imagine, they stumble on all sorts of mysteries, secrets and, of course, a murder…or two. And with a rival agency in town, too – who will solve the crime?

No spoilers here, but this was an incredibly fun read and it is always great to find strong female leads to inspire readers. I also thought that despite this being set in 1935, it did challenge some of the views that we would not accept now. It is always important to take lessons from books, too, and it is handled so well in these pages.

This is my secon ‘Murder Most Unladylike Mystery’, and I will definitely be returning (and reading them in the right order).

From Shetland, With Love at Christmas by Erin Green

This is our second trip to Shetland with the writing of Erin Green and it is just as wonderful as the first time. I kicked off my festive reading with this gem – got me ready for Christmas.

The beautiful craft centre at Lerwick Manor is now open and preparing for the Christmas season. All our favourite characters are there, just like before, but this time we are on an adventure with Nessie (a blacksmith), Verity (a new recruit) and Isla (baker extraordinaire). Each woman is on their own path through life, and work, on a quest for happiness.

This book is like a hug – and even though life is not always as smooth as you would hope, with friends, love and support a silver lining can be found. I have to be honest, I may have had a little cry towards the end of the book. This story is like making new friends and certainly means that you will want to visit the beautiful Shetland Isles (well, I assume it is beautiful – I am really keen to find out).

I absolutely cannot wait for our next trip to Shetland and the next fabulous characters we will meet – or be reunited with.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

I usually read a Shirley Jackson in October; well, I have the last two years. However, this year it moved to November as my choice for the prompt: ‘a book published before 2000’.

Shirley Jackson novels are always strangely compelling, if not a little weird. And ‘The Sundial’ is no exception. In fact, it is a clever study of human nature, especially in strange times. The Holloran family are told, by the long dead original patriarch, that the world is about to end and only those in the house will survive. This throws the occupants of the house into a strange ‘world’ of preparing for this event.

It has all of Jackson’s favourite things: a family with secrets, a house of secrets, and all the spooky vibes. It was a real page-turner and even though at points, I was not entirely convinced I fully understood what was going on, I still enjoyed reading every single page.

How to Belong by Sarah Franklin

The November pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ was ‘How to Belong’ by Sarah Franklin. Set in the Forest of Dean, this is a story of ordinary folk trying to find their way through life and all of its challenges.

Jo has returned from London to her quiet rural roots. She hopes she can save the family butcher’s shop, but is this really where she belongs?

Tessa has returned, too, because she thinks she can’t face the future. But is the past, and her own fear, holding her back from belonging?

As their two tales collide, can they help each other find their place in the world? Is this a friendship they did not know they needed?

This is quite an interesting read as Sarah Franklin leaves some of it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. Although it does leave you with questions too, but it does mean that you ponder the book beyond the final page.

This is a cosy read for these winter months, and an easy read, so do not be put off by the cover and give it a go.