A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Jenna, host of The Tasting Notes Book Club, selected ‘A Tidy Ending’ by Joanna Cannon for May: a book I knew nothing about and an author that I have not read before, so I was really looking forward to diving in and seeing what the book was all about.

Well, dive in I did. In fact, I sped through this novel, as from the moment I started reading, I had to find out more. Told through two timelines, we meet Linda, now and then: a woman who seems to be ‘invisible’, who does not really seem to fit in, and who struggles to make friends as people seem to avoid her. Married to Terry, she appears to be living a fairly uneventful life – until a series of murders happens in the local area. From that moment, life starts to change – even more so when Linda makes a new friend in Rebecca, the woman who had lived in her house before Linda and Terry purchased it.

I have to keep this review spoiler-free, as there are twists and turns throughout this book that will keep you guessing and sending you off down different paths of thought. It is a book that probably crosses genres; a thriller in some ways, contemporary fiction in other ways, and a bit of an old-fashioned murder mystery in other ways. All of these ingredients, combined, do make it a great read – Joanna Cannon does constantly leave you wanting to find out more, never revealing too much too soon, and keeping you guessing. But that final page will really stay with you!

This is a cleverly constructed story that I would probably have missed if I was not a member of the fantastic Tasting Notes Book Club – it definitely reminds me why book clubs are such a great thing for all book lovers to belong to.

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.

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

This book has been on the wishlist for quite some time. I was so excited when ‘The Book Taster‘ treated us to this as our June book club choice.

‘Small Pleasures’ is set in the 1950s and Clare Chambers evokes this beautifully through her writing. You are fully transported to the Britain of the 1950s as Jean meets Gretchen and her family. Their relationship forms as Jean invesitgates Gretchen’s claim that she had a virgin birth. However, their lives become entwined as the story unfolds, and friendships and relationships develop.

Although there are a couple of potential surprises for many of the characters, nothing will ever prepare you for the end of the story. Chambers leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions and, as out book club chat revealed, different readers did almost create their own ending – and that is the beauty of reading; it sparks discussion.

I enjoyed this book and feel it being left off the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist is a mistake. Have you read this book and if so, what do you think?

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

This month’s ‘Tasting notes Book Club‘ pick is ‘Florence Adler Swims Forever’. A really beautiful book, based on a true story and it is hard to believe it is a debut novel.

Florence Adler is determined to swim the Channel and be the best. However, when events take a tragic turn, Florence’s family are forced to face their relationships head on and secrets are revealed and characters are tested as their lives change forever. Set in the community of Atlanta City in the 1930s, it also tackles ideas of prejudice, especially towards the Jewish community, displaced people and the events unfolding in Europe at the time.

It is a beautiful read, as we follow each character as they deal with the events unfolding around them. Each of them with their own ‘secrets’, ideas and ways of handling what is happening. Esther is quiet the matriarch leading the way, but each character has their own way of ensuring that Florence Adler will swim forever.

I would really recommend this book as it is a well-woven narrative; a slow-paced, thoughtful read that will stay with you once you have finished the last page.

I Give It A Year by Helen Whitaker

This month’s choice from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ was ‘I Give It A Year’ by Helen Whitaker.

This was a beautiful read in January. Iris has discovered that her husband has been having an affair and, as a result, they decided that they will give the relationship a year before making any final decisions. Now, I realise that may sound like a strange concept to be a perfect January read; however, it really is. As Iris works her way through the year, she goes on a real journey of self-discovery. She finds out a lot about who she has become and how her different realtionships have developed – even though she may have missed it or did not realise it. After Iris’ challenging year, she comes out with a new-found confidence but also a better understanding of the world around her and the people she shares it with.

It is quite an emotional read at points, and I think it will be a different emotional read for each reader, as it tackles quite a range of subjects. For me, personally, I found the dementia stroyline a real tear-jerker. However, for others, it may be one of the different relationship threads.

Yet, this is a really enjoyable book that presents a wonderful study of relationships and character, with a wonderfully strong female lead. It has been a joy to discover a new author at the start of a new year – and can not wait until book club.

Thursday Thoughts: Should I Join a Book Club?

So, I always thought I would become a sophisticated member of a book club. However, life so easily takes over and it just never seemed to happen. Until I joined the bookstagram community…

In the book-loving social media world, there are an amazing number of book clubs you can be part of. You have a choice of lovely themed ones such as ‘Maidens of Murder’. This is a community of crime fiction fans who read a different novel by Agatha Christie each month. You have a chance to discuss and share your thoughts on a post at the end of the month. I am not always great at sharing my thoughts, but I have really enjoyed the chance to read more Christie books that I may not have picked up.

Another favourite that I am part of is the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This is a great community of fellow book lovers who enjoy reading Victorian classics, especially those of the sensation genre. We read a section at a time and share our thoughts as we go. This has been brilliant for getting me to read books I would never have picked up before. And, of course, talk about books.

However, these two lovely book club opportunities are still a little safe, because you chat on a post or in a chat group. So, my bravest step was taking part in the ‘Tasting Notes Book Club’ from ‘The Book Taster‘.

This is a brilliant subscription book club and you receive a box of goodies with your book, which makes it a fabulous treat. Yet, this involves an online book club meeting which, for me, was a brave step. However, I am not sure what I was worried about, because it is an amazing safe space to discuss the book with fellow bookworms. And you can, of course, say as much or as little as you like. The two meetings I have attended so far have also involved us hearing the wonderful authors, which has been such a treat.

So, I may not have managed to attend or join a physical book club, but I have found so many fabulous book communities out there to be part of.

Why not have a look what is out there if you have fancied giving a book club a go?