As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

We have been reunited with Pip for one final time as we reach the end of her trilogy. Like so many, this was a most anticipated read of 2021 for me. I was so excited to see how Holly Jackson would conclude this for us all.

You can feel the tension from the first page of this YA thriller. Pip is clearly suffering from the events of her last case, but there is still a mystery to solve. Who is taunting her and stalking her? And why? And is it linked to the case of the Duct Tape Killer and another miscarriage of justice?

This book has everything we love: Pip, Ravi, Pip’s family and friends, and her usual determination. However, as much as I enjoyed reading this book, I am not sure if all of the action was ‘realistic’ or true to the Pip we know. I realise that this is about Pip dealing with trauma and her own ideas about a miscarriage of justice, but I was just not completely convinced I could see some of the behaviour as true to her previous actions.

But, don’t get me wrong, I loved the book and, like so many, I am sad that we have come to the end of Pip’s story. And I am definitely imagining the best future for her…and Ravi.

Holly Jackson has given us a wonderfully engaging YA trilogy, and I hope that we will hear more from her soon.

100 Poems to Save the Earth edited by Zoe Bingley and Kristian Evans

I was part of the Tandem Collective UK readalong of ‘100 Poems to Save the Earth’, and was kindly gifted a copy to read.

I do not usually pick up poetry to read. No particular reason for this other than I just don’t think to chose it. However, this collection is one that can spark real debate about our planet. In fact throughout, I felt we were reminded that the planet is ours to take care of – now. As well as making me think about how lucky we are to have the Earth – but also the fine balancing act at times between looking after people and the planet. However, as you read, you will think about the things you can do to help beautiful planet earth.

This collection of poems definitely proved how powerful poetry can be and how the individual interpretation of poetry is one of the beauties of reading it. I hope that many readers can pick up a copy of these poems and that it may encourage them to make a small change that could have a big impact on our planet.

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 Appeal by Janice Hallett

Bookstagram made me do it. I may as well get that out of the way as I bought this book despite all of the ones on my tbr pile.

However, I have no regrets. This book is a brilliant ‘whodunnit’ – with a fantastic title that has two meanings in this novel – and you are pretty much teh detective. The story is told through emails, text messages, police interviews and the odd newspaper article. So, as a reader, you are drip-fed the evidence as you try to solve the crime. It makes the book incredibly readable but, also, it’s quite a talent of Janice Hallett to be able to put together the story in such intricate detail – ensuring there are no losse ends. As well as creating real characters and all the additional drama that can be created within a small community.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. A new and edgy crime novel which is perfect for those who are longstanding fans of the genre – or those who may want to find a new genre to enjoy.

The Doctor’s Wife by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Never has a book wanted to make it so clear it is a sensation novel, and that just makes it wonderful.

For July’s pick for the Victorian sensation book club, we read ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and it was a joy. Written as a ‘response’ to ‘Madame Bovary’, this is the tale of Isabel Gilbert and her unhappy marriage to Doctor Gilbert. Isabel is a romantic; she believes in love and the love of novels she has read, but her husband just doesn’t seem to understand her. Is there a man out there who will? Why did Isabel not wait to meet him?

This is a classic piece of literature. But, for me, Braddon had some fun with it too, ensuring it hit that sensation genre. With quite a comment on society and the experiences of women along the way.

If you are a fan of classic literature, you will enhou this novel.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

This is a book that certainly deserves its place on the shortlist for the ‘Women’s Prize for Fiction’. There is so much that shines through in this book – even if it is a rather intense and difficult read at points. It will certainly take any reader some time to digest.

What struck me the most about this book was the use of the word ‘paradise’ and how, in fact, everything present in this book, for all the characters, is the complete antithesis of ‘paradise’.

Two women, Lala (a native of Barbados) and Mira (a wealthy holiday maker), are both living in ‘paradise’. However, their lives both take tragic turns at the hands of the same man. These women are not as different from each other as they would both think.

This is a story about the choices we make, the impact those have on the future, and the lengths people will go to – and the strength they have to survive.

This ia really well-written book, which is incredibly engaging. When books tackle tough topics, it is always difficult to think you ‘enjoy’ them, but this is a book I certainly appreciate.

Please be aware that there is quite a number of potentially triggering topics covered in this novel.

From Shetland, With Love by Erin Green

So, as you probably know if you drop by regularly, I am a fan of Erin Green (and I am lucky enough to call her a friend), so of course I had ‘From Shetland, With Love’ preordered. However, I am ashamed to say I only picked it up to read at the weekend. I feel I say this a lot, but why had I delayed reading this perfect summer read?

Erin Green brings us a beautiful tale from the allotments of Lerwick, Shetland – as newbies Jemima and Melissa join the community, Dottie takes them under her wing, and beautiful friendships begin to bloom. There is so much warmth and humour amongst the pages of this book that you feel like you are making a whole host of new friends too. However, what I loved most were the little life lessons being learnt by the characters of all ages – afterall, we are never too old to keep learning.

By the end of this book, you will want to improve your gardening skills, learn a new craft and book a holiday to Shetland.

Oooh, and the really good news is that we can revisit all these new friends for Christmas, when book two hits the shelves. And I, for one, cannot wait.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

When my lovely book buddy Charline suggested we had a buddy read of ‘The Underground Railroad’, I was up for it. We had both loved ‘The Nickel Boys‘, so agreed this needed reading.

‘The Underground Railroad’ is an absolutely stunning book. A powerful and emotional read from page one – and an education. Cora is enslaved in the American south – and then she meets Caesar, who encourgaes her to run away, telling her that the whispered-about underground railroad will take them to their ‘freedom’. Will Cora ever be free? There are Slave hunters, prejudice and ‘Manifest Destiny’ to tackled…

Colson Whitehead writes beautifully though-provoking books and starts conversations. This book has made me immediately want to be better educated about the experiences of different cultures in America. And really consider the dominance of white culture in a land that they took control of.

I hope that everyon will take time to read the works of Colson Whitehead, because he has so many important stories to tell.

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

I have had ‘A Kind of Spark’ on the tbr pile for quite some time. I am not sure why it took me so long to pick it up, but it becoming ‘Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2021’ overall winner certainly prompted me to pick it up.

This nook is certainly a worthy prize winner, and is one that I will be encouraging people to read, whatever their age.

Addie is fascinated by the tales of witch trials that took place in her village and nearby Edinburgh. She wants these women to be remembered because nobody should be treated badly just because they are ‘different’ or ‘misunderstood’. And Addie knows what that experience can be like, as she is autistic – and not everybody is willing to understand that.

Like all good books, this is not just a story but is also an education. The powerful descriptions of what life is like for an autistic child and young adult will really have people thinking and hopefully with some understanding.

If you can pick up a copy of this book please do – you won’t regret it.

Mrs England by Stacey Halls

For ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club‘ this month, the book is ‘Mrs England’ by Stacey Halls. Now, when this was revealed, there was a lot of excitment amongst the bookclubbers. I was excited too, as always, however I am late to the Stacey Halls party. And, it certainly, looks like I have been missing out.

I was utterly absorbed in this book. It reads like a modern classic and is so atmospheric. I mean, a lonely house, linked to a mill on the Yorkshire Dales, is atmospheric on its own – but throw in a family that needs a nanny and goodness knows how many secrets, and you have a page-turner.

I don’t like to give spoilers, so I will go too much into the story other than to say there is a wonderful mystery woven into the tale and things are not quite as they seem. We are also given some fantastically strong female leads, which is always a joy to read.

For me, ‘Mrs England’ reminds me of Du Maurier, and I would certainly be intrigued to try more novels from Stacey Halls.