Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Returning to a novel by Marian Keyes is like catching up with an old friend. So, I do ask myself why ‘Grown Ups’ was left unread on my shelf for so long – I now realise that was a mistake.

I devoured this book, all 656 pages of it, as I could not put it down. This is a book that does what Marian Keyes does best, and examines family relationships in all their complex glory.

Told back from one fateful family dinner and then showing us what happens next, we follow the chaotic Casey family. Each have their secrets and their own journey of self-discovery, which takes them to the dinner and beyond. The glamorous life presented to the outside world is certainly not always as it seems. And, as always, this is handled beautifully by Marian Keyes’ writing style and narrative. There is so much warmth and wit amongst the pages, and tough topics are handled sensitively and with care. And, on the very final page, I shed a tear, as I felt I had been on quite a journey with the Casey family, and for all of those who deserved a happy ending – that was certainly on the horizon.

To put it simply, I adored this book and was not disappointed by it at all. In fact, it has reminded me that there are still some of the novels of Marian Keyes that I am yet to read, and I really must change that soon.

Thursday Thoughts: Graphic Novels

‘Heartstopper: Volume 4’ was recently published and, of course, I had to purchase it immediately. And then of course, I read past my bedtime because I can never leave Nick and Charlie part-way through a story. I absolutely loved the book, as I knew I would.

So, this has made me think about graphic novels. They were something that I had not really considered until the Heartstopper universe because I always thought they were only fantasy and sci-fi books. However, I have slowly started to realise that this is not entirely true. In fact, there is a whole world of wonderful graphic novels out there that cover all sorts of fabulous genres.

Now, I do have to admit that I have only really read the Heartstopper volumes (and my other love, Shakespeare manga, which I know is another genre again), but I have seen so many brilliant books being shared on bookstagram. That means the wishlist has grown.

I guess what I am trying to say is that books and genres should not be judged by their covers and that books full of illustrations are just as wonderful as books full of words, even when you are an adult.

Transcendent Kingdon by Yaa Gyasi

The second title from the ‘Women’s Prize for Fiction’ was ‘Transcendent Kingdom’. This has been a great book for a buddy read because there are so many different opinions on this one.

It took me a while to reach any opinions about this book. When I started this novel, I found it hard to get in to – it took a lot of concentration to follow the narrative. However, as I got through the story, I found out more about Gifty, her family and her past. I can see why this book has been nominated for a prize as it is beautifully written and it tackles some tough issues. Especially in a family and community that are not entirely willing to talk about social issues – including addiction and mental health issues. Also, handling well the way our past and experience can influence our future and even challenge the ideas and beliefs that you may have formed about the world around you.

‘Transcendent Kingdom’ is a slow burn (that does seem to divide opinion) and I am still not entirely sure what I think – but I am certainly pleased that I read it. And I do think that maybe I should read ‘Homegoing’, as many people have recommended since.

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.

Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean

This is a beautiful book that can provide so much for children and adults alike.

Things are changing for Archie: his dad has moved out and his dad has a secret. When Archie accidentally overhears what that secret is, he knows life will never be the same again, but he is determined to help his dad be happy. With the help of his two best friendsm Seb and Bell, he thinks he can his dad find happiness at the end of a brilliantly colourful rainbow.

This adventure takes the three friends to London Pride, where they find a whole host of brilliant characters who help them discover the answers that they are looking for. And they realise that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and difference deserves to be celebrated at all ages.

This is such a happy book with a wonderful and supportive message for people of all ages about how we live in a wonderfully colourful world, which we should all be supporting and celebrating. This is the sort of book I wish was around when I was growing up, because it is just a perfect story.

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

This book was the March thriller of the month from Waterstones and may have been an accidental purchase when I was shopping for presents. I picked it up as my latest read because I was in a thriller mood. However, I have to admit that it was not my favourite thriller that I have ever read.

I think for some, the subject of the book may be difficult, as it deals with postnatal depression and a potential case of child abuse. However, it is handled with care as part of the narrative.

I like elements of this thriller. It made you aware of checking in on people that sometimes you do not know what people are carrying around with them. There was an interesting study of the characters and their relationships. Especially, the idea of friendship and how they are handled by different people. Also, how far will some people go for their friends? However, it was a little slow and this did not add to the story unfortunately. The slower pace led the book to lose some of the thrilling factors.

I think some people will enjoy this thriller, if they enjoy stories that are very character-driven, but for me it was slightly lacking.

Asking for a Friend by Andi Osho

It is book club pick time and I have been so excited to read this month’s choice from ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’. ‘Asking for a Friend’ is from the pen of comedian Andi Osho and it did not disappoint – in fact, I would say it is a perfect tonic for lockdown (although it did really make me miss London with my besties).

We join three friends Simi, Jemima and Meagan as they face the challenges of relationships and careers in good old London town. Three best friends, but three very different ladies when it comes to relationships – and what they are willing to admit is a ‘perfect’ MAN. So, they start taking on the dating game and picking each other’s dates. And, well, let’s be honest: it takes them on quite some journeys of self-discovery – as well as reflecting on other areas of their lives.

This is a book written with so much warmth and humour that it is quite a page-turner. You feel as though you become part of the gang – and although none of the ladies are perfect, they clearly balance each other out in a wonderful support unit.

This is a celebration of female friendships, even their ups and downs. And a real reflection of what healthy relationships of all kinds should look like. A fun read, especially in the current situation. Really looking forward to discussing this book with other readers!

The Lottery by P J Venison

Today is my day to showcase ‘The Lottery’, which I was kindly gifted.

What would you do if you won the lottery? More importantly, what would you do if you won the lottery with a ticket you did not buy? These are the questions facing Maggie and Greg after they discover a lost lottery ticket.

The novel asks a lot questions through its narrative. Does money really make our characters happy? Can money bring good fortune? Or does it become something that is destructive?

The story is an insteresting study of how both Maggie and Greg react to the dramatic change in their lifestyle. The path each character takes begins to impact on them individually, their family and their friends – in fact they probably find out more about themselves than they think possible.

This is certainly a book that can cause you to reflect on your own life. After all, you do not really know how you would react to a situation until it happens. A life lesson for both Maggie and Greg with two very different endings.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I am doing really well at picking up books that have been on my unread shelf. This is, of course, thanks to ‘The Unread Shelf Project, 2021’, which is really encouraging me to improve my reading habits and pick up the books I already own.

So, this encouraged me to finally pick up ‘Hamnet’ – a book I had seen so muhc hype about in 2020. Again, I was not sure how I would find this book, as historical literary fiction is a genre I often struggle with. However, this book is so beautifully written I was enthralled from the first page. I was not sure about the backwards and forwards nature of the narrative, but once I was used to it I actually enjoyed the voyage of discovery it took us on about the family ‘Shakespeare’. I also found it fascinating that it is never really stated that this is the family we are looking in on, as this is Agnes’ and Hamnet’s story – a fascinating focus and imagining of their tale.

I am not sure this has converted me to historical literary fiction. It is a stunning book which has made me more open to novels of the genre, rather than assume I won’t enjoy it.

This is a beautiful read and Maggie O’Farrell clearly has her own beautiful writing style. In fact, I am keen to read other books she has written, as I was so engaged in her unique style.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Wow! End of post!

Oh, maybe I can’t stop there, but I am not sure I am going to say anything that has not been said before about this absolutely stunning book.

I realise I am, again, late to the party with this book. I will be honest: I was not sure that it was a story I would enjoy – however, it well and truly proved me wrong.

This, in one instance, is a coming-of-age tale that evolves into a really fascinating and engaging crime story, all set within the marshes, and all its stunning and fascinating nature. However, it does not stop there as it tackles prejudices – of many different kinds – as well as social hierarchy and privilege.

It is such a beautifully written book that I genuinely could not put it down. In fact, it really had me reading past my bedtime, as I had to know how the book ended. And, like any good murder mystery novel, it had me guessing until the very end – or at least reflecting on the impressions I had formed as I read the book.

This is also a book full of fascinating characters, especially Kya (the Marsh Girl), who are brought to life with the wonderful words of Delia Owens.

I realise I have not given much away about the plot, but I feel this is a book that you really need to pick up yourself, rather than have the story spoiled by the words of another.