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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Huge, in fact, huger than huge klaxon alert as Cecelia Ahern has written a sequel to her truly wonderful debut, P.S. I Love You. It’s been seven years since Gerry died, and after Holly talks about his letters in a podcast, a group approaches her asking for help. I adore Cecelia Ahern’s writing, it just speaks to, and connects with my entire being. Confession time, I didn’t write any notes as I read, I just read for the pure pleasure of it. Which in itself, really makes a statement doesn’t it? Holly is honest, and entirely human as she initially tries to distance herself from the group. This is an older Holly, an altered Holly, she has moved on while Gerry and the letters have remained anchored in time. The other characters are absolutely fascinating, I grew to care about the group members and fell completely in love with Ginika. After reaching the end I found myself reflecting, the writing not only entered my heart, it also still sits in my thoughts. Postscript is just as brilliant, just as emotional, just as gorgeous, as P.S., and while linking so effectively to the past, grows into a truly beautiful novel in its own unique right.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
With a wonderful premise and on point storytelling this is a truly fabulous and thrilling read. The manager of a set of holiday cottages has a hidden camera in the bedroom of a guest. The guest is murdered and the camera destroyed. What next? Hit rewind! I adore Catherine Ryan Howard’s novels, she plays with time and creates plot lines that deceive, outwit and impress. The chilling prologue to Rewind, so matter of fact yet descriptive, really hammers home. It feels like the end, it is the end for someone, yet of course it is just the beginning of the tale. As information is revealed and more characters introduced, even more questions are created. As I travelled backwards and forwards in time, the skill of the writing ensured I stayed fully involved and a part of the storyline. Rewind, so different, clever and powerful, is a sure-fire winner of a read for me, I absolutely loved it!
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
February 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066... It's a light-hearted but impeccably researched account of all our great fallings-out. With Clarke's trademark humour and lightness of touch that will be remembered with fondness from A Year in the Merde and Talk to the Snail, among others this is a brilliant take on the history of our near neighbour.
December 2010 Book of the Month. This is crime fiction at its tip top best from one of Scandinavia’s bestselling female crime writers. It’s modern and a pitch-perfect reinvention of the classic locked room mystery. Retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen has learned the hard way that truth always comes at a price and sometimes that price isn’t worth paying. So when she is caught up on a derailed train, one carriage of which is full of a secret cargo that’s being heavily guarded, in a snowbound mountain pass in a storm of all storms, old betrayals, murder and state secrets come to the fore. Like for like: Val McDermid, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo.
One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. If you love fast-paced, topical thrillers that you simply can't put down, then Andrew Gross and especially 15 Seconds is a great place to go. Pulled over by a traffic cop who is then shot by someone else leaves surgeon Henry Steadman framed for murder and on the run trying to prove his innocence. It's thrilling stuff. May 2012 Book of the Month.
December 2016 Book of the Month. St Andrews in the 16th century is once again brought to captivating vibrant life. With allegations of ghosts, witches, the Spanish Armada and high jinks, the year 1588 is full of life… and death. If you adore the ‘Hew Cullan Mystery’ series then you are in for an absolute treat, as in this ‘Calendar of Crime’ are five different books. They may be short, but each packs a punch as Hew uses his investigative skills in an attempt to solve 5 different mysteries. Shirley McKay sets you so completely in that time that awareness settles over you like a cloak as you read. The very different tales take place in various parts of town, and while the same core characters travel with you through the year, you also greet new ones along the way. The historical notes section and glossary at the end is an interesting read in itself. You can dip in and out of ‘1588: A Calendar of Crime’ and read it as five fascinating stories, or completely immerse yourself in it as I did, and read it one satisfying sitting.
November 2017 Book of the Month A sharp, edgy, yet lovely romance for young adults. Hildy and Paul are paired in a college psychology study about relationships. They are asked 36 questions over the course of the story, and through their answers begin to learn about each other and themselves. As the sparks began to smoulder and then fly we discover heart-ache and strength in unexpected places. Vicki Grant uses various methods to tell the story, including drawings, texts and instant messages. This form of communication ensures the story is quick witted and bounces like a tennis match between Hildy and Paul. The other characters, including a certain fish remain in the background, yet set the scene and give flesh to the main pair. ’36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You’ is an extremely readable and satisfying romance full of spark and attitude. ~ Liz Robinson
An enthralling read from the provocative prologue through to the whammy of a final chapter. DCI Jim Daley and DS Brian Scott have a nose for trouble, but Jim’s thoughts are elsewhere when a cruise ship carrying some of the worlds leading business people sails into Kinloch on a UK trade mission. This is the seventh in the cracking series of D.C.I Daley thrillers and if you’ve not read them, having been in at the start I can highly recommend beginning with Whisky From Small Glasses and enjoying the journey through to here. The prologue remained with me as I read. With several strands of the story weaving together, we also hear from an unknown person as he pours his feelings onto the page and plots destruction. While highly entertaining big action pieces take place, there are also some raw heartfelt moments closer to home. Denzil Meyrick allows enough information to escape to appeal to those who enjoy piecing together the evidence yet also uses multiple sleights of his writing hand to lay traps along the way. A Breath of Dying Embers is a rewarding, satisfying read and fabulous addition to the series.
April 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. The 1990’s - the last decade and already how far away it seems, some of the attitudes, the fashions and the politics make it seem a distant time, older and wiser, we’re glad to have survived. This attempt to catch the 1990’s and its affect on Britain is largely successful and in its way a triumph. Especially good is the knitting together of high politics and low culture with everything in between and at over 600 pages a long, deliciously detailed trawl through a decade and a bit. Like for Like Reading No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980's, Andy McSmith Austerity Britain 1945-1951, David Kynaston
May 2011 Book of the Month. The third novel in McCall's acclaimed series about the colourful inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions, Pimlico. This installment follows the adventures of Oedipus Snark, the nasty Liberal Democrat and his mother Berthea who is writing an unauthorised biography of him, and a vegetarian dog called Freddie de la Hay. Corduroy Mansions Series:1. Corduroy Mansions2. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold 3. A Conspiracy of Friends
May 2017 Book of the Month. Author famous for his excellent Logan McRae series presents a new police constable, one DC Callum McGregor. He is a man under internal investigation as he has accepted the blame for a major criminal being acquitted. We discover how and why along with learning a fair bit about the man’s dreadful childhood and his girlfriend problem. So lots of back story. There are chunks of radio conversations too and each chapter has obscure quotations. This bulks the tale out to over six hundred pages and detracts a little from the excellent yarn which shows much of the behind scene politics of a minor section of the police, to whit a unit of drop-outs or outcasts. These are officers who are unwell, have behaved inappropriately or are being investigated, as is our hero. The plot involves a serial killer who mummifies the victims. Initially there is some confusion as to whether the mummy is stolen from a museum. It is gruesome, exciting and unpredictable with a mounting body count. This drop-out unit initially investigating a theft has never handled a murder case before but Callum leads them into the investigation with great aplomb despite being physically assaulted.
June 2012 Book of the Month. Money, power, corruption and the apparent suicide of a media baron... The fourth in the atmospheric and beguiling Quirke mysteries. The Quirke series1. Christine Falls2. The Silver Swan3. Elegy for April4. A Death in Summer5. Vengeance
May 2013 Book of the Month. A tightly woven tale of moral dilemma, bold action and unexpected love from the undisputed master of the spy novel. Le Carré, seemingly effortlessly, delivers a stunningly written, furiously paced yet subtly nuanced and absorbing read - it really is remarkably good. Mary Mount, Editorial Director at Viking/Penguin, on A Delicate Truth... 'A Delicate Truth is one of le Carré’s finest novels. It is unbelievably tense but is also full of wit and brilliantly realised characters. It is extraordinary how le Carré is able to write with such tremendous pace while, at the same time, going right to the heart of who we are. A Delicate Truth is one of his most British books in recent years. I was stunned by it. It is a thrill and a privilege to publish a novel as good as this.'
A completely glorious and captivating read, one where glamour and enchantment walk hand in hand alongside intrigue and mystery. Step into 1948 and meet Eve, she goes against her stuffy husband’s wishes and travels to the French Riviera to find out about a mystery inheritance. As Eve attempts to uncover the riddle of her benefactor, she discovers the glittering world she has walked into may have a very ugly core. This is such a beautifully easy book to read, I simply slid into the pages and swam in the silky mysterious depths. I found myself willing Eve on, I became more and more fond of her, completely invested in the storyline. The surrounding characters are simply delicious, the allure of the French Riviera was dazzling. Rachel Rhys writes with the elegance of the age, the words and story wrapped themselves around me. Intrigue sparks intrigue, and a whiff of dastardly turns more deadly as information floats free. ‘Fatal Inheritance’ is eloquently seductive, I highly recommend finding yourself a beautiful spot and slipping into this rewarding story.
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