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In The Museum Makers Rachel Morris, director of museum company Metaphor, plots an enthralling personal and professional journey from finding a box of family belongings beneath her bed, to the beating heart of Bloomsbury’s bohemian circles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This journey is underpinned by the very essence of what museums are and do: “Museum-making is about sorting often quite ordinary objects to make meaningful patterns out of the muddle and confusion of the universe; thoughtful, beautiful patterns that have something to say. Museums are where we go to make sense of the world and the pasts that have gone. And what we do in museums we also do with our own histories.” Which is exactly what Morris does when she digs into the contents of the box and is led to discover secrets about her father, Gran, and great-grandmother Nona, which she curates into her Museum of Me. Illuminated by the power of objects to stir memories, and to make sense of oneself, the journey also delves into women’s involvement with, and relationship to, museums: “Museums have a special appeal for women whether as places to work in or as places to visit.” While men may have curated early museums (as an extension of their curation of the world), women were key collectors, donors and fundraisers from those nascent days. At once an absorbing history of museums, and a profoundly personal memoir of detection and discovery, this has all the delightful universal appeal of a cabinet of curiosity.
August 25, 2010. Mazhar Majeed – an agent representing a number of players in the Pakistan squad due to play a Test Match against England – sends a text to an Indian businessman he knows as Mohsin Khan. Majeed wants to convince Khan to join him in a match-fixing plot he claims will make them both very wealthy. The text confirms their plan is going ahead. What Majeed doesn’t know is that Khan’s real name is Mazher Mahmood and that he is an undercover investigative reporter for the News of the World. Mahmood – famous for his exposes on such personalities as Sarah Ferguson, Jerry Springer and Sven Goran Eriksson – is known to the world as the Fake Sheikh. On the back of Majeed’s greed and lack of caution, he is about to run a story that promises to be the greatest sporting scoop the UK press has ever seen. The beginning of The Thin White Line is so enthralling, so complex and so fast-moving, it read like an extract from Mission Impossible or The Sting. The difference – something that made this read all the more exciting – was this was real. This happened. I was gripped. Mazher Mahmood was responsible for exposing criminal and corrupt activity among a lot of people. His methods were fraught with risk and extremely expensive. He got results, though, and he was lauded by the industry for doing so. His was a style of journalism that, with hindsight, was doomed to fail one day and probably in a big way. It did, and as a result Mahmood found himself in the dock and facing a prison sentence. Nick Greenslade’s research is incredibly thorough and the quoted sources in the book read like a who’s who of well-known sporting personalities. The Thin White Line isn’t just a book for cricket fans, though – although they will relish it, I’m sure. Anyone with even minimal interest in corruption within sport or in the goings-on of the newspaper world of the time will find it a fascinating insight. I loved it. But I’d be prepared to wager you’d already worked that out for yourself.
Dazzlingly original, Cassondra Windwalker’s Idle Hands crackles with wit and the real-world traumas of a family whose lives change course courtesy of divine intervention from the devil. It’s a veritable feast of the imagination, and a feat of thought-provoking story-telling that will surely appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman. After an abusive marriage, Purdie makes the tough and brave decision to leave her husband to start a fresh life. It’s a heart-breaking move, made harder by her children’s questions: “Your daddy had a choice of his own to make, and he didn’t choose us,” she explains. “But I am choosing you. I am choosing you above everything. We’re going to build a new life, and it’s going to be beautiful.” Purdie makes this happen, but when tragedy hits years later, she’s led to question the paths she’s taken, and tormented by harrowing “what-ifs” and “if-onlys”. Desperate to shield her family and safeguard their future, she makes a deal with the devil, a philosophical puppet master who now pulls the strings of Purdie’s life. This is a cunningly-told tale of stark dichotomies – between voices and viewpoints, between domestic experience and metaphysical speculation. It shows how we grapple with rationalising decisions and notions of freewill and fate. Every bit as provocative and playful as the devil him (or her) self, this is a daring blast of a book.
A thoughtful yet suspense filled novel introducing the first Sarah Sutherland thriller. Sarah, in her 40’s and divorced, rushes from her day job to care for her father who lives alone. She delights in a second role telling chilling stories to tourists about the Scottish witch trials of the 17th century. I have read Sandra Ireland’s previous three standalone novels and love her blend of piercing reality and folklore. Here we step into a new series and as Sarah narrates, I felt myself sympathising, smiling, and investing in her as a character. Both Sarah and her father John head chapters, with information about Alie Gowdie who lived in Sarah’s cottage and was executed in 1648 also slipping between the pages. A clever brew of tension, diversions and suspense takes hold, with questions forming and sitting at the back of my mind, waiting, biding their time. With an unexpected bite Sight Unseen challenges and provokes thoughts and I thoroughly enjoyed this start to a new series.
A full-on “wrecking machine” from the get go, take a deep breath and just fall right on in to this action thriller. Taking place over a week, the Pike Logan series continues with Pike under threat; his team are being targeted and he will do anything to protect them. This is my first foray with The Taskforce and it won’t be my last. Even though I joined an already established series, I felt right at home. If you are also new, let me tell you a little about the author Brad Taylor, and you will know all you need to about the tone and authenticity of these novels. He served for more than 21 years in the US Army, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. He has conducted operations all over the world, and his final assignment was as the Assistant Professor of Military Science at The Citadel in Charleston. He holds a Master’s of Science in Defence Analysis with a concentration in Irregular Warfare. If you are looking for a new action series and haven’t yet met The Taskforce, then look no further. In 2011 Brad Taylor published his debut One Rough Man which launched the Pike Logan series and now contains over twenty books and novellas. I was sucker-punched at the outset of this novel and as a newbie may have been racing to catch up, but that only added to the tension. The notes at the end are fascinating reading as the author explains how the novel came into being. Hunter Killer allows you to enter a hidden world of fast moving action from the comfort of your armchair, it’s a whammy of a novel and thoroughly entertaining.
A powerful, provocative and thought-provoking mystery. Rachel’s next true-crime podcast season focuses on a live rape trial in a North Carolina coastal town, while en route she receives an anonymous plea to help solve an old case. At times a difficult and uncomfortable read due to the content, it deals with the subject of consent with consideration. Megan Goldin writes with sharp clarity, she covers the difficulties faced when bringing rape cases to court, in particular for the victim. She used to work as a journalist and has covered war zones, the credibility of her writing shines through here. The two time frames sit 25 years apart but cling to each other. There are enough hints and suggestions to have some idea of where the story is going, yet there is so much more to discover. I really am hoping there is more to come, could this be the start to a new series? Fiercely intense and incredibly readable, The Night Swim is a biting compelling read.
The perfect pick-me-up, this book delivers plenty of romance, smiles, and most importantly enfolds you in a lovely satisfying storyline too. Minnie would rather spend her birthday on New Years Day hiding under her duvet, as far as she’s concerned the last and first day of the year is jinxed. Then she meets Quinn who shares her birthday but otherwise appears to waltz through life, and the attraction is undeniable. Sophie Cousens has the most lovely refreshing style, a lightness of touch and sparkling wit walks hand in hand with considerate contemplation and emotion. Travelling back to the past ensured we saw what had affected, shaped and changed these two characters. I loved the ping-pong of little morsels of information, popping up to build a picture that we had access to, but Abbie and Quinn remained unaware of. Missed chances is the main theme here, but there is so much more on offer too, with access to Quinn ensuring this wasn’t just a one way Minnie street. The supporting characters are a lively bunch, with a mixture of personalities and issues keeping things interesting. Romantic, yes most definitely, This Time Next Year is also an amusing, thoughtful, and friendly read too.
Corkscrewing through Italy, there is a tangled web of intrigue to unravel in this stimulating spy novel. We start during the summer of 1977 and the murder of relatives of the Director General of Defence Intelligence. The second in the Dylan Series highlights a mystery under the cloak of espionage thriller. I advise that you begin with Awakening of Spies, as I don’t feel that this is a series you can step into the middle of due to the intricacies of setting. Knowing the central characters meant I could focus on the rest of the plot (again though, no wandering off as you need to concentrate). The writing feels as though you are reading a memoir, with Thomas Dylan’s memories spilling forth onto the page. Brian Landers ensured that I was in the 1970’s and I really felt the history and spirit of the time. Families of Spies, delving as it does into the not too distant past, is an interesting and convincing read.
Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
A thoughtful, compelling, and provocative novel that may well challenge your understanding of the meaning of victim. When Amelie’s boyfriend is arrested on child sex abuse charges, lives are thrown into chaos and confusion. This story concentrates on celebrity, secrets, and greed and covers several different time periods between 2010 and 2019. Michael J Malone’s previous books range across genres, yet he has the ability as a writer to tackle difficult subjects with sensitivity while still ensuring an intense delivery. There were moments here where I truly flinched, yet he doesn’t exploit, rather explores and exposes thoughts and feelings with care and consideration. He focuses on the impact allegations can have on everyone involved, not just the main parties. The title has made a real impression on me, and it sits as a perfect accompaniment to the story. The three main characters stand in vivid isolation, even when surrounded by other people and the writing reflects the difficulties faced. A Song of Isolation is a cracking read, that could encourage your thoughts to travel in unexpected directions.
Evocative, emotional and compelling, this historical novel may centre on a relationship, yet it throws open a door to the Second World War. Meet Spitfire pilot Eddie and painter Eva as they leave their teenage years at the onset of war. The prologue in late 1940 sets the scene for what is to come, I found myself in the clouds in the middle of a dogfight between Spitfire and Messerschmitt, the outcome of which stayed with me as I read on. Chapter one took me back to March 1939, I slid effortlessly in as Rachel Billington ensures the small and intimate elements are as well crafted as the more obvious aspects of war. The two main characters are fascinating, Eddie is self-centred yet not overwritten as unlikable, while Eva is finding her path, and both feel as real as can possibly be. Surrounding them are family and friends, all helping to create a vivid view of the times. The ending sliced into my emotions, and left me sitting for a while in contemplation. Expressive, rich and sharp, Clouds of Love and War is an engaging and worthwhile read.
Wonderfully quirky and yet earthy and tangible, this is an engaging and entertaining read. When is a holiday not a holiday? When 71 year old pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the work caravan, he tells his childhood sweetheart Ginny she has to pack her bag as they’re off to Wales. What follows is a road trip full of strange encounters, soul-searching and revelation. With a few words Lisa Blower allowed me to not only see, but feel the words. Descriptions slipped from the page into vibrant life. I could vividly picture the saucy mermaid curtains and fully stocked bar in the Toogood Aquatics caravan which becomes their world and future. I floundered alongside Ginny and Selwyn and I ached for the two of them even as I smiled. Pondweed flipped me onto a different thought path, where I strolled for a while and thoroughly enjoyed my journey.
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