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Looking to try something new? Check out our Debuts of the Month selection. You never know, one might become your favourite new author and a special discovery!
From childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, this enthralling novel follows a steadfastly thoughtful Ghanaian forging her own identity in the face of fractured family ties, tragedy and colonial imperialism. Though of illustrious heritage, Maya’s childhood as an émigré is complex, uncomfortable and evoked with lyrical precision. Her beautiful mother is self-absorbed, always scented with “powdery luxury” and critical of Maya. ”It’s a pity my child did not take my beauty”, she tells her reflection before counselling Maya to “always look more than perfect. Not just good enough, but perfect”. And Maya receives conflicting messages from her father too. “Boys will not like you if you are too clever”, he tells her, while also criticising an eight out of ten mark: “Why not ten out of ten? You must always do your best.” The arrival of cousin Kojo changes everything. His impassioned talk of Ghana fuels Maya’s understanding of her mother country, her parents, and her own identity. She observes that Kojo’s knowledge “gave him the power to upset the order of things,” leading her to wonder, “Could I learn these secrets and codes, even though I did not grow up in our country?” When she and Kojo are sent to schools in England, Maya experiences the racism of peers who “touched my hair and stroked my skin and passed me round on their laps like a doll”, and Kojo is bullied. No wonder then that he decides that, “this is nothing but a small shitty island that doesn’t work properly. It’s a cold wet Third World country, but they made us think they were all powerful.” Later back in Germany, Maya is maddened by the cultural imperialism of her education: “I could not think of much that was more frightening than fitting into this pinched-in sterile world.” Maya’s story is at once arresting and nuanced, and suffused in an elegant sense of triumph when she returns to Ghana, where Kojo has been struggling to set-up a museum, and in time finds her voice and purpose through navigating a tangle of personal misfortune and cultural complexities.
I was completely and utterly consumed by this debut, it slowly took hold, crept into my thoughts, drew me in, and then refused to let me go. I really didn’t want to stop reading, and even now Cora Burns enters my mind and stops for a while. Cora Burns born in gaol and raised in a workhouse, finds herself in gaol once again before a scientist takes her on as a servant, just what exactly is his current experiment? The story starts in savage darkness, then spins forward in time before rolling between 1865, 1874 and 1885, slowly answering questions yet creating more. Carolyn Kirby has created the most deeply felt and amazing character in Cora (to me she isn’t a character but as real as real can be). There were times when I almost didn’t want to read her story, I wanted to shut my eyes, hum, and put my hands to my ears, and yet I simply couldn’t stop, the words haunted me, called to me, devoured me. The Conviction of Cora Burns enthralling, fascinating and so incredibly worthwhile, developed into the most unexpectedly fierce and beautiful read (I think you will understand if you step between the pages).
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
Written in Singlish - “a tossed salad of the different languages and Chinese dialects that the country’s multiethnic population speaks” - this exhilarating novel follows brazen Jazzy’s mission to marry a wealthy “ang moh” (white) man. Almost 27, she warns her friends that ”if we don’t get married, engaged or even nail down a boyfriend soon—my god, we might as well go ahead and book a room at Singapore Casket… But luckily for us, we still have one big hope: ang moh guys”, because “if you wear a tight tight dress or short short skirt, these ang mohs will still steam over you”. To this end, Jazzy’s life is an intense cycle of spending her days working for a newspaper editor who likes to “rubba rubba” his employees, followed by long nights at fancy clubs. Through her predatory attitude and enduring of a whole lot of objectification, this novel is razor-sharp on male entitlement, inequality, racial stereotypes and global capitalism. Indeed, Jazzy wasn’t always a Sarong Party Girl herself: “I would see women who are so obviously going after guys just for status and really look down on them. What kind of woman is so pathetic to chase after a husband just for the kind of handbag, car or condo they can buy them?” And then one night, it seems that enough is enough. Jazzy has an epiphany at dawn after a one hell of a wake-up call night out. What a fresh, funny and wildly acerbic treat this is.
The clever, seductive, fact and fictional blended story of Truman Capote and the women he placed (and came to rely on) at the very centre of his life. Truman Capote (author of works including novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and non fiction piece In Cold Blood) could call among his friends and confidants the wealthy, famous and social elite. Their secrets were released to the world when he wrote a fictional piece that aired an awful lot of real life dirty laundry. Swan Song darts through the years, backwards and forwards, releasing information, filling in this breathtaking story. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott apparently took ten years to research, and four years to write Swan Song. Capote’s swans are deliciously stimulating, and speak as one, revealing betrayal, scandal and lives full of emotional and physical excess. It is so wonderfully gossipy and fascinating, it’s all too easy to forget this is a novel (even though seeped in fact). Swan Song is a beguiling, fascinating dream of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me.
An absolutely delightful story ready and waiting to wrap you up in a delicious blanket of warming feel-good. Ellie thinks she is happy, assumes she is happy, but a present from a harp-making stranger heralds change. Oh I did enjoy this story, told in alternate chapters by Ellie and Dan, I settled myself into a comfy spot and stayed there until I had finished. Dan introduces himself in the most simple and beautiful way, he is able to see through clutter to the heart of things and I have to admit to rather falling in love with him. Hazel Prior doesn’t spell things out for you, instead I felt that I was able to explore and encouraged to contemplate. The descriptions of Exmoor, nature, and colour are particularly special, and I now find myself taking the time to look properly, to really see, to feel, to smile. Ellie and the Harp Maker is truly lovely and rather special, if you feel like a hug, then read this book!
An incredibly raw, at times difficult to read, quite gobsmacking debut. Cherry made me flinch, both physically and mentally, at times I had to look away and think of something else, yet the words continued to call to me. The author Nico Walker, as of 2019, is still in prison in the USA, he served as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD started to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction. This story centres on a narrator who serves as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD starts to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction (yes the same tale as the author). Let me be clear, this is a novel, yet the voice of the author is clearly heard, this is his story and he stamps his words, his very being on every single page. Hammer hard, quick firing sentences (with some choice language attached) shoot off of the page. There were times when I really didn’t like the narator, some of his life choices are difficult to understand, yet that is the whole point. The story turns full circle from the prologue, creating what feels like a never ending loop. This book made me ache, it often physically hurt to soak up the words, yet I would read it all again tomorrow, and so Cherry has to be one of my picks of the month.
December 2014 NewGen Debut of the Month. Vlogger Zoella’s fans will fall headlong into this sharply observed, super-realistic teen story. Against a background of first the ordinary ups and downs of life at school followed by an amazing fairy tale trip to New York with her wedding-planner parents and very best friend Eliot, sensible Penny records the rollercoaster emotions of being a teenager. When the going to particularly tough, Penny shares what she feels on her blog. Through responses to her posts Penny finds support for herself while also learning how much emotional strength she is giving her thousands of followers. Amy McCulloch, editorial director of Penguin Children’s, says “Zoe has an incredible voice for teens and she drew on her wealth of experience dealing with real issues like anxiety and cyber-bullying to deliver a poignant, romantic and heart-warming debut novel. The whole team was bursting with excitement at the prospect of working with Zoe, and we know her fans – and the rest of the world – are going to fall head-over-heels with her writing.”
Ever wondered whether your partner is being less than honest and is leading another life? What would you do if you then found out? Here, Bonavero, a first time novelist, has written a disturbing yet riveting story that youâ€™ll find hard to put down.
Contrasting rural Iranian life and traditions with a London immigrant's affluence, this is an impressive work of love, family and identity.
Drawing on traditional Malayan folklore and superstition, The Ghost Bride is a haunting, exotic and romantic read perfect for fans of Empress Orchid and Memoirs of a Geisha. A Piece of Passion from Emily Thomas, Publisher This is a book that makes you feel enriched and educated as you read it, in a way that satisfies as well as entertains. Yangsze Choo's beautifully constructed narrative weaves romance, mythical intrigue and danger through the story of seventeen-year-old Li Lan's search for her true love and her true home, in earthly Malaysia, the Chinese afterlife and then back again, encountering sorrow and joy and a fair few vengeful spirits along the way. A must-read for anyone who likes bite and substance to their reading, and is not afraid to venture into the darkness...
One of our Debuts of the Year 2011. March 2011 Debut of the Month. The Holy Thief brilliantly evokes a society that has broken down and rules of human behaviour that are hard for us to imagine. We are in Stalinist Russia between the wars. Everyone has to be careful of what they say and who they say it to .Young people have to learn when not to say what is on their minds. 'Even the innocent (are) jumping at shadows these days'. Rank is important. 'The colonel placed a slight emphasis on Korolev's rank, just enough to remind Korolev of the thinness of the ice under his feet'. In this world, Korolev is ordered to solve a gruesome murder but does the culprit exist inside or outside the system? Who can he trust? Where can he turn? Whatever he does, he has to tread carefully. This beautifully written, finely judged novel is up there with the likes of Le Carre, thoughtful and thought-provoking: intelligently written and thoroughly readable.
Every now and again a new crime novel comes along and you know it’s something special. This won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey award for Best First Crime Novel. It’s first rate. A tale of corruption with an ending you really can’t guess; it’s mesmerising stuff.Comparison: Scott Turow, Richard North Patterson, Dennis Lehane.Similar this month: None but try Lisa Scottoline or James Patterson.
February 2018 Debut of the MonthA raw, convincing, achingly intimate and individual tale about actions and consequences. 16 years after the death of his brother, Conway wants revenge. When Ray Boy is released from prison, Conway hunts him down in order to kill him, but pulling the trigger isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. There is a sharp edge to the writing, yet the chapters flow from one story to another, initially separate, then linking, writhing and twisting together. William Boyle has created intensely tangible characters, their voices, thoughts and feelings almost become physical, touchable, and are so very, very believable. I highly recommend Gravesend, it is fresh, original, and somehow feels both modern and ancient, as though this story has been lived again and again, and yet is being told for the first time. ~ Liz Robinson
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: sci-fi and fantasy blend in high-action, thought-provoking adventure Musician and entertainer will.i.am has collaborated with science of the future specialist Brian David Johnson to create an epic adventure. WaR seamlessly combines fantasy favourites wizards with robots, long beloved in sci-fi but now accepted as a crucial part of all our futures. Flipping back and forth in time, it stars feisty teenager Sara, whose mother is creating the first fully intelligent robot. This puts Sara at the centre of a power struggle, spanning centuries, between wizards and robots. As the story unfolds however, Sara must reconcile the two factions to defeat a common enemy. In this she’s helped by a young wizard called Geller and a robot, Kaku. Intriguing, refreshing and packed full of ideas, the momentum of the story sweeps readers along to its dramatic conclusion (at the CERN institute!). Real science is scattered throughout, and sci-fi has never seemed so now. ~ Andrea Reece
Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2013. Shortlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 'New Writer of the Year' 2012. One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. A first novel to really get excited about. Set in an unnamed Eastern European country, our narrator is minding his friend's immaculate flat while the said friend is in America divorcing his wife ... easy, until alcohol raises its ugly head and small disasters turn huge. The absent owner has left little notes all over the place, the discovery of which introduces us to the man, a complete contrast to his flat-sitting friend. Beautifully written, very clever and unusual, this is an absolute gem. Highly recommended. September 2012 Debut of the Month.
February 2012 Debut of the Month. Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2013. Inhabiting the spaces in-between everyday events - a place where tiny oversights can have disastrous, farcical and even fatal consequences. This is a unique, bold and brilliant debut from a darkly funny new voice - which has a little bit of floor care in it as well.
June 2012 Debut and eBook of the Month. This original, gripping and darkly comic coming of age tale, exploring grief and guilt totally disproves the adage those who can’t, teach. Central Reservation, from English teacher Will le Fleming, is a beautifully written and assured debut and we look forward to his future books. Will le Fleming on his inspiration for the book...'Like everything I’ve ever written, Central Reservation began as a series of images in my head. One was an evening, cool and green, with trees outlined against a pale sky, and a girl with no illusions saying goodbye to someone she loved. Another was the same girl, lying hidden in long grass by the side of a motorway. And the last one might have been a news picture from the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001: a man in a white protective suit watching a pyre of cattle with an odd expression on his face - something like satisfaction. Those things, and the sense, sometimes, of being haunted not in a dark old house but while walking down a deserted country lane, feeling the shift of ghosts in the air, eventually led to this book. It’s about growing up, and families, and it’s a love story and a mystery about life and death, and although it can be quite dark, it is a comedy – it says so on the back – and has lots of hope and affirmation in it. I hope anyone who likes any of those ideas will enjoy it!'
A fun and gripping first in a new series of Scandi-noir - unusually written by a British writer who grew up here but now lives in Sweden. Our heroine - Tuva Moodyson - has also recently moved there, she grew up in rural Sweden but left for the bright lights of London and has returned to near home because her mother hasn't got long to live. Not wanting to give up her career as a journalist she's moved a few hours away from 'home' to work at a local paper. It's pretty sleepy till the entire community is sent reeling when a body is found in the forest during hunting season, shot but with it's eyes removed, no accident and a chilling copy of a spate of murders from twenty years before. Tuva goes on the hunt for the story of her career almost risking everything to find the killer. Adding to the drama is the fact that Tuva is deaf and her ability to both operate without her hearing aids in complete silence when she wants to, and the danger she faces from her hearing aids failing, both up the ante significantly.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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