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Each week our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this week’s faves…
Most definitely sitting on the quirky side of life (and Mars), this is an amusing and mind-bending read. The robots who look down on humanity are determined to end the human rebellion that started on Earth. This is Battlestar Suburbia: Volume Two, if you’ve not read the first in the series you might want to start at the beginning. However, I joined here and felt perfectly comfortable with the Dolestars council estates circling earth and Pam the sentient bread-maker. This is an absolutely fascinating premise from Chris McCrudden, the machines aren’t quite as you may have imagined them. There is no Terminator style human robot on offer (unless you count the human who was pinched for use as a cyborg), instead lamps, photocopiers, and a particularly evil smartphone lead the machine charge. In today’s climate, the utter disdain felt by some of the machines for humanity all feels rather relevant. Battle Beyond the Dolestars is different, a little geeky, and lots of fun, oh, just as a note of warning, you may never look at your lamp in the same way again!
Suffused in the haunting longings and losses of complex, compelling Mari, The Jeweller shines with mysterious originality. Mari is a market stallholder in a West Wales seaside town whose wares come from clearing the houses of the dead, and who spends hour after hour fashioning a perfect emerald. Throughout, the language is exquisitely vivid, the story dappled with shocking, jarring moments, such as when Mari is publicly accused of being responsible for a man’s death, and the depiction of her pet monkey’s degeneration. And then there’s the unexpected discovery that leads to a reunion that releases Mari to a new life. Gleaming with precise lyricism (kudos to translator Gwen Davies, who rendered it from the original Welsh), this mesmeric novel has a truly mythic quality.
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.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
Sneaking into an everyday life, this powerful and darkly dramatic tale smashes open the past to create a compelling read. When his mother goes into a home, John Docherty starts to sort through her belongings. The mention of a brother he knew nothing about sends his life into a downward spin. Orenda Books describe this novel as domestic noir, which is absolutely perfect. The writing is punchy tight, Michael J. Malone immediately gave me a sense of who John was as his thoughts travelled into mine. This is a book that crawled under my skin and had a good creep around. As John investigates and his every moment is consumed, his memories start to return. I knew that something was coming, the hints tripped me up and laid me flat. Challenging and emotional, In the Absence of Miracles enthrals as it corkscrews to a shocking, yet ultimately rewarding end.
The moment I held Rock Pool for the first time, I sensed I was in for a real treat. The book (hardback) feels like an item of quality. It has a beautifully designed and illustrated front cover, a sturdy jacket, and is printed on very good quality paper. Credit must also go to Myfanwy Vernon-Hunt for the design, which is first class. The only remaining question, would the content match up? Rock Pool is a personal account of a life spent exploring our coastal rocks, our beaches, and the life therein. It’s not, as I first believed, a reference or identification book. To some extent, this relieved me as I am not – or I wasn’t – a beach or rock pool enthusiast. That said, I am a diver and I share the author’s love of nature, and of life at our coastal edge. There’s little I enjoy more than donning a wet suit and air tank to then spend an hour or so in shallow waters exploring the nooks and crannies of the rocks. So, did content match cover? Yes, very much. Heather Buttivant’s writing style is polished and engaging. With consummate ease, she leads you, her reader, into her world, shows it to you and helps you enjoy it and learn from it. Her infectious enthusiasm shines through every chapter, every page. Rock Pool is told, with considerable originality, through the medium of twenty-four creatures likely to be seen between the tides. It made me smile, many times. If I had one, very small, comment, it is that a few of the many colour photographs were not high definition. That said, this in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of Rock Pool - and the illustrations are excellent! Heather Buttivant maintains a blog called Cornish Rock Pools. I’ve signed up to it, and I’ve every intention of attending one of her guided tours. If it’s as good as her book, it will also prove to be a great experience.