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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
August 2015 Book of the Month. A page-turner of a family drama that twists and wrenches at your heart strings. The author sets in motion a series of harrowing events and allows the reader glimpses and flashes of knowledge and understanding long before the mum of the family, Jenna. The tension and suspense increases dramatically, there are times of frustration, of almost wanting to shout a warning as the ominous clouds gather threateningly. Susan Lewis successfully brings this family to life, you find yourself along side them, berating a decision made, wryly smiling at a teenagers comeback or clucking over them when the going gets really tough. The subject matter is on occasion difficult to read, however there is an empathy and compassion that protectively hovers over proceedings and offers a sanctuary. ‘Too Close To Home’ is touching, emotional and completely captivating, as the last page is turned, a sense of contemplation and reflection lies in wait. ~ Liz Robinson
July 2015 NewGen Book of the Month. June and Delia had an intense relationship, the kind that is all important, all-consuming even, but hard to maintain. In fact, when June hears the terrible news that Delia has died, they hadn’t spoken for over a year. Then Delia’s ex-boyfriend reveals to June that he thinks she might have been murdered and June feels that she owes it to her friend to find out what really happened. The twists come thick and fast, to keep readers guessing, and tense, and the ending is a real shocker! A thriller for readers who like them dark! ~ Andrea Reece
July 2015 NewGen Book of the Month. Guardian Prize winning author Jenny Valentine’s long-awaited new novel is clever, beautifully written, full of ideas. It tells the story of sixteen-year-old Iris: lonely and desperately unhappy, she finds self-expression and release through starting fires. Her vain, shallow mother, one of the least sympathetic fictional characters ever, has always told Iris that her father abandoned them when she was a little girl. This is a lie and he has in fact been searching for his daughter all her life. They are reunited, but only because her father is dying. The weeks they have together are spent learning about each other – they share a love of art for example, something that Iris’s father has been able to indulge. Just as the beauty and truth of her father’s paintings outweigh any monetary value, so Iris’s love and growing understanding transcends their short time together. Daring to examine what is really important, this original novel is full of insight and intelligence. ~ Andrea Reece
July 2015 Book of the Month. A clever, bittersweet glimpse at a tangled family life and the destructive nature of fleeting moments, desires and encounters. The entitled, affluent setting is almost immaterial, it’s the hidden emotions at play that really matter here. Alexandra Shulman astutely introduces the more intimate thoughts and feelings of the main characters; these occasional forays into their minds encourages a subtle sense of foreboding to swirl across the pages. It often feels as though the characters are flawed chess pieces being moved by an unseen hand in a fiercely competitive game of manipulation and betrayal. The Parrots is a short, incredibly intense and compelling read, the perfect companion for a few hours foray into an eyebrow raising lifestyle. ~ Liz Robinson
July 2015 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Firstly, I'm no expert on history so can't answer for the accuracy of the text and the range of material used in writing this history. For me as a general (female) reader it was a gripping read, especially as the role of women – as noted in the subtitle is well-covered with some illuminating interviews describing their lives and new found freedoms and responsibilities. That the RAF routed the German Luftwaffe during WWII is well-known, less well-known perhaps is just how desperate the fight was and it was this struggle – against destruction and possible invasion that really held my attention. Sinclair McKay vividly conveys the benzedrine fuelled exploits of the pilots, the infighting between the brass-hats and he is especially good at the development of the technologies, the radar, guns and planes that helped the RAF as they progressed from a small force building their reserves to the triumphs of the Battle of Britain and on to the controversial bombing raids over Germany. ~ Sue Baker Like for Like ReadingChurchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945, Nicholas Rankin Spies in the Skies: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence During World War Two, Taylor Downing
One of our Books of the Year 2015. July 2015 Book of the Month. ‘The Song Collector’ subtly tiptoes under your skin, the first few sentences call to you, draw you in, envelop you… and then it doesn't let you go until the very last page. Fox recollects meeting the love of his life just after the Second World War, while in the present, grieving the death of his wife, his grandson helps him reconnect with music and the world around him. There is a beguiling sense of honesty to the story, it feels as though Fox is seeking peace and reconciliation not only with others, but also with himself. Natasha Solomons has a wonderful ability to connect to thoughts and feelings and bring them to life, make them feel totally and completely real. There aren't any cunning tricks, hidden mysteries or unpredictable events lurking to hijack you, just a beautifully written, special and moving story waiting to be heard. ~ Liz Robinson
One of our Books of the Year 2015. July 2015 Book of the Month. A compelling and thought-provoking read, ‘Only We Know’ binds a childhood secret into a tight knot of anguish and heartache. The story is told in two different time frames, 1982 and 2013, steps are retraced and understanding grows as the traumatic secret whispers its way ever closer. If you've read the authors previous collaboration ‘The Boy That Never Was’ (published outside the UK and Ireland as ‘The Innocent Sleep’ so don’t buy it twice) then you will expect the intrigue and uncertainty that may well become their trademark. This time there is a difference, if you can catch them, there are a number of references as to what is to come, this in no way spoils the story, in fact it somehow adds to the tension and yet there is still a sting in the tale. Karen Perry, pen name of Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, have a seamlessly balanced writing style, they write with a wisdom and understanding of the human spirit which has a refreshing honesty about it. Although the stunning descriptions of the surroundings, in particular Kenya, add an intensity to this story, it’s the secrets kept and secrets told that hold the key to awareness and forgiveness in this particular tale. ~ Liz Robinson
September 2015 Book of the Month. A fascinating, behind the scenes view, looking simply and astutely at the history and story of women in Iran. The author is a historian born in Iran and now living in the USA. This is a book you can dip and delve into, the chapters are short and Nina Ansary covers her points in a practical and straight forward way. She studies the misconceptions held about women in Iran, looks at exclusionary policies based on interpretations of religious teachings, recounts a history of Iranian religion and rulers and pays tribute to the strength and courage of Iranian women. Using quotes and pictures Ansary is quite matter of fact, yet it is very clear when the author's personal feelings come forth. With some surprising deductions, ‘Jewels of Allah’ is a book that makes you think about the importance of women in society and consequently is a most worthwhile and interesting read. ~ Liz Robinson
June 2014 Book of the Month. The continuing story of the Grey sisters which began with Queen’s Gambit. This continues five years later, Lady Jane Grey has been executed, Mary Tudor reigns. Now we follow the fate of the wild sister Katherine and her young hunchbacked and ugly sister Mary. It is another slant on the Tudor court with plenty of love, politics and tragedy. An enthralling read even if you do know the outcome of the story.
June 2014 Book of the Month. Three school friends from the age of nine, two boys, Ben and Robert, one girl, Maddy, are each other’s ‘best friends’ through thick and thin and so they grow up. The book opens with Maddy walking down the aisle to marry Robert but admitting that if the best man, Ben, were to raise his head and say ‘marry me instead’ she probably would. The rest of the book takes us through those years from 9 to 26 from all three points of view, but mostly from Maddy and Ben trying to come to terms with their love. Robert’s input appears to be a diary-like entry. All the way through you wonder if Maddy will say ‘I do’ to Robert.
June 2015 Book of the Month. Historical fiction with a punch of realism and a twist of scheming political intrigue, several characters have returned in this commanding sequel to ‘After Flodden’. This is the tale of the battling and colluding Wardens of the Marches and Border Reivers, set ten years on from the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Double crossing, spying, scheming and underhanded tactics go hand in hand when it’s as easy to doubt your allies as your enemy. The author adds a vivid intensity to the background of the story; the surroundings, the customs, the industry, the everyday life of men and women are clear to feel and see. The Crozier’s relationship adds a spark to proceedings and is a welcome addition to the battle of wits that twists and surges from the pages in this entertaining and intelligent novel. ~ Liz Robinson
June 2015 Book of the Month. A collection of stories giving us glimpses into the extraordinary lives of ordinary people; twenty-five stories which by turn are moving, unsettling and entertaining. Putting all that together they become very good indeed. Each story is a snapshot of the strange ways life deals with people. Swift is a great storyteller and these short pieces speak eloquently to us about life as it is lived. There are light moments, two historical tales and one about the awkwardness of love, the processes of growing up and aging and many about the intrusion of death into life. Ration yourself to one a day, to make them last. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
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