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!
32-year-old multi-lingual Nova works as an interpreter for the police. Blind since birth, an operation that restores her sight heralds the beginning of a bewildering journey to understand the world from scratch. The novel is brilliant in offering insights into Nova’s experience of blindness as readers feel her struggle to re-learn everything through her newly-opened eyes. While recovering from the operation, Nova meets Kate, who’s in hospital after sustaining a head injury. The women strike up an immediate bond, which becomes a tender friendship – and more – as they find they are entirely at home in each other’s company, able to open up, experience joy and see the world in new ways through each other’s interpretation of the world. Throughout, Nova’s “Rules of Seeing” notes serve as practical guidelines with metaphoric meaning - “The brain will hang onto objects after you have stopped looking” – and the novel is fascinating on the nature of perception. Nova’s “childlike wonder” when enjoying new experiences is infectious, while the intense expositions of Kate’s husband’s increasingly chilling actions are powerfully authentic and give this novel the page-turning urgency of a thriller. Raw, and radiant with the promise of new life and love, this dazzling debut comes recommended for readers who relish new novels by Mark Haddon, Matt Haig and Marina Lewycka.
Ooh, this is a sharp, highly entertaining yet provocative read. Imogen unexpectedly stands up to her ex-husband with far-reaching results, but what is she meant to do now and how can she protect her son? The first chapter brilliantly introduced the story, a few pages set my thoughts running amok and stirred up a hornets nest of intrigue. Jo Jakeman sets in motion a hugely effective countdown at the beginning of each chapter which keeps the tension cranked up high. The characters vividly lit up my mind as they bypassed sensible and began to run down desperation. As I read I questioned the lengths I would go to, to protect those I love. I found myself so involved with the storyline, at times I had to stop myself from forming a cheerleading squad! ‘Sticks and Stones’ is compulsive, addictive, heart in mouth stuff, I suggest popping reality to one side and just launching yourself straight in.
Make no mistake, this debut novel is startling and often painfully uncomfortable, yet it is a stunning, actually breathtaking piece of literature. 14 year old Turtle is strong, capable, different, she is also suffering… deeply and painfully. Within the first few pages I knew that ‘My Absolute Darling’ was going to be an unforgettable read. By the end of the first chapter, ice-cold fingers had run down my spine and sent my whole system into shock. I felt as though I was viewing life from an entirely different perspective, one absolutely humming with intensity. I wanted to stop the feelings of disbelief and horror that were crowding into my mind, but I knew that I had to bear witness. Gabriel Tallent’s writing is surprisingly simple, yet he paints a vibrant pulsating picture, this man sees life, sees beneath the surface, and grants you access too. The plants, wildlife, and surrounding countryside, so beautifully described, link with the reality of Turtle’s life and on occasion act as a buffer to what is happening. There were times when ‘My Absolute Darling’ made me scream inside, yet I couldn't stop reading this remarkable and actually rather beautiful novel. It will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year.
In a Nutshell: Mystery, memory, manipulation | A feisty thriller that fizzes with intrigue, paranoia and a cast of fascinatingly flawed characters. For Jess “every waking moment is a flashbulb moment. I recall everything from the age of eleven like a never-ending motion picture,” which is why she became part of Professor Coleman’s intensive memory study Programme. Following a family tragedy and sick of Coleman’s invasive methods, Jess fled the study and assumed a new identity. She’s an engaging, refreshingly straight-talking narrator, not always likeable, but consistently clever and ten steps ahead of everyone around her. But further tragedy follows at her new school when Hanna, her roommate, falls to her death. While Jess tries to figure out who’s behind the mysterious postcards she finds in the wake of Hanna’s death, she falls for new boy Dan and confides in him as it emerges that Professor Coleman wants her back. A tangle of questions arise as Jess tries to keep herself safe, and the answers are revealed with terrific tension as a series of damning discoveries set the stage for an explosive showdown. Recommended for YA readers who like their fiction fast-paced and full of psychological thrills and chills. Do you have a memory for faces? Could you be a Super Recogniser? Head over to the University of Greenwich website to take the test… greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com
Mary Blight, our unswervingly entertaining heroine, is a salty-talking, salty-acting woman. She picks over the corpses of those drowned off her craggy Cornish cove looking for treasures, such as the fine boots she pulls from a lady’s feet. And then she sees that the body’s earlobes are missing, leading to the national press reporting on the Porthmorvoren Cannibal, and someone saw blood around Mary’s mouth…But it’s Mary who takes in a washed-up stranger and nurses him back to health with the aid of Old Jinny’s curious cure. The man is a Methodist minister who decides to restore the cove to godliness and, observing Mary’s knowledge of the scriptures, he appoint her as Sunday School teacher, to the chagrin of the villagers who are familiar with Mary’s penchant for carnal pleasures. Mary throws herself into her new role but admits in typically honest fashion “I wanted Gideon to save me, but not so that I could kneel at the throne of King Jesus…I wanted him to help me flee the village so I could parade among all the smots in all my finery in a grand town”. As the villagers scheme against Mary, a nation-wide search for a thief gathers pace, and all the while the writing crackles with energy and atmosphere, making this an exhilarating read with something of a Dickensian spirit in the vibrant characterisation.
July 2018 Debut of the Month | An achingly funny, touching story for anyone who has been thrown in at the deep end.
A beautiful yet powerful debut that shares the story of twelve characters and empathises with the struggle of the urban native American. It’s a masterclass, an incredible book that has conflict, poverty, despair, humour, hope and so much sadness it’s heart-breaking. The stories are intertwined and involve the dozen individuals travelling to the Oakland Powwow about to embark upon a chain of events that build to a real crescendo. Get your tissues at the ready and prepare to be wow’ed.
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.
A touchingly intimate yet scorchingly dramatic and fully realised view of a couple who meet just before the Second World War. This is a relationship tale that took hold of me, brought me to its very centre and allowed me access to innermost thoughts and feelings. Martin and Nancy fall in love, as Martin departs for the battlefields of France, they continue to communicate by letter, until suddenly Martin’s letters stop. My advice to you is to pick this book up, start to read, and whatever you do, do not allow the final few pages to fall open before you reach them. For me the ending was a heart-stopping moment, and is still very much in my mind, the emotion of the realisation continues to affect me. The letters are exquisitely crafted, with real heart, tying into the story perfectly and bringing a sense of nostalgia for this type of communication. S. C. Worrall allows the war to edge ever closer, until it strikes with a sharp hammer blow. ‘The Very White of Love’ takes you step by step into another time, heartfelt and beautiful I can wholeheartedly recommend this read.
In a Nutshell: Rebellion, romance and an imprisoned princess set on revenge This ambitiously epic fantasy debut sees a captive princess rise from the ashes of her traumatic childhood to combat a cruel Kaiser. At the tender age of six Theodosia witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury. Now, ten years on, and backed deeper into a no-hope situation by the cruel Kaiser who’s forced her to live in a degraded state as the Ash Princess, Theodosia is driven to concoct a scheme to exact her revenge. With the assistance of a band of magical rebels she will seduce the Kaiser’s son and ruin him from within in order to reclaim the throne. While this motif is far from new, the writing is bold and fresh, and this promising debut sparkles with Theodosia’s drive and desire. But, while she’s a straight-talking, sharp-thinking young woman, her lively first-person narrative also reveals hidden fears, doubts and personal conflicts which, alongside the gory grimness of the political climate (slavery, brutal colonisation) and a backdrop of elemental gods, makes for a riveting reading experience that comes recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
Regrets. Teacher Frances has a few. She’s 39, single, and beset by dissatisfaction with all aspects of her life - personal, professional and familial. Her dad vanished from her life when he was lost at sea when she was only five and now her mum is vanishing into the fog of Alzheimer’s. On top of this, her relationship with Jackson, fellow teacher, former best friend and one-timer lover, has taken a painful downturn following a night of wine-fuelled passion. As Frances is led to question her father’s disappearance, it becomes clear that she’s the one who’s lost in a sea of doubt. After a lifetime of secrets and hiding, she’s steered by the words of a blind man she guides from a station: “Sometimes you just have to feel your way”. Realising that she’s been drifting for far too long, Frances shakily decides that it’s time for her to feel her own way in the world, and so she sets off on a journey to discover the truth. The snappy, short-tempered exchanges between Frances and Jackson are humorously and movingly authentic, and the race-against-time climax makes for a gripping reading experience. Often funny and always tender, this accomplished debut explores the cycles of life, messing up and making amends with charm and wit.
May 2018 Debut of the Month Our narrator Jasper is thirteen years old. He has synaesthesia which means he hears sounds, voices etc as colours and recognises individual by those colours and not by any physical appearances. We spend nearly a hundred pages learning about the disadvantages of such a condition becoming aware of many of the lad’s traits which are similar to autism. He lives in a confused world misinterpreting interactions and events and “blowing up” in panic attacks. It makes for harrowing reading. A couple of years ago his mother died and shortly after her his grandmother. His father finds the boy difficult to deal with. Now something has happened. Jasper thinks he has killed his neighbour Bee. Jasper is a very unreliable narrator. To discover what happened he has to recreate the colours of the last day of Bee’s life and try to match them to the events of that day. He spends a lot of time surmising and then painting naturally in those colours. The investigating police officer, “Rusty Chrome Orange” is a saint who eventually the boy learns to trust, but the poor lad is suspicious of everyone else, even at one time, his father. How it all works is naturally steeped in colour. Interesting.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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