Book Reviews - All

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Fri 20th Apr 2018

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Book Review

Set in 1940, when neither swearing nor violence were carsual and written in a pastiche of wartime language, Dear Mrs Bird is a breath of fresh air, particularly for readers who have not yet become inured to profanity!  Henriette Bird is a particularly stringent agony aunt whose newest recruit, our heroince Emmy Lake, cannot resist the temptation to inject a little compassion into her boss’s brusque replies.

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The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
Fri 20th Apr 2018

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

Book Review

Moss’ description of the sheer terror which, for the fortunate amongst us, only occasionally breaks through the monotonous surface of daily parenting, is breathtaking. I came to this book late – but I now aim to read Sarah Moss’ backlist. Her writing is honest, and tender, and just gorgeous.

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Circle by Madeline Miller
Fri 20th Apr 2018

Circe by Madeline Miller

Book Review

Madeline Miller’s first novel, The Song of Achilles, took the literary world by storm when it was published in 2011, and we were lucky enough to host her first event in Scotland. Her second book, Circe, returns to the ancient world, this time with a heroine for modern times. A child born to the house of Helios, she is spurned as neither beautiful nor talented. Love drives Circe to a malicious act of revenge resulting in her banishment to the island of Aiaia. A woman alone, she must defend herself from many who cross her shores, finding love and power as she nurtures skills forbidden to Gods, witchcraft.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

Book Review

A searing memoir of the author’s seventeen brushes with death, from a childhood illness she wasn’t expected to survive, to a terrifying encounter with a stranger on a remote hillside.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

Bantam by Jackie Kay

Book Review

Bantam is Jackie Kay’s first collection since she became Makar. It is an intimate collection celebrating family, from the grand-father who sustained a shrapnel wound in World War 1, through her parents whose fierce political beliefs have not been diminished by ill health or age, to the birth of her beloved son.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Book Review

For fans of A Little Life, this is not for the fainthearted, but it is certainly one of my books of the year. Beautiful and brutal in almost equal measure, this is a terrifying examination of a father/daughter relationship. Fourteen year old Turtle Alveston knows how to fire, strip and clean every gun in the house, but is she brave enough to make a friend, and is she willing to do what it takes to escape?

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

Lullaby By Leila Slimani

Opening with the brutal murder of two children in her care Lullaby continues as an examination of how a life lived on the margins of society contrives to turn Louise, seemingly the prefect nanny, into the stuff of nightmares. Not a comfortable read but an excellent portrait of the gradual disintegration of a mind.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

Sal by Mick Kitson

Book Review

With liberal use of teen language(!) and a rucksack full of essentials (belVitas, Dundee cake) the eponymous hero of Sal removes her younger sister from the danger lurking in their family home and heads for the woods. Her voice is distinct, her story tragic and you will root for her from the first page. An exceptional debut novel from Mick Kitson.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

Smile by Roddy Doyle

Book Review

Victor Forde is instantly engaging. Alone in a new area of town he finds himself drinking each night at his local bar. Approached by a man who seems to know him, his past starts to unfold in stories told between them. With masterful writing Roddy Doyle elicits easy sympathy for Victor, his irritants become ours and his sorrows too, which leads us to an uncomfortable and stunning denouement.

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Thu 1st Mar 2018

Educated by Tara Westover

Book Review

–A searing, ‘hold your breath’ brilliant memoir of how Tara Westover, despite never attending school, decided, aged 16, to educate herself, ending up with a PHD from Cambridge. This, against the background of her extreme ‘End of Days’ Mormon upbringing in Idaho.

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Thu 7th Dec 2017

Year of Books 2017

See below for our choice of Books of the Year, there is something for everyone here, from family and friends to Godchildren and Grandparents.

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Thu 15th Jun 2017

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi

Book Review

This is a book to read in one sitting, in fact, I challenge you to look away. One man’s meditation on his life in medicine, set against his terminal diagnosis with inoperable cancer part way through the writing. Powerful, poignant stuff, not least his wife’s afterword.

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Thu 13th Apr 2017

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Book Review

A slim volume that packs a punch, examining the life of Shostakovich, in the elegant form of a Julian Barnes novel. Life, art, the nature of courage are set against the background of Soviet Russia. There are moments of great wit, and electric jolts of fear as he navigates the perilous and often arbitrary nature of surviving the system.

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Fri 7th Apr 2017

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

Book Review

“I didn’t realize my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of the car, and we left home and my dad with no explanation.”

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Tue 4th Apr 2017

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

Book Review

Nine year old Leon adores his new baby brother, Jake. He loves looking after him and everything should be wonderful. But Leon’s mum is not coping well and as more and more responsibility falls on Leon’s young shoulders, things get out of hand.

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Fri 14th Oct 2016

Days without End
by Sebastian Barry

Book Review

A huge in-house favourite and deserved winner of the overall Costa Book of the Year, Days Without End is a novel of love and war set in the American West. A novel that will make you wince with pain and gasp in awe in almost equal measure.

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Tue 2nd Aug 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline

Book Review

An edgy and disturbing book. Cline steps indie the skin of her teenage protagonist with an ease that makes for uncomfortable yet compulsive reading.

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Sat 14th Nov 2015

Nopi by Ottolenghi

Book Review

The new book in Ottolenghi’s oeuvre is a thing of beauty in itself, complete with glorious gold edges. Don’t be put off by its restaurant heritage, all the recipes have been rigorously tested, with head chef Scully teaching himself to become a home cook in the process.

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Fri 9th Oct 2015

The Last Tour of Archie Forbes
by Victoria Hendry

Book Review

Step out of your reading comfort zone and pick up The Last Tour of Archie Forbes. It is a gem of a novel that will have you amused, horrified and scared – for all the right reasons. It may even make you a more sympathetic human being. I carried it with me, hoping for a spare moment to read but not wanting it to end too soon. This is Victoria’s Hendry’s second novel, I may just have to buy the first.

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Sat 1st Aug 2015

A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara

Book Review

Set in mostly New York, this is ostensibly the story of friendship between four men from their days immediately post-college, through to their 50’s. But is so much more than that. The author, through her characters, redefines what family and friendship can be. Utterly compelling from page 1, I was absorbed to the exclusion of everything else while on holiday, and this is not a light book to carry to the beach… It packs serious emotional punch, full of pain and beauty, but astonishingly also flashes of brilliant humour.

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Wed 13th Aug 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Book Review

I read Go Set a Watchman on publication last year and, despite the controversy, thoroughly enjoyed hearing Scout’s voice again. On seeing that my daughter had finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird on holiday, I was delighted to scoop it up in her wake and immerse myself in the deep South once more.

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Wed 6th Aug 2014

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

There are some books which, when you’re finished reading them, seem to pop into your mind for weeks (or years) afterwards. Set in three periods, just before, just after and twenty years on from a deadly flue that wiped out 99% of the world’s population. It is a remarkable book about memory, love, loss, faith and hope with that rarest of things – a satisfying ending. Our bookshelves are not short of post apocalyptic fiction, but this is something so much more – think Margaret Atwood, not Suzanne Collins.

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A Skinful of Shadows

Book Review

Hardinge’s previous novel, The Lie Tree (winner of the Costa Book Prize) was read by adults and teens alike. The same should apply to this excellent, atmospheric and utterly gripping story. Living a perilous existence at the beginning of the English Civil War, Makepeace is a strong young woman forced to live with dark secrets from an early age. A perfect wintery read.

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