Review Round-Up

Blog · Posted February 9, 2024

Roz, Vicky and Sarah have brought together their favourite recent reads.

It has been a while since we have done a review round-up and we have a big list of recommendations for you! Whether you are in need of some page-turning crime to get you out of a slump or a literary gem that makes you appreciate the beauty of words, we have got you covered. So, without further ado, let’s see what Roz, Vicky and Sarah are currently recommending…


Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Reviewed by Roz)

Catton was the youngest ever winner of the Booker Prize with her debut, The Luminaries.  She deserves a medal for successfully navigating the treacherous waters of the ‘tricky second novel’ with Birnam Wood, a gripping eco-thriller set in New Zealand.

Mira Bunting is the driving force in a guerilla gardening group with a mission to grow crops anywhere they can find.  She’s ambitious to take things to the next level and spots an opportunity with a seemingly unoccupied farm.  American billionaire, Robert Lemoine also has ‘end-of-the-world bunker’ plans for the same space.  The two, ostensibly polar opposites, are each disruptors in their different ways.  Can they work together? 

There is a powerful, yes, Shakespearean, momentum to the plot and Catton’s writing is glorious throughout.

Buy Birnam Wood

The New Life by Tom Crewe (Reviewed by Sarah) 

This is a passionate debut novel that asks us to look at each character with clarity and care before we judge the actions they take to protect themselves. Crewe’s writing is rich and contemporary, despite the novel’s Victorian setting, and prompts us to unpick moral dilemmas that could still be classed as relevant today. He draws a unique but complex portrait of Victorian societal expectations and those who were restricted by them but wished to fight for change.

Buy The New Life

Cuddy by Benjamin Myers (Reviewed by Vicky) 

A beautiful, lyrical book whose words sing from the page. Benjamin Myers has told the story of St Cuthbert in a completely new and creative way. After the death of their beloved Cuddy, we follow the holy men who now travel with his body to find a safe burial site. From Lindisfarne they eventually end their journey in Durham where a magnificent cathedral is built for the saint to rest. From there, Myers goes through the centuries to tell stories from other residents of the famed city. Here there is continuity, faith and an unending love for the North East.

Cuddy left me with a full heart. A book that forces you to slow down lest you finish it too soon. 

Buy Cuddy

Fearless by M.W. Craven (Reviewed by Roz)

If you like your thrillers brutal, non-stop and action packed, with a side order of sardonic humour, Fearless is spot on.  Former head of US Marshall’s Special Ops, Ben Koenig has been living off-grid for six years, existing in the ether, but now someone wants him back in the field on a rescue mission. Ben suffers from a rare medical condition that means he’s unable to feel fear. Sounds perfect if your work involves some very bad people and extremely tight corners, what could possibly go wrong?

Buy Fearless

The Second Stranger by Martin Griffin (Reviewed by Vicky)

It’s Remie’s final night shift in an isolated hotel in the Highlands. Storm Ezra rages outside meaning Remie and two guests are cut off from the rest of the world. Oh – and there’s a dangerous criminal on the loose from the nearby prison.

You may think you’ve read the same book many times before, but you’d be mistaken. This is fast-paced, tense, and more twists than you can count!

Two strangers. Both claim to be PC Don Gaines, but one is actually a convicted killer. There’s more than one life at stake. Can you guess which is which?

Buy The Second Stranger

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (Reviewed by Roz) 

First published in 2018, this is a book that has stayed with me over the years. A young woman has given birth just as flood waters close over London. The dreamy narrative follows her journey north in search of safety and dry land. It is visually stunning and strangely optimistic. Highly recommend reading before you see the film.

Buy The End We Start From

Paper Dragons by Siobhan McDermott (Reviewed by Sarah)

Zhi Ging does not fit in and is desperate to be accepted into the hidden underwater realm that promises an escape and new start. However, when she gets there, she realises she faces bigger challenges than she expected, with people who are out to see her fail. However, can she prove them wrong? 

This fantasy debut, packed with elements of Chinese culture and folklore, is an excellent start to a brand new series. But best of all, there are messenger jellyfish and a duckling sidekick.

Buy Paper Dragons


Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon (Reviewed by Vicky)

What an unexpected, riotous joy. It’s 412BC and in Syracuse, Sicily two foul-mouthed pals decide to use the local Athenian prisoners of war to stage Euripides’ latest play. What could go wrong?

Written in Irish vernacular, Lennon’s debut is brilliantly original, bringing a timeless relevance to the ancient world. Equal parts tragic and downright hilarious, this story shows us the importance of brotherhood, unlikely friendships and hope. It reminds us of the unique power of art to break down boundaries and how poetry can heal.

Glorious Exploits is what the world needs right now, maybe it just didn’t know it.

Buy Glorious Exploits

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Reviewed by Roz) 

A horribly plausible near-future tale of one mother’s increasingly desperate attempts to hold her family together in an Ireland controlled by a sinister totalitarian regime.  Beautifully written, it has the feel of a classic. The language sings while the mood darkens.

Buy Prophet Song

The Black Eden by Richard T. Kelly (Reviewed by Roz)

This is a beautifully crafted story set around Scotland’s oil boom and told through the eyes of five young men. Robbie, Aaron, Mark, Ally and Joseph all have different notions of what success and ambition look and feel like. Black gold seems like the perfect opportunity, but a price must be paid.

The Black Eden is a fascinating study of the Scottish wild west, brought to life by engaging intertwining human stories.

Buy The Black Eden

My Friends by Hisham Matar (Reviewed by Sarah)

Matar’s new novel follows the story of a triangular friendship between three Libyan men as they each navigate the realities of exile. The story begins with its ending and takes us back across decades to discover how each of their lives has been dictated by their loss and displacement, but also by their friendships with one another. 

Matar paces this novel exquisitely and leaves you in awe of his ability with language. The story, full of literary references and real moments in history, is exceptional but would equally be worth reading for the quality of writing alone. I cannot recommend this highly enough.  

Buy My Friends

One of the Good Guys by Araminta Hall (Reviewed by Vicky)

This story isn’t about male criminals who make the newspaper headlines. It’s about men who are self-claimed ‘good guys’ who think something is owed to them for meeting a very low bar. 

Filled with questionable characters, unreliable narrators and creeping suspense, a psychological thriller that is also thought-provoking and alarming. Hall is an author who doesn’t shy away from sensitive and controversial topics – this is a feminist masterclass for our times.

Don’t expect to put this down before the last page.

Buy One of the Good Guys

Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili (Reviewed by Sarah)

Embarking on a scavenger hunt across the war-torn country he fled as a child, Saba follows breadcrumbs left by his missing father and brother. Bringing folklore and conversations from the past together with the country’s political turmoil, Saba’s journey forces him to confront ghosts he left behind while he chases the family he still has in the present. 

Straddling melancholic and comedic, Vardiashvili’s magnificent debut has moments of grief and horror, as well as threads of love and resilience. This is a book that demands to be remembered. 

Buy Hard by a Great Forest

The Beholders by Hester Musson (Reviewed by Vicky)

It’s 1878 and Harriet has just begun work as housemaid at Finton Hall. Through her diary we learn that no one is what they seem and scandal is waiting to be unleashed… But Harriet soon discovers that some secrets are better left buried. 

With elusive characters and tension you can cut with a knife, this gothic Victorian thriller has darkness lurking behind every page.

Buy The Beholders

Our booksellers love to recommend books and share their favourite reads with other booklovers (it is their job but also their hobby). Our series of review round-ups is a good place to start but if you still need some help, simply pop into the shop, give us a call or shoot us an email.

We can help you find that book to get you out of a reading slump, provide some guidance on the best books for the children in your life, or assist in picking a bookish gift for friends or family members.

Find out how to contact us HERE.