Vicky’s Recent Reads

Blog · Posted October 10, 2023

From grotesque legends to a book on friendship that will make your heart happy.

If you wander around the bookshop you will find lots of review cards placed beside books, written by booksellers to persuade you to buy our favourite reads of the moment. Vicky is incredibly disciplined when it comes to writing reviews (some of us are slower at getting round to it!) and a lot of the cards you will find are written by her. Here are some of her recent reads and their reviews…

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph (Fiction)

Born on a slave ship, Charles Ignatius Sancho went on to become a composer of music, writer of letters, he was painted by Gainsborough, was the first black man to vote in Britain and even met the King. Never heard of him? Neither had I.

The result of 20 years of research, Joseph’s debut novel is not only a detailed study of a remarkable yet flawed man, but also provides an exploration into a Georgian London most would not recognise from their history lessons.

Infectious, insightful, important. If you read just one book this year, make it this one.

Buy this book

The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore (Fiction)

Meet Tarrare – soldier, spy, showman. With an unquenchable appetite, he was no ordinary man. This fictionalised account of his life during the tumult of the French Revolution makes for compulsive reading. On his death bed at the age of 27, we journey with Tarrare as he recounts the story of his eventful life. This is a protagonist that is repulsive and monstrous but also compelling and pitiful. 

Though in parts explicit and vulgar, Blakemore’s remarkable writing lifts this legend from the grotesque to the poetic. 

Buy this book

Hazardous Spirits by Anbara Salam (Fiction)

Set in 1923, Edinburgh is a city racked by grief following the First World War. After losing a beloved sister to influenza, Evelyn internalises her pain and just wants everything to be normal. But then her husband says he can hear the dead…

Evelyn is whisked up in the world of spiritualism but she can never be sure of one thing – is her husband telling the truth? A book that transports you to interwar Edinburgh, with glamour, spirits and a fantastic ending.

Buy this book

The Turnglass by Gareth Rubin (Fiction)

A chilling, gothic mystery and a heady, glamorous noir. In this tête-bêche, Rubin combines two seemingly separate stories. First you’ll visit Essex in the 1880s, turn the book over and you’ll be immersed in 1939 California. But be warned, all is not as it seems. Here there is murder, captivity, deceit and cruelty. Will you uncover all the secrets of Turnglass House?

Cryptic, elusive and addictive. When you finish, you’ll want to start it all over again. 

Buy this book

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo (Non-fiction)

This impressive work is a history of books in classical times and so much more. Vallejo brings the ancient world to meet the modern – making Virgil, Tacitus and Ovid both accessible and relatable.

Anecdotal in format, the reader is taken on a journey from Alexandria to Kentucky and back again through two millennia. A history of endless fascination and a love letter to the long-suffering and enduring book. Every word is gold dust.

Buy this book

The Wager by David Grann (Non-fiction)

You’d be forgiven if you read this and thought it was the fictional heir to Robert Louis Stevenson. The Wager has it all – mutiny, murder, desperation and survival. Except this story is no fiction. It’s 1740 and the Wager, part of Commodore George Anson’s squadron, is sent to the Pacific to pursue a Spanish galleon during the War of Jenkin’s Ear (that’s another story!). What follows is shipwreck, disaster and cannibalism. 

David Grann has taken all remaining accounts from various seamen involved in the Wager’s fated journey. A jaw-dropping account of what greed and ambition can do and just how far humans can descend in the struggle for survival. Grann writes with such immediacy as to bring the crew to life. 

What a yarn and what a writer!

Buy this book

Yours from the Tower by Sally Nicholls (Teen) 

It’s 1896 and Polly, Sophia and Tirzah have just left their boarding school at 17 and are suddenly thrust into their respective worlds of the season, work and boredom. Now they no longer see each other every day, they start writing letters. Their news covers family, working life and, of course, romance.

Through these letters, Sally Nicholls conjures a friendship so vivid you’ll have to stop yourself from taking up your pen to write back. A beautiful book that made my heart happy.

Buy this book

Murder in Velvet by Sarah Wynne (Teen)

Grace needs a new coat, but when she picks one up at her local charity shop she gets more than she bargained for. She is beset by visions of the previous owner, Olivia, and how she met her violent death. Now Grace and best friend Suzy must solve a 50-year-old murder to let Olivia finally rest in peace. Will they be able to track down her killer, and will the police ever believe them?

A great concept supported by a pacy narrative and formidable villains – edge of your seat stuff!

Buy this book

Our booksellers always have recommendations up their sleeves.  Whether you’re in a slump and need a book to reignite your love of reading, need a recommendation for a family member, or some guidance on the best books for the children in your life, we’re here to help. Simply pop into the shop, give us a call or shoot us an email. Find out how to contact us HERE.

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St Boswells, Melrose, Scottish Borders TD6 0AT
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