Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

big brotherWhen Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn’t recognise him.

Edison’s slovenly habits, appalling diet and know-it-all monologues drive her health-and-fitness freak husband Fletcher insane. Fletcher eventually delivers his wife an ultimatum – it’s him or me. Putting her marriage and two adoptive children on the line, Pandora chooses her brother - who, without her support in losing weight, will surely eat himself into an early grave.

Pandora and her brother Edison move into an apartment and go on a strict liquid only diet. Pandora has about 40 pounds to lose but Edison has over 200.

Well this was an intriguing and thought provoking book and what a brilliant ending!

Alison

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Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

apple tree yardThis is a read that divided our crime book club at Dersingham.

Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.

Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him – a decision that will put everything she values at risk.

At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can’t control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing act of violence.

I didn’t feel very sympathetic to the character of Yvonne from the start.  You’d think she’d have a little more common sense at 52! It’s very graphic in parts, but this is a tale of obsession and just what someone will do to exact revenge.

Alison

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French women don’t get facelifts by Mireille Guiliano

French faceliftsFrom the woman who brought us ‘French women don’t get fat’ here comes the guide to growing old!

Mireille Guiliano tackles the delicate subject of ageing – showing how women of 40 and beyond can ‘attack’ the upcoming decades with attitude and style.

Witty, perceptive and bursting with Mireille’s personal experiences, the book covers everything from skincare secrets and fashion tips to the role of relationships and the importance of relaxation. The path to ageing elegantly lies in lifestyle choices and attitude adjustments rather than Botox and collagen fillers.

There’s practical advice about eating healthily, exercising, tailoring your wardrobe to suit what suits you rather than what’s fashionable etc. But of course, French women DO get facelifts – just not as many as women in other parts of the world!

Alison

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Suffolk & Norfolk by authors and artists

Originally posted on Mumsnet Suffolk & Norfolk:

Laxkford 004

The dramatic East Anglian scenery inspires.

Reading What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge as a child, I was struck by Katy Carr’s determination to embark upon a literary tour of England and Scotland in 1886, when she came over here via steamer, a trip given as a gift from a benevolent family friend. Describing us as ‘storybook England’ Katy paid tribute to our great writers by planning pilgrimages to many places associated with them.  Visiting the grave of Charles Dickens in Westminster Abbey and travelling to Winchester Cathedral so that she might have the privilege of seeing the grave of her beloved Miss Austen, Katy’s chance meeting with an oddly Dick Van Dyke like cockney verger by Austens grave, deals with a favourite cathedral legend- that the staff had not a clue who Jane Austen was, although if they’d read their own 1854 handbook all would have been clear…

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The accidental apprentice by Vikas Swarup

accidentalThis is the latest novel from the author of the wonderful Six Suspects and Q & A also know as Slumdog Millionaire. This once again, doesn’t disappoint.

Sapna Sinha works in an electronics store in downtown Delhi. She hates her job, but she is ambitious and determined to succeed, and she knows without the money she brings in, her family won’t be able to survive. Little does she know it but her life is about to change forever.

As she leaves the shop on her lunch break one day, she is approached by a man who claims to be CEO of one of India’s biggest companies. He tells her he is looking for an heir for his business empire. And that he has decided it should be her. There are just seven tests she must pass.

Will Sapna complete the challenges?  What will she learn about herself along the way?

Alison

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The extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an Ikea wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

fakirWell this has to win an award for the most bizarre title ever! Following in the footsteps of the great ‘The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared‘, this is a tale which requires you to willingly suspend disbelief and just sit back, read and enjoy!

Fake Fakir Agatashatru Ogbash (whose name gets mispronounced repeatedly throughout the story) leaves India to fly to Paris to buy a bed of nails in IKEA. When he discovers he’s €15.89 short, he sets about scamming those around him (taxi drivers, ladies in queues, ship captains, French actress Sophie Morceaux (ha ha) and after spending a night in IKEA, is disturbed by staff and hides in a wardrobe, which is wrapped and shipped to the UK.

So begins a ridiculously comic and at the same time heart-wrenching tale of the Fakir’s travels through France, UK, Spain and beyond, on the way meeting people whose own life stories change HIS own life forever.

It’s quirky, humorous and unpredictable and has so many wonderfully funny sections – loved every minute!

Alison

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Branford Boase Award

Winner Announced: Infinite Sky by C J Flood, a UEA Creative Writing Graduate.

Reserve a copy here.

The Branford Boase Award is given annually to the author of an outstanding debut novel for children. It also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent.

This is the fifteenth Branford Boase Award, & over 60 books were submitted, an indication of the wealth of talent amongst new authors for children, and of UK publishers’ growing enthusiasm to nurture and promote them.

Seven outstanding debuts, from seven different publishing houses, have made it onto the shortlist. These include a surprising and inventive novel for young readers; a mesmerising gothic mystery; moving teenage romances; a powerful dystopian quest story; a fresh, witty comedy; and a gory adventure set in a cleverly re-imagined 16th century London.

The seven shortlisted books are:

Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood

Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones 

Red Ink by Julie Mayhew

Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door by Ross Montgomery

The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Winter Damage by Natasha Carthew

bba

This years judges are children’s books consultant & Bookstart founder Wendy Cooling; Tamara Macfarlane, author and owner of Tales on Moon Lane bookshop; Alec Williams, hugely experienced former librarian now a storyteller and consultant; and Dave Shelton, author of A Boy and A Bear in a Boat, winner of last year’s Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of The Guardian.

The winner of the 2014 Branford Boase Award will be announced on Thursday 10th July at a ceremony in London. The winning author receives a cheque for £1,000 and both author and editor receive a unique, hand-crafted silver-inlaid box in the shape of a book.

More information available here

Trust your eyes by Linwood Barclay

trust your eyesOoh I’d forgotten how much I liked this author…

A man is moving down a street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, scanning the storefronts, taking in his surroundings, when he sees something in a third-floor tenement window. A woman’s face, distorted with terror. Thomas is convinced he’s witnessing a murder. Except that things aren’t quite as simple as that – because Thomas was never actually there, and the murder was months ago. Because Thomas spends his life watching the equivalent of Google’s street view, unbelievably memorising all he sees!

Will he manage to persuade his brother to help him discover more about this women’s fate?

Enjoy!

Alison

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The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris

lollipopThe really good thing about Reading Groups is that they prompt you to read books that you’d never dream of picking up, or that you missed when they first came out. I didn’t read The Lollipop Shoes because I’d never got round to reading Chocolat (how did I let that happen?!), but when it got nominated in my reading group, I thought I’d better give it a go.

I’m so glad I did read it – even though it’s a sequel, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the previous book (that’s the type of sequel I like!)

The Lollipop Shoes is a truly magical story, set in a chocolaterie in romantic Paris and featuring some quirky characters. Harris delivers her narrative cleverly, with different chapters being ‘written’ by each of the 3 main characters who deliver little nuggets of the back story while moving the action forwards at a good rate.

It’s a real page-turner, but also takes you into the chocolaterie to find out about all sorts of wonderful treats and the customers who come to indulge in them. Just like all good fairy stories, there are goodies and baddies, but finding out which is which is only slowly revealed as you read further and further. And the tantalising question of whether they’ll all live happily ever after kept me reading long after bedtime. Now I’m definitely looking forward to reading Chocolat.

Clare

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Any human heart by William Boyd

HeartThis is audiobook is brilliantly narrated by Mike Grady from Last of the Summer Wine!

It’s a long book – it has taken me weeks to finish it – but worth it, as it’s a great concept. The book takes the form of diaries written by Logan Mountstuart, who lives throughout each decade of the 20th Century. He lives in many different places, meeting by chance figures who are related to some of the most important events or movements of that century. He mainly lives by the pen – having early success in his twenties as an author, he then struggles to write anything more; instead his diaries become his great ouvre. Mountstuart makes many mistakes, and finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time rather often – but his character is sound and I really felt for him in the darker times of his life. Mountstuart has a credo very similar to my own – every life is made up of the good luck you have, and the bad luck. There’s no more to it than that.

Stacey

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