Category Archives: Fiction

“…a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.”

An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder – inspired by numerous European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ between the sixteenth century and the twentieth – is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.

Pick up a copy in the library

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

From a short book to an epic – my fourth Bailey’s Prize read was the massive tome Sport of Kings. 500+ pages set in and around a ranch in Kentucky which raises race horses.  The book covers many themes including (but not limited to) racism, sexism, evolution, horse breeding and slavery. The prose is dense, rich and flowery. It is being billed as a modern American classic.

For me it felt a bit of a slog to get through. The basic story lines were all great and I wanted to know more about all of the characters but the language and the style just kept bogging me down and disappointingly the slow build was ruined by a too fast ending. I also just didn’t quite buy the main twist.

I admire this book without loving it, the racism and sexism alienated me and I never felt close to the characters – it was like they were all behind a pane of glass. I’m glad that the Bailey’s Prize introduced me to this book, I’d never have read it otherwise and there is much to admire.

Sarah

Out today: The final episode in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles

This Was a Man is the captivating final instalment of the Clifton Chronicles, a series of seven novels that has topped the bestseller lists around the world, and enhanced Jeffrey Archer’s reputation as a master storyteller.

This Was a Man opens with a shot being fired, but who pulled the trigger, and who lives and who dies? In Whitehall, Giles Barrington discovers the truth about his wife Karin from the Cabinet Secretary. Is she a spy or a pawn in a larger game? Harry Clifton sets out to write his magnum opus, while his wife Emma completes her ten years as Chairman of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and receives an unexpected call from Margaret Thatcher offering her a job. Sebastian Clifton becomes chairman of Farthings Kaufman bank, but only after Hakim Bishara has to resign for personal reasons. Sebastian and Samantha’s talented daughter, Jessica, is expelled from the Slade School of Fine Art, but her aunt Grace comes to her rescue. Meanwhile, Lady Virginia is about to flee the country to avoid her creditors when the Duchess of Hertford dies, and she sees another opportunity to clear her debts and finally trump the Cliftons and Barringtons. In a devastating twist, tragedy engulfs the Clifton family when one of them receives a shocking diagnosis that will throw all their lives into turmoil…

Reserve a copy…

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: First Love by Gwendoline Riley

This was a real pace change from the first two books sent to me by the Reading Agency, it is a slender book with lots of white spaces – both on the cover and surrounding the text. I changed my reading style for this book by instinct. Usually I am a fast reader, swallowing books whole but something in this one made me slow down, to read each section then take a pause and I think that this made the book better.

The story is slight, it is about Neve and her relationship with her husband. On a quick read it seems that she is in a bad relationship – one that borders on being abusive and your sympathy is all with her. As you read on however you see that in this case the situation is quite as black and white as you’d think, Neve does come with her own baggage.

On the whole I admire this book without loving it. It doesn’t excuse domestic abuse but in some ways it does apologise for it – and I don’t like this.  For a small book this packs a deceptive punch and while it isn’t one that I’ll return to I think that it does deserve its place on the Bailey’s Shortlist as it is fresh and different.

Sarah

Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: The Power – Naomi Alderman

My Bailey’s Book Prize reading as a 2017 Library Ambassador continued with The Power by Naomi Alderman and this was possibly this one I was looking forward to reading the most. For a start I’d heard about it and it was also about turning the world as we know it on its head without being an obvious dystopian/post-apocalyptic tale.

Sadly the book didn’t live up to my expectations – and even a week on I can’t quite explain why, it really should have ticked all my reading boxes. Strong women characters, alternative history…what’s not to like?

That I am still thinking so hard about this book must mean something but I think deep down I think that this would have made a brilliant short story or novella but that it was just a little too stretched into novel form.  The framing device also didn’t quite work for me, although it did deliver up the best last line of a book I think I’ve ever read.

When I read and then reviewed the book straight after finishing it I was possibly more ambivalent than I am now. I’ve chatted about it with more people, in the real world and online, and while this is never going to be my favourite book I think I can cope if it wins – I think the problem is with me. I wanted the book to be more than it was.

Sarah

Have you met the Morse of Istanbul?

THE HOUSE OF FOUR is the brand new Istanbul crime thriller featuring Inspector Ikmen, ‘the Morse of Istanbul’ ( Daily Telegraph ) from Barbara Nadel. Perfect for fans of Donna Leon!

Everyone in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Moda knows the Devil’s House. A crumbling Ottoman mansion, and once the home of a princess, it is a place associated with ill fortune. The princess’s four children, now in old age, still live in separate apartments on different floors and are rumoured never to speak to each other. Then one of them is found dead, stabbed through the heart, and it is discovered that the other three siblings have met an identical fate. There is no sign of forced entry or burglary, and all evidence must be gained from letters and diaries, but as Inspector Ikmen digs into their past it becomes clear they have been harbouring a secret…

Coming soon: reserve a copy

‘This book will break your heart and blow your mind’ – Lena Dunham.

“If you’re lost, they’ll find you… Evie Boyd is fourteen and desperate to be noticed. It’s the summer of 1969 and restless, empty days stretch ahead of her. Until she sees them. The girls. Hair long and uncombed, jewelry catching the sun. And at their centre, Suzanne, black-haired and beautiful.If not for Suzanne, she might not have gone. But, intoxicated by her and the life she promises, Evie follows the girls back to the decaying ranch where they live.Was there a warning? A sign of what was coming? Or did Evie know already that there was no way back?

A coming-of-age tale like no other, the book of the summer’ – Grazia”

Reserve a copy from the library

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

My adventures as a Bailey’s Book Prize ambassador started with Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and I reviewed it shortly after turning the last page on my own blog

A week on I have to say that I am still totally blown away by this book. Sweeping novels covering interesting periods of time from a personal view point are personal favourites of mine but the ‘voice’ of the narrator is very important.

With Do Not Say… I quickly got under the skin of our modern day narrator, Marie, and at first I wanted to know more about her and resented the times when the story flipped to China.  However as the links between past and present became clearer I just wanted more and more of all of the stories.

I knew the broad strokes of Chinese history during the twentieth century but this really brought home just what the phrases ‘Cultural Revolution’ and ‘Great Leap Forward’ actually meant for the general population. I also liked very much that the book continued up to and beyond the events of Tienanmen Square in 1989.

This book has left me with a real ‘book hangover’ and I’m finding it hard to get into any new book – let alone the other five Bailey’s titles!

Sarah

There’s a new case for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency…

“One bright morning, Precious Ramotswe – head of Botswana’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – receives a visitor: a woman from Australia. This woman asks Precious to take on a case: to find the nursemaid who raised her during her childhood in Botswana. The woman wants to thank her for being such an important part of her life.

Precious has a history of successfully solving cases, but this one proves difficult and throws up a number of surprises and challenges… Precious and Grace is a story about being a detective, the complexities of human nature, as well as lessons about gratitude and obligation.”

Pick up a copy in a library near you…

The Cake Shop in the Garden by Carole Matthews

Fay runs a cakeshop cum tea room in the back garden of her Mum’s house and on her canal barge. It is becoming more and more popular. She also has to look after her bed ridden Mum.

All the cakes are homemade , the descriptions of which make you want to drool! They sound delicious. There’s a recipe for ‘Totally Gooey Triple Choc Brownies’ at the end of the book, I have taken a note of it!

The story moves along very well, characters well written and interact well with each other. The story includes sibling rivalry, a hunky love interest, tragedy, despair and much more.

Watch out for the handbell ringing!

Try this tale of a family with long hidden secrets, you’ll enjoy it.

Must get my next Carole Matthews fix from the library.

Debbie

Reserve The Cake Shop in the Garden

 

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