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!


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.


Reserve The Cake Shop in the Garden


Bailey’s Book Prize: Library Ambassador

I’m very excited that I have been picked as a Library Ambassador for this year’s Bailey’s Book Prize.  Previous winners of the Bailey’s Prize (and previous incarnations of the prize) feature highly in my list of ‘favourite books I’ve ever read.’

Norfolk has just had a hugely successful reading campaign Norfolk’s Most Wanted and this has shown just how popular reading is still and to have the chance to read all six of this year’s short listed titles and share my thoughts on them as I read.

This year the six books on the short list are not ones that had really been on my reading radar, I think I’d heard bits of Naomi Alderman’s The Power when it was read on the radio but that’s as far as it goes.  I’m really looking forward to discovering six new books and sharing my thoughts.

The first book I picked out of the box was Do Not Say We Have Nothing and my thoughts on that one are coming soon.

Look out for displays around the Bailey’s Prize in a library near you and I hope to have the final details of an event celebrating the Bailey’s Prize at the Millennium Library very soon.

You can read more about the library ambassadors here and I’d love to hear your thoughts on my progress and the books either here or on twitter where I am @norfolkbookworm

Sarah, Millennium Library

Find your next read here…

Every month our librarians work tirelessly to bring you a hand-picked list of books with something to tempt every palate. Why not take a look and see what catches your eye?

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

What a mixed up family are at the heart of this, the latest Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers novel. Ably assisted by Winston Nkata.

It all starts with the suicide of William Goldacre, devastating to those left behind. Why did he do it, nobody really knows or if they do they’re not saying.

A couple of years later we have a murder (or do we) in Cambridge, bestselling feminist writer Clare Abbott. Her personal assistant is Caroline Goldacre, William’s mother.

Barbara Havers is desperate to redeem herself, and she is convinced there is a connection. She badgers Lynley into getting her on the case, which he does.

This is a novel of deeply hidden secrets, distorted truths, sexual complications, madness and much more.

Some of it is a bit convoluted and could maybe have been shortened. Interesting murder weapon.

As usual with Elizabeth George it is well written, the characters come to life in the reading of it and their interaction adds to the story.


Reserve A Banquet of Consequences

Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive…

Martin Toppy is the son of a famous Traveller and the father of my unborn child. He’s seventeen, I’m thirty-three. I was his teacher. I’d have killed myself by now if I was brave enough. I don’t think it would hurt the baby. His little heart would stop with mine. He wouldn’t feel himself leaving one world of darkness for another, his spirit untangling itself from me.

Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.

Read an extract and then borrow a copy

New from the author of Apple Tree Yard

“John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk? Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.”

Find a copy on the catalogue

Just 2 more days to go for The Essex Serpent

Last year’s Waterstones Book of the Year, Baileys Prize long-listed, Costa Novel Prize shortlister, the honours this book has gathered go on and on… finally out in paperback, isn’t it time you caught up with it?

“When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge. On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith. As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both. The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.”

Released on 20th April: reserve it in advance.

Baileys Prize long-listed and compared to Margaret Atwood…

Yet another brilliant Norwich-based author! Sara Taylor’s debut novel, The Shore was longlisted for last year’s Bailey’s prize & garnered comparisons to Margaret Atwood. Her follow-up novel is being received equally warmly:

“I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong…

As Ma and Alex make their way from Virginia to California, each new state prompts stories and secrets of a life before Alex. Together they put to rest unsettled scores, heal old wounds, and search out lost friends. But Alex can’t forget the life they’ve left behind.

This is an extraordinary story of a life; an exploration of identity and a study of the relationship between a mother and her child.”

Reserve a copy.

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