Saturday, 9 December 2017

Ten Books for 2018

It's never too early to start thinking about what I want to read next year so here are ten up and coming books that I am looking forward to reading.

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

By far my favourite series I can not wait for this 10th instalment in the Ruth Galloway series. 

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He's discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village but doesn't know what to make of them. It's years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!
So Ruth travels to Fontana Liri, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a medieval shrine and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also finds Harry Nelson, who is enduring a terrible holiday at a resort nearby. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock - the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Fontana Liri that someone would kill to protect.
ISBN: 978 1784296636      - Published by Quercus
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.
As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.
ISBN: 978 1911215721        -         Published by Vintage Books
All Those Things We Never Said by Marc Levy
Days before her wedding, Julia Walsh is knocked sideways twice: once by the sudden death of her estranged father…and again when he appears on her doorstep after his funeral, ready to make amends, right his past mistakes and prevent her from making new ones.
Surprised to say the least, Julia reluctantly agrees to turn what should have been her honeymoon into a spontaneous road trip with her father to make up for lost time. But when an astonishing secret is revealed about a past relationship, their trip becomes a whirlwind journey of rediscovery that takes them from Montreal to Paris to Berlin and back home again, where Julia learns that even the smallest gestures she might have taken for granted have the power to change her life forever.
From international bestselling author Marc Levy, the most widely read writer in France today, comes an unusual and charming love story that reunites a father and daughter, and past and present, in the most unexpected ways.
ISBN:  978 1542045988       -      Published by Amazon Crossing
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
It's 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, sneak out to hear their fortunes.

We then follow the intertwined paths the siblings take over the course of five decades and, in particular, how they choose to live with the supposed knowledge the fortune-teller gave them that day. This is a story about life, mortality and the choices we make: is it better to live a long and cautious life, or to burn brightly, but for the shortest time?
ISBN: 978 147224994       -    Published by Tinder Press
The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
Mercy Booth has lived at Scarcross, the old hall just off the coffin path, for all her life. The moors and the house are in her blood - and her soul.

Ellis Ferreby is a mysterious, unpredictable outsider who arrives there unexpectedly and finds himself increasingly drawn into her world.

But the house holds a tainted history. And the moor top hides something far darker...
ISBN:  978 1472204271     -     Published by Headline Review
You, Me, Everything by Catherine Isaac
You and me, we have history. We have a child together. We have kept secrets from each other for far too long. This summer, in the beautiful hills of the Dordogne, it is time for everything to change.

You, Me, Everything is a heartfelt and unforgettable novel about the lengths we are prepared to go to for those we love.
ISBN:  978 1471164460   -   Published by Simon and Schuster UK
Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon
Ted Lyte, amateur thief, has chosen an isolated house by the coast for his first robbery. But Haven House is no ordinary country home. While hunting for silverware to steal, Ted stumbles upon a locked room containing seven dead bodies. Detective Inspector Kendall takes on the case with the help of passing yachtsman Thomas Hazeldean. The search for the house's absent owners brings Hazeldean across the Channel to Boulogne, where he finds more than one motive to stay and investigate.
 ISBN: 978 1464209086      -      Published by The British Library

Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine.

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back . . .

Irresistibly funny and enormously moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a love letter to female friendship, Blitz spirit, the kindness of strangers and the art of letter-writing itself.

ISBN:  978 1509853908          Published by Picador

The Confession by Jo Spain

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who - of Harry, Julie and JP - is really the guilty one? And is Carney's surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

ISBN:  978 1786488367        -       Published by Quercus
Census by Jesse Ball

When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.

Traveling into the country, through towns named only by ascending letters of the alphabet, the man and his son encounter a wide range of human experience. While some townspeople welcome them into their homes, others who bear the physical brand of past censuses on their ribs are wary of their presence. When they press toward the edges of civilization, the landscape grows wilder, and the towns grow farther apart and more blighted by industrial decay. As they approach “Z,” the man must confront a series of questions: What is the purpose of the census? Is he complicit in its mission? And just how will he learn to say good-bye to his son?

Mysterious and evocative, Census is a novel about free will, grief, the power of memory, and the ferocity of parental love, from one of our most captivating young writers.

ISBN:  978 1509853908   Published by Granta

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Secret of Vesalius by Jordi Llobregat (translated by Thomas Bunstead)

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Things We Learn When We're Dead by Charlie Laidlaw

Small decisions can have unintended consequences, but sometimes we get a second chance.

On the way home from a dinner party she didn't want to attend, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital - but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery. She is served wine for supper and everyones avoids her questions.

It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident. Or does God have a higher purpose after all?

At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return - some good, some bad - she realises that she has decisions to make and that she needs to find a way home.

I have heard this book being compared to The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones and it is true that there are influences from those books throughout. However, I stress the word influence because, in my opinion, this book is very much better than all three of those books.

This is a book which refuses to be put into any specific genre. It is humorous, quirky and moving  and I enjoyed it very much. Alongside the death of Lorna is the story of her life which Mr Laidlaw tells with a detailed eye for the minutae of every day living. Changing from the present to the past is flawlessly achieved throughout and I was enthralled by the believable characters regardless of whether they were mortal or celestial.

This original story is well worth reading. It is a story of life and how the small decisions we make have an impact on ourselves and those around us. I highly recommend this unusual book. There is something for everyone within it's pages and I think most people would enjoy finding this in their Christmas stocking.

ISBN: 978 1786150356

Publisher: Accent Press

About the Author

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He also wrote The Herbal Detective under the name of Charles Gray. He is married with two grown up children and lives in Gullane.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

What's in the Air? by Ivor Morgan

What's in the Air?

What's in the air? There's a murmuring note
Winding it's way through a bugle's throat.
A sound in the distant far away,
Not very much in the air today.

What's in the air that travels so fast
Following the sound of that bugle's blast?
A sinister note of war's alarms
Louder and clearer 'To arms, to arms'.

What's in the air? The soul scaring tramp
Of armed soldiers marching to camp,
A rattle of bayonets, stern commands,
Martial music from military bands

What's in the air? Oh, strategic plans,
And banquets for men in corned beef cans,
Oh yes, there's fever and dread disease,
Mosquitoes, bluebottles, lice and fleas.

What's in the air? Loud thuds and wild yells,
Fire and flame and poison gas shells
Making a hell of a world so gay,
Oh, yes, there's more in the air today.

by Ivor Morgan

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lest They Forget

On this Armistice Day I have been thinking about the fact that as the years pass us by our brave and heroic wartime veterans are becoming fewer. For my generation, who's parents and grandparents lived through two world wars, we were drip fed their first hand accounts of life in wartime.  My parents were born and bred in London and experienced the horrors of the Blitz and I can remember growing up with a real sense of the fear they endured due to their personal recollections.

With each subsequent generation the lives of people in WWI and WWII become more distant and I got to thinking about the books I shared with my children when they were young to impart this hugely significant time through which their grandparents and great grandparents lived. 

Although aimed at a young readership, these books I have selected have relevance for us all and are the ones I most enjoyed reading with my children and continue to enjoy reading.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

From the Children's Laureate of 2003 - 2005, a stunning novel of the First World War, a boy who is on its front lines, and a childhood remembered.

"They've gone now, and I'm alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won't waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . ." 

For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly, the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.

ISBN: 978-0007486441

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens Books

Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

The gruff and surly Mr Thomas Oakley is less than pleased when he is landed with a scrawny little city boy as a guest, but because it is compulsory that each villager takes in an evacuee he reluctantly agrees. It soon becomes obvious to Mister Tom that young Willie Beech is hiding something, and as the pair begin to form an unlikely bond and Willie grows in stature and in confidence he begins to forget the past. But when he has to return to war-torn London to face his mother again he retreats into his shy and awkward ways once more.

ISBN: 978-0141354804

Publisher: Puffin Classics

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

This semi-autobiographical and unforgettable story, of a Jewish family fleeing from Germany before the start of the Second World War, now reissued with its original cover illustration in this very special edition.
This internationally acclaimed story of one Jewish family’s flight from Hitler’s Germany has become a much-loved classic, and has been in print since its debut 45 years ago.
Suppose your country began to change. Suppose that without your noticing, it became dangerous for some people to live in Germany any longer. Suppose you found, to your complete surprise, that your own father was one of those people.
That is what happened to Anna in 1933. She was nine years old when it began, too busy to take much notice of political posters, but out of them glared the face of Adolf Hitler, the man who would soon change the whole of Europe – starting with her own small life.
One day, Anna’s father was missing. Then she herself and her brother Max were being rushed by their mother, in alarming secrecy, away from everything they knew – home and schoolmates and well-loved toys – right out of Germany…

ISBN:  978-0007274772

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens Books

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

First published over sixty years ago, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl has reached millions of young people throughout the world.
In July 1942, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the occupation, went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne vividly describes in her diary the frustrations of living in such close quarters, and her thoughts, feelings and longings as she grows up. Her diary ends abruptly when, in August 1944, they were all betrayed.

ISBN: 978-0141315188
Publisher: Puffin

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

An infamous murder in Victorian London.

On 8th July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his younger brother Nattie set out from their East London home to watch a cricket match. Over the next ten days they spent extragantly, visiting the theatre and eating out. The boys told neighbours their father had gone to sea, and their mother to visit family in Liverpool. But when a strange smell began to emanate from the house, the police were called. What they found threw the press into a frenzy - and the boys into a highly publicised trial.

Despite the notoriety this case attracted at the time Ms. Summerscale has taken this crime, which was little known to a modern readership, and developed it into this fascinating and absorbing account of matricide in Victorian London.

It is a thouroghly compelling read and I was gripped by the events that led these vulnerable and neglected boys to commit the shocking crime that they did.

Through meticulous research the author creates a powerfully informed and vivid description of events both before and after the extraordinary happenings which took place on 8th July 1895. Through wonderful storytelling the reader is transported back to London's East End to rural Australia via the courts and prisons of London.

Despite the grim nature of the facts, this is an uplifting and heartfelt historical narrative that tugged at my heartstrings through the redemptive power of the story contained within the pages of this book. Anyone who likes history or true crime will love this book and I highly recommend it.

ISBN: 978 1408854466

Publisher: Bloomsbury

About the Author:

Kate Summerscale is the author of the number one bestseller, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2008, the Galaxy British Book of the Year Award, a Richard and Judy Book Cub pick and adapted into a major ITV drama. Her first book, the bestselling The Queen of Whale Cay, won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award. Her third book, Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Kate Summerscale was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010. She lives in London.

Monday, 30 October 2017

A Horse Walks Into Bar by David Grossman

A comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience has come expecting an evening of amusement. Instead they see a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic  - charming, erratic, repellent - exposes a wound he has been living with for years; a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between two  people who were dearest to him.

Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dov provokes revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn't know whether to laugh or cry - and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he's been summoned to this performance.

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2017, at 198 pages this is a very short but brilliant novel. Whilst I found this an excellent read in every way I am glad that it was not any longer because it is very intense and any longer would have been hard to bear.

Like the audience in the novel, I was expecting some humour. What we, and the audience get, is to witness the disintegration of a comedian on stage, and quite frankly, it is shockingly painful to observe. However, it is done with such humanity and with an anguished genius that I can easily envisage reading this book again.

Please don't be put off by the sombre nature of this book as it is well worth reading. Having never read anything quite like this book before I read it in one sitting. I really hope you will all read it.

Translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

ISBN: 978 1784704223

Publisher: Vintage

About the Author:

David Grossman is the bestselling author of numerous works, which have been translated into thirty-six language. His most recent novels were To the End of the Land, described by Jacqueline Rose as 'without question one of the most powerful and moving novels I have ever read', and Falling Out of Time. He is the recipient of the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Art et des Lettres and the 2010 Frankfurt Peace Prize.