The Living

The Living by Lean Cullinan, book reviewWorking on the website for the small publishing house Bell Books is hardly an exciting life. Even so, since it is Cate’s first job after graduating Dublin’s Trinity College, there is no reason for her to balk about it. She has her college friends and her choir – Carmina Urbana – to keep her busy and entertained after a boring day at work. Then Eddie MacDevitt’s memoire manuscript comes in, and strange things begin to happen. Her boss is hiding the book from everyone, there’s that dark car Cate keeps seeing, that new British tenor in the choir who is so secretive, and even her family are being unusually guarded. Surely, the meanderings of some ex-activist (who knew her uncle, and her boss, back in the day) can’t be all that hush-hush, even if there are still people who want him dead. This is The Living by Léan Cullinan.


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Living With It

Living with It, Lizzie Enfield , book reviewLiving With It is a fabulous new novel from Lizzie Enfield. It is an immensely readable book that will involve the reader from the very first page. Alternating between two narrators, Isobel and Ben, it tells the story of the consequence of a decision made long ago and the devastating effect it has on all the characters in this wonderful story.

When 15 year old Gabriella was a baby, her mother, Isobel, made the decision not to give her the MMR vaccination. There had been a great deal of adverse publicity about the vaccination and Isobel had decided it was not worth the risk to her daughter and later on for her two sons that followed. It was something that she did not give much thought to in the subsequent years.


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Ajax Penumbra 1969

Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan, book review“I should start at the beginning.”
“You should start with the basics.” The clerk settles back on his stool, crosses his arms. “What’s your name, friend?”
“Oh. Yes, of course. My name is Ajax Penumbra.”

For those of you who read Robin Sloan’s endearing debut novel Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, you will have read a wonderful story but also a story that left you with several burning questions. How did a narrow bookstore with such impossibly high shelves come about? How did Mr Penumbra come to run such an establishment? And indeed, how do you get a name like Ajax Penumbra? These questions must have been put to Sloan on a great many occasions, because now he has seen fit to release a short prequel: Ajax Penumbra 1969.


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Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, book reviewSan Francisco at the height of a heat wave with small pox raging. In the middle of that two women caught in a crossfire that leads to murder, Blanche and Jenny. Both are French, though Blanche doesn’t know it and Jenny is a transgendered kind of figure on a bicycle encountered in a crash. Blanche earns her living from dancing in a musical hall cum brothel and her fancy man Arthur and his friend Earnest earn their livings off her. Blanche also has a baby that she rescues from a Dickensian London circumstances in a storm of indignation.

The book actually begins with violent death the way most murder mysteries do. Jenny is shot full of buckshot through a window at night and the pellets skim Blanche’s cheek because she happens to bend over.


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The Broken

Tamar Cohen, The Broken, book reviewTamar Cohen’s latest book, The Broken, is brilliant. It is the sort of compelling reading that is so difficult to put down and I guarantee it will have you on the edge of your seat as you are reading it. It is a book that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry! So what is it all about?

Josh and Hannah have been best friends with Dan and Sasha ever since their daughters, Lily and September were born four years before. The couples were pretty much inseparable, always round at each other’s houses, taking the girls out or sharing a pint together. Josh and Hannah would never have guessed that there was anything wrong in their friends’ perfect world which is why when, completely out of the blue, Dan announces he is leaving Sasha, they don’t know how to react.


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I Stopped Time

Jane Davis, I Stopped Time, book reviewWhen Lottie Pye died at the age of 108 she left her whole collection of thousands of photographs to her son James, who she hadn’t seen in almost 80 years. When James happens upon Jenny Jones, a University student studying photography, he decides to let her go through them and catalog them, never realizing that this could finally be a way to get to know both his mother, and himself. This is Jane Davis’ novel I Stopped Time.

I just adore strong female characters, especially those who find their own paths, even if that causes them problems. Lottie Pye is just that type of character – a woman ahead of her time, unwilling to be confined by the dictates of society, even if that causes problems for her or others.


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The Crimson Ribbon

The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements, book reviewThe opening chapter of Katherine Clements’ debut novel, The Crimson Ribbon, packs a powerful punch. Opening in the Fenland town of Ely on May Day 1646, we meet two women desperately battling to help a third in childbirth. The child is born severely malformed, and the mother’s instinctive reaction is to accuse the two midwives – Annie Flowers and her teenage daughter Ruth – of witchcraft and devilry. She runs to get her husband from the inn; Annie and Ruth follow to try and stem the accusations. Another woman overhears what has happened and takes her opportunity to support the claim of witchcraft against Annie, as Annie’s remedies and charms failed to revive her seriously ill husband the year before. An angry mob is soon formed, fuelled by the drinking the holiday has encouraged.


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Ragtime in Simla

Ragtime in Simla Barbara Cleverly, book reviewRagtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly is the second of her four novels featuring Comander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police on secondment to India in the 1920s. It’s the third I’ve read and fits neatly between The Last Kashmiri Rose and The Damascened Blade. Of the three it’s the one I enjoyed the most.

The book doesn’t start in India; instead we kick off with a train accident in France several years earlier in 1919. The train is travelling to the French south coast where Englishwoman Alice Conyers plans to catch a boat to India.


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Kindred

Kindred, Octavia E. Butler, book reviewDana’s 26th birthday turns out to be the most memorable one of her life. As she and her husband Kevin move into their new apartment, she starts to feel dizzy. Initially thinking it is just due to moving heavy boxes in the heat of a Los Angeles summer, she is soon proved wrong when she falls to her knees…and vanishes in front of Kevin’s eyes. Dana reappears a few seconds later on the other side of the room with a very strange explanation of what happened. She tells of finding herself on a riverbank, with a screaming woman and a young red haired boy drowning in the water in front of her. She pulled the boy out and gave him CPR, but as he started to breathe again, a man with an old-fashioned rifle pointed at her appeared and she found herself back home – with the wet clothes and muddy shoes that seemed to back up her story.


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Junglezen Sheru

Junglezen Sheru, Samarpan, book reviewFables are few and far between these days unless you count Paolo Coelho and his are tales of mystical human experiences. After Aesop and the Panchatantra, George Orwell’s was the most definite and that was more in cautionery satire territory.

Samarpan’s third book after Tiya and Param, Junglezen Sheru is a story that sets out sounding like The Lion King and then takes quite a different turn, in total contradiction to the Panchatantra tradition which was created to teach princes the principles of kingship through fables featuring animals.


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Campari for Breakfast

Campari for Breakfast, Sara Crowe, book reviewSue Bowl has been through a lot more in life than most 17 year olds. Her mother, Buddleia, committed suicide, and not long after that, her father took up with another woman. Buddleia’s sister, Aunt Coral, was still mourning the loss of their father when Buddleia took her life. Looking for comfort, and knowing Sue needed some comforting herself, Coral invites her to Egham to spend her gap year in her mother’s ancestral home. Of course, Sue can’t out of Titford fast enough, mostly because she’s sure that Green Place will be the perfect setting to start writing her novel. And while she’s there, perhaps she can find some answers about her mother, with a dash of romance on the side. This is Sara Crowe’s debut novel Campari for Breakfast.

One of the first things readers will find in this book is that it has heap-loads of charm, part of which is due to it taking place in the late 1980s in a semi-rural village outside London.


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That Dark Remembered Day

That Dark Remembered Day , Tom Vowler, book reviewAround six months ago, I read Tom Vowler’s debut novel What Lies Within and was underwhelmed to say the least. While it showed great promise in the writing, the story itself failed to deliver what was promised and it fizzled out before reaching the satisfying conclusion that the quality of the prose deserved. It was therefore with a sense of disappointment that I saw I had been sent a review copy of Vowler’s second book, That Dark Remembered Day – what if this was another damp squib sent to frustrate me? Fortunately, in the intervening months Vowler seems to have developed quite remarkably as a writer, and this novel is in an altogether higher league that his first offering.

Stephen is a middle-aged son returning to the small town he grew up in to visit his ailing mother, Mary.


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