Friday, November 27, 2015

Books For Christmas Part 7- Fantastic Fiction and where to find it...

As booksellers, we have to have favourites. Part of our job is to curate and select, but of course we have our own favourite authors (and those we simply don't get on with) so we are always selecting books with our customers in mind: and you'd be amazed at how often we have a specific customer in mind when selecting a title: "We think Mr Jones/Ms Smith would really like this title".

But we also have favourite 'genres' of books. Of course, we'll get excited about a great cookbook or history title. But when push comes to shove, it has to be fiction. The novel is the most exciting - and challenging - canvas for any writer, literally (pun intended) anything is possible, and that freedom can be thrilling, terrifying and take years to perfect.

We've already told you about our favourite books for younger readers and middle grade - job number one in the book world is recruiting the readers of the future - but here are our favourite fiction titles for adults. We treat all fiction equally: science fiction, crime and thrillers, literary, popular. These are to inspire - come in for a personalised recommendation and let us find you and your family your next favourite book to read!

Dictator - Robert Harris (£20)
We'll start with one of our very, very favourite authors - and one day we'll manage to entice him to Abingdon for a very special event! In the meantime, ‘Dictator’ is the long-awaited final book in the ‘Cicero’ trilogy. The first two books in the trilogy ('Imperium' and 'Lustrum') were huge achievements - how satisfying to then read the final book which somehow manages to trump the first two?

The great orator Cicero ended ‘Lustrum’ in exile, with his protégé Caesar dominant and Cicero’s life in ruins. Tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of principle, his comeback will require wit, skill and courage - and for a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome. But no statesman is ever safe when supreme power is at stake...

Harris has again used the machinations and power-plays of ancient Rome to make comments about the politics of our own time – it’s a superbly wrought and tumultuous tale, rising to a gripping ending that leaves you in no doubt that Cicero, for all his flaws, is a hero for his time - and ours.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson (£16.99)
'The Gap of Time' is a rewriting of Shakespeare's 'The Winter Tale', which Winterson has always declared as being 'a personal text for her'. Here, she cleverly updates Shakespeare's tale (which he took from another earlier romance by the 16th century author Robert Greene) and places it in the contemporary world.

Taking 'Time' as a central player, and replacing Siciliy and Bohemia with London and 'New Bohemia' (a storm-ravaged city in the US), her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, video games and the elliptical nature of time. It tells in a hyper-modern way - full of energy and beauty, and of course Winterson's natural poetry and wit - the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and love, redemption and a lost child on the other.

Rewrites of classics don't always deliver - this one does. It's the first in 'The Hogarth Press Shakespeare Project' and we're eager to see whether future books in this series live up to this one.

The Lake House – Kate Morton (£18.99)
Not to be confused with the Sandra Bullock film in the noughties, this is the title of the new novel from the bestselling author of 'The House at Riverton' and 'The Secret Keeper'.

The 'Lake House' in question lies abandoned, surrounded by mystery, rumour...and a missing child. After a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police and retreats to her beloved grandfather's cottage in Cornwall. There she finds herself at a loose end, until one day she stumbles upon the abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace. When she puts her cold-case experience to work, concocting an implausible scenario for how the child disappeared, she unexpectedly stirs long-hidden memories, as well as someone who is still keen for the truth to stay hidden. Satisfying and will definitely delight fans.

Slade House – David Mitchell (£12.99)
'The Bone Clocks' was one of our favourite books of last year, and this spooky and compelling short novel inhabits the same universe. It's a beautiful, illustrated small hardback (we love the effort that has gone into its production!) and an idea gift for a book-lover.

"Walk down narrow, clammy Slade Alley. Open the black iron door in the right-hand wall. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn't exactly make sense. A stranger greets you by name and invites you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Too late, you find you can't..."

A great twist on the annual Christmas 'Ghost Story' tradition, updated and full of David Mitchell's wonderful storytelling gifts.

Thirteen Ways of Looking – Colum McCann (£16.99)
Another favourite book from last year was Colum McCann's 'TransAtlantic', this novella and four stories contain all McCann's formidable talents of teasing out the connections and multiple perspectives that add depth to ordinary lives. This novel has added poignancy, as McCann explores his own feelings after a a real-life attack and vicious on the streets on Harlem in 2014.

'Thirteen Ways of Looking' explores the varied consequences that can derive from a simple act. Accompanied by three equally powerful stories set in Afghanistan, Galway and London, this is a tribute to humanity's search for meaning and grace, from a writer at the height of his powers.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances – Neil Gaiman (£7.99)
Less an author, more a rock star, Gaiman is often at his imperious best rapid-firing short fiction packed with ideas, extrapolations and razor-sharp writing. And following 'Smoke and Mirrors' and 'Fragile Things', Gaiman returns to dazzle and entertain with 'Trigger Warning', which includes a never-before published 'American Gods' story, 'Black Dog'. Horror and ghost stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry. It will open your eyes to the inexhaustible supply of darkness around you, the magic and the monsters, the myths and the miracles, and to finding truths in the most extraordinary of places. Bow down mortals!

Arcadia – Iain Pears (£18.99)
A story of three worlds. One present (1970s), one future and the third an invention from the mind of a writer called Henry Lytten. When these worlds collide a whole heap of trouble occurs...

A schoolgirl from the nineteen seventies is mistaken for a fairy. Security officers from the future are arrested as Soviet spies and Lytten enters his own story and is worshipped as a deity. This is an eclectic mix of fantasy, history, science fiction and dystopian future which together make an engrossing - and hugely original - read. We love it!

The Winter War – Philip Teir (£7.99)
On the surface, the Paul family are living the liberal, middle-class dream in Helsinki. Max Paul is a renowned sociologist and his wife Katrina has a well-paid government job. They live in a beautiful apartment in the centre of the city. But look closer and the cracks start to show. As he approaches his sixtieth birthday, the certainties of Max's life begin to dissolve. His wife no longer loves him, and his grown-up daughters - one in London, one in Helsinki - have problems of their own. So when a former student turned journalist shows up and offers him a seductive lifeline, Max starts down a dangerous path from which he may never find a way back...

Funny, sharp, and brilliantly truthful, Teir's debut has the feel of a big, contemporary, humane American novel, but with a distinctly Scandinavian edge.

The Well – Catherine Chanter (£7.99)When Ruth Ardingly and her family first drive up from London in their grime-encrusted car and view The Well, they are enchanted by a jewel of a place, a farm that appears to offer everything the family are searching for. An opportunity for Ruth. An escape for Mark. A home for their grandson Lucien. But The Well's unique glory comes at a terrible price.  The locals suspect foul play in its verdant fields and drooping fruit trees, and Ruth becomes increasingly isolated as she struggles to explain why her land flourishes whilst her neighbours' produce withers and dies.

Fearful of envious locals and suspicious of those who seem to be offering help, Ruth is less and less sure who she can trust. As The Well envelops them, Ruth's paradise becomes a prison, Mark's dream a recurring nightmare, and Lucien's playground a grave.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy - Rachel Joyce – £7.99
From the author of the 2 million+ copy, worldwide bestseller, 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry', an exquisite, funny and heartrending parallel story. 

When Queenie Hennessy discovers that Harold Fry is walking the length of England to save her, and all she has to do is wait, she is shocked. Her note had explained she was dying. How can she wait? A new volunteer at the hospice suggests that Queenie should write again; only this time she must tell Harold everything. In confessing to secrets she has hidden for twenty years, she will find atonement for the past. As the volunteer points out, 'Even though you've done your travelling, you're starting a new journey too.' Queenie thought her first letter would be the end of the story. She was wrong. It was the beginning. 

Told in simple, emotionally-honest prose, with a mischievous bite, this is a novel about the journey we all must take to learn who we are; it is about loving and letting go. And most of all it is about finding joy in unexpected places and at times we least expect.

Sweet Caress – William Boyd (£18.99)Amory's first memory is of her father doing a handstand. She has memories of him returning on leave during the First World War. But his absences, both actual and emotional, are what she chiefly remembers. It is her photographer uncle Greville who supplies the emotional bond she needs, and, when he gives her a camera and some rudimentary lessons in photography, unleashes a passion that will irrevocably shape her future. A spell at boarding school ends abruptly and Amory begins an apprenticeship with Greville in London, living in his flat in Kensington, earning two pounds a week photographing socialites for fashionable magazines.

But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi monde of Berlin of the late 1920s, to New York of the 1930s, to the Blackshirt riots in London and to France in the Second World War where she becomes one of the first women war photographers. Her desire for experience will lead Amory to further wars, to lovers, husbands and children as she continues to pursue her dreams and battle her demons.

In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of some of the most defining moments of modern history, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman,

The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood (£18.99)
In Consilience, Sam and Charmaine share a house with another couple that they have never met. but when their lives begin to overlap things start to become complicated. In an orwellian society where your every move is watched interesting questions are raised about what we might be willing to give up in exchange for comforts like a warm bed and plush towels.

After You – Jojo Moyes (£20)
This is the sequel to the worldwide phenomenon Me Before You. Jojo Moyes says: "I hadn't planned to write a sequel to Me Before You. But working on the movie script, and reading the sheer volume of tweets and emails every day asking what Lou did with her life, meant that the characters never left me.
It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them again."

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax – Liz Jensen - £8.99
Nine-year-old Louis Drax is a problem child: bright, precocious, deceitful, and dangerously, disturbingly, accident prone. When he falls off a cliff into a ravine, the accident seems almost predestined. Louis miraculously survives - but the family has been shattered. Louis' father has vanished, his mother is paralysed by shock, and Louis lies in a deep coma from which he may never emerge. In a clinic in Provence, Dr Pascal Dannachet tries to coax Louis back to consciousness. But the boy defies medical logic, startling Dannachet out of his safe preconceptions, and drawing him inexorably into the dark heart of Louis' buried world. Only Louis holds the key to the mystery surrounding his fall - and he can't communicate. Or can he?

City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg (£18.99)
I think it's fair to say that this book has split opinion in the shop - is it too long? Is it less a novel, more a write-up of a television min-series. What's fair to say is this: Hallberg - a well-established literary critic - shows admirable ambition and incredible scope in one of the most talked-about debuts for years.

It's New Year's Eve, 1976, and New York is a city on the edge. As midnight approaches, a blizzard sets in - and gunshots ring out over Central Park. The search for the shooter will bring together a rich cast of New Yorkers, bound up in a story where history and revolution, love and art, crime and conspiracy are all packed into a single shell, ready to explode. Then, on July 13th, 1977, the lights go out.

We recommend buying this book and 'Spuntino', knocking up some classic New York food, and settling in for a very long evening...

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Books for Christmas Part 6 - Cupcakes, Cult Recipes and Crafting Creations

Last year, we collected together some of our favourite cookbooks - and we mused on how a great cookbook can be a trusted friend in the kitchen - but the style has to be right. Recently there have been a spate of programs on telly about how important diet is to, well, almost everything. But if you need inspiration about new recipes and ways of eating, how about a new cookbook for Christmas?

Here are our favourite cookbooks - and a few other creative endeavours - to give you the inspiration to try something new in 2016.

Nopi: The Cookbook – Yottam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully (£28)
Ottolenghi is possibly the hottest chef right now, with his unusual background for a chef, and his reputation of combining the best of Middle Eastern flavours: Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese, Iranian, Israeli and Armenian. His is a positive story about a region of the world which has its fair share of troubles, and his cookbook 'Jerusalem' (with Sami Tamimi) is the closest a cookbook comes to a peace process in our opinion.

'Nopi: The Cookbook' includes over 120 of the most popular dishes from Yotam's innovative Soho-based restaurant Nopi. It's written with long-time collaborator and Nopi head chef Ramael Scully, who brings his distinctive Asian twist to the Ottolenghi kitchen. They range in their degree of complexity so there is something for all cooks. There are dishes that long-time Ottolenghi fans will be familiar with - a starter of aubergine with black garlic, for example, or the roasted squash with sweet tomatoes - as well as many dishes which will stretch the home cook as they produce some of the restaurant's signature dishes at home, such as Beef brisket croquettes or Persian love rice. It's inspiring and we have some signed copies in the shop.

The Book Of Spice – John O’Connell (£14.99)
Spices were once a rare and exotic thing with many varied uses. But now you pop to your local supermarket to get what you need, and we have perhaps forgotten what a marvel these things are.

The 'Book of Spice' introduces us to their properties, both medical and magical, and the fascinating stories that lie behind both kitchen staples and esoteric luxuries. Discover why Cleopatra bathed in saffron and mare's milk, why wormwood-laced absinthe caused eighteenth-century drinkers to hallucinate and how cloves harvested in remote Indonesian islands found their way into a kitchen in ancient Syria.

Spuntino: Comfort Food (New York Style) - Russell Norman (£25)
New York Cult Recipes – Marc Grossman (£20)
One of the great things about the shop is sometimes you get fantastic recommendations from customers - and 'New York Cult Recipes' by Marc Grossman is a wonderful collection of inspirational New York inspired food. From the Humble sunnyside-up egg (that’s fried egg to us) to Sloppy Joes and beautiful photography this is a small slice of the city that never sleeps.

This conversation came about because we have been recommending 'Spuntino', which is a totally fabulous collection of New York-inspired restaurant of the same name. Spuntino will take you on a culinary adventure from London to New York and back, bringing the best of American cuisine to your kitchen. The 120 recipes include zingy salads, juicy sliders, oozing pizzette, boozy desserts and prohibition-era cocktails. You'll get a glimpse of New York foodie heaven as Russell maps out his walks through the city's cultural hubs and quirky neighbourhoods such as East Village and Williamsburg, discovering family-run delis, brasseries, street traders, sweet shops and liquor bars.

We love New York, we love the inspirational food - so take a look at both these books for a great addition to your kitchen!

Hello Tokyo – Ebony Bizys (£14.99)
'Hello Tokyo' by Japanese blogger, crafter and designer Ebony Bizys is a cute and quirky guide to living a handmade lifestyle, inspired by Ebony's life in Tokyo. Capturing the charm, humour and originality of her eclectic and highly successful blog, Hello Sandwich, Hello Tokyo presents over 30 craft projects, as well as other tidbits and a peek into Japanese culture. Learn how to make hand-sewn cushions, charm necklaces, a memory walking book, corsages and a 'party-in-a-box' as well as handmade stationery including notebooks and envelopes, quirky post packages and gift tags, and much more.

Children’s Christmas Baking Kit – Usborne (£14.99)

Usborne have done it again with another brilliant cookbook for you littlies. This is everything they need to bake delicious cakes and biscuits for the festive season.

It comes with two cookie cutters and some specially designed cupcake cases and a book with twenty step by step illustrated simple Christmas recipes.

How To Knit – Mollie Makes (£16.99)
Ever wanted to knit but didn’t know where to start? Then this is the book for you, with basic patterns and easy step-by-step instructions you will be knitting before you know it and once you have mastered the basic two stitches you can make a gift for a loved one with patterns for a baby blanket, bouquet of woolly flowers or a cute bulldog puppy.

Bring your home up to date by making an on-trend footstool, plant pot or neon rug. Or wear your makes with pride - whether you go for a classic pair of socks, or a more daring pompom headband or loopy poncho. And if you want to know who knitted the little cat in the picture above - it was Julia in the shop!

Everyday Super Food – Jamie Oliver (£26)
Has there been one person who has had more of an impact on the nation's diet than Jamie? In 'Everyday Super Food', Jamie's done all the hard work for you - all you need to do is choose a delicious recipe, cook it up and, most importantly, enjoy it. Every meal in this book is a good choice that will bring you a step closer to a healthier, happier you.

The book is divided into sections by meals and each recipe gives you a breakdown of fat , sugar and calories etc so you can eat Smoothie Pancakes with Berries, Banana, Yoghurt and Nuts for breakfast, Tasty Fish Tacos with Game-Changing Kiwi, Lime and Chilli Salsa for lunch and Griddled Steak and Peppers with Herby-Jewelled Tabbouleh Rice for dinner, and still be healthy!

Handmade Christmas (£14.99)
Save money and have fun with this beautiful collection of Christmas makes. There are three chapters
covering a wide range of different crafting techniques - from papercutting and collage to embroidery and sugarcraft - with projects which take inspiration from different festive cultures and traditions. Start with Decorations, where you will find delightful ideas such as a traditional advent calendar and colourful embroidered Christmas stockings, brighten up your dinner table with tin candle holders that will glimmer and shine, and welcome carol-singers with a pretty wreath for your door.

The Hairy Bikers Blood, Sweat and Tyres: The Autobiography (£20)
Not quite cooking but they are possibly our favourite TV chefs and this is their new book about friendship, hilarious misadventure, love, life and family. From their humble beginnings in the north of England  where they both had their own childhood challenges to becoming the well loved TV duo who have quite literally eaten their way around the world. Heart-warming and funny treat for any Hairy Bikers fan.

Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food - Nigella Lawson (£26)
Part of the balance of life lies in understanding that different days require different ways of eating...'.  Whatever the occasion, food - in the making and the eating - should always be pleasurable.

'Simply Nigella' taps into the rhythms of our cooking lives, with recipes that are uncomplicated, relaxed and yet always satisfying. From quick and calm suppers to stress-free ideas when catering for a crowd, or the instant joy of bowl food for cosy nights on the sofa, here is food guaranteed to make everyone feel good. Whether you need to create some breathing space at the end of a long week, indulge in a sweet treat or wake up to a strength-giving breakfast, Nigella's new cookbook is filled with recipes destined to become firm favourites.

Simply Nigella is the perfect antidote to our busy lives: a calm and glad celebration of food to soothe and uplift. And the only thing better than that is a signed copy - so get them whilst we still have some!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Books for Christmas Part 5 - Wild Wolves, Imaginary Friends and A Slice of the Moon - Middle Grade Grandeur for Christmas

At Mostly Books, we call them 'confident readers', the wider book world increasingly likes the phrase 'Middle Grade' (or 'MG' as it fights back against the downward-pressing, all-conquering, social media-fuelled 800-pound gorilla that is YA).

For everyone else though, it's the brilliant time in life when children are reading independently, flexing their individuality, and discovering the books that will have a profound effect on them for the rest of their lives.

(We're always a bit flexible in terms of age-guidance - so do take a look at our recommends for younger readers too.)

At Christmas we look for those gorgeous editions that combine the best writing with the best that publishers bring to the physical book. Beautiful, desirable and shouting out to be read - what more could we ask. Here's our favourites this year...

The Wolf Wilder - Katherine Rundell (£12.99)
Feodora and her mother live surrounded by the snowbound woods of Russia and with only wolves for company. In a world where there is a huge divide between rich and poor, the rich have taken to taking wild wolves as pets. But if they turn savage, they are brought to Feo and her mother - wolf wilders. But with such a divide between rich and poor, revolution is brewing and when Feo is unwittingly caught up in the fight, suddenly, having wolves on your side can make you very sought after – for good reasons and by bad people.

In Katherine's trademark style (which readers will know from Girl Savage and multi award-winning Rooftoppers), Feo is left with no option but to go on the run, finding friends and fighting foes, finding out what her skills and her strengths really are. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back, rich in language and lore and with a spirited protagonist you will be rooting for all the way.

Published as a gorgeous hardback edition, complete with atmospheric illustrations, this is a book to treasure in every way.

An Eagle in the Snow - Michael Morpurgo (£12.99)
A brand new fiction title from Michael Morpurgo is always an exciting event, and in 'An Eagle in the Snow' Morpurgo again tells a dramatic and extraordinary tale - partly based on a true story - and painted onto the canvas of the Second World War.

Barney and his mother, their home destroyed by bombing, are travelling to the country when their train is forced to shelter in a tunnel from attacking German planes. There, in the darkness, a stranger on the train begins to tell them a story. A story about one of the most decorated soldier of WW1, who once had the chance to end the war before it even began, and how he tried to fix his mistake. But sometimes doing the right thing is hard to see - and even harder to live with. This will delight Morpurgo's legion of fans - and further cement his reputation as one of our finest living storytellers.

Little Stars - Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt (£12.99)
This is the wonderful new Hetty Feather story from the legendary author Jacqueline Wilson - the fifth book in the series. Hetty and her dearest friend Diamond, having escaped from Tanglefield's Travelling Circus, are determined to find positions as glamorous music hall artistes. Hetty and Diamond quickly become the 'Little Stars' of Mrs Ruby's show.

But the Cavalcade proves a dangerous place, and Hetty must fight to protect Diamond, whilst struggling to understand her feelings for Bertie - and for Jem, whom she has never forgotten. Hetty dreams of a glittering future for herself and Diamond. The bright lights of the London theatre world beckon - will Hetty become a true star?

Hetty is developing into a classic series, and with the foundling's tale having been turned into a West End production and serialised on CBBC, It's a beautiful, sparkly edition with bags of appeal to new readers and fans alike.

The Imaginary - AF Harrold and Emily Gravett (£7.99)
We recommended 'The Imaginary' when it came out as a beautiful hardback last year - and the paperback is just as stunning. It's an extraordinary tale of love, loss, imagination and not really being there, definitely for fans of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman, by the world's most famous bearded poet AF Harrold (and that award is up against stiffer competition than you might imagine).

Rudger is Amanda's best friend. He doesn't exist (but then nobody's perfect). Only Amanda can see her imaginary friend - until the sinister Mr Bunting arrives at Amanda's door. Mr Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumour says that he eats them. And he's sniffed out Rudger...

It's funny, scary and moving, and gorgeously illustrated by the award-winning Emily Gravett. Highly recommended...

Mountwood School for Ghosts - Tony Ibbotson (£6.99)
Fredegonda, Goneril, and Drusilla are Great Hagges, much more important and much rarer than regular old hags. They think that ghosts these days are decidedly lacking and that people haven't been scared of ghosts for years. So one day they decide that something needs to change - it's time for these ghosts to learn a thing or two about being scary. And what better way to teach them than to set up their very own school for ghosts? A funny ghost story from Toby Ibbotson, son of award-winning author Eva Ibbotson, and based on an idea conceived by her. The cover is by Alex T. Smith.

Pathfinder - Angie Sage (£6.99)
Another book we raved about in hardback - now out in paperback.

Tod has grown up a PathFinder, one of an ancient seafaring tribe. Her mother, who died when Tod was young, had a very different history. She was from a mysterious magykal desert-dwelling family. When Tod's father disappears she is not only alone, but soon finds herself swept into the path of an evil sorcerer. Now Tod must choose which of her pasts will help her to survive: PathFinder or Magician. Magyk will allow her to fight like with like, but her PathFinder heritage gives Tod something special - the edge. Angie Sage's new book combines breathtaking action with fabulous plotting. The characters are instantly engaging, the tension is relentless and Angie's superlative storytelling weaves the threads seamlessly together for an utterly satisfying read.

The Seal's Fate - Eoin Colfer & Victor Ambrus (£7.99)
A stunning coming-of-age novella by international bestselling author and current Irish Children's Laureate Eoin Colfer (author of 'Artemis Fowl'), beautifully illustrated by Greenaway winner Victor Ambrus. School's out and Bobby Parrish is spending the summer on his dad's boat. Job number one is to deal with the seals infesting the peninsula. The money's good - but Bobby knows, deep down, that he hasn't got it in him. Eoin Colfer's trademark humour and lightness of touch and Victor Ambrus's classic artwork evoke a strong sense of place, character and vitality. An ideal gift for lovers of a fantastic artist and writing team, from reluctant-reader specialist Barrington Stoke, who bring all their experience in developing a love of reading for all children.

A Slice of the Moon - Sandi Toksvig (£9.99)
The brand-new action-packed story of one family's journey across the world from author Sandi Toksvig. Slim Hannigan and her family are poor but happy. Theirs is a life filled with love and laughter - and a pet pig called Hamlet. But things change overnight and suddenly they find themselves facing hunger and danger like they have never known. So they leave their village in Ireland to journey to America where, they hope, family and fortune await them. Can one brave girl keep her family together no matter what is thrown at them?

The delight of this book is the surprising amount of humour, and emotional depth Toksvig brings to a story full of danger and heartbreak. It's another beautiful hardback edition to treasure as well.

Top of the Class (nearly) - Liz Pichon (£10.99)
From the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Red House Children's Book Award, the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Blue Peter Best Story Book Award 2013, comes the ninth (can you believe that?) amazing instalment of the Tom Gates adventures. Tom Gates is a superb, accessible voice for children of 9+, and great for reluctant readers who may struggle to get into reading.

Return to the Secret Garden - Holly Webb (£8.99)
Return to Frances Hodgson Burnett's timeless classic, 'The Secret Garden', in this magical sequel by bestselling author Holly Webb. It's 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house - a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden... Holly Webb is the author of The Truffle Mouse and the Emily Feather series. 

The Astounding Broccoli Boy - Frank Cotterill Boyce (£10.99)
Frank Cottrell-Boyce is one of our favourite authors - his special genius is to tell stories that grip and unfold through the eyes of the children he's created, which allows him to generate incredible twists in perspective that are a totally delight.

After 'Cosmic' and 'Millions' this is another funny and wildly imaginative modern-day adventure. When Rory Rooney turns inexplicably green he is convinced he has super powers, but after being whisked off to a research facility, he must team up with his worst enemy - and some penguins - to find out what's happened. Why does London seem to be under attack from aliens? Will he ever be normal again? And will he be able to drive the bin lorry he's just stolen? Crazy, super-powered and just fantastic!