We're big fans of Louise Doughty in the shop, and following the huge hit of 'Apple Tree Yard' Louise has followed it up with 'Black Water' and masterful, slow-motion suspense tale of skulduggery, murky state-sponsored murder and some of the biggest events of the 20th century.
The incessant drumming of the rain stands as a great metaphor for both the erasure of the past and the drip-drip of tension as chickens come home to roost for John Harper - intelligence operative with some very bad things on his conscious.
Doughty once again pulls off a remarkable feat: a thought-provoking, morally ambiguous tale written with page-turning skill that will have wide appeal.
'Rush Oh!' by Shirley Barrett is a completely different kettle of fish - or rather, whale blubber. Many people might be put off with the subject matter (a coming-of-age story set against a whaling community in New South Wales in 1908) but that would be a huge mistake - this is one of those novels that transports you utterly and completely to another place and time that is hard to believe ever exists.
Mary Davidson cares for her ailing father, his motley crew (literally) of vagabonds, chancers and loyal acolytes that work with the killer whales (yes, they have this amazing symbiotic relationship, one of the treats of the book) to hunt and land whales for their own survival. Into this mix walks John Beck, a man with a murky past, who threatens to knock both the boat and the domestic set-up completely off-balance. But there are bigger changes happening in the wider world, and the whales seem to be coming more elusive.
With both timeless and contemporary themes (including ones of community and environmental stewardship) this is a favourite debut of the past year new out in paperback.
A sultry summer, two bored schoolgirls and a disappearance of Mrs Creasy, one of the neighbours, means Grace and Tilly are determined to turn it into a mystery to solve...
'The Trouble with Goats and Sheep' is another impressive debut, this time from Joanna Cannon and set in the 1970s. There’s a definite love for the period that comes through in this quirky story where two schoolgirls find excuses to chat to the whole of their small community and are treated to generous amounts of coveted penguin biscuits along with the gossip.
The narrative weaves among a group of uptight individuals, a group of unchanging residents, who have lived close together for too long and know each other just a little too well. The suspicions also ring true: of anyone who doesn’t fit in, or worse, measure up to the ambitions of the lower middle-class. It’s a story of the small tragedies of ordinary life.
The girls end up uncovering more secrets than they bargained for and find some sad stories about what is really going on behind those starched net curtains and tidily-mown lawns. A little gem.
Sometimes a children's book comes in that's so good, you end up wanting to recommend it to adults as well - and that's definitely the case with Scarlett Thomas' 'Dragon's Green'. Scarlett has already had an impressive writing career with books such as 'The End of Mr Y' and 'The Seed Collectors', and this - her first for children - is one of those books that feels instantly like an absolute treat to settle down with.
Firstly, it features a really important library, which turns out to be magical, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it has the best contest with a dragon ever...
Effie Truelove is determined to save her grandfather’s library when he is suddenly attacked and a sinister book-buyer is desperately keen to get his hands on the collection. When Effie realises the books are magical she is plunged into an entire parallel world where she must learn how to defeat the book eaters and save the precious library that was her grandfather’s life’s work.
Wonderful world-building, an exciting race to the finish and the gathering together of an unlikely assortment of friends, means there is tremendous enjoyment to be had in this smart, bold, imaginative and adventurous story of magic and books.
This is the first in a planned trilogy and we have signed copies in stock. Something tells us it might be worth getting your hands on this and being amongst the first to discover it...email us to reserve a copy.
Over the last few years we've loved championing SF author Chris Beckett in the shop, and his 'Dark Eden' series - even to the point of having our bookgroups read the original in the series.
The third book in the series is now out in paperback, and 'Daughter of Eden' follow in the footsteps of the original colonists of Eden - and a deadly war between the people of New Earth and Mainground. Unashamedly solid SF themes, but just powerful, timeless storytelling - and definitely continues to be a classic series in the making.
It's always good to take a risk with a book, and we're asking you to to take a risk with 'Mirror, Shoulder, Signal' - Pushkin Press' translation of Danish author Dorthe Nors angst-ridden tale of loneliness, first-world problems and culture in translation.
The book itself defies genre, but there are plenty of hints: the main protagonist is Sonja (non-conformist, fish-out-of-water) is a translator of violent crime fiction (think Stieg Larsson or any black scandi-noir), and when she finds herself single after being dumped by another translator, Paul, she's determined to get her life back on track - but has no clue on where to start. Through her attempts at learning to drive, abortive meditation classes and other endeavours (from well-meaning but equally clueless acquaintances) Sonja recovers the events of her child which have led her to her current impasse. We reckon this would make a great bookgroup read - but also a chance to discover a totally new voice in European fiction.
If something lighter - but nevertheless enjoyable - is more up your street, 'One-in-a-million Boy' by Monica Wood definitely fits the bill. It's incredibly moving, and yes - you'll shed a few tears.
But great books shouldn't solely by measured by how much salty water leaks from the eyeballs - and we heartily recommend the story of 104-year old Ona, and the mystery disappearance of the 11-year-old boy who has been helping her out.
The Bailey's shortlist was out this week - which many people still know as the Orange Prize for woman's fiction, and will again have a new name again next year (as Bailey's have decided this isn't a good match for their corporate goals).
But whatever globalised alcoholic beverage you choose to wash down your reading with, we reckon this year's list is both imaginative and a great mix of genres, styles and stories. Frankly we could have recommended any of them - and we've been recommending Margaret Atwood's 'Hag-Seed' and Madeleine Thien's 'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' for months. But we're plumping for 'The Power' by Naomi Alderman which has been a described as an instant classic - and it's a science fiction thriller which should wide appeal.
All across the world, teenage women are discovering that they suddenly - and thrillingly - have the power to inflict pain and even kill with the touch of their hands. Male domination seems to be at an end - and initially it seems a good thing with sex-traffickers and rapists getting their comeuppance, and revolutions around the world in all the world's patriarchal societies. But be careful what you wish for: As power balances are upset, things get out of hand, what's the end-game for this deadly battle of the sexes.
Brilliant, thought-provoking and a rip-roaring read, this feels like an end-game in itself: a fully-fledged grown-up novel sprung from the YA revolution.