Friday, February 05, 2016

The Greatest of these is Love: the Mostly Books Valentine's Day selection for 2015

This year's Valentine's Day selection is our typical mix of the traditional and the quirky (which you would expect from the team that offered up Potatoes and Zombies in 2013, and 'The Martian' in 2014).

Whether buying a gift for a special person - or treating yourself to a romantic read - love takes many forms, and can be found in all kinds of books. Enjoy.

The true romance of 'Pure Juliet' is how it came to be published. Stella Gibbons will always be the author that wrote 'Cold Comfort Farm', but she came to resent this book squatting on her reputation, overshadowing her achievements as a poet and the many other books she wrote. So when, in 2014, her family discovered this unpublished manuscript Vintage Classics took the opportunity to publish.

Written in the 1970s and 80s, it's a novel ahead of its time, with the character of Juliet definitely 'on a spectrum somewhere', obsessed with the maths and physics she excels at, but clumsy and baffled by the messiness and unpredictability of relationships and love. 'Pure Juliet' will be a joy to fans, told with wit, wry observation and sensitivity. It adds a welcome dimension to an author often described as our '20th century Jane Austen'.

Celia Imre might just make the transition from one of our best-loved actors to authors with her debut novel 'Not Quite Nice'. Bellevue-Sur-Mer sits on the French Riviera, just outside Nice.

When Theresa - sick of her spoilt daughter and equally obnoxious grandchildren - loses her job she heads off to the south of France to contemplate her future. Cue a Kate Fforde-esque tale of oddball characters, and plenty of twists and turns in the Sun. But what sets this apart is the pace and humour - a real joy to read.

Erotic poetry might make a few people do a double-take when viewed on the table of our family-friendly shop, but then Gaius Valerius Catullus wasn't your average erotic poet. His yearning, pining love poems track a doomed obsession during the tumultuous years of Rome in the first century BC, and as such are packed with tantalising glimpes of a different Rome than is found in other literary works of the period.

Mocked in his own lifetime, he boasts plenty of modern fans including Robert Harris, historians Dan Jones and Tom Holland, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) Boris Johnson (who, one suspects, has deployed a few stanzas over the years!). Their praise adorns the cover of 'Catullus' Bedspread' this fabulous book by debut author and classical scholar Daisy Dunn. It's part biography, part imagined travelogue and part analysis of his works. Original, accomplished and a lot of fun, this might be the perfect gift for anyone with an interest in Roman life - or the unchanging hopes and desires of the human heart over the millennia.

How about a romantic gift that does double-duty as an adorable picture book? As has happened to just about everyone in the shop, you will absolutely fall in love with 'I'll Never Let You Go' by author Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrator Alison Brown.

Beautiful illustrations and a sensitive story will quickly make this a firm favourite at bedtime - but also something to soothe any worry lines on little brows.

On the same lines, but in a lovingly-produced gift edition, 'Love...' by Emma Dodd is another beautifully produced book from one of our absolutely favourite publishers, Nosy Crow (who celebrate their fifth birthday this year).

Celebrating the love between parent and child, with delightful rhyming text - we have some exclusive, limited edition matching cards to give away with every book purchased to make this an extra special gift!

Last Summer, our Courtyard Garden was packed to listen to debut novelist Laura Barnett talk about her book 'The Versions of Us', a book that takes a what-if approach to the vagaries of the human heart.

And who hasn’t wondered ‘What if?’ about their own life? What if you’d taken a particular job, taken that path instead of this one, or that one chance – said ‘yes’ one time instead of ‘no’? 

The outcome of a chance meeting - or not - between Eva and Jim on a Cambridge path is followed in three alternative strands, which is constantly surprising and not at all what you might have expected. Thought-provoking and now out in paperback.

We reviewed 'Crooked Heart' by Lissa Evans on BBC Radio Oxford last week - a fun, brilliantly plotted, enjoyable and rollicking good story, told with dark humour, showing how different people, with different skills, can be thrown together and blossom in the confusion of war.

Click to read the full review here and you can also listen to Mark discussing the book with Alex Lester during the show.

'It's never too late to have a fling, for autumn is just as nice as spring ...' Christopher Matthew's latest collection of comic verse negotiates the perils and pitfalls of romance in later years in 'A Bus Pass Named Desire'.

Love is revealed in the most unlikely places, with the most improbable people seeking it. Whether in Dorking, Diss, Clapham Junction or West Wittering, there are amorous opportunities waiting to be seized at the bridge table, on the tennis court, in the herbaceous border, on a bicycle made for two, or simply in warm companionship.

Delightful and stirring tales of late-flowering love (and even mild debauchery in a retirement home, of which Catullus - see above - would be proud!) this is a celebration of life for the young at heart.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Crooked, twisted, but having a great day: BBC Oxford Afternoon Book Buzz

This week we were utterly thrilled to watch as Oxford-based author Frances Hardinge picked up one of the biggest prizes in British publishing - the Costa Book of the Year award.

Frances' books are a bold and imaginative blend of science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, history and horror for children and young adults. But aside from her exquisite writing, she's a thoroughly lovely and generous person - and when we've taken her into local schools, the children have always been inspired to write themselves.

So we were excited to be able to rave about her Costa-winning book 'The Lie Tree' on BBC Radio Oxford this week. You can listen to the show here (fast-forward to approximately 2 hours 40 minutes).

Here are the books we reviewed:

The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge (PB, Macmillan, £7.99)
It’s Victorian England, and Faith knows she has no future as a scientist like her father. But when he is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she discovers that a woman in Victorian society can be good at influencing and manipulating behind the scenes, and she sets about trying to uncover the truth, despite no-one believing her. In her father’s belongings, she finds a strange tree that seems to feed off of whispered lies, and the bigger and more believed the lies, the more the tree grows. She decides to experiment with it, but things start to spiral desperately out of control.

This is another brilliantly thought-provoking, imaginative tale that weaves science and fantasy, drawing on deep storytelling and fairy tale themes but totally original. Frances Hardinge is definitely at the cutting edge of YA writing – and now she’s one of our most celebrated authors.

Crooked Heart – Lissa Evans (Black Swan, PB, £7.99)

Where Frances Hardinge has written a book which has plenty of appeal for adult readers, Lissa Evans is an author who writes for children and adults. Lissa’s children’s books are brilliantly imaginative mystery stories and have been shortlisted for just about every children’s award going (here's a review we did in 2011 for 'Small Change for Stuart', one of favourite children's books ever)

In Crooked Heart, we reckon she’ll get plenty more nominations. It’s simply a rollicking good story, told with dark humour, showing how different people, with different skills, can be thrown together and blossom in the confusion of war.

The story is set at the outbreak of World War II, and Noel Bostock - aged ten, with no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz. He winds up in St Albans with Vera Sedge. They seem the polar opposite: where Noel is studious, serious and analytical, Vee is instinctive, opportunistic and always on the make, drowning in debts and always desperate for money.

On her own, Vee’s a disaster, but with Noel, she's a team. But the consequences of their activities start to make them dangerous enemies, and Noel finds evacuation hasn’t exactly made him safer. Funny, original, a wonderful read.

How to Have a Good Day : Think Bigger, Feel Better and Transform Your Working Life – Caroline Webb (Macmillan, PB, £14.99)

Finally, we're big suckers for personal development or ‘how-to’ books (or, as we like to euphemistically call them, ‘success literature’) but in recent years the move has been to back up traditional recommendations of success (positive thinking, positive affirmations and goal settings) with the latest developments in how the brain works.

What we love about Caroline Webb’s ‘How to Have a Good Day’ is how it’s written as a handbook to achieve better outcomes in your life, with a folksy, attractive style which sets nice, achievable steps and contains plenty of real, recent proof that her tips really work.

It’s not grandiose, it’s nicely self-deprecating, and contains all sorts of science-backed, small changes we can make to achieve really desirable outcomes e.g. getting a better night’s sleep, getting along better with work colleagues, feeling fitter and achieving more. What a great way to start the year!

Friday, January 15, 2016

3 4 Friday - New fiction for 2016: Secrets, Lies and Blurred Realities

2016 has started with a bang, with loads of new fiction coming into the shop. For today's '3 4 Friday' selection, we've picked three new titles for you to enjoy.

In ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ documentary maker Kate Hamer has written an intriguing debut: with elements of a thriller, it is more an exploration of religious ideas, family ties and personal identity.

Inspired by fairy tales - as well as Hamer's discovery of an infamous ancestor who ran a cult - it is the story of an abducted girl - Carmel - told from the point of view of both her and her family. The book is published in paperback this month.

When Carmel disappears the police comb every piece of evidence trying to discover who on earth might have snatched her. But the reader sees the story from Carmel’s eyes and know her abductors have been planning this meticulously for years. Her captor, pretending to be her estranged grandfather, believes Carmel has special powers and has taken her because he believes she should be doing the work of God. So begins Carmel’s extraordinary new life, struggling to keep her identity while ‘grandfather’ plans something quite different. But at home, neither her mother nor the police have ever given up on finding a lead that will lead them back to Carmel...

With plenty of themes to discuss, we think it would make a great bookgroup read.

Different points of view are also at play in 'The Widow' by Fiona Barton. This is one of 2016's big new hardback releases, and it's definitely tapping into the unreliable narrator aspects of last year's huge hit 'The Girl on the Train' (even the cover looks familiar).

What works brilliantly is this three-way story – the widow of a man (Glen Taylor) who went on trial for child abduction, the policemen who doggedly collected evidence, and the journalist who sees a career-making chance at a story when Glen Taylor dies.

As the truth is teased out of the widow, will it emerge that the police set him up as Glen always claimed? Or has the silent widow always known a lot more than she claims?

Barton is a former journalist who covered some infamous court cases for The Daily Mail and The Telegraph - and found herself drawn to the wives of those men accused of terrible crimes. You'll be hearing a lot about this book as the year progresses...

Our first event of 2016 is in conjunction with Abingdon Library, when author Francesca Kay will be discussing her new novel 'The Long Room'.

The novel - set in 1981 - is the story of Stephen Donaldson, who’s day is spent listening into the endless taped conversations of others – ageing communists and small-time revolutionaries – for giveaway signs of terrorist activity. But being part of the secret service is not the dashing job Stephen imagined and life has failed him in so many ways.

Listening brings him into the world of the wife of one of the suspects and he quickly becomes obsessed with offering her a better life. From diligent, quiet and lonely, ‘The Long Room’ charts Stephen’s descent into risk-taking and rule-breaking as the line between obsession and reality starts to blur,

Francesca Kay’s first novel, 'An Equal Stillness', won the Orange Award for New Writers in 2009. She lives in Oxford with her family. She will be at Abingdon Library on Wednesday, January 27 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £2 and are available from the library - and find out more here.

Here's to finding your next favourite author in 2016...and we'd love to hear what you are reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Ladybird Book of Christmas: or why people come into an independent bookshop

All kinds of people come into independent bookshops, for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps you want to discover a new favourite author that you don't yet know exists, or you want the one book that's going to light a fire underneath a reluctant reader. Or you want that new book by the author who's name begins with 'A' (or possibly 'I'). You might need a gift for a difficult-to-buy-for Aunt, or a voracious Uncle who's read everything. It might be your turn to choose the next read for your bookgroup (and you want to make sure it's a good one, unlike last time), or you might just want to soak up that special atmosphere you get from a place where almost all of the books have been hand-picked, and many have been read and reviewed.

In short - to take advantage of the all the good stuff that you get from a passionate independent bookshop.

At this time of year, it can get a bit manic in the shop. We don't have *quite* the same amount of time to say "Hi" and ask after the dog, there might be just a few more dark rings around the eyes, and worries about 'Christmas casualties' (those desperately needed books that won't reprint before the big day, and which keep us awake at night).

Bookselling is physically and mentally demanding - mentally shifting up and down through the 'recommendation engine' that sits between the ears of a bookseller (aka 'our brain'), whilst being on the feet all day, whirling around the shop, trying to strike a balance between friendly, engaging customer service and over-caffeinated maniac. Holes appear on the shelves as stock reduces. Holes also appear in shoes and further up belt-buckles.

Honestly, someone should write The Independent Bookseller's Diet' - it'd be a Christmas bestseller.

So Happy Christmas from everyone here at Mostly Books. We close 3pm Christmas Eve, we're then open again next week, Tuesday Dec 29 - Thursday Dec 31. For the rest of that time, all the staff will be sitting somewhere quietly reading a book.

We get incredible support from our community here in Abingdon, and we thought you'd appreciate this last blog post of the year. To everyone who reads this blog, who reads our newsletter every Friday, who comes in and trusts us to recommends books for friends and family - have a fantastic Christmas and we'll see you again with some great new books in 2016...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Not Enough Time' by Henrietta Knight - book signing at Mostly Books

Back in October, Mostly Books were extremely proud to be invited to the launch of Henrietta Knight's memoir 'Not Enough Time', the rollercoaster memoir of life with her great love, Terry Biddlecombe, the hell-raising ex-champion jockey.

It is a story of triumph over tragedy, as together they reached the pinnacle of success in National Hunt racing and trained Best Mate to win three Cheltenham Gold Cups. It is also a tale of tragedy over triumph, which saw the great horse die at Hen's feet on Exeter racecourse and Terry passing away far too young, in 2014. In Hen's own moving, humorous, courageous words, it's a remarkable story.

Hen and Terry were called 'the odd couple' because of their different backgrounds and lifestyles, but theirs was one of the most endearing modern day racing romances - something we witnessed at her West Lockinge Farm as family and friends travelled from all over the world to be at the launch.

'Not Enough Time' has been one of the surprise hit books of the Autumn, reprinting four time already - and we are not surprised.

So we're delighted that she will be signing copies of her book at Mostly Books on Sunday, December 20 at 11am, in what will be our final event of the year.

Come and meet Henrietta and get a book signed for you, or for a wonderful, dedicated gift for family and friends. We shall be open for until 3pm that day for any other last-minute Christmas shopping as well! If you cannot make it - and would like a signed copy - email us to reserve one.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Books for Christmas Part 12: Books on the Brain, in the Gut and in you Hands - Science and Nature

The town of Abingdon-on-Thames is a unique and special place, which is not to be uncritical of it. There are aspects of the town which are the envy of other towns - its heritage, buildings, history and position on the Thames - and the 'wicked problems' that challenge its vitality linked to changes in society, technology, climate and transport that affect every town in the country.

But there are two pieces of incredible good fortune that make Abingdon such a wonderful place to live and work. One is the sheer number of people in the town who are working to solve some of these tricky and long-term problems, the other is Abingdon's location at the heart of some of the most exciting science and technology in the world.

We call it the 'Golden Science Triangle', and at each Apex you have cutting edge fusion, space, physics and academic research. It means that most days we get to chat about science, technology and nature challenges and solutions with some of the most brilliant brains on the planet...

Which means we have to be at the top of our game when it comes to science and nature writing. We may not always make it - but here are our top picks of the year:

The Brain - David Eagleman (£25)
Where better to start than the source of all the ideas - the three pound mass of moist biological matter, locked away in the dark and silent fortress of the skull. Yet somehow it produces the extraordinary multi-sensory experience that comprises us, every day of our lives. Just how it does this is revealed through six fascinating chapters, as Eagleman shows how the brain - a great storyteller - constructs reality and allows us to navigate a complex world of decision-making.

Eagleman also takes the long view of the human brain's trajectory in the coming centuries and millennia, asking pertinent questions about our future. Along the way, Eagleman meets nuns, extreme sports athletes, convicted criminals, genocide survivors, autistic people, and multi-disciplinary experts from child psychologists to brain surgeons. He takes part in experiments that shine an important light on the brain's inner cosmos. He also explores the dark side of human behaviour, as he comes to the realisation that the best and worst of what humans do to each other can be understood through the prism of the brain.

And the most delightful aspect of this book for us? It shows how reading and hearing stories - by rehearsing different scenarios, and experiencing far more than we could ever hope to in physical form - can improve almost all aspects of our life. An exhilarating and hugely important book - we highly recommend it.

Chance – New Scientist (£7.99)
If you think about it, the chances of you being here today are astronomically small – a mind-boggling series of ‘lucky breaks’ between the Big Bang and you sitting listening to this radio show right now. Science can tell us a lot about luck and chance – from gambling and finding love to the truly weird world of coincidences.

This fantastic and utterly fascinating little book tells you how our brains have evolved to cope with chance – and why pretty much everything you think you know about it is wrong!

The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees - Robert Penn (£16.99)
From the author of one of our favourite cycling books of the last few years, It's All About the Bike, comes another exuberant tale of craftsmanship and human history. Uplifting, revealing, great fun and full of stories, it explores the almost symbiotic relationship that we have with trees, explored through the things we make out of them.

Robert Penn cut down an ash tree to see how many things could be made from it. After all, ash is the tree we have made the greatest and most varied use of over the course of human history. Journeying from Wales across Europe and Ireland to the USA, he finds that the ancient skills and knowledge of the properties of ash, developed over millennia making wheels and arrows, furniture and baseball bats, are far from dead. The book chronicles how the urge to understand and appreciate trees still runs through us like grain through wood. Difficult to overstate how splendid this book is - come in and take a look!

Norwegian Wood - Lars Mytting (£20)
Until you see it, feel the heft in your hands, and fall in love with it, it's tricky to understand just why a book about chopping and stacking wood should be such a pan-European bestseller, but - like Robert Penn's book above - our connection with wood runs deep and profoundly.

One of the biggest Scandinavian publishing successes ever. For a time when we are most conscious of our energy security, a practical-lyrical, beautifully illustrated guide to its most ancient source. Lars Mytting shares a Scandinavian passion for wood harvesting, stacking, storing and burning, combining cultural history and folklore with modern science. 'Norwegian Wood' is both entertaining and instructive, and in delivering a wealth of advice and technical know-how for the armchair reader and for those outdoors. This book really tells you everything you wanted to know about wood but were too afraid to ask...

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ - Giulia Enders (£14.99)
The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us - literally! Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and - let's be honest - somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy.

And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer's. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook. Gut definitely shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings.

Thing Explainer - Randall Munroe (£16.99)
One of our absolute science heroes, Richard Feynman, once said that if you can't explain something to a first-year university student, you don't really get it.

In 'Thing Explainer', ex-NASA robotics scientist, author of 'What If?' and the xkcd web phenomenon takes a quantum leap past this: he explains things using only drawings and a vocabulary of just our 1,000 (or the ten hundred) most common words. Many of the things we use every day - like our food-heating radio boxes ('microwaves'), our very tall roads ('bridges'), and our computer rooms ('datacentres') - are strange to us.

It's a wonderful series of brilliantly simple diagrams ('blueprints' if you want to be complicated about it) that show how important things work: from the nuclear bomb to the biro. It's good to know what the parts of a thing are called, but it's much more interesting to know what they do...

This book is fantastic for both smart kids and eager-to-learn adults and practically anyone who you are stumped to give a gift for!

Want more inspiration? We've been blogging all year about other science and technology books, and ahead of Tim Peake's space mission which launches on Dec 15 - go see our big space book post, take a look at our 'Christmas Rocket' in the shop window, and also take a look at 'The Invention of Nature' by Andrea Wulf and 'The Invention of Science' by David Wootton in our review of favourite history titles)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Books for Christmas Part 11: Do the Time, Read the Crime

Sherlock Holmes was originally going to be called Sherringford Holmes. Detective Inspector John Rebus' name comes from a word puzzle popular in medieval literature in which letters and pictures represent a surname. Jack Reacher's name came when Lee Child's wife, on being told he was giving up his job to become a writer, suggested he could always become a 'reacher' in a supermarket...

Where their names come from, the protagonists in crime and thriller novels become larger than the novels that spawned them. I bet if you close your eyes, you can see at least one of those characters as a living, breathing human being. That's the magic of the storyteller genius.

Here are our pick of favourite crime and thriller books out this year which will live in your imagination this Christmas. Enjoy.

A Study in Murder - Robert Ryan (£7.99)
128 years after he first appeared in print, Sherlock Holmes continues to enthrall and capture our imaginations unlike any other detective. Although plenty of different authors have written 'new' Holmes and Watson adventures in the meantime, few have been as brilliantly and imaginatively done as Robert Ryan's 'Dr Watson' thrillers.

This is the third in the series following 'Dead Man's Land' and 'The Dead Can Wait', and sees Dr John Watson being held in a notorious POW camp deep in enemy Germany in 1917, there as Medical Officer for the British prisoners.

With the Allied blockade, food is perilously short in the camp and when a new prisoner is murdered all assume the poor chap was killed for his Red Cross parcel. Watson, though, isn't so sure. Something isn't quite what it seems and a creeping feeling of unease tells Watson there is more to this than meets the eye. And when an escape plot is apparently uncovered in his hut and he is sent to solitary confinement, he knows he must solve the crime and escape before he is silenced for good. All he needs is some long-distance help from his old friend, Sherlock Holmes...

Crime at Christmas - C. H. B. Kitchin (£8.99)
We've loved the British Library 'Crime Classics' reissues, with their vintage cover designs and classic plots - so it's perhaps not surprising that other publishers are revisiting some of the 'forgotten classics' lying in their vaults.

'Crime at Christmas' has been re-issued by Faber & Faber, and features the stockbroker sleuth Malcolm Warren. It's Christmas at Hampstead's Beresford Lodge, and a group of relatives and intimate friends gather to celebrate the festive season. But their party is rudely interrupted by a violent death, and it isn't long before a second body is discovered. Can the murderer be one of those in the great house? A brilliantly witty and unashamedly old-fashioned murder mystery.
The Case of the 'Hail Mary' Celeste - Malcolm Pryce (£8.99)
Jack Wenlock is the last of the 'Railway Goslings': that fabled cadre of railway detectives created at the Weeping Cross Railway Servants' Orphanage. Sworn to uphold the name of God's Wonderful Railway, Jack keeps the trains free of fare dodgers and purse-stealers, bounders and confidence tricksters, German spies and ladies of the night. But now, as the clock ticks down towards the nationalisation of the railways Jack finds himself investigating a case that begins with an abducted great aunt, but soon develops into something far darker and more dangerous.

It reaches up to the corridors of power and into the labyrinth of the greatest mystery in all the annals of railway lore - the disappearance in 1915 of twenty-three nuns from the 7.25 Swindon to Bristol Temple Meads, or the case of the 'Hail Mary' Celeste. Shady government agents, drunken riverboat captains, a missing manuscript and a melancholic gorilla all collide on a journey that will take your breath away.

Carol - Patricia Highsmith (£8.99)
Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn't love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol's world, she soon realizes how much they both stand to lose...First published pseudonymously in 1952 as The Price of Salt, Carol is a hauntingly atmospheric love story set against the backdrop of fifties' New York.

Even the Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin (£19.99) - signed copies whilst stocks last
Some of our customers have expressed their 'surprise' at a new Rebus novel, but as Ian Rankin cheerfully states, Rebus never went away, he just retired. And like a lot of men, he found retirement didn't really suit him, and couldn't resist getting involved again...

This time his old partner DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help, and Rebus is soon up to his necks in the gruesomely familiar: a dead lawyer, his old enemy Big Ger Cafferty, and all the time DI Marcus Fox is working with a covert team against one of Glasgow's most notorious crime families. This isn't going to end well... 

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins (£12.99)
Many readers really enjoyed the unreliable narrator of SJ Watson's 'Gone Girl', and the shifting sands of amnesia and memory in Emma Healey's 'Elizabeth is Missing'. And if that sounds like you, you should really try this utterly compelling thriller about a woman who thinks she's witnessed a murder.

Rachel Watson travels the same route on the train, every day, and one particular house, with its perfect occupants, occupies her mind as a pleasant fantasy. But one day she sees something that drives her to become involved in these anything-but-perfect lives. Questions are difficult to unravel: what was she really doing there and who is really in danger? This is a very original, extremely chilling thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. A real treat and a fantastic debut.

Tabula Rasa - Ruth Downie (£7.99)
There's nothing worse than getting into a series of books - and then realising you've just read the most recent and you are going to have to wait. Which is why we loved discovering the 'Medicus' series of crime novels set in Britannia under the Romans - the latest, Tabula Rasa, is number six in a series that is just waiting to be discovered. Ruth Downie isn't as well know as (say) Lindsey Davis, but this mystery story - packed full of details of Roman life, and set during the building of Hadrian's Wall - is satisfying, hugely enjoyable and just the right amount of quirky British-Roman humour!

Monsters - Emerald Fennel (£7.99)
We really debated whether or not this book should be in YA, but a) it's extremely black humour, and b) we reckon plenty of adults would enjoy it! This is a book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids. As one reviewer admitted "it's very difficult not to overuse the word 'disturbing' to describe this book"

When the body of a young woman is discovered - murdered - in the nets of a Cornish fishing boat, most of the town's inhabitants are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not - a twelve-year-old girl. In fact, she is delighted; she loves murders, and soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Until another twelve year-old boy arrives with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand...