Friday, 31 August 2012

The Family Fang

The Family Fang – Kevin Wilson
The premise of this book is one of the more intriguing I’ve come across and it more than lived up to my expectations. The Fang Family are performance artists – emphasis on the ‘Artist’, they travel the USA creating chaos and filming it as artistic statement. From their births the Fang Children Annie and Buster (A&B) have been the centrepieces of the art their parents create, from Busters winning of a beauty pageant (as the prettiest girl there) to Annie’s many observations of her parents being dragged out of various places screaming in protest. Fast forward a few years and Annie and Buster have become a film star and a writer respectively. But not all is going well. Cue the siblings moving back home and the action takes off.
This was such a wonderful read! It was extremely well written with such vivid characters, a plot that had me cringing one minute and laughing out loud the next. I especially enjoyed the twists and turns and general madness that the family creates. The story skips seamlessly from the present and the previous exploits of Caleb and Camille Fang as each artwork brings the reader closer to the events of the novel and to a deeper understanding of the characters. Wilson artfully explores the concept of Art and its many forms and meanings along with the nature of family and the depth of connection that exists there. I would not hesitate to recommend ‘The Family Fang’ to anyone.

Song for the Road

Song for the Road – Various
When I picked up a book that contained the touring tales of 24 of Australia’s singer-songwriters naturally I felt that this would be a debauched romp through the darker hours on the tour bus. To a degree this was the case, there were a couple of acid trippy tales, however I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part what these celebrities value in their travels are much the same as the rest of us plebs. A particular favourite of mine was Murray Cook’s (aka the Red Wiggle) contribution, his was a love affair with New York, his first visit and the subsequent trips he took as the Wiggles went from being a family based group to one of Australia’s most recognisable exports.
The majority of these stories were well written, however I found some to be the type of pointless retelling that so many of us have when we get home ‘first I went here, then I did this, then we went to bed, then I got up and did it all over again’.  This was the fine line ‘Song for the Road’ trod, between being an entertaining romp through other peoples travels, and being a boring recounting of the same trips many of us had taken. This is also what made this book so enjoyable and accessible, that I could relate to these stories and see my own in them.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
This genre has seen a resurgence in the past few years – however the majority of those books on the top ten lists contain at least one of the walking dead. Not so Laini Taylor’s latest novel, ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Set in Prague we follow Karou, a young woman with extraordinary artistic talent and shockingly bright hair who hides a considerable secret. Raised by a chimera, or demon, named Brimstone and the motley crew which composes her family, Karou is a young woman who exists between worlds. Sent on errand after errand to collect human teeth for Brimstone, yet never knowing why, Taylor leads her readers into the labyrinth and mystery of the world that exists just beyond Karou’s understanding – where does the forbidden door in Brimstone’s lair lead? Why does he need teeth??
All these questions fade into the background as the doorways into Brimstone’s world begin to close, leaving Karou locked on the outside with no idea where her family has disappeared to. What’s more, an angelic warrior named Akiva is shadowing her – but for good or ill? I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the first in a trilogy. The writing is intelligent and the plot is exciting in a way that only an original idea such as this can be. At its core this is a novel that questions what we know of good and evil, right and wrong, and the lengths a people will go to in order to protect and maintain their way of life.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

West End Front

West End Front – Matthew Sweet

There have been a plethora of books written about the Second World War and its effect on the common man in the UK, yet Matthew Sweet's investigation into the lives of the more extravagant hotels on London’s west end presents a fresh view of a world at war. The Savoy, Claridge’s and The Ritz are the protagonists as they cater to a London that refused to let Hitler interrupt the sacred ritual of tea. These hotels were home to those who called the shots, made the big decisions, with entire floors rented to MI5 and war ministers. Within the richly upholstered walls were Kings and Queens, Spies and Agents, and the many men and women who served them. 

Sweet’s writing is extremely accessible and enjoyable to read, full of atmosphere and characters that jump off the page, in particular the vivacious men recalling their time at the Ritz’s Pink Sink – the best place to ‘pick up’ in town. Yet this is not the romp behind formerly closed doors that I had imagined it to be. Even at their most extravagant this London was one that suffered (albeit less than the general populace), tales are told of monarchies exiled to rooms in the Savoy who were never able to go home, innocent waiters who were interned under Regulation 18b and of Winston Churchill hearing about the end of the war he fought so hard to win from the sidelines of a room at Claridge’s. Ultimately the reality of War could never be escaped, however much the great hotels tried, even the moments of oblivion they provided could not stop the world from turning. This was a great read; I would really recommend it for History buffs and anyone simply enjoys a good yarn.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Alif the Unseen

Here's a little sneak peek for ya'll - Alif the Unseen – G Willow Wilson

Alif the Unseen is being hailed as the ‘Harry Potter of the hacker generation’, this is not something I agree with – the themes and characters are so far removed from Rowling’s world that I feel the comparison was made simply to drum up a buzz. Which is a shame, as this is a wonderful novel, full of atmosphere and written with a precision that allowed a complete computer illiterate like me to comprehend the world that Alif inhabited. Wilson plays with concepts of power, such as a name and the personality inherent in all those we take on, the Jinn are a people who place a great deal of importance in a name, and the fact that Alif chooses to be known by his ‘handle’ rather than his given name is proof of how he views himself. I found the world created by Wilson to be wonderfully foreign, yet at the same time incredibly real, I felt the world Alif lived in surround me as I read – this is a rare occurrence.

This is novel firmly set in the Middle Eastern world and mindset – Alif and his hacker friends (most of whom he has never met) struggle to provide a modicum of freedom in world where even the words you type are censored and cause for disciplinary action. This is a world that Alif is proficient in, a world in which he has a nobility that eludes him in the real world. However, all too soon Alif’s controlled world spirals out of control when the woman he loves sends him a copy of the mythical Alf Yeom – the Thousand and One Days, said to contain the wisdom of the Jinn, the magical creatures that inhabit a world alongside our own. The knowledge this book contains is enough to make Alif a target, a fugitive, it is worth killing for. Alif must use all of his skills and knowledge to free not only himself, but the oppressed people of his country.

'Cause everyone has to have a favourite...

The Obernewtyn Chronicles – Isobelle Carmody

I started the Obernewtyn chronicles in 1998 and I’ve probably read them again every second year since. Needless to say I’m over the moon that in less than a fortnight I’ll be the proud (very anti-social) owner of the latest offering in the series ‘The Sending’.

Set in a world that has been ravaged by ‘weaponmachines’ that cause a nuclear apocalypse, the series follows the misfit (people with mental powers such as talking to beasts and each other with their minds) Elspeth Gordie as she strives to find a place for herself and her misfit friends in the cruel, authoritarian land run by the Council and the fanatical religious order the Herder faction.

With the aid of her friends, cat Maruman and horse Ghaltha in particular, Elspeth must follow the clues left only for her many years ago to the site where the weaponmachines are sleeping, waiting to finish the job they started. It’s a race against time as she strives to outwit her counterpart seeking to end the world. Amidst all this she still manages to live her life and it is this and the wonderful characters that surround her that makes these books well worth the wait.

Carmody is a wonderful writer, the worlds she creates are always complete and despite the differences still familiar. Her characters are flawed and loveable and so real I’ve always thought of them as old friends. The only problem is the time it’s taken her to finish this series – but given the other wonderful places she’s taken me to in the meantime I’ll forgive her. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

I first read about ‘A Discovery of Witches’ in 2009 – many months before it hit the shelves. I waited with an anticipation I had not felt for a new publication in quite some time – there seemed to be something about this novel of witches and history that would give a post twilight world the intelligent escapism it was crying out for. Happily I wasn’t disappointed, I found the protagonists ambivalence to the magic dynasty she was born into to be intriguing, her obsession with history understandable and the tall handsome stranger intent on protecting her very titillating. Furthermore, the world Harkness created was both credible and vivid. So often in fantasy today it falls to authors to completely reconstruct the mythos of the magical world in order to put their mark on it – and this was certainly a new world with politics and magical hierarchies that set Harkness apart. 

The plot flows quickly and methodically – we meet Diana and Matthew whilst Diana is working at Oxford, when she innocently calls up Ashmole 782. This book is one that Witch, Daemon and Vampire kind have only heard rumours about – is it the first Spell book? Or something more, could it be the book that contains the answer to the origins of all three species? One thing is for certain; both Witch and Vampire will go to any lengths to get their hands on it. Diana and Matthew must defy centuries of prejudice if they are to survive and understand both their feelings for each other and the implications of the book. This journey will take them from modern Oxford, to France, to the USA and finally to Elizabethan England. 

Not always is a sequel as polished or as inventive as a debut novel, especially when an authors first book garners the acclaim of ‘A Discovery of Witches’, yet I was thrilled to find that I enjoyed ‘A Shadow of Night’ just as much as its predecessor. The character arks were written skilfully and so the characters grew as the plot was driven on. I find Harkness’ writing style to be extremely readable and enjoyable, my only criticism is that it will be another year before I find out what happens!

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Don’t let the authors name put you off – this is anything but free love view of the world. Eleanor and Park is an extremely intelligent coming of age tale set in the reality of 1986 USA. Park keeps his head down, he’s grown up and been to school with the same bunch of kids his whole life and he knows exactly where he fits in the scheme of things, until the day Eleanor gets on the bus and he feels obliged to offer her the seat next to him. Eleanor has just been allowed to move back home after being kicked out by her low-life stepdad, she’s aware that she looks different – stands out – and this is the exact opposite of what she wants. Over the next few months their mutual sufferance of each other becomes a tentative friendship, which then becomes that most precious of all things – first love.

What makes this so much more than just another coming of age novel is the intelligence of Rowell’s writing. Her depth of understanding and the art with which she relays the characters feelings and experiences is transcendent and places this novel among the best I’ve read. This novel is so easy to relate to, every new experience is one we’ve all had, as readers we get to experience every first touch and thought in such an authentic way that this will be a novel that stays with us all.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Park Lane

Park Lane – Frances Osborne 
Following in the footsteps of ’Downton Abbey’ and the revitalised Upstairs Downstairs’, this war time novel certainly did not follow the path I was expecting. At its heart are Bea and her sometimes maid Grace, two women who come from extremely different backgrounds. Yet these characters both bring to ‘Park Lane’ a different snapshot of what life was for women just prior to WW1 and during. Grace has come to London to make something of herself as a secretary yet finds herself unable to gain employment anywhere but as a maid in Bea’s family mansion. Bea is a rich young woman on the scary side of twenty, not yet married and desperate to make her mark on a world where women are decidedly second class citizens.
There was a lovely symmetry to this novel, as the notion of class became something of a nonissue in that neither woman was free to follow her dreams and constantly subjected to the mores of a world teetering on the edge. This is a novel that is truly about these women and their experiences, as Bea fights for the vote and then does what she can in France during the war, and Grace struggles with her class and the question of marriage or freedom. It was well written, skipping seamlessly between the two women and back again, and as an example of the world of a young woman prior to WW1 it stands above many of the offerings I’ve read to date.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Gold - Chris Cleave

This is the perfect novel to read concurrently with the London Olympics as it demonstrates with adroitness the lengths athletes must go to in order to stay at the top of their game. At the heart of ‘Gold’ are two women, Zoe and Kate, they are Cyclists, best friends, training buddies and have been rivals for the gold since they were nineteen. At thirty-two both women has had her share of wins and losses both on and off the bike, yet their abiding friendship remains. Cleave takes us on the girls journey to their final Olympics in London whilst seamlessly telling the story of the various failures and successes that have led them to this point.

I found this book to be a revelation – I’ll readily admit that I wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospect of reading about sport. Yet ‘Gold’ is about so much more than Cycling, despite the fact both women were defined by it. The sport is both ever-present and at the same time somehow serves as a prop to the narrative that unfolds around it. The characters were finely drawn and so real, oft times confronting yet at the same time endearing, their circumstances are so different to the general public yet their issues so pervasive. The writing was beautifully refined and at the same time subversive and the suspense that built in Cleave’s capable hands had me racing to the finish…pun intended.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Recluse

The Recluse - Evelyn Juers
There is an urban myth in Newtown that the inspiration for Charles Dickens archetypal Miss Havisham was based on a woman who lived here in the 19th century. Eliza Donnithorne was allegedly jilted at the altar and never recovered, the wedding feast remaining on the table until her death. Sound familiar? However, this book is anything but a retelling of Miss Havisham’s sad end, instead Juers delves into the history of the Donnithorne family and examines the fables that made Eliza the myth she is today – who came first? Eliza or Miss Havisham?
I must admit that at times I found myself cast adrift as Juers recounted history of the family – jumping back and forth between cousins and distant family members I struggled to keep straight and see the point of. Nevertheless this was a thoroughly researched collection and I was fascinated at how Eliza has become a local legend simply by becoming a recluse – the only hard evidence to be found were letters to her lawyers and family that stated she was unwell and an avid reader. So the real question is – does a woman have to have a tragic past to decide she would prefer to spend her life alone reading? This reader certainly hopes not!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Baroness

The Baroness – Hannah Rothschild
This is the biography of a woman. It is also the biography of a family and the world that created them. Hannah Rothschild was always interested in the things her esteemed family wouldn’t talk about- her aunt Nica (Pannonica) Rothschild. This was a woman who lived her life to the beat of a different drum, known as the Baroness of Jazz, she spend the latter part of her life consumed by the Jazz scene of the 50’s and 60’s, rejecting the world of wealth and privelidge to spend her time with the struggling musicians who so enthralled her.
Hannah Rothschild has spent her life documenting those of others via film. Her passion to discover the life of her aunt has led her to write this biography in a way that only a family member can. The Rothschilds are renound for their secrecy and as this book continues the reader sees the lengths that Hannah needed to go to in order to create anything at all. She follows the story of her family from their squalid beginnings in Juddengasse (or Jews-Alley) to their indespensibility amongst the powers of Europe due to their dominant banks. This was a well written, fascinating peek into the world that created Nica and her rebellious life thereafter. A life that enveloped the developing Jazz scene in the USA and the extremely taunt race relations therein, in particular her defining relationship with Thelonius Monk who was considered one of the giants of the scene.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Snake Ropes

Snake Ropes – Jess Richards
Every lock has a key, and every key tells a story.
Snake Ropes is one of the most atmospheric books to be released in the last few years. Set on an island that is ‘off the map’, complete with its own rich dialect and mythology, it follows the story of two girls. Mary, a native to the island, who can touch any piece of metal and root out the secrets of those who’ve held it, has had her brother taken by ‘the tall men’ who come to trade the island folk for their fish and crafts, and occasionally take more than they should. Locked in a house on the other side of the island is Morgan, a girl who can see ghosts and desperately wants to escape the prison of work and family her mother is content to have her die in. Snake ropes follows these women as they seek to unlock the secrets surrounding them.
Jess Richards grew up watching boats sail from Scotland to Ireland, this is evident in the wonderful immediacy of the island and the feeling created in the reader. This was a stunning debut novel – well written and extremely satisfying in its completeness.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Younger Man

The Younger Man – Zoe Foster
Written by the inestimable Miss Foster, former editor of Cleo, this is intelligent chick lit at its best. The tale begins with our mature heroine Abby kicking lovely young Marcus out of her bed (and life). But Marcus has other plans for Abby, and he’s not about to let her get away. Add to this a major overhaul for her small business, Allure, and the dramas of her two best friends, and Abby has her plate well and truly full. Will Marcus win Abs over? Or will she let her prejudices about age stop her from falling for the first man she ever felt she could trust?
I really enjoyed the tone set by Foster, and adored the fact that ‘The Younger Man’ was set in Sydney – it’s so refreshing to read about women in our real world. The conversational tone of the novel was witty and endearing in the way Foster has cemented her rise to love guru and all around good gal on. My only trouble was, can such a man as Marcus really exist? At any age, let alone at 22? Miss Foster, I’m putting the call out – have you really met a man like him? …and if he’s single…can I have his number??

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

If you're reading this I'm already dead

If you’re reading this I’m already dead – Andrew Nicholl

This is the fictional retelling of the true story of Otto Witte, a Hungarian acrobat who convinced the people of Albania that he was their King, just prior to World War 1. It almost feels as though no more need be said. This is one of those occasions where real life really is stranger than fiction. But what captivatingly written fiction it is. Told in first person our protagonist Otto is making a last desperate attempt to write him memoirs before the Allies drop a bomb on his little tin shack in Berlin. As such the novel shifts continuously between the past, where Otto and his circus friends (including Max, the strongman, Tifty, a former countess and horse trainer, and Professor Von Mesmer and his lovely daughter Sarah), travel from the Austro-Hungarian empire all the way to Albania.

Otto is a wonderfully rich character, and so funny, I found his voice so entertaining and warm to read. Nicholls writing was so conversational as to be almost a stream of consciousness at times, and Otto provided the perfect vehicle for this wonderful story of whimsy and risking it all for the chance of a lifetime. The real Otto Witte was thought to have been insane, or at the very least suffer from a very strong delusion, yet Nicholls has taken this man and given him back his honour – posing the question, if everyone believes you are the King, who are you to gainsay them?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Fables - Legends in Exile

Fables Vol 1 – Legends in Exile – Bill Willingham

This was my first graphic novel, or comic, if you will. I loved it- it was so easy, by the end I felt as though I had hardly read anything at all, I even went back to check I hadn’t missed anything. For anyone who is tentative to check out the genre I urge you to take the step –you won’t be disappointed. The graphics in this were so vivid and classic, so kind to the characters of which we’re all so fond. Which brings me to the plot.

Set in New York City, hundreds of years have passed since the storylands our fairy tale characters inhabited were overrun by the brutal Adversary and the ‘fables’ are trying to make the best of their new lives in our world. Enter Snow White – having divorced prince charming centuries before for his philandering ways she is the one calling the shots in this underground community, so when her sisters apartment is found covered in blood she joins forces with Bigby Wolf (big bad anyone...?)to solve the mystery of who killed Rose Red. This story would have had my thumbs up no matter what the medium- but as a graphic novel it is certainly a series I’ll read again and again.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Drowned – Therese Bohman
This was a beautifully crafted novel. Separated into two parts it follows the story of two sisters, Stella and Marina, and their different relationships with Gabriel, Stella’s writer husband. Yet all is not as it seems – is it ever? This novel becomes a psychological look at the nature of power and desire. With the extreme popularity of Scandinavian crime writers over the past few years, I was interested to read a novel written by a Swedish author that didn’t involve the fast paced thrills of the likes of the Millennium trilogy. What I discovered was the level of description that brings these thrillers to life is what similarly makes novels such as this so enveloping.
Stella is a landscape gardener, and nature encompassed the entire novel, everywhere Marina looks there are plants, all adding to the atmosphere of the stifling summer, and then autumn that provides the setting. Similarly Gabriel, the man both women are so drawn to is ever present, suffusing the world these women inhabit. Gabriel is an enigma, the man Marina is desperate to figure out, to be consumed by.  Bohman examines the nature of sexuality and attraction in her polished debut novel, along with the concept of guilt – which of these things is the most binding, causing the deepest connection, and how this connection can be broken. Ultimately this is the question Bohman is asking, once we are bound to someone, how is it possible to break that connection? This is a well written, easy read, recommended for lazy Sunday afternoons in summer.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Bitterblue – Kristen Cashore.

Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. Stayed up till the early hours to finish it. This is Cashore’s final installment in her vivid Graceling trilogy. As with the previous books the characters and world created are real and so enjoyable that it’s a shame the series is finished. I was gripped from the first word and drawn in by Cashore’s rich prose to the last. This is the stunning final installment in Cashore’s ‘Graceling’ Series. The wonderful thing about these books is that they don’t have to be read as a series and so can be enjoyed alone. Bitterblue is Queen of a country still reeling from the after effects of her tyrannical, murderous father’s rule, a country that is doing its best to forget that King Leck ever existed. Yet in order for Monsea to move forward, certain truths must come to light. Bitterblue must fight to establish herself as the true queen, proving to herself and her country that she is equal to the task, but first she decides to leave the confines of her palace and experience her people’s lives for herself. All is not what it seems and Bitterblue may find that trust is the most fragile commodity in a world that has been turned upside down.

Top 5 Books this Mothers Day

Lets get organised people! This is by no means an exhaustive list - just a bit of a jumping off point.

5. The Marriage Plot - Jeffrey Eugenides. This one has just been released in b format  (the smallest size) and is a great read from a wonderful author.

4. Secrets of the Tides - Hannah Richell. Family drama at its best, beautifully written and great for a weekend in.

3. This was to Spaceship - Rhys Darby. One of New Zealands funniest men has written a biography...bound to have your Mum chuckling!

2. Bringing Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel. For something with a bit more bite - you could always try this follow up to the Man-Booker prize winning 'Wolf Hall'.

1. Love & Hunger - Charlotte Wood. Ms Wood is a celebrated Aussie author who has turned her hand to writing about food and its place in our lives - delicious!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Secrets of the Tides

Secrets of the Tides – Hannah Richell
A young boy goes missing, a family falls apart.
Dora Tide is pregnant; her partner Dan is over the moon yet Dora is struggling to trust the happiness that threatens. So begins her journey to reconnect with a family that she has barely seen in over ten years to understand the mechanics and implications of the fall out of her little brother going missing years before. As Dora visits her family members in turn we discover the exact events of that tragic day along with the history of the Tides and those choices that were made to bring them to this point.
This was a beautifully, thoughtfully written debut novel that transcends the genre in a way that is almost cathartic. As I read I struggled with where to place blame just as the characters did, and as they came back together so did I. This novel really makes you think, forces you to examine your own prejudices and dares you to shy away from those implications. We follow not only Dora’s struggle but those of the entire Tide family as they strive to find something to bring them together again.
Hannah Richell will be at Better Read Than Dead later this month for a glorious High Tea event! Check out their website or email them for more info!

The Uninvited Guests

The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones
A glorious Edwardian tale complete with an upstairs downstairs family dramedy.
Sadie Jones has established herself as a writer with a wonderful insight into the human condition, and this is what makes her latest offering so much more than just a ghost story. It begins the morning of Emerald Torrington’s birthday, despite their reduced circumstances there is to be a quiet but sophisticated dinner that evening for the family and a few guests, these being the neighbour, John Buchanan and Emerald’s best friend Patience with her brother Ernest.
But when a crash on the bridge line occurs and suddenly the Torrington’s find their night is overtaken by a host of misplaced passengers. One passenger in particular shakes things up – leading to a few revelations that will leave the family forever changed. Add to this the youngest Torrington’s ‘great endeavour’ and the scene is set for an evening of delightful mystery and shenanigans aplenty. I so enjoyed this novel, I was entertained the entire time, and laughed out loud more than once. This was a delightful, extremely atmospheric read.

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
Three women, joined by time and fate and the story that connects them all.
This rejuvenated tale of Rapunzel is set in various centuries, skipping between Paris, Venice and, of course, Rapunzel’s tower. Except Rapunzel isn’t Rapunzel – she’s Margarita, and her captor isn’t an ugly crone, she’s a stunningly beautiful courtesan whose desire to never grow old causes her to commit unspeakable acts. Woven through this tale of magic, love and loss is the story of the second person to commit the Rapunzel tale to paper – Charlotte-Rose De La Force, her rise and fall in the salons of Paris and Versailles and the wild life which leads her to a nunnery to hear Rapunzel’s fate herself.
This is a beautifully written book, full of finely drawn characters and places or times. Kate Forsyth’s books always contain suspense, romance and magic, yet it is the thoroughly researched history that makes Bitter Greens such a delight to read – Paris and Venice come alive in Kate’s hands. As with all wonderful stories, I was sated and saddened when I reached the last page.
I was lucky enough to meet Kate last weekend - check out her Pintrest page for some of her inspiration! 

The Man From Primrose Lane

The Man From Primrose Lane – James Renner
You really HAVEN’T read anything like this before!
This is surely the most promising debut this year. It begins with the murder of an old man known simply as ‘The Man from Primrose Lane’, no-one knows who he really is, and it would appear this is the way he wanted it as he was constantly wearing mittens, cutting off his own fingers and putting them into a blender to hide his identity even in death.
David Neff, a true crime writer has recently lost his wife to suicide and has closeted himself away from the world with their small son. Yet when the story of this reclusive man comes to his attention, he is powerless to stop the domino effect that pulls him back into the world. What follows is a wonderful recounting of how David met his late wife, and the search for a killer that resulted in his first book. Yet there are many more things that must be uncovered, and this book will have you gasping. I truly found this to be a consuming novel – one of those books that you can’t help but rave about and force onto your friends. This is a triumph of a debut – James Renner is certainly one to watch!

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

And the first blog goes to...

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Simon Mawer
A scintillating tale of espionage in German occupied France.
This is the eagerly awaited follow up to the booker shortlisted ‘Glass Room’, set in Britain and then France during the German occupation in WW2. The protagonist is one Marian Sutro, aliases Alice, Anne-Marie Larouche and Lawrence, and her journey is a profound one from innocent young woman to cunning spy always looking over her shoulder. Yet there are larger concerns for Marian then simply becoming a spy (this in itself, however, is no small feat), she has been sent to bring home one of France’s top scientists to help other expats work on the theory of an atomic bomb. The fact that this man is also her childhood sweetheart, newly married and with a child, simply adds to the atmosphere of intrigue Mawer has created.
We follow Marian from her beginnings being plucked from the Women’s army, through her training and onto the frontline. One the way Mawer takes advantage of the world her is working within to have Marian learn everything from blowing up a bridge to encrypting a letter. I found this to be an unflinching look at the lengths people will go to in a time of war. Mawer poses the question, how far would any of us go? Who would be become, in the right, or wrong, circumstances? As is to be expected from a writer of Mawer’s talents, this was a really entertaining and thouroughly authentic read.