Our July distractions…..

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers. £8.99 paperback.

1957, the suburbs of South East London. Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape. When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness. But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay. Thoroughly engaging and compelling throughout.

The Devil & the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. £8.99 paperback.

Three impossible crimes, two unlikely detectives, one deadly voyage. It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of. No sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails, a figure stalks the decks, and livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Then: an impossible murder. With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy? So enjoyable to read, it’s quite a romp!

The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. £10.99 paperback.

Two dogs, Snitter and Rowf, escape from a research laboratory in the Lake District where it is wrongly supposed they have been purposely infected with a deadly virus and now pose a dangerous threat to the human population. As the authorities give chase, the two friends make their way through the hills and across the moors, along the way, learning to survive on their wits. They find friendship and help from a fox they encounter, and dream of finding their original owners and a safe haven – but the hunt is on. So heartbreaking we couldn’t finish it – we found the scenes from the laboratory particularly upsetting.

What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter. £14.99 paperback.

Most of us live our lives in our clothes without realizing their power. But in the hands of artists, garments reveal themselves. They are pure tools of expression, storytelling, resistance and creativity: canvases on which to show who we really are. In What Artists Wear, style luminary Charlie Porter takes us on an invigorating, eye-opening journey through the iconic outfits worn by artists, in the studio, on stage, at work, at home and at play. From Yves Klein’s spotless tailoring to the kaleidoscopic costumes of Yayoi Kusama and Cindy Sherman; from Andy Warhol’s signature denim to Charlotte Prodger’s casualwear, Porter’s roving eye picks out the magical, revealing details in the clothes he encounters, weaving together a new way of understanding artists, and of dressing ourselves. Part love letter, part guide to chic, and featuring generous photographic spreads, What Artists Wear is both a manual and a manifesto, a radical, gleeful, inspiration to see the world anew-and find greater pleasure and possibility in the clothes we all wear. Amazingly absorbing and moving, this was a real eye opener, introducing me to lots of new artists along the way.

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet. £14.99 hardback – DUE TO BE PUBLISHED IN OCTOBER.

“I have decided to write down everything that happens, because I feel, I suppose, I may be putting myself in danger.” London, 1965. An unworldly young woman believes that a charismatic psychotherapist, Collins Braithwaite, has driven her sister to suicide. Intent on confirming her suspicions, she assumes a false identity and presents herself to him as a client, recording her experiences in a series of notebooks. But she soon finds herself drawn into a world in which she can no longer be certain of anything. Even her own character. In Case Study, Graeme Macrae Burnet presents these notebooks interspersed with his own biographical research into Collins Braithwaite. The result is a dazzling – and often wickedly humorous – meditation on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself, by one of the most inventive novelists writing today. An absolutely cracking book – one of my books of the year. Can’t wait for it to be published so I can recommend it to EVRYONE!

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. £8.99 paperback.

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up. In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go? Two entangled families. A house with the darkest of secrets. Enjoyable to read but not scary as I was led to believe – all quite straightforward really.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. £14.99 hardback.

It’s 1974 on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows. In the centre of the tavern, growing through a cavity in the roof, is a fig tree. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, their silent, surreptitious departures; and the tree will be there when the war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to rubble, when the teenagers vanish and break apart. Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada Kazantzakis has never visited the island where her parents were born. Desperate for answers, she seeks to untangle years of secrets, separation and silence. Taught me an awful lot about Cypriot history, but the differing styles within the book made it feel a bit disjointed.

What we read in June

Dying in the Wool – Frances Brody – £8.99 paperback

Yorkshire, 1922. Bridgestead is a quiet village. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens, except for the day when Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again. Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers? Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles, so who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed. Very enjoyable and well plotted.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – £5.99 paperback

Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim – that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband. With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language. Reading it for what must be the fourth or fifth time, I felt very different about the events this time around. I was horrified as to why on earth was Wickham rewarded for running off with a girl just turned sixteen, and I finally understood why Lizzie changed her mind about Darcy! Age and experience really coloured my view.

Tall Bones – Anna Bailey – £12.99 hardback

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again. Abi’s disappearance cracks open the facade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him. Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….Full of tropes and cliches but very well done. Enjoyable to read even though it’s a familiar story that plays out.

Lean Fall Stand – Jon McGregor – £14.99 hardback

When an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, the consequences are far-reaching – for the men involved and for their families back home. Robert ‘Doc’ Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, holds the clues to what happened, but he is no longer able to communicate them. While Anna, his wife, navigates the sharp contours of her new life as a carer, Robert is forced to learn a whole new way to be in the world. A stunning novel that uses language and words to dramatic effect – not just for their meanings – but for the way that the language and words feel. SO atmospheric.

Summerwater – Sarah Moss – £8.99 paperback

It is the summer solstice, but in a faded Scottish cabin park the rain is unrelenting. Twelve people on holiday with their families look on as the skies remain resolutely grey. A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a teenage boy chances the dark waters of the loch in his kayak; a retired couple head out despite the downpour, driving too fast on the familiar bends. But there are newcomers too, and one particular family, a mother and daughter with the wrong clothes and the wrong manners, start to draw the attention of the others. Who are they? Where are they from? Should they be here at all? As darkness finally falls, something is unravelling. A perfect snap-shot of the lives of a disparate community of holiday makers. Told with an unsettling edge.

Mayflies – Andrew O’Hagan – £8.99 paperback

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life. In the summer of 1986, James and Tully ignite a friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over, they rush towards a magical weekend of youthful excess in Manchester played out against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded. And there a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, the phone rings. Tully has news. A beautiful book about how to live life to the full, no matter how long or short that life might be. Had real resonance with me due to it’s setting and era. Loved it.

Lost Cat – Mary Gaitskill – £8.99 paperback

Reads like a long, chatty, honest essay that reflects on life, loss and how we form relationships.

What we read in May

The Mermaid of Black Conch, Monique Roffey, £8.99 paperback.

Escape to the ocean this summer with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2020. Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected – Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid. When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet as their love grows, they discover that the world around them is changing – and they cannot escape the curse for ever. Thoroughly enjoyable, if inevitably sad.

My Dark Vanessa, Kate Elizabeth Russell, £8.99 paperback.

An instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 DYLAN THOMAS AWARD. An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher. ‘All he did is fall in love with me and the world turned him into a monster.’ Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many. A very powerful, uncomfortable but important book. Eye opening.

The Familiars, Stacey Halls, £8.99 paperback.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy. Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, £9.99 paperback.

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face? A fantastic book. Ifemelu and Obinze became my friends and through them I learned to see race in a completely new way. A book that will stay with me forever – I miss the characters so much.

The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry, £8.99 paperback.

Soon to be an Apple TV series starring Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston. 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge. On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith. As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both. A great book that shows us just how modern the Victorians were, and how women like Cora paved the way for the women of our time.

Of Women and Salt, Gabriela Garcia, £14.99 hardback.

Five generations of women, linked by blood and circumstance, by the secrets they share, and by a single book passed down through a family, with an affirmation scrawled in its margins: We are force. We are more than we think we are. 1866, Cuba: Maria Isabel is the only woman employed at a cigar factory, where each day the workers find strength in daily readings of Victor Hugo. But these are dangerous political times, and as Maria begins to see marriage and motherhood as her only options, the sounds of war are approaching. 1959, Cuba: Dolores watches her husband make for the mountains in answer to Fidel Castro’s call to arms. What Dolores knows, though, is that to survive, she must win her own war, and commit an act of violence that threatens to destroy her daughter Carmen’s world. 2016, Miami: Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, is shocked when her daughter Jeanette announces her plans to travel to Cuba to see her grandmother Dolores. In the walls of her crumbling home lies a secret, one that will link Jeanette to her past, and to this fearless line of women. An enlightening book on what it really feels like to be an immigrant from a country and family with a difficult history.

The Harpy, Megan Hunter, £8.99 paperback.

Lucy lives with her husband Jake and their two boys. Her life is devoted to her children, her days mapped out by their finely tuned routine. Until a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband. He thought she should know. Lucy is distraught. She decides to stay with Jake, if only for the children’s sake, but in order to even the score, they agree that she will hurt him three times. Jake will not know when the hurt is coming, or what form it will take. And so begins a delicate game of crime and punishment, from which there is no return. A really compelling read that almost turns the pages for you!

The Mad Women’s Ball, Victoria Mas, £14.99 hardback.

The Salpetriere asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated – for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women’s Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope. Genevieve is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister, she has shunned religion and placed her faith in Doctor Charcot and his new science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugenie, the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family. Because Eugenie has a secret, and she needs Genevieve’s help.

April’s reading list……..

Nick by Michael Farris Smith, £12.99 in hardback.

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades. At times this felt like a Western, which was very odd, but on the whole an interesting idea.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, £8.99 paperback.

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it’s assumed that she’s committed suicide. However, her brother has doubts, and calls in private investigator, Cormoran Strike, to look into the case. Strike – a war veteran wounded both physically and psychologically – has his life in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . . A thoroughly enjoyable read with fantastically drawn characters. A big hit with our book club.

Date with Danger by Julia Chapman, £8.99 in paperback.

Number 5 in the Dales Detective series, Date With Danger sees our intrepid leads, Samson and Delilah, on the trail of a sheep rustler turned killer. In the heart of Yorkshire, the Dales Detective Agency is about to face its biggest challenge. A fatal accident at Bruncliffe’s livestock auction mart leads auctioneer Harry Furness to call in the detective duo, but what starts out as a simple health-and-safety investigation soon takes a sinister turn – they discover evidence that suggests murder. With their enquiries ongoing, Clive Knowles approaches them for help – his sheep are being threatened by the gang of rustlers that is plaguing the Dales. Meanwhile, Poacher Pete Ferris has also decided to play his hand, setting in motion a blackmail plot which will ensure Samson is pulled back into trouble with his nemesis Rick Procter. With all three cases converging, Samson and Delilah will find that their latest investigation is fraught with danger; a danger that will leave them fighting for their lives. Thoroughly gripping from start to finish, it’s a proper whirlwind of danger and excitement.

Date with Deceit by Julia Chapman, £8.99 in paperback.

Book number 6 sees Delilah going undercover at a shoot involving dangerous criminals. A woman in tears in the Dales Detective Agency is never the best way to start the week. But when that woman is the wife of Bernard Taylor, town mayor and eminent businessman, there is even more cause for alarm. So when Nancy Taylor asks the detectives to investigate whether her husband is having an affair, Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe know they will have to tread carefully. The case, however, proves to be more complex than even they had imagined. While Delilah is undercover at a local shoot to better keep tabs on the errant husband, she is on the scene for a fatal incident that sends the town into turmoil. Soon the detective duo are embroiled in a far more serious investigation than mere infidelity as they discover that deceit is rife in Bruncliffe. And it may well prove deadly . . . As usual, fantastically constructed plotlines boil away, and well known characters weave in and out of the limelight, creating havoc and intrigue. Compelling and enjoyable as ever. We CANT’T WAIT for book number 7!

Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison, £14.99 in hardback.

1932, Glasgow. When the son-in-law of one of the city’s wealthiest shipbuilders is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, it falls to Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn to lead the murder case – despite sharing a troubled history with the victim’s widow, Isla Lockhart. From the flying fists and flashing blades of Glasgow’s gangland underworld, to the backstabbing upper echelons of government and big business, Dreghorn and his partner ‘Bonnie’ Archie McDaid will have to dig deep into Glasgow society to find out who wanted the man dead and why. All the while, a sadistic murderer stalks the post-war city leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. As the case deepens, will Dreghorn find the killer – or lose his own life in the process? A dark historical crime novel set in a city still recovering from the Great War; split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. Captures the essence of the time period really well and makes you root for Dreghorn in a huge way. Completely absorbing.

What we’ve read in March……

Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander, £16.99 Hardback

Seventh Seltzer has done everything he can to break from the traditions of the past, but in his overbearing, narcissistic mother’s last moments, she whispers in his ear the two words he always knew she would: ‘Eat me’. This is not unusual, as the Seltzers are Cannibal-Americans, a once proud and thriving ethnic group, but for Seventh, it raises some serious questions. Of practical concern, she’s six-foot-two and weighs over thirty stone – even divided up between Seventh and his eleven brothers, that’s a lot of red meat. Plus, Second keeps kosher, Ninth is vegan and Sixth is dead. To make matters worse, even if he can wrangle his brothers together for a feast, the Can-Am people have assimilated, and the only living Cannibal who knows how to perform the ancient ritual is their Uncle Ishmael, a far from reliable guide. Beyond the practical, Seventh struggles with the sense of guilt and responsibility he feels – to his mother, to his people and to his unique cultural heritage. A bizarrely enjoyable read, with lots of dark humour. It highlights how we all judge other people for being ‘not like me’, and rarely take the time to understand other cultures in detail. It also raises a lot of questions about how we all relate to death and grief.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, £20, hardback

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her. When the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Animal Farm by George Orwell, £8.99 paperback

Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organised to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges. First published in 1945, Animal Farm – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power. I first read this at school and was shocked to realise just how powerful it still is to me. The propaganda sections were hugely so, and still incredibly scary. So glad I read it again.

The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu, £14.99 hardback

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world. She’ll dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. In the process, discovering an occult library and some unexpected allies. A really enjoyable read that navigates it dark turns well. Looking forward to the second in the series.

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner, £12.99 hardback

Helen has it all. Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law. And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare. When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel – brash, unsettling, single mother-to-be who wants to be Helen’s friend. Who wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who wants to know everything about them. A masterfully plotted thriller that is hugely addictive, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Pull of the Stars by by Emma Donoghue, £8.99 paperback

Dublin, 1918. In a country ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work. Again, an addictive read that has real pace and excitement. However, it is quite a tough read. NOT recommended for anyone who is due to have a baby as it’s extremely graphic about the process of childbirth!

You can find all of these books for order on our bookshop.org page: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/some-books-on-our-blog

OR, you can order from the shop via email and telephone – tanya@limestonebooks.co.uk 01729 268180

What we read in February

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, heads for occupied France on a dual mission – officially, to run a simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman missing in action. She travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. As the people in the small town prepare to meet their terrible destiny, Charlotte comes face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place in Europe’s darkest years, and confronts a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. A great story-line that takes you right into the war- showing just how dangerous life was. It rekindled our fury at the fact that the holocaust took place.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

 A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation: #KolabaganTrainAttack On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing… ‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’ Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed forever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack. A fierce condemnation of modern India – the corruption, racism, misogyny, the feverish obsession with celebrity. The inevitability of the ending is very powerful and heartbreaking.

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land. It’s a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed. He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm. What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying. Fantastically exciting to read – the pages couldn’t turn quick enough – however, the ending – with it’s limited answers – made us VERY angry!!!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Choo Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the life story of one young woman born in South Korea at the end of the twentieth century. It raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all. Riveting, original and uncompromising. A very powerful book that re-opened our eyes to gender inequality and reminded us that these issues are still going strong today. Everyone should read this book. It’s important.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel that epitomises the spirit of the sixties. Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electroshock therapy. Her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. It’s an exuberant, ribald, and devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness. Skilfully written, fantastically well observed, and beautifully tragic. Every single word counts.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

The story of Nat Davy, who in 1625, is sold by his father for being of no use. He’s taken off to London, where he’s hidden in a pie, and then given as a gift to the new queen of England. They called him the queen’s dwarf, but he was more than that. A book about being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. A lighthearted yarn that rattles along pleasantly enough but perhaps a little too simplistic for our taste.

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas, will be published 29th of April.

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. One morning, a body is found there; a young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up. Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body? In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable and willing to kill to keep what they find. A gripping story-line with lots of back-story and great characterisation. However, it sometimes feels a bit muddled due to the fact that there are so many characters and people involved. A very enjoyable read none-the-less.

YOU CAN BUY BOOKS FROM THIS BLOG BY VISITING OUR ONLINE SHOP HERE: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/some-books-on-our-blog

What we’ve read this January……

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie is a twenty-five-year-old Black woman living in south London, straddling Jamaican and British culture whilst slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white, middle-class peers, and to beg to write about Black Lives Matter. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie finds herself seeking comfort in all the wrong places. As she veers from one bad decision to another, she finds herself wondering who she wants to be – the question that every woman today must face. A disarmingly honest, boldly political and truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and acceptance and found something very different instead. A real insight into the casual racism that Black people suffer every single day.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

A masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. I found this particularly fascinating in terms of the development of medicine.

Waterland by Graham Swift

in 1943, lock-keeper Henry Crick finds the drowned body of a sixteen-year-old boy. Nearly forty years later, his son Tom, a history teacher, is driven by a marital crisis and the provocation of one of his students to forsake the formal teaching of history to start telling stories. Waterland is a classic of modern fiction: a vision of England seen through its mysterious, amphibious Fen country; a tale of two families, startling in its twists and turns and universal in its reach. Compulsively readable, it mixes human and natural history and explores the tragic forces that take us both forwards and back. Set where we grew up, we loved the ‘landscape as character’ more than anything in this fantastic book.

What is Life? by Paul Nurse

A rare foray into non-fiction for us, and we learnt a lot! Nobel prize-winner Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In this book, he takes up the challenge of defining life in a way that every reader can understand. It’s a shared journey of discovery, and step by step he illuminates five great ideas that underpin biology. He traces the roots of his own curiosity and knowledge to reveal how science works, both now and in the past. Using his personal experiences, in and out of the lab, he shares with us the challenges, the lucky breaks, and the thrilling eureka moments of discovery. To survive the challenges that face the human race today – from climate change, to pandemics, loss of biodiversity and food security – it is vital that we all understand what life is.

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

WINNER OF THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2020 and AS SEEN ON BBC’S BETWEEN THE COVERS. Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love. Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household. All three keep each other safe from an increasingly dangerous world, until a glass of rum, a heart to heart, and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart. Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, Love After Love offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back. A captivating insight into life and relationships in modern day Trinidad.

You can order any of these books by emailing or phoning us – or you can order them to be posted to you here: https://uk.bookshop.org/lists/books-on-our-blog

Read all about it!

You can read all about us during lockdown in these great article in the Yorkshire Post:


Events in a troubled climate

When Limestone Books opened, we had high hopes of running and supporting bookish events throughout the year. As we all know, Covid has made this impossible for the time being, but always ones to look on the bright side, we thought we’d take a look back at what we did manage to achieve in our first year.

Just before the shop opened, Margaret Atwood’s follow up to the Handmaid’s Tale, ‘The Testaments’ was published. A huge live event in London was beamed across the country and Settle was lucky to have a screening at Victoria Hall. Limestone Books was in attendance, selling copies of the book, and it gave us our first chance to chat to potential customers. We also attended ‘Fleabag’ live at Victoria Hall, and sold limited editions of the play.

Our first true shop event was opening day. Local authors Diane Allen, Julia Chapman and Leah Fleming all came to officially open the shop and sign books. There was a real buzz in the air and their enthusiasm for having a bookshop in the town was infectious.

Next up was local legend John Killick, who launched his book, ‘Onlyness’. In this book John explores the predicament of being an only child, and he gave lively readings, and led a very interesting discussion.

David Johnson gave a lunchtime talk about his book, ‘Time Please!’, which is all about the lost pubs and alehouses of the Yorkshire Dales. The event was well attended by members of the local CAMRA group who all went on to congregate in The Talbot – a very fitting end to the event!

Susan Parry, an analytical chemist and researcher at Imperial College came in to talk about her scientific work and how it informs her crime novels.

Jane Fenwick spoke to customers about her murderous Gothic romance, ‘Never the Twain’, on Christmas lights switch on day, and Sue Vickerman came in during the afternoon to introduce customers to her poetry collection ‘Adventus’.

Heather Dawe, former winner of the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, gave us a talk about her love of running, cycling and climbing in wild and mountainous places. She also gave readings from her books, ‘A Cycling Year’, ‘High Inspiration’ and ‘Waymaking’.

Marion Dunn released a memoir of her journey into the boxing in her fifties. She had a launch event at Victoria Hall with videos, readings and demonstrations and Limestone Books were in attendance to sell copies of the book.

So, all in all, quite an array of events, considering.

We really hope to have events back up and running as soon as we can in 2021. Watch this space!

We are 1 year old – happy birthday to us!!!!

Can you believe we opened our doors a year ago? Neither can we! And what a first year it’s been. We’ve had some amazing highs.

Our very first day, with local authors Diane Allen, Julia Chapman and Leah Fleming, will always be special to us. It was incredible to have their support, and their enthusiasm was infectious. All of the customers we saw on that day were fantastic too, and they seemed to be almost as excited as we were!

The Christmas lights switch on was another special day. We helped hundreds of shoppers find books for friends and family, and the atmosphere in the shop was so festive and fun. We were aided and abetted by local author Jane Fenwick who came in to talk about her Gothic novel ‘Never the Twain’, and local poet Sue Vickerman who introduced customers to her poetry collection ‘Adventus’.

We started our shop book club in January and it’s been going from strength to strength. We’ve read a huge variety of books from the worlds of fact and fiction, and we’re already planning our reading list for 2021.

We also managed to hold a few events – more about these later – before Covid put a stop to them. It was something we’d been keen to do right from the outset, and we hope to be able to reintroduce these as soon as we’re able.

Sadly, like all businesses, we have suffered the huge blow of Covid lockdown. We were devastated when we had to close our doors and things were definitely tough. But thanks to so many supportive customers who continued to order books from us via email and telephone, we managed to keep our head just above the waterline. We were relieved to be able to re-open in the middle of June.

We’re still very happy in our little shop even though things have changed. We love seeing customers, giving book recommendations (whether they’re asked for or not!), but one of our favourite things to do is collude with mischievous friends and partners to source special surprise presents. Whether it be for a birthday or anniversary, we’ve been happy to help.

But Limestone Books wouldn’t exist without the people of Settle and the surrounding area. We feel extremely lucky to have our shop here, and even more so that customers have taken us to their hearts. We hope to be serving you for many years to come. Here’s to the highs of year two.