April’s reading list

Susan Parry – Tracks in the Dark, £9.99 paperback

One teenage girl strangled in an isolated Dale, a walker lost on the Herriot Way, and a cyclist who has disappeared. Three unsolved cases in the Yorkshire Dales that need investigating, and solving quick! So how can the DI Miriam Abbot and the Regional Unsolved Crime Unit track down the truth in just two months? Follow the leads they meticulously uncover and watch them solve the tracks in the dark.

Armistead Maupin – Mona of the Manor, £20.00 hardback

The tenth novel in the beloved Tales of the City series. When Mona Ramsey married Lord Teddy Roughton to secure his visa—allowing him to remain in San Francisco to fulfil his wildest dreams—she never imagined she would, by age 48, be the sole owner of Easley House, a romantic country manor in the UK. Now, with her adopted son, Wilfred, Mona has opened Easley’s doors to paying guests to keep her inherited English manor afloat. As they welcome a married American couple to Easley, Mona and Wilfred discover their new guests’ terrible secret. Instead of focussing on the imminent arrival of old friend Michael Tolliver and matriarch Anna Madrigal, Mona will need to use her considerable charm, willpower and wiles to set things right before Easley’s historic Midsummer ceremony. The result is a glittering and addictive comedy of manners that continues to beguile new generations of readers.

Sonia Purnell – A Woman of No Importance, £9.99 paperback

In September 1941, a young American woman strides up the steps of a hotel in Lyon, Vichy France. Her papers say she is a journalist. Her wooden leg is disguised by a determined gait and a distracting beauty. She is there to spark the resistance. By 1942 Virginia Hall was the Gestapo’s most urgent target, having infiltrated Vichy command, trained civilians in guerrilla warfare and sprung soldiers from Nazi prison camps. The first woman to go undercover for British SOE, her intelligence changed the course of the war – but her fight was still not over. This is a spy history like no other, telling the story of the hunting accident that disabled her, the discrimination she fought and the secret life that helped her triumph over shocking adversity. 

Kate Morgan – Murder: The Biography, £9.99 paperback

Murder: The Biography is a gruesome and utterly captivating portrait of the legal history of murder. The stories and the people involved in the history of murder are stranger, darker and more compulsive than any crime fiction. There’s Richard Parker, the cannibalized cabin boy whose death at the hands of his hungry crewmates led the Victorian courts to decisively outlaw a defence of necessity to murder. Dr Percy Bateman, the incompetent GP whose violent disregard for his patient changed the law on manslaughter. Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in England in the 1950s, played a crucial role in changes to the law around provocation in murder cases. And Archibald Kinloch, the deranged Scottish aristocrat whose fratricidal frenzy paved the way for the defence of diminished responsibility. These, and many more, are the people – victims, killers, lawyers and judges, who unwittingly shaped the history of that most grisly and storied of laws. Join lawyer and writer Kate Morgan on a dark and macabre journey as she explores the strange stories and mysterious cases that have contributed to UK murder law. The big corporate killers; the vengeful spouses; the sloppy doctors; the abused partners; the shoddy employers; each story a crime and each crime a precedent that has contributed to the law’s dark, murky and, at times, shocking standing.

Andrew O’Hagan – Caledonian Road, £20.00 hardback

An irresistible, unputdownable, state-of-the-nation novel – the story of one man’s epic fall from grace. May 2021. London. Campbell Flynn – art historian and celebrity intellectual – is entering the empire of middle age. Fuelled by an appetite for admiration and the finer things, controversy and novelty, he doesn’t take people half as seriously as they take themselves. Which will prove the first of his huge mistakes. The second? Milo Mangasha, his beguiling and provocative student. Milo inhabits a more precarious world, has experiences and ideas which excite his teacher. He also has a plan. Over the course of an incendiary year, a web of crimes and secrets and scandals will be revealed, and Campbell Flynn may not be able to protect himself from the shattering exposure of all his privilege really involves. But then, he always knew: when his life came tumbling down, it would occur in public.

Anne Youngson – Meet Me At The Museum, £8.99 paperback

This story begins with a letter from a housewife to the gentle curator of an extraordinary museum where lies peacefully, an ancient exhibit that holds the key to everything we are. Meet Me at the Museum tells of a connection made across oceans and against all the odds. Through intimate letters of joy, despair, and discovery, two people are drawn inexorably towards each other, until a shattering revelation pushes their friendship to the very edge. This deeply affecting debut novel by seventy-three year-old Anne Youngson won the Paul Torday Memorial Prize and was dramatized on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. It is tender, wise and very moving, 

What we read in March 2024

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata, £9.99 paperback

Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan, to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha, and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura, and their love offers no freedom to either of them. Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata’s exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple.

The Seventh Son by Sebastian Faulks, £9.99 paperback due 30th May

When a young American academic Talissa Adam offers to carry another woman’s child, she has no idea of the life-changing consequences. Behind the doors of the Parn Institute, a billionaire entrepreneur plans to stretch the boundaries of ethics as never before. Through a series of IVF treatments, which they hope to keep secret, they propose an experiment that will upend the human race as we know it. Seth, the baby, is delivered to hopeful parents Mary and Alaric, but when his differences start to mark him out from his peers, he begins to attract unwanted attention. The Seventh Son is a spectacular examination of what it is to be human. It asks the question: just because you can do something, does it mean you should? Sweeping between New York, London, and the Scottish Highlands, this is an extraordinary novel about unrequited love and unearned power.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, £9.99 paperback

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than fine?

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste, £9.99 paperback

Ethiopia, 1935. With the threat of Mussolini’s army looming, recently orphaned Hirut struggles to adapt to her new life as a maid. Her new employer, Kidane, an officer in Emperor Haile Selassie’s army, rushes to mobilise his strongest men before the Italians invade. Hirut and the other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, it is Hirut who offers a plan to maintain morale. She helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take up arms. But how could she have predicted her own personal war, still to come, as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers? The Shadow King is an exploration of female power, and what it means to be a woman at war.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, £8.99 paperback

One by one, she undid each event, each decision, each choice. If Davy had remembered to put on a coat. If Seamie McGeown had not found himself alone on a dark street. If Michael Agnew had not walked through the door of the pub on a quiet night in February in his white shirt. There is nothing special about the day Cushla meets Michael, a married man from Belfast, in the pub owned by her family. But here, love is never far from violence, and this encounter will change both of their lives forever. As people get up each morning and go to work, school, church or the pub, the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploded, another man beaten, killed or left for dead. In the class Cushla teaches, the vocabulary of seven-year-old children now includes phrases like petrol bomb and rubber bullets. And as she is forced to tread lines she never thought she would cross, tensions in the town are escalating, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together. Tender and shocking, Trespasses is an unforgettable debut of people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.

Date With Justice by Julia Chapman, £9.99 paperback

The ninth novel in Julia’s Chapman’s witty and engaging Dales Detective series, sees Delilah’s brother under suspicion of murder. Can Delilah and Samson prove he’s innocent? The Dales Detective Agency is on the brink of closure. Samson O’Brien has returned to his position as an undercover operative for the Met in London, and his relationship with sleuthing partner Delilah Metcalfe is under pressure. Their troubles are only multiplied when an ecologist is found dead and the finger of blame is pointed firmly at Delilah’s older brother, Will. It seems an open and shut case. An argument over an ecology report for planning permission which got out of hand, with Will known to have a hot temper. But Delilah won’t accept he’s guilty and neither will Samson. Dropping everything, he returns to Bruncliffe to help prove Will’s innocence. But as the two detectives start digging, they unearth more than they bargained for and soon realize that the price of justice can be very costly indeed.

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan, £9.99 paperback

Bombay, New Year’s Eve, 1949. As India celebrates the arrival of a momentous new decade, Inspector Persis Wadia stands vigil in the basement of Malabar House, home to the city’s most unwanted unit of police officers. Six months after joining the force she remains India’s first female police detective, mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift. And so, when the phone rings to report the murder of prominent English diplomat Sir James Herriot, the country’s most sensational case falls into her lap. As 1950 dawns and India prepares to become the world’s largest republic, Persis, accompanied by Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, finds herself investigating a case that is becoming more political by the second. Navigating a country and society in turmoil, Persis, smart, stubborn and untested in the crucible of male hostility that surrounds her, must find a way to solve the murder – whatever the cost.

The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton, £20.00 hardback

Outside the island there is nothing: the world destroyed by a fog that swept the planet, killing anyone it touched. On the island: it is idyllic. 122 villagers and 3 scientists, living in peaceful harmony. The villagers are content to fish, farm and feast, to obey their nightly curfew, to do what they’re told by the scientists. Until, to the horror of the islanders, one of their beloved scientists is found brutally stabbed to death. And they learn the murder has triggered a lowering of the security system around the island, the only thing that was keeping the fog at bay. If the murder isn’t solved within 107 hours, the fog will smother the island – and everyone on it. But the security system has also wiped everyone’s memories of exactly what happened the night before, which means that someone on the island is a murderer – and they don’t even know it.

February’s Reads – 2024

The Beholders – Hester Musson, £16.99 hardback

June, 1878. The body of a boy is pulled from the depths of the River Thames, suspected to be the beloved missing child of the widely admired Liberal MP Ralph Gethin. Four months earlier. Harriet is a young maid newly employed at Finton Hall. Fleeing the drudgery of an unwanted engagement in the small village where she grew up, Harriet is entranced by the grand country hall; she is entranced too by her glamorous mistress Clara Gethin, whose unearthly singing voice floats through the house. But Clara, though captivating, is erratic. The master of the house is a much-lauded politician, but he is strangely absent. And some of their beautiful belongings seem to tell terrible stories. Unable to ignore her growing unease, Harriet sets out to discover their secrets. When she uncovers a shocking truth, a chain of events is set in motion that could cost Harriet everything, even her freedom.

The List of Suspicious Things – Jennie Godfrey, £14.99 hardback

Yorkshire, 1979. Maggie Thatcher is prime minister, drainpipe jeans are in, and Miv is convinced that her dad wants to move their family Down South. Because of the murders. Leaving Yorkshire and her best friend Sharon simply isn’t an option, no matter the dangers lurking round their way; or the strangeness at home that started the day Miv’s mum stopped talking. Perhaps if she could solve the case of the disappearing women, they could stay after all? So, Miv and Sharon decide to make a list: a list of all the suspicious people and things down their street. People they know. People they don’t. But their search for the truth reveals more secrets in their neighbourhood, within their families – and between each other – than they ever thought possible. What if the real mystery Miv needs to solve is the one that lies much closer to home?

Maurice & Maralyn – Sophie Elmhurst, £18.99 hardback

What begins as an eccentric English love story turns into one of the most dramatic adventures ever recorded. Maurice and Maralyn couldn’t be more different. He is as cautious and awkward as she is charismatic and forceful. It seems an unlikely romance, but it works. Bored of 1970s suburban life, Maralyn has an idea: sell the house, build a boat, leave England — and its oil crisis, industrial strikes and inflation – forever. It is hard work, turning dreams into reality, but finally they set sail for New Zealand. Then, halfway there, their beloved boat is struck by a whale and the pair are cast adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On their tiny raft, their love is put to the test. When Maurice begins to withdraw into himself, it falls upon Maralyn to keep them both alive. Filled with danger, spirit, and tenderness, this is a book about human connection and the human condition; about how we survive — not just at sea, but in life. 

A Fete to Remember – Julia Stagg, £9.99 paperback

It’s summertime in the French Pyrenees and the mountain commune of Fogas is en fete. But Christian Dupuy has no time for the frivolity of les vacances. For a start, he’s just been struck by the arrows of l’amour and doesn’t have a clue how to approach the woman who’s stolen his heart. Then there is the not-so-small matter of local politics. With moves afoot to wipe his community from the map, Christian has to enter the fray once more to save the place that he cherishes. In the midst of a sweltering heatwave and with the residents of Fogas at each other’s throats over their future, the lovesick and embattled deputy mayor must decide if all really is fair in love and war.

A Bitter Remedy – Alis Hawkins, £9.99 paperback

Amongst the scholars, secrets and soporifics of Victorian Oxford, the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow. Jesus College, Oxford, 1881. An undergraduate is found dead at his lodgings and the medical examination reveals some shocking findings. When the young man’s guardian blames the college for his death and threatens a scandal, Basil Rice, a Jesus College fellow with a secret to hide, is forced to act and finds himself drawn into Sidney Parker’s sad life. The mystery soon attracts the attention of Rhiannon ‘Non’ Vaughan, a young Welsh polymath and one of the young women newly admitted to university lectures. But when neither the college principal nor the powerful ladies behind Oxford’s new female halls will allow her to become involved, Non’s fierce intelligence and determination to prove herself drive her on. Both misfits at the university, Non and Basil form an unlikely partnership, and it soon falls to them to investigate the mysterious circumstances of Parker’s death. But between corporate malfeasance and snake-oil salesmen, they soon find the dreaming spires of Oxford are not quite what they seem. An intriguing first installment of The Oxford Mysteries series. 

Water – John Boyne, £12.99 hardback

The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past. But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes? Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did – and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all. Can you ever truly wash away your past?

Reads in January 2024

Saint Maybe – Anne Tyler, £9.99 paperback

When eighteen-year-old Ian Bedloe pricks the bubble of his family’s optimistic self-deception, his brother Danny drives into a wall, his sister-in-law falls apart, and his parents age before his eyes. Consumed by guilt Ian finds the hope of forgiveness at the Church of the Second Chance, and leaves college to cope with the three children he has inherited and his own embarrassing religion. Twenty years on, Ian’s prospects of a second chance are receding fast when, out of the heart of the domesticity that has engulfed him, strides a new figure who will bring him new life.

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen, £6.99 paperback

Fanny Price’s rich relatives offer her a home at Mansfield Park so that she can be properly brought up. However, Fanny’s childhood is a lonely one as she is never allowed to forget her place. Her only ally is her cousin Edmund. But when the glamorous and exciting Henry and Mary Crawford arrive in the area, Edmund starts to grow close to Mary and Fanny finds herself dealing with feelings she has never experienced before.

Tin Man – Sarah Winman, £9.99 paperback

This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that. It begins with two boys, Ellis and Michael,who are inseparable. And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything. Incredible characters, heartbreaking relationships, and all about finding a way forward whist suffering huge loss, a moving read.

Penguin Lost – Andrey Kurkov, £9.99 paperback

Discover the darkly funny follow-up to cult classic Death and the Penguin. Viktor – last seen in Death and the Penguin fleeing Mafia vengeance on an Antarctica-bound flight booked for Penguin Misha – seizes a heaven-sent opportunity to return to Kiev with a new identity. Clear now as to the enormity of abandoning Misha, then convalescent from a heart-transplant, Viktor determines to make amends. Viktor falls in with a Mafia boss who engages him to help in his election campaign, then introduces him to men who might further his search for Misha, said to be in a private zoo in Chechnya. What ensues is for Viktor both a quest and an odyssey of atonement, and, for the reader, an experience as rich, topical and illuminating as Death and the Penguin.

John Henry’s Walk – Alan Plowright, no longer in print – available online second hand

An account of a long distance walk undertaken in 1875 by John Henry and his friend. Full of interesting snippets of local history and hilarious anecdotes.

Last Night in Montreal – Emily St John Mandel, £9.99 paperback

Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life. Haunted by her inability to remember her early childhood, and by a mysterious shadow that seems to dog her wherever she goes, Lilia moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. But then she meets Eli, and he’s not ready to let her go, not without a fight. Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal is the story of a life spent at the centre of a criminal investigation. It is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and – ultimately – about the nature of obsession.

December reads

Mistletoe Malice – Kathleen Farrell, £9.99 paperback

A rediscovered festive classic with fangs. The fire is on, sherry poured, presents wrapped, and claws are being sharpened. In a seaside cottage perched on a cliff, one family reunites for Christmas. While snow falls, a tyrannical widowed matriarch presides over her unruly brood. Her niece tends to her whims, but fantasises about eloping; and as more guests arrive, each bringing their secret truths and dreams, the Christmas tree explodes, a brawl erupts, an escape occurs – and their ‘midwinter madness’ climaxes.

Another Little Christmas Murder – Lorna Nicholl Morgan, £9.99 paperback

A classic country house mystery republished for the first time in nearly seventy years. When Dilys Hughes finds herself snowbound in the middle of a bleak and lonely stretch of Yorkshire, she has no option but to accept help from passing motorist Inigo Brown, who is on his way to visit his uncle. Arriving at his uncle’s remote country house, Wintry Wold, the couple encounters a less than warm welcome from Inigo’s new young aunt, Theresa. Why is she reluctant to let Inigo see his uncle, and is he really as ill as they are told? As the snowstorm brings more stranded strangers to their door, Dilys starts to realise that all is not as it seems at Wintry Wold. When the morning brings news of the death of Inigo’s uncle, Dilys sets out to investigate – was it a natural death, or was it murder?

Before Your Memory Fades – Toshikazu Kawaguchi, £9.99 paperback

On the hillside of Mount Hakodate in northern Japan, Cafe Donna Donna is fabled for its dazzling views of Hakodate port. But that’s not all. Cafe Donna Donna offers its customers the extraordinary experience of travelling through time. From the author of Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Tales from the Cafe comes another heartfelt story of lost souls hoping to take advantage of the cafe’s time-travelling offer. Among some familiar faces, readers will also be introduced to:The daughter who begrudges her deceased parents for leaving her orphaned, The comedian who aches for his beloved and their shared dreams, The younger sister whose grief has become all-consuming, The young man who realizes his love for his childhood friend too late.

The Premonition – Banana Yoshimoto, £12.99 paperback

Yayoi lives with her perfect, loving family – something ‘like you’d see in a Spielberg movie’. But while her parents tell happy stories of her childhood, she is increasingly haunted by the sense that she’s forgotten something important about her past. Deciding to take a break, she stays with her eccentric but beloved aunt Yukino. Living a life without order, Yukino seems to be protecting herself, but beneath this facade Yayoi starts to recover lost memories, and everything she knows about her past threatens to change forever.

Mystery in White – J. Jefferson Farjeon, £8.99 paperback

On Christmas Eve, heavy snowfall brings a train to a halt near the village of Hemmersby. Several passengers take shelter in a deserted country house, where the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea – but no one is at home. Trapped together for Christmas, the passengers are seeking to unravel the secrets of the empty house when a murderer strikes in their midst.

So Late in the Day – Claire Keegan, £8.99 hardback

After an uneventful Friday at the Dublin office, Cathal faces into the long weekend and takes the bus home. There, his mind agitates over a woman named Sabine with whom he could have spent his life, had he acted differently. All evening, with only the television and a bottle of champagne for company, thoughts of this woman and others intrude – and the true significance of this particular date is revealed. From one of the finest writers working today, Keegan’s new story asks if a lack of generosity might ruin what could be between men and women. 

A Winter Book – Tove Jansson, £9.99 paperback

A collection of some of Tove Jansson’s best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer’s prose, scattered with insights and home truths. It has been selected and is introduced by Ali Smith. 13 stories from Tove Jansson’s first book for adults, The Sculptor’s Daughter (1968) plus seven of her most cherished later stories (from 1971 to 1996), translated into English and published here for the first time.

What we read in November

Tove Jansson – Moomin Valley in November, £7.99 paperback

It’s November, and lots of people decide they need to visit the Moomins. Snufkin, Toft, Mymble, Fillyjonk and Granpa Grumble. But when they get to Moominvalley they realise they are not at home.They can’t have moved away without saying a word!’ Winter is coming, and everyone is waiting for the Moomins to return home. Winter doesn’t seem right without them.

Sophie Hannah – Hercule Poirot’s Silent Night, £22.00 hardback

 It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why. Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, someone else utterly ruthless, also has ideas about what ought to happen to Hercule Poirot.

Andrey Kurkov – Death and the Penguin, £9.99 paperback

All that stands between one man and murder by the mafia is a penguin. Viktor is an aspiring writer in Ukraine with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although Viktor would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when Viktor opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. Viktor and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.

Paul Auster – Baumgartner, £18.99 hardback

The life of Sy Baumgartner – noted author, and soon-to-be retired philosophy professor – has been defined by his deep, abiding love for his wife, Anna. Now Anna is gone, and Baumgartner is embarking on his seventies whilst trying to live with her absence. But Anna’s voice is everywhere still, in every spiral of memory and reminiscence, in each recalled episode of the passionate forty years they shared. Rich with compassion and wit, and showing an eye for beauty in the smallest, most transient episodes of ordinary life.

Lee Cole – Groundskeeping, £8.99 paperback

Eager to clean up his act after his troubled early twenties, Owen has returned to Kentucky to take a job as a groundskeeper at a small college in the Appalachian foothills, one which allows him to enrol on their writing course. It’s there that he meets Alma, a Writer-in-Residence, who seems to have everything Owen doesn’t – a prestigious position, an Ivy League education, and published success as a writer. They begin a secret relationship, and as they grow closer, Alma, from a supportive, liberal family of Bosnian immigrants, struggles to understand Owen’s fraught relationship with his own family and home. Exploring the boundaries between life and art, and how our upbringings affect the people we can become.

Hwang Bo-Reum – Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop, £14.99 hardback

There was only one thing on her mind. ‘I must start a bookshop.’ Yeongju did everything she was supposed to, go to university, marry a decent man, get a respectable job. Then it all fell apart. Burned out, Yeongju abandons her old life, quits her high-flying career, and follows her dream. She opens a bookshop. In a quaint neighbourhood in Seoul, surrounded by books, Yeongju and her customers take refuge. From the lonely barista to the unhappily married coffee roaster, and the writer who sees something special in Yeongju – they all have disappointments in their past. The Hyunam-dong Bookshop becomes the place where they all learn how to truly live. A heart-warming story about finding comfort and acceptance in your life and the healing power of books.

Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House, £9.99 paperback

Alone in the world, Eleanor is delighted to take up Dr Montague’s invitation to spend a summer in the mysterious Hill House. Joining them are Theodora, an artistic ‘sensitive’, and Luke, heir to the house. But what begins as a light-hearted experiment is swiftly proven to be a trip into their darkest nightmares, and an investigation that one of their number may not survive.

What we read in October

Good to a Fault – Marina Endicott, £12.99 paperback

Absorbed in her own failings, 43-year-old Clara Purdy crashes her life into a sharp left turn, taking the young family in the other car along with her. When bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer, Clara moves the three children and their terrible grandmother into her own house while Lorraine undergoes treatment at the local hospital. We know what is good, but we don’t do it. In Good to a Fault, Clara decides to give it a try, and then has to cope with the consequences : exhaustion, fury, hilarity, and unexpected love. But she questions her own motives. Is she acting out of true goodness, or out of guilt? And most shamefully, has she taken the family over simply because she wants one of her own? In Good to a Fault, award-winning writer Marina Endicott examines what we owe in this life and what we deserve.

The Rabbit Hutch – Tess Gunty, £9.99 paperback

Vacca Vale, Indiana: recently voted number 1 on Newsweek’s list of dying American cities. According to the developers, however, it’s a city with a whole history of reinvention, one that ‘buzzes with the American spirit.’Not everyone agrees though – certainly not the residents of the Rabbit Hutch, a low-cost housing complex in the once bustling industrial centre, populated by a cast of unforgettable, disenfranchised characters. There’s an online obituary writer, a woman waging a solo campaign against rodents and, most notably, eighteen-year-old Blandine, recently released from foster care and determined to stop the developers whatever the cost. Set over one sweltering week in July, The Rabbit Hutch is a savagely beautiful and bitingly funny snapshot of contemporary America. Bold, experimental and brilliantly written, it will live in the memory long after the final page. 

Icebound – Andrea Pitzer, £9.99 paperback

A dramatic and compelling account of survival against the odds from the golden Age of Exploration. The human story has always been one of perseverance – often against remarkable odds. The most astonishing survival tale of all might be that of sixteenth-century Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew, who ventured further North than any Europeans before and, on their third polar expedition, lost their ship off the frozen coast of Nova Zembla to unforgiving ice. The men would spend the next year fighting off ravenous polar bears, gnawing hunger and endless winter. In Icebound, Andrea Pitzer masterfully combines a gripping tale of survival with a sweeping history of the great age of Exploration – a time of hope, adventure and seemingly unlimited geographic frontiers.

Learned By Heart – Emma Donoghue, £16.99 hardback

The heartbreaking story of the love of two women – Anne Lister, the real-life inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, and her first love, Eliza Raine. In 1805, at a boarding school in York, two fourteen-year-old girls first meet. Eliza Raine, the orphan daughter of an Indian mother, keeps herself apart from the other girls, tired of being picked out for being different. Anne Lister, a gifted troublemaker, is determined to conquer the world, refusing to bow to society’s expectations of what a woman can do. As they fall in love, the connection they forge will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Full of passion and heartbreak – evocative and wholly unique.

Demon Copperhead – Barbara Kingsolver, £9.99 paperback

Demon Copperhead is a once-in-a-generation novel that breaks and mends your heart in the way only the best fiction can. Demon’s story begins with his traumatic birth to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, looking ‘like a little blue prizefighter.’ For the life ahead of him he would need all of that fighting spirit, along with buckets of charm, a quick wit, and some unexpected talents, legal and otherwise.

In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn’t an idea, it’s as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn’t an abstraction, it’s neighbours, parents, and friends. ‘Family’ could mean love, or reluctant foster care. For Demon, born on the wrong side of luck, the affection and safety he craves is as remote as the ocean he dreams of seeing one day. The wonder is in how far he’s willing to travel to try and get there. Suffused with truth, anger and compassion, this is an epic tale of love, loss and everything in between.

Satoshi Yagisawa – Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, £10.99 paperback

When twenty-five-year-old Takako’s boyfriend reveals he’s marrying someone else, she reluctantly accepts her eccentric uncle Satoru’s offer to live rent-free in the tiny room above his shop. Hidden in Jimbocho, Tokyo, the Morisaki Bookshop is a booklover’s paradise. On a quiet corner in an old wooden building, the shop is filled with hundreds of second-hand books. It is Satoru’s pride and joy, and he has devoted his life to the bookshop since his wife left him five years earlier. Hoping to nurse her broken heart in peace, Takako is surprised to encounter new worlds within the stacks of books lining the shop. And as summer fades to autumn, Satoru and Takako discover they have more in common than they first thought. The Morisaki bookshop has something to teach them both about life, love, and the healing power of books.

Our September Reads

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant – Anne Tyler, £9.99 paperback

Through every family run memories which bind it together – despite everything. The Tulls of Baltimore are no exception. Abandoned by her salesman husband, Pearl is left to bring up her three children alone – Cody, a flawed devil, Ezra, a flawed saint, and Jenny, errant and passionate. Now, as Pearl lies dying, stiffly encased in her pride and solitude, the past is unlocked and with it its secrets. 

The Queen of Dirt Island – Donal Ryan, £9.99 paperback

This is a story about family, about all of the things it should be – and sometimes isn’t. In Nenagh, County Tipperary, four generations of Aylward women live and love. The head of the family, Nana, is a woman who has buried two sons and whose life has been the family farm. Her daughter-in-law, Eileen, is estranged from her own parents, having ‘shamed’ them and given birth to Saoirse. And then there’s Saoirse herself, eavesdropping on lives she cannot comprehend. It is only when they must battle for the inheritance of Dirt Island – a narrow strip of land adjacent to Eileen’s childhood home – that they truly understand the roots that bind their lives together.

Voices in Summer – Rosamunde Pilcher, £8.99 paperback

 Laura, newly married and ever conscious she may be living in the shadow of her husband Alec’s first wife, decides to take a holiday with his family in Cornwall. Through the long hot summer days she is slowly charmed by the beautiful old house and the people she learns to know and love. In time her uneasy spirit is soothed by the sparkling, brilliant sea, and her restless heart finally calmed. But is this new-found tranquility too good to be true? For with the arrival of an anonymous letter, one accusing her of having an affair, Laura’s world is thrown into turmoil.

The Glass Hotel – Emily St John Mandel, £9.99 paperback

The Glass Hotel is the story of the lives caught up in two very different tragedies: a woman disappearing from a container ship, and a massive Ponzi scheme imploding in New York. Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the exclusive Hotel Caiette. When New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis walks into the hotel and hands her his card, it is the beginning of their life together. That same night, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.’ Leon Prevant, a shipping executive, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. When Alkaitis’s investment fund is revealed to be a Ponzi scheme, Leon loses his retirement savings in the fallout, but Vincent seemingly walks away unscathed. Until, a decade later, she disappears from the deck of one of Leon’s ships.

The Birdcatcher – Gayl Jones, £9.99 paperback

‘I am living on the white-washed island of Ibiza with my friend Catherine Shuger, a sculptor who has been declared legally insane, and her husband, Ernest. Standing on the terrace, sheltered in the smell of oranges and eucalyptus, washed in sunlight, you’d swear this was a paradise. But to tell the truth the place is full of dangers. You see, Catherine sometimes tries to kill her husband. It has been this way for years. My name’s Amanda Wordlaw. Wonderful name for a writer, isn’t it? I guess I’m sort of a choice companion for the Shugers – professional watcher and listener that I am. It’s like they need someone else to witness the spectacle they make of themselves.’ A novel that is part mystery, part thriller, and wholly captivating.

The Blackbird – Tim Weaver, £8.99 paperback

CCTV footage captures Cate and Aiden Gascoigne driving home seconds before their car plunges into a ravine and explodes. When fire crews arrive, the vehicle is empty. Cate and Aiden have vanished. Missing persons investigator David Raker has solved too many impossible cases. He knows that behind every disappearance lies a dark tale waiting to be uncovered. What he doesn’t know is how dark this one is – or how close it will get to him.

Real Tigers – Mick Herron, £8.99 paperback

Catherine Standish, one of their number, worked in Regent’s Park long enough to understand treachery, double-dealing and stabbing in the back, and she’s known Jackson Lamb long enough to have learned that old sins cast long shadows. And she also knows that chance encounters never happen to spooks, even recovering drunks whose careers have crashed and burned. What she doesn’t know is why anyone would target her. So whoever’s holding her hostage, it can’t be personal. It must be about Slough House. Most likely, it’s about Jackson Lamb. And say what you like about Lamb, he’ll never leave a joe in the lurch. He might even be someone you could trust with your life.

When We Were Birds – Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, £9.99 paperback

Darwin is a down-on-his-luck gravedigger, newly arrived in the Trinidadian city of Port Angeles to seek his fortune, young and beautiful and lost. Estranged from his mother and the Rastafari faith she taught him, he is convinced that the father he never met may be waiting for him somewhere amid these bustling streets.

Meanwhile in an old house on a hill, where the city meets the rainforest, Yejide’s mother is dying. And she is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: the power to talk to the dead. The women of Yejide’s family are human but also not – descended from corbeau, the black birds that fly east at sunset, taking with them the souls of the dead. Darwin and Yejide both have something that the other needs.

Their destinies are intertwined, and they will find one another in the sprawling, ancient cemetery at the heart of the island, where trouble is brewing. Rich with magic and wisdom, When We Were Birds is an exuberant masterpiece that conjures and mesmerises on every line.

What we read in Aug 2023

Memento Mori – Muriel Spark, £9.99 paperback

Remember you must die. Dame Lettie Colston is the first of her circle to receive insinuating anonymous phone calls. Neither she, nor her friends, wish to be reminded of their mortality, and their geriatric feathers are thoroughly ruffled. As the caller’s activities become more widespread, old secrets are dusted off, exposing post and present duplicities, self-deception and blackmail. Nobody is above suspicion. Witty, poignant and wickedly hilarious, Memento Mori may ostensibly concern death, but it is a book which leaves one relishing life all the more.

William Boyd – Sweet Caress, now only available second-hand

Amory Clay’s first memory is of her father doing a handstand – but it is his absences that she chiefly remembers. Her Uncle Greville, a photographer, gives her both the affection she needs and a camera, which unleashes a passion that irrevocably shapes her future. She begins an apprenticeship with him in London, photographing socialites for magazines. But Amory is hungry for more and her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demi-monde of 1920s Berlin, New York in the 1930s, the Blackshirt riots in London, and France during the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first women war photographers. In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of the twentieth century, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman.

Catherine O ‘Flynn – What Was Lost, £9.99 paperback

A lost little girl with her notebook and toy monkey appears on the CCTV screens of the Green Oaks shopping centre, evoking memories of junior detective Kate Meaney, missing for 20 years. Kurt, a security guard with a sleep disorder, and Lisa, a disenchanted deputy manager at Your Music, follow her through the centre’s endless corridors – welcome relief from the tedium of their lives. But as this after-hours friendship grows in intensity, it brings new loss and new longing to light.

Alex Preston – Winchelsea, £9.99 paperback

The year is 1742. Goody Brown, saved from drowning and adopted when just a babe, has grown up happily in the smuggling town of Winchelsea. But when she turns sixteen, her father is murdered by men he thought were friends. In a town where lawlessness prevails, Goody and her brother Francis must enter the cut-throat world of her father’s killers in order to find justice. Facing high seas and desperate villains, she discovers what life can be like without constraints or expectations, developing a taste for danger that makes her blood run fast. Goody was never born to be a gentlewoman. But what will she become instead?

July’s reading list

Bibliomaniac – Robin Ince, £16.99 hardback – SIGNED copies available

Why play to 12,000 people when you can play to 12? In Autumn 2021, Robin Ince’s stadium tour with Professor Brian Cox was postponed due to the pandemic. Rather than do nothing, he decided instead to go on a tour of over a hundred bookshops in the UK, from Wigtown to Penzance; from Swansea to Margate, and to Limestone Books in Settle!!!! Packed with witty anecdotes and tall tales, Bibliomaniac takes the reader on a journey across Britain as Robin explores his lifelong love of bookshops and books – and also tries to find out just why he can never have enough of them.

Rabbits – Terry Miles, £9.99 paperback

Rabbits is a secret, dangerous and sometimes fatal underground game. The rewards for winning are unclear, but there are rumours of money, CIA recruitment or even immortality. Or it might unlock the universe’s greatest secrets. But everyone knows that the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes – and the body count is rising. Since the game first started, ten iterations have taken place, and the eleventh round is about to begin.

K can’t get enough of the game and has been trying to find a way in for years. Then Alan Scarpio, reclusive billionaire and alleged Rabbits winner, shows up out of nowhere. And he charges K with a desperate mission. Something has gone badly wrong with the game and K needs to fix it – before Eleven starts – or the world will pay the price. Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that Eleven begins, so K blows the deadline. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

Rabbits by Terry Miles is an electrifying, compulsive read based on the hit podcast from the Public Radio Alliance – perfect for fans of Stranger Things and Black Mirror.

The Black Friar – SG MacLean, £8.99 paperback

London, 1655, and Cromwell’s regime is under threat from all sides. Damian Seeker, Captain of Cromwell’s Guard, is all too aware of the danger facing Cromwell. Parliament resents his control of the Army while the Army resents his absolute power. In the east end of London, a group of religious fanatics plots rebellion. In the midst of all this, a stonemason uncovers a perfectly preserved body dressed in the robes of a Dominican friar, bricked up in a wall in the crumbling Black Friars. Ill-informed rumours and speculation abound, but Seeker instantly recognises the dead man. What he must discover is why he met such a hideous end, and what his connection was to the children who have started to disappear from around the city. Unravelling these mysteries is challenging enough, and made still harder by the activities of dissenters at home, Royalist plotters abroad and individuals who are not what they seem.

Homecoming – Kate Morton, £20.00 hardback

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959. At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek in the grounds of a grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia. Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story.

Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital. At a loose end in Nora’s house, Jess does some digging into her past.

In Nora’s bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime – a crime that has never been truly solved. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find.

Thrown – Sara Cox, £8.99 paperback

Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble. Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful.

Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants?Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted. The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves.

There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street. The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start.

And not just for her. The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women.

Tom Lake – Ann Patchett, £18.99 hardback

This is a story about Peter Duke who went on to be a famous actor. This is a story about falling in love with Peter Duke who wasn’t famous at all. It’s about falling so wildly in love with him – the way one will at twenty-four – that it felt like jumping off a roof at midnight. There was no way to foresee the mess it would come to in the end. It’s spring and Lara’s three grown daughters have returned to the family orchard. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the one story they’ve always longed to hear – of the film star with whom she shared a stage, and a romance, years before. Tom Lake is a meditation on youthful love, married love, and the lives parents lead before their children are born. Both hopeful and elegiac, it explores what it means to be happy even when the world is falling apart.