Andrew McMillan

 physical - Andrew McMillan 

Congratulations to Andrew McMillan on his winning the Guardian First Book Award 2015 "for his elegantly poised and intimate collection of poems."
  Copies are available at our shop for £10.

 November 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

 Ghostly by Audrey Niffenegger. Our Price £12.99, RRP £14.99 

In this volume, Audrey Niffenegger, bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, has brought together her selection of the very creepiest, weirdest and wittiest ghost stories around.

Scare yourself silly with old favourites by Edgar Allan Poe and M. R. James. Entertain the unnerving with tales from Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and Audrey Niffenegger herself. And as bedtime nears, allay your fears with funny new writing from Amy Giacalone and the classic wit of Saki.

When the nights draw in and the fire burns low, enjoy the eeriness, the dread and the comedy of all things ghostly.

November 2015 Book of the Month (Children)

 The Teenager Who Came To Tea by Josie Lloyd and Ellyn Rees. Our Price £7.99, RRP £9.99

The bestselling authors of We're Going on a Bar Hunt and The Very Hungover Caterpillar bring you another hilarious parody of a much-loved children's book, this time turning the spotlight not only on modern teens, but firmly on their parents too.

When the doorbell rings, just as Sophie and her Dad are sitting down for their tea, they're half-expecting a visit from a tiger, but what slouches in through their doorway is even more curious than that... a teenager.

A perfect read for anyone who remembers the original, or has ever been a teenager or is the parent of a teenager today.

 August 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. Our Price £5.99, RRP £7.99 

freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men. 

The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate. 

But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril. 

And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. 

freida must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...

August 2015 Book of the Month (Children)

 Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Our Price £7.99, RRP £9.99

For the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alexandra Ball and Susie Linn have teamed up to create an abbreviated story perfect for the very young.

July 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Hardback. Our Price £12.99, RRP £14.99. 

In the summer of 1990, Cathy's brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out. It was two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school. Sitting by his unconscious body in hospital, holding his hand and watching his heartbeat on the monitors, Cathy and her parents willed him to survive. They did not know then that there are many and various fates worse than death. 

This is the story of what happened to Cathy and her brother, and the unimaginable decision that she and her parents had to make eight years after the night that changed everything. It's a story for anyone who has ever watched someone suffer or lost someone they loved or lived through a painful time that left them forever changed. Told with boundless warmth and affection, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family's survival and the price we pay for love.

July 2015 Book of the Month (Children)

 Tiny: The Invisible World of Microbes by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. Our Price £5.00, RRP £6.99. 

There are living things so tiny millions could fit on a dot. Although they are invisible, they are everywhere and they multiply very quickly. They are vital for life on earth, and do all sorts of things - from giving us a cold and making yoghurt to wearing down mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. With charming illustrations by Emily Sutton, this friendly, clever book succeeds in conveying the complex science of micro-organisms simply and clearly, and opens up an exciting new avenue for young non-fiction.

 Breaking news
 Ali Smith wins the 2015 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction with her book How to be both.

How to be both
s a novel about the versatility of art. It's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets formless, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real - and all life's givens get given a second chance.

We have paperback copies available in the bookshop. RRP £8.99.
Signed copy available

 The Kindness by Polly Samson. Hardback. RRP £14.99

Described as having beautiful surfaces but with a dark undercurrent, this novel is based on Milton's Paradise Lost. The theme is concerned with acts of love that lead to long term human issues. Mutating between the past and present within narrative and individual sentences, a change in narrator from Julian to Julia creates thoughts about the past rather than the present but thinking in the present. 

Our Books of the Month and other recommended reads.
(Offer prices apply in given month only).
June 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

 A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. Hardback. Our price £15, RRP £20. 

Kate Atkinson’s dazzling Life After Life, one of the top selling adult books of 2014, explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, RAF bomber pilot, husband and father – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

A God in Ruins is a masterful companion to Life After Life, and will prove once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

 June 2015 Book of the Month (Children)

 Sir Lilypad by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie. Our price £5, RRP £6.99. 

A fantastic, funny, froggy tale from internationally bestselling picture book duo, Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie.

Once upon a time, in a deep dark bog, lived a teeny, tiny speckled frog. Now, he might be tiny (the other frogs call him stuff, like 'weedy pants') but his ambition is great. For he wants to be known henceforth as Sir Lilypad! Sir Lilypad the brave and wise! Slayer of the - er - dragonflies. And all he needs to effect this transformation? A kiss from a willing princess, of course…

A new fantastically funny, froggy tale from internationally bestselling picture book duo, Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie.

May 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

'Lamentation' by CJ Sansom. Large format paperback. Our price £10, RRP £12.99.

The sixth novel featuring Matthew Shardlake,  vividly evoking Tudor England.

Summer, 1546.

King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will control the government of Henry's successor, eight-year-old Prince Edward. As heretics are hunted across London, and the radical Protestant Anne Askew is burned at the stake, the Catholic party focus their attack on Henry's sixth wife, Matthew Shardlake's old mentor, Queen Catherine Parr.

May 2015 Book of the Month (Childrens)


'The Accidental Prime Minister' by Tom MacLaughlin. Our price £5, RRP £6.99.

When Joe tells a local news reporter exactly what he would do if he were leader of the country, the video goes viral and Joe's speech becomes famous all over the world! 
Before long, people are calling for the current leader to resign and give someone else a go . . . and that's how an ordinary boy like Joe ended up with the most extraordinary job. Now the fun can really start . . . 
Hats for cats! Pet pigs for all! Banana shaped buses! Swimming pools on trains! 
A hilarious story of one boy's meteoric rise to power!

“Where there is grumpiness, may we bring giggles, Where there is jelly, may we bring ice cream, Where there are chairs, may we bring whoopee cushions”


April 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

'Landmarks' by Robert Macfarlane. Our price £16, RRP £20.

Landmarks is Robert Macfarlane's joyous meditation on words, landscape and the relationship between the two.

Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. Travelling from Cumbria to the Cairngorms, and exploring the landscapes of Roger Deakin, J. A. Baker, Nan Shepherd and others, Robert Macfarlane shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it.

April 2015 Book of the Month (Childrens)

'Tom's Midnight Garden' by Philippa Pearce. Our price £4.99, RRP £6.99.

Lying awake at night, Tom hears the old grandfather clock downstairs strike . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . .  Thirteen! When Tom gets up to investigate, he discovers a magical garden. A garden that everyone told him doesn't exist. A garden that only he can enter . . . 

A Carnegie-Medal-winning modern classic that's magically timeless.

March 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

'Where the Wild Mums Are' by Katie Blackburn. Our price £8.99, RRP £10.99.

The day Mum didn't get dressed and went on strike, Dad called her 'a Wild Thing' and Mum said 'Cook your owndinner' and stomped off upstairs to have a bath . . .

In this hilarious, touching homage to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, a worn-out mum finds herself floating across time and space to the place where the Wild Mums are. Dazzled by her party tricks, they crown her Queen of the Wild Mums and try to entice her to join their conga . . . But Mum has just remembered who she loves best of all . . . 

Lovingly illustrated by the award-winning Sholto Walker, this little book is the perfect gift for baby showers, new mums - or any mum who's ever wanted to go on strike.

March 2015 Book of the Month (Childrens)

'My New Home' by Marta Altes. Our price £4.99, RRP £6.99.

Moving to a new home can sometimes feel scary and a little bit lonely, but this little raccoon soon discovers that wherever you go adventures soon follow. A beautiful and uplifting story about moving house, making friends and finding a new home.

This warm, thoughtful and reassuring story is written from the perspective of a young child. It's perfect for children about to move house or start new school, but has a universal message for any child about the importance of kindness and acceptance when meeting someone new.


February 2015 Book of the Month (Adults)

'The Year of Living Danishly' by Helen Russell. Our price £10, RRP £12.99.

When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn't Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries. What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.


February 2015 Book of the Month (Childrens)

'Oi Frog' by Kes Gray & Jim Field. Our price £5, RRP £6.99.

From the award-winning Kes Gray and the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Jim Field, comes an hilarious rhyming tale about a frog who discovers that all animals have their special places to sit! Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools and gofers sit on sofas, but Frog does not want to sit on a log! Jam-packed with animals and silliness, this original rhyming story will have young children in fits of laughter. 'An absolute treat.' - Daily Mail 'Hilarious illustrations and rhymes which are easy to recite and join in. Everyone will love it.' - The Guardian Kes was voted by the Independent as one of the TOP TEN children's authors and he is the author of the award-winning Eat Your Peas and winner of the Red House Children's Book Award. Jim's first picture book Cats Ahoy! won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.



January Books of the Month (Adults)

'Travelling to Infinity - My Life with Stephen' by Jane Hawking. Our price £8, RRP £9.99.

The book that informed the current cinema hit 'The Theory of Everything' about the early lives of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane.


January Books of the Month (Childrens)

 'Paddington Bear' Books by Michael Bond. 10% discount off all titles.

Currently enjoying new popularity among young readers, stories of Paddington Bear have delighted children all over the world for more than five decades

The classic stories of the bear from Darkest Peru who arrived at Paddington Station with nothing but a suitcase, a half-empty jar of marmalade and a label that read, ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’ Mr and Mrs Brown discovered him, named him Paddington and welcomed him to their home, where he has lived ever since.



December Book of the Month (Adults)

 'The Virgin Mary's Got Nits' by Gervase Phinn. Our Price £10.99 RRP £12.99


A touching and hilarious gift book of poetry and prose on the subject of children and Christmas from the Yorkshire school inspector and bestselling author of the Dales series and Little Village School series.

December Book of the Month (Children)



'The First Hippo on the Moon' by David Walliams and Tony Ross. Our Price £10.99 RRP £12.99

From Number One bestselling picture book duo, David Walliams and Tony Ross, comes this explosively funny space adventure for children of 3 and up.

Two big hippos.
One ENORMOUS dream.
Who can make it to the moon first?
3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Introducing a wonderfully charming and funny new picture book from two superstars!

Recommended :



 'Hungarian Dances' by Jessica Duchen £7.99

Karina's life was once mapped out for her - she was meant to follow in the footsteps of her Hungarian grandmother, a world-famous violinist. Instead, she's a teacher, a mum and wife to Julian, a very English husband who's not always in step with her. But when disaster befalls her best friend, Karina feels forced to question the very foundations of her existence. Encouraged by a chance encounter with a like-minded musician, she begins to delve into her grandmother's Gypsy past, and to discover the secrets of her Hungarian family history. Life will never be the same again.

Like most people, Karina isn't sure the life she chose was the right one. But she is willing to take drastic steps to change it.

See our Events Page for more about this book

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Anne recommends:

Anne recommends:

Anne recommends:
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Wendy recommends:

Wendy recommends:

'Time and Time Again' by Ben Elton (our price £15 - rrp £18.99)
It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be. Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?
'Where the Poppies Now Grow' by Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey (our price £5 - rrp £6.99)
The carefree childhood for Ben and his best friend Ray becomes a distant memory when they join the army to serve their country. But, in the midst of battle can their friendship survive? Written to mark the anniversary of the start of the First World War, in Where The Poppies Now Grow, Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey create a touching tribute to honour all those who sacrificed so much for peace. NOMINATED FOR THE 2015 CARNEGIE AND KATE GREENAWAY MEDALS 2015




'Head of State' by Andrew Marr (our price £15.99 - rrp £18.99)

'Andrew Marr’s first novel is a gleefully twisted spin through the corridors of power. Making full use of his unrivalled inside knowledge of the British political scene, Marr has threaded his wickedly clever thriller with a distinctive strand of pitch-black humour, to offer an irreverent glimpse behind the parliamentary curtain.'

'Listen to the Moon' by Michael Morpurgo (our price £10.99 - rrp £12.99)
The stunning new novel of World War One from Michael Morpurgo, the nation’s favourite storyteller and multi-million copy bestseller.
'Counting Sheep - A Celebration of the Pastoral History of Britain' by Philip Walling (our price £12.99 - rrp £14.99)

Sheep have shaped our landscape and were vital for the economy for thousands of years - former barrister and now sheep farmer explains how the animals are more interesting than many of us think.

'Let's Talk About Vehicles' by Harriet Blackford (our price £6.99 - rrp £7.99)

Ages 2-5 years. From the acclaimed children's author - a bright and exciting book full of vehicles of every shape and size, which is also very informative.


'The Little Mermaid & Other FishyTales' by Jane Ray (our price £14.99 - rrp £17.99)

In hardback from brilliant illustratorJane Ray this book contains several sea stories for children.

'How to be a Good Wife' by Emma Chapman  (our price £6.99 - rrp £7.99)

In the tradition of Emma Donoghue's Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman is a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows. 


Described by Hilary Mantel as 'a creepy little chiller' - our Wendy at Castle Hill couldn't put it down!



'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt  (£8.99) 

She's done it again! Donna Tartt isn't what you would call a prolific writer, as far as I know, she has only published two other books, “Secret History” in 1992 and “Little Friend” in 2002, but her books are certainly worth waiting for. This one is my personal favourite. It tells the story of Theo, a young boy who's mother is killed in a terrorist attack on an art gallery in New York. Theo survives and in the chaos and confusion immediately after the attack he, almost by accident, steals a small masterpiece. The rest of the book tells of the next two decades of his life, being shunted between well meaning friends, a less well meaning father and an elderly antique dealer who befriends him because of a chance encounter in the gallery prior to the attack. Through it all, he worries about the painting and how to return it without getting into trouble.

The book is peppered with unforgettable characters, his crazy Russian friend Boris, with whom he spends some wild times experimenting with all sorts of narcotic substances, Hobie, the gentle antique dealer who takes him in and  Popchik a little dog he ends up responsible for. Through the whole book he is pining, both for his lost mother and also a girl Pippa who he has been in love with since he met her at the gallery on that fateful day.

I lost myself in this book, it's twists and turns kept surprising me and the whole tome (864 pages) is very accomplished.

Highly recommended and probably my book of the year, definitely so far anyway !

 'The Storms of War' by Kate Williams - (Orion £12.99)

In the idyllic early summer of 1914, life is good for the de Witt family. Rudolf and Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter Emmeline, while their eldest son, Arthur, is studying in Paris and Michael is just back from his first term at Cambridge. Celia, the youngest of the de Witt children, is on the brink of adulthood, and secretly dreams of escaping her carefully mapped-out future and exploring the world.But the onslaught of war changes everything and soon the de Witts find themselves sidelined and in danger of losing everything they hold dear. As Celia struggles to make sense of the changing world around her, she lies about her age to join the war effort and finds herself embroiled in a complex plot that puts not only herself but those she loves in danger.With gripping detail and brilliant empathy, Kate Williams tells the story of Celia and her family as they are shunned by a society that previously embraced them, torn apart by sorrow, and buffeted and changed by the storms of war.


'Counting by 7s' by Holly Goldberg-Sloan (Piccadilly Press £6.99)

This book,aimed at young adults (like me, aged 61!) is a heartwarming tale of an oddball 12 year old girl who is left adrift in the world when both her parents are killed in a car accident. She seems to attract a group of unconventional friends who all have problems of their own and yet manage to form a protective "family" for her and are all determined that she won't end up in foster care. This is a real 'feel good' story and celebrates being different and the strength of simply looking out for one another.

'Virginia Woolf in Manhattan' by Maggie Gee.     Our price £12.99  (RRP £14.99)
What if Virginia Woolf came back to life in the twenty-first century?
Bestselling author Angela Lamb is going through a mid-life crisis. She dumps her irrepressible daughter Gerda at boarding school and flies to New York to pursue her passion for Woolf, whose manuscripts are held in a private collection.
When a bedraggled Virginia Woolf herself materialises among the bookshelves and is promptly evicted, Angela, stunned, rushes after her on to the streets of Manhattan. Soon she is chaperoning her troublesome heroine as Virginia tries to understand the internet and scams bookshops with 'rare signed editions'. Then Virginia insists on flying with Angela to Istanbul, where she is surprised by love and steals the show at an international conference on - Virginia Woolf.
Meanwhile, Gerda, ignored by her mother for days, has escaped from school and set off in hot pursuit.
Virginia Woolf in Manhattan is a witty and profound novel about female rivalry, friendships, mothers and daughters, and the miraculous possibilities of a second chance at life.
'Brilliant' by Roddy Doyle     Our Price £8.99  (RRP £10.99)
When Uncle Ben’s Dublin business fails, it's clear to Gloria and Raymond that something is wrong. He just isn’t his usual cheerful self. So when the children overhear their granny saying that the Black Dog has settled on Ben’s back and he won’t be OK until it’s gone, they decide they're going to get rid of it. Gathering all their courage the children set out on a midnight quest to hunt down the Black Dog and chase it away. But they aren’t the only kids on the mission. Loads of other children are searching for it too, because the Black Dog is hounding lots of Dublin's adults. Together – and with the help of magical animals, birds and rodents – the children manage to corner the Black Dog . . . but will they have the courage and cleverness to destroy the frightening creature?

'A First Book of Nature' by Nicola Davies. 
Winner of The English Association's Picture Book Award. 
From beachcombing to stargazing, from watching squirrels, ducks and worms to making berry crumble or a winter bird feast, this is a remarkable book – part poetry, part scrapbook of recipes, facts and fragments – and a glorious reminder that the natural world is on our doorstep waiting to be discovered. Mark Hearld's pictures beautifully reproduce the colours of the seasons on woodfree paper, and Nicola Davies' lyrical words capture the simple loveliness that is everywhere, if only we can look.
'Northanger Abbey' by Val McDermid. 
A modern re-imagining of the Gothic Classic Northanger Abbey by the bestselling crime author Val McDermid. The second book in The Austen Project.
Seventeen-year-old Catherine ‘Cat’ Morland has led a sheltered existence in rural Dorset, a life entirely bereft of the romance and excitement for which she yearns. So when Cat’s wealthy neighbours, the Allens, invite her to Edinburgh Festival, she is sure adventure beckons. Edinburgh initially offers no such thrills: Susie Allen is obsessed by shopping, Andrew Allen by the Fringe. A Highland Dance class, though, brings Cat a new acquaintance: Henry Tilney, a pale, dark-eyed gentleman whose family home, Northanger Abbey, sounds perfectly thrilling. And an introduction to Bella Thorpe, who shares her passion for supernatural novels, provides Cat with a like-minded friend. But with Bella comes her brother John, an obnoxious banker whose vulgar behaviour seems designed to thwart Cat’s growing fondness for Henry.
Happily, rescue is at hand. The rigidly formal General Tilney invites her to stay at Northanger with son Henry and daughter Eleanor. Cat’s imagination runs riot: an ancient abbey, crumbling turrets, secret chambers, ghosts…and Henry! What could be more deliciously romantic?
But Cat gets far more than she bargained for in this isolated corner of the Scottish Borders. The real world outside the pages of a novel proves to be altogether more disturbing than the imagined world within…
Published recently by Jennie Rooney, this is a gripping, emotional and expertly plotted spy novel of the Cold War, inspired by a true story. It is beautifully written and will appeal to everyone. 
She is a loving mother, a doting grandmother, and leads a quiet, unremarkable life in the suburbs. Then one morning there is a knock on the door, and suddenly the past she has been so keen to hide for the last fifty years threatens to overturn her comfortable world. Cambridge University in 1937 is awash with ideas and idealists, yet unworldly Joan feels better suited to a science lecture and a cup of cocoa.
But a chance meeting with the glamorous Russian-born Sonya and her charismatic cousin Leo blurs the edges of the things Joan thought she knew about the world, and about herself. In the post-War world of smoke and mirrors, allegiance is a slippery thing. Working in a government ministry with access to top-secret information, Joan is suddenly faced with the most difficult question of all: what price would you pay to remain true to what you believe? Would you betray your country, your family, even the man you love? 


This debut novel by Eleanor Brown is very different and quirky.
'See, we love each other. We just don't happen to like each other very much.' THE WEIRD SISTERS is a trenchantly observant novel about the often warring emotions between sisters. Unlucky in work, love and life, the Andreas sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother.
With a Shakespearean Professor for a father who communicates mainly in quotes, the sisters are very different and for me, the charm of the book lies in their interaction with each other and their novel way of communicating. The family is eccentric and works on the basis that a good book can solve all life's problems! As an avid reader myself, a good book is certainly an excellent way of escaping life's problems, at least for a while!


Ann Cleeves came to the Richmond Walking and Book Festival in 2011 and proved to be a very engaging speaker.
Her Vera Stanhope novels have recently been televised but Raven Black is the first of her Shetland series with the wonderful detective Jimmy Perez.
It won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel in 2006 and deservedly so. It is a classic detective story which keeps you guessing to the end
Ann probes beneath the surface of a close-knit community to reveal the secrets that lie beneath
I have now read the other three titles in the series, White Nights, Red Bones and Blue Lightning with much enjoyment and am looking forward to number 5, currently being written.

Three of Anne's all time favourites                                                       
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson   

I've always felt very confused about the Arab/Israeli situation and also felt that the news as we hear it has a definite Israeli bias, so was pleased to come across a book that is written by a woman who was brought up in a Palestinian refugee camp. 

I loved this book. It tells the all too familiar story of a displaced people and lives ruined by conflict.

The story is told through the eyes of Amal who is born after a terrible event which tears her family apart. Her childhood is spent living through the horrors of life in a war zone, yet to her this is normality, she plays with dolls, has a best friend, goes to school etc and it is only slowly that she comes to understand her damaged and distant mother. It is not a comfortable book to read and leaves one feeling incredibly sad, though there is some closure on the tragic event that took place before Amal was born. I realise that this book is bound to have a Palestinian bias but feel it goes some way to redressing the balance and helped me understand at least in part the tangled and difficult position in this part of the world. 


I read this book a couple of years ago, I was drawn to it because I had enjoyed this authors previous work, “Year of wonders” and “March”. “Year of wonders” is a novel set in the plague village of Eyam in Derbyshire and “March” follows the fortunes of the absent father in “Little Women”. She seems to take a true life event and weaves a work of fiction around it. This time the book is centred on a book!, a religious text known as the Sarajevan haggadah. This book was thought to have been destroyed in the Balkan conflict, but it had been spirited away for safekeeping by one of the curators in the museum. The author takes this as the starting point for her novel and then proceeds to tell the story of the book through an Australian bookbinder who uses various clues, like a wine stain, a moth's wing and a hair to decipher it's previous lives. Each chapter is set in a different place and time and gives a vivid description of it's place in history. As a rule I get annoyed with books which work backwards, as this one does, but this time I was utterly gripped. The story is told alongside the current day life of Hanna, the bookbinder, maybe that was why I didn't get cross with it going backwards. For whatever reason, it worked for me and I thoroughly recommend it.

This book is one of my all time favourites. It was recommended by a customer and I dipped into it and was immediately hooked. It is set in India in the mid 1970s and tells the story of two tailors, an uncle and nephew who head to Mumbai to make money to take home to their village.They are from one of the lower castes in Indian society and end up working for a widow of a higher caste who is down on her luck and needing to make some money so she doesn't have to keep asking for help from her brother. The fourth main character is a young student from the north of India who is studying in the city and lodges with the seamstress. He is the son of a small business owner so again from a higher class than the two tailors. These four characters end up forming a close bond despite their different backgrounds and this is one of the main themes of the novel, set against a background of growing political unrest. The two tailors experience a series of disasters but are such charming characters full of irrepressible optimism which seems to carry them through all manner of adversities.The fact that so many people love this book despite the series of tragic events that befall it's characters is due entirely to the quality of the storytelling . (Health warning from Anne: Brilliant book but not to be read if feeling depressed!)

Three of Wendy's all time favourites
Birds without wings by Louis de Bernieres
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving