Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

Category: Authors F (page 1 of 11)

My Best Reads of 2015

Last year I split my best of list in two – the Shiny edition and the Blog edition. I read just as many books this year as last (127) and awarded 17 of them 9.5 or 10 stars at the time of review, but I’ve decided to have just one list this time with a baker’s dozen choices,  mixing old and new titles, blog and Shiny reviews.  As always, the links will take you back to the original review.

Best evocation of 1960s London

arnottThe Long Firm by Jake Arnott

This violent story-cycle about a bipolar gay gangster is primarily set in and around Soho of the 1960s and it’s pitch-perfect in its seedy detail. Five episodes from the life of Harry Stark, each told by a different narrator – from the unhappy peer Lord Thursby to the speed-addicted Jack the Hat and Ruby Ryder the tart with a heart, the picture they build up of Harry is of a complicated character.


Best YA novel

grasshopper-jungleGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I nearly gave this award to Marcus Sedgwick for his masterful linked story cycle The Ghosts of Heaven, but Grasshopper Jungle with its coming of age story set in a world newly invaded by mutant six foot tall praying mantises was just so fresh and immediate. It was thought-provoking too whilst entertaining us in a horror mode that recalls Charlie Higson’s zombie novels. Fantastic stuff for mid-teens upwards.


Best Comic Thriller

hackHack by Kieran Crowley

This thriller by crime journalist Crowley had me laughing all the way through with its hilarious wisecracks while a serial killer was at work in New York.  From the moment a pet-columnist is mistakenly sent to a crime-scene because there’s a dog guarding the body, you know you’re in for an entertaining and suspenseful read. The funniest crime novel I’ve read since I discovered Christopher Brookmyre.


Best Book that Made Me Cry

instrumental james rhodesInstrumental by James Rhodes

Several books I’ve read this year made me cry – including that disappointing doorstop  and some tough lit for teens, but the book that dissolved me into a weeping heap was a memoir. Instrumental is a candid account of horrific child-abuse and its lasting effects in the injuries, shame, anger, breakdown, self-harm, OCD, addiction and more that followed. However, it may sound glib but isn’t, this book is also about the healing power of music and how Rhodes harnessed it to make a life for himself as a classical pianist.  Horrific yet hopeful, it’s a tough read but an important one.


Best Technicolor Cover

hotel arcadiaHotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh

This literary thriller grabbed me from page 1 and didn’t let go until I’d finished.  It’s premise is very simple – a group of terrorists storm the Hotel Arcadia, systematically hunting down the guests and murdering them – we never find out why. We see what happens through the eyes of just two people: Abhi, one of the hotel managers and Sam, a guest who happens to be a war-photographer, both of whom escape the initial purge. Full of authentic detail and perfectly balanced between Abhi and Sam, this is a suspenseful and affecting read.


Best New to Me Crime Series

spring-tideSpring Tide by Cilla and Rolf Borjlind

The husband and wife team behind Scandi-TV hits Arne Dahl etc. have diversified into crime novels featuring an odd couple of investigators – Olivia Ronning is a trainee police officer and Tom Stilton a dropped-out one, a former inspector.  Combining solving a cold case alongside current ones that together expose the underbelly of Stockholm in both high and low places, this pair make a rather interesting new team. The follow-up novel Third Voice was also brilliant.


Best Book from the TBR I’ve Owned the Longest

My original first UK paperback edition (Minerva 1994)

The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury

Why this book sat for 21 years in my TBR piles, I’ll never work out, but once a new edition piqued my interest, I read it and was blown away by this tale of small-town America following the lives and loves of the fictional Grouse County, Iowa. The novel is driven by the conversations between the characters, finding its drama there rather than in action. The dialogue, coupled with deadpan observational detail draws you in totally. I now want to read everything Drury has written.


Young God

Best New Voice

Young God by Katherine Faw Morris

I have Elle to thank for this recommendation. Brutal, sparse and shocking, this coming of age novel is maybe the darkest I’ve ever read – but I loved it. Teenager Nikki’s story is told in short chapters, sort of vignettes – some only a line or two long, others stretching to a couple of pages. Drugs, underage prostitution, guns, trailer-park living. The author never attempts to make us like or judge Nikki, she just tells it like it is in a triumph of understatement.


Best Science Book

Spirals-in-Time-small-440x704Spirals in Time by Helen Scales

Cedric Villani, the flamboyant French mathematician deserves a mention for making equations sexy in his book Birth of a Theorem, but marine biologist Scales’s volume about molluscs was delightful – combining natural history with folklore and the seashell’s place in culture – a perfect mixture to captivate the reader. She tells her stories with such enthusiasm for the subject, explaining clearly with a great sense of humour,  drawing vivid pictures of these marvelous creatures in her words, making the book accessible to a wider audience.


Best Book About Books

Clive James Latest ReadingsLatest Readings by Clive James

James, bless him, is still alive despite having personally believed he’d be dead of the cancer afflicting him by now. He’s still reading furiously and luckily for us, writing about it. This book of essays about what he’s been reading is inspirational, funny, full of facts and detail about the titles and authors covered, all delivered with deadpan wit and a life’s experience – yet he hasn’t lost the joy of discovery of new books. Lovely.


Best Human Story About the Thrill of Space

Last-Pilot-cover-RGB-667x1024 The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock

Anyone who has ever been enthralled by reading or seeing the film of The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe’s seminal story of the USA’s quest to break the sound barrier and the early days of NASA and the space programme, will realise that beyond the technological marvels, the successes, and the failures, is a human story. These pioneering heroes had wives and families, friends and colleagues, who are left behind every flight, every launch, wondering if their man will come home. The Last Pilot is a novel about one such human story, that of a fictional family set amongst the real life test pilots and astronauts, and their story blends seamlessly into that of history. A magnificent debut, and so close to being my book of the year.


BOOK OF THE YEAR

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

fuller
When I reviewed this back in March (Shiny review here,  companion blog piece here), I said this was the best thing I’d read so far this year. It remained my favourite book all year and chose itself as my book of the year.  Fuller’s novel has a dual timeline alternating between her protagonist Peggy being seventeen living with her mother and nine, when her father took her to live in the woods, saying that her mother was dead. It is as dark as any of Grimms’ fairy tales and the suspense of some of the cliffhangers throughout is nearly unbearable. There is lightness too and the whole resonates with the tinkling of bells with Liszt’s La Campanella running through the narrative.  An amazingly debut novel – I can’t wait for Claire’s next one.

The paperback is published today as it happens, and I urge you to go and buy a copy if you’ve not read it already,

Prim by name and prim by nature …

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Translated by Sonia Soto

miss primI raced through this book – a feel-good romance set in a rather special little Spanish town. Miss Prim, an administrative assistant, decides to apply for a new job:

Wanted: a feminine spirit quite undaunted by the world to work as a librarian for a gentleman and his books. Able to live with dogs and children. Preferably without work experience. Graduates and postgraduates need not apply.

Miss Prim only partly fitted this description. She was quite undaunted by the world, that was clear. As was her undoubted ability to work as a librarian for a gentleman and his books. But she had no experience of dealing with children or dogs, much less living with them. If she was honest, though, what most concerned her was the problem posed by ‘graduates and postgraduates need not apply.’

Prudencia Prim is a highly educated young woman, and finds herself over-qualified for most jobs. When she arrives at the house in San Ireneo de Arnois, she finds the gentleman sitting in a wingchair giving a Latin lesson to a lively group of children – the children can’t get the answer to his question and Miss Prim blurts out the answer. She and the ‘Man in the Wingchair’ (he is always referred to thus) get off on the wrong foot, when she tells him she didn’t bring her CV because she didn’t think it would be needed and that she was seeking a refuge. The Gentleman misunderstands all this, and it is the children who save the situation by telling their uncle to hire her – which he does and she accepts.

Miss Prim soon finds that the inhabitants of the village have all escaped to the country from the rat-race in the city. They are all intellectuals, former lecturers, businessmen, etc and their families, turned boutique shopkeepers – striving for excellence in their new professions in this community which has grown up around the monastery and the Man in the Wingchair’s house (he being an original inhabitant). The children go all around the village for their lessons, using the specialist skills of the inhabitants.

It is a community that thrives on intellectual debate and philosophical discussion – but soon Prudencia finds that the women also want to find her a husband. Initially she’s not sure, but as she and her employer have developed an odd relationship, she reluctantly agrees. She and the Man in the Wingchair have kept things strictly business, but he is playful and loves to engage her in discussion, which usually ends in a misunderstanding between them needing the air cleared before they can continue. She loves the job though, the Gentleman’s library is full of rare and fascinating books to catalogue.

It’s clear from the first page where you think this book will end up (I’m not saying yay or nay!). Miss Prim and the Gentleman immediately remind one of Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy, or Beatrice and Benedick and we all know what happened in both those relationships! They have some wonderful exchanges including this one over the merits of Little Women:

‘You know what surprises me about all this, Prudencia? I look at you – a highly qualified, determined, modern woman – and I can’t picture you reading Little Women.’
Miss Prim put her turned-up nose in the air with even more emphasis than usual.
‘And why not, may I ask?’
‘Because it’s a prissy, syrupy book, and if there’s one thing I hate it’s cloying sentimentality. I’m delighted that you and Herminia recognize that Louisa May Alcott isn’t Jane Austen, because she most definitely is not.’
‘Have you read it?’ she said. ‘Little Women, I mean.’
‘No, I haven’t read it,’ he replied, unfazed.
‘Then for once in your life, stop pontificating and read it before giving an opinion.’

‘The course of true love never run smooth’, says Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The author gives her characters full room to test this out in this delightful and entertaining novel. The bookish nature and love of literature of the two protagonists gives an interesting background to the central romance. Diverting and fun, I enjoyed this book. (8.5/10)

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Source: Own Copy.

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, The Awakening of Miss Prim (trans Sonia Soto). Abacus, 2014. Paperback, 336 pages.

2 from Roundfire books for a belated #NovellaNov

Poppy at Poppy Peacock Pens launched a marvelous new meme for November – celebrating novellas. I love novellas and recently received two from Roundfire Books. I read them in November, but they aren’t published until later this week, so I’m posting belatedly for Novella Nov, but just a few days ahead of publication…

Small Change by Andrez Bergen

small changeWith its title and cover artwork being a homage to my favourite singer/songwriter of all time, Tom Waits, I was immediately keen to read this one. Before I comment on the book, I have to tell you that this was the album that got me hooked on Waits, and it remains one of my favourites. Recorded in 1976, it’s mostly set in a sleazy, seedy world at night, peopled by pimps, prostitutes, exotic dancers, drunks and hoodlums. The songs are jazzy; many of them ballads – including Tom Traubert’s Blues (which was covered by Rod Stewart), The piano has been drinking and others, including the title track, are spoken growled: “Small Change got rained on with his own .38” accompanied only by a solo sax in this case.

Tom_Waits_-_Small_change_(1976)Anyone familiar with the album will thus come to this novella with high expectations. Would Scherer and Miller, ‘investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane’ be as interesting and quirky as any of Waits’s characters?

It starts off over two years ago – Scherer and Miller faced with a zombie suffering from Lazarus syndrome – he may be reanimating… “Just for the record, are you craving brains?” asks Suzie (Miller). Suzie’s dad Art was a P.I. and young Roy Scherer was his assistant.  They’d developed a niche in dealing with paranormal cases, when Art was killed.  Suzie – still a teenager – inherits the business and insists on helping Roy. We go through several of their cases as they’re finding their feet on their own. Next comes a vampire:

Having raised the lid,  I found our man dozing on a velveteen cushion. “Stake,” I whispered in my best surgeon’s voice. My assistant handed me ‘Mr Pointy’.

The next section returns to earlier, as Art and Roy are about to embark on their new line of work having encountered their first werewolf:

“She alerted me, Roy, to the fact that supernatural fruits like her are out there – and these bastards’re causing mayhem. Therein lies our angle. Take a leaf out of the Ghostbusters text to work clean-up chores. We’ll be swimming in dosh. How say you, kid? You with me on this?”

The last section brings us up to date with Roy and Suzie’s work as they’re getting established in their new partnership.

Roy, our narrator is steeped in classic noir, and never knowingly misses a chance to act or wise-crack like his hero Philip Marlowe. Suzie, by contrast, is as perky as her father was a world-weary drunk. The text is chock-full of references to classic noir in books and on film, plus more popular modern fare – from James Bond to Ghostbusters as we’ve already seen. The cases are varied but incidental to the story, the key of which is the relationships, between Roy, Art and Suzie. Steeped in noir as it is, and styled as a casebook in extended vignette form, this novella was a welcome change to the longer length paranormal crime novels I’ve read of late – c.f. Ben Aaronovitch and the Dresden Files of Jim Butcher.

Roy Scherer has a way to go as a character to acquire Tom Waits’s grit and rasp, but he and Suzie are at the start of their careers really.  I liked all the references and the sense of humour, so would happily read another volume of Scherer and Millers’ Casebook. (8/10)

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Digby’s Hollywood Story by Thomas Fuchs

disgbyIt’s after WWII. Hiroshima and Nagasaki meant that there was no need for Digby as a soldier any more. He ends up in a dead-end job pumping gas in Santa Barbara. One day he’s swimming when the riptide catches him; luckily he is able to reach safety, ending up on the private beach of a studio executive – who sets him up with a job in security at one of the Hollywood studios.

Digby is the youngest on the team of studio cops, but quickly earns a reputation for hard work and honesty, getting to know the ins and outs of life on the lot. From patrolling the sets to retrieving drunk stars from bars, he sees it all, including the damage caused by those getting into debt with George Marcus, a bookie who operated at the studios. Digby makes friends with a script-writer, Alan Swink, and Digby’s exploits as a studio cop will be useful to Swink’s plots. He also has a fling with a waitress who turns out to be an actress acting as a waitress just using him.  All the time he’s learning more about the movie business and all the different people and roles in it – he makes good progress, getting promoted too.

The second half of the novella, however, propels Digby into a starring role which he never asked for. His boss rings him one evening and asks him to go and pick up an actor who likes to cross-dress and go out and get drunk in bars.

“Meet you there,” said Digby.
“No,” said Lou. “You handle it yourself. It’s time you start flying on your own. You know what to do, don’t you?”
“Sure,” said Digby, “I’m on it.” This was his first solo assignment. He wondered if it meant a raise was in the near future.

Digby sees the actor back to his house – but ends up as the last person to see him alive, and later finds that he’s in the frame as patsy for a cover-up. Will Digby be able to extricate himself from a tricky situation? Real life can be stranger than fiction – is Digby’s Hollywood Story a film plot begging to be written?

At just 67 pages, this novella was a great little story, full of insights behind the scenes at a big studio after the war. Digby, ex-veteran that he is and used to obeying orders, learns his life lessons the hard way, but was a likeable chap and you wanted him to come out well from it. I always enjoy novels set in and around the old film studios, and this thin slice of Hollywood noir was engagingly written, I wanted more.  (8.5/10)

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Source: Publisher – thank you. To explore these novellas further on Amazon UK, please click below:

Andrez Bergen, Small Change – Dec 2015, Roundfire Books, paperback original, 144 pages.

Thomas Fuchs, Digby’s Hollywood Adventure  – Dec 2015, Roundfire Books. paperback original, 80 pages.

 

 

Capturing her memories…

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

shockaholicIn my review of Fisher’s previous slim volume of anecdotal memoir, Wishful Drinking, I wished she would write a full memoir a couple of years down the line. Instead, she has done more of the same, but you know what, I don’t care that it’s not the full memoir I previously craved, I loved being back in her company, however briefly.

In this volume she tells us about half a dozen episodes in her eventful life, all recounted with her characteristic tell-it-like-it-was wit, very self-deprecating humour and plenty of insight and true emotion too.

At the end of the introduction, she neatly paraphrases Proust to nail the flavour of the following pages:

So, before I forget, what follows is a sort of anecdotal memoir of a potentially more than partial amnesiac. Remembrances of things in the process of passing.

As you might guess from the title, she starts with an account of what it’s like to undergo ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy), which is often seen as a treatment of last resort and portrayed in the media often as if it had never moved on from the original violent fitting effects when it was first devised.  Now carried out under mild anaesthesia, it takes just minutes. It blows away many of the effects of depression and mania, but at the cost of memory – mostly recent memory and an inability to form new memories for a short period.

Another thing is that I find myself forgetting movies and books, some of which I only recently enjoyed, which, if you think about it, is really not that bad, because now I can be entertained by them all over again. And grudges? How can you hold on to something you don’t remember having to begin with!

Having got the pretext of ECT out of the way, we dive into the episodes, starting with a story about briefly dating a senator in the mid-80s and holding her own at dinner against a usually dominating Ted Kennedy who continually tried to quiz her about sex – this was hilarious.

The next story tells of what you’d think of as an unlikely friendship with the ‘otherly’ Michael Jackson. However, both being addicts from dysfunctional families, they had a unique understanding and she personally witnessed him as a great father to his own children. Jackson had some redeeming features for her, despite his alleged inappropriate friendships with kids and the consequences; she gives her take on that, which is fascinating.

Another of Michael’s friends was of course, Elizabeth Taylor. She was Fisher’s step-mother for some years, Eddie Fisher having dumped Debbie Reynolds for Taylor, who later ran off with Richard Burton.  Taylor, famously loved to receive jewelry (Fisher’s spelling) and Michael Jackson obliged.  However Fisher recalls some other jewelry:

I remember coming into her dressing room one time and she was wearing this diamond as big as a doorknob that she always wore – the famous diamond Burton had given her. ‘What did you do to get that?’ I asked her. And she smiled sweetly and softly said, ‘I was loved.’

Presumably, this was Taylor’s ring containing the Krupp diamond (33+ carats) bought for her by Burton in 1968.

Taylor and Fisher had always had a distinctly frosty relationship until one day at an Easter Egg hunt at her ranch, Taylor pushed Fisher into the swimming pool for making fun of her in a speech at an AIDS benefit. This finally broke the ice, and Fisher has the photographs of the event to prove it.

Running through this collection of anecdotes though are memories of her father who died in 2010. Largely absent during her childhood, they would later get together when his star began to fade and she was turbulently married to Paul Simon:

Eventually (and/or after a year) my father moved to an apartment around the corner from Paul. And it was not too long after that that he began sneaking drugs to me.  This was when, like most fathers and daughters, we begain doing coke together. Our relationship had started with me longing for him to visit, eventually evolving into my being desperate for him to leave, setting finally and comfortably into us being drug buddies.

The final chapter is again about her father, but this time his last months, when addled by marijuana use and suffering dementia she became a carer, and she reflects how glad she was that they had managed to develop a relationship despite that difficult childhood.

Whereas Wishful Drinking was derived from her successful stageshow and sometimes came across as a performance on paper, Shockaholic is still just as wise-cracking but, tempered by the loss of her father, comes across as more thoughtful in tone. I do hope for more installments to read of Fisher’s fascinating life. (8/10)

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below (affiliate link):
Shockaholicby Carrie Fisher (2011). Simon & Schuster 2013. Paperback, 176 pages.
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (2008).

 

A strong new voice…

Young God by Katherine Faw Morris

Young GodI bought this short novel on Elle’s recommendation after she responded to my post about the number of male authors I tend to read (that post in itself was a response to hers on the same subject). Young God is the debut novel by a young American author and the minute Elle told me that it was like Winter’s Bone but more so, I had to investigate – and indeed a quote from Daniel Woodrell tops the list on the back cover.  Sold!

It starts as it means to continue:

NIKKI IS ALL TO HELL. A boy jumps off the cliff in front of her. She peers over the edge, watching him go.

‘Nikki.’
‘How far down is it?’
‘Like a hundred feet,’ Wesley says.
Wesley squats near her feet. He wants to stick his dick in her. Nikki yanks tight all the bows of her bikini, hot pink. It used to be Mama’s. Now Mama’s too old to wear it. Nikki has been thirteen forever.

There is a technique to jumping. Nikki manages it, but her Mama, jealous of her, doesn’t. She slips and dies, smashed on the rocks. Nikki is left with her Mama’s pervy boyfriend Wesley, who gets his way with her. Her response is to steal his bag of pills and car and drive off in search of her real father.

In her mouth his name is shiny and bitter like a licked coin.
‘Coy Hawkins’
It rings out.

As you might expect, in this trailer park world in Appalachia, this is going from one bad situation into another. Coy has been a drug dealer, he used to be the ‘biggest coke dealer in the county’, but currently he’s just a pimp, living in a trailer with Angel whom he rents out. He also has a young son, Levi, by Crystal who lives down the road. Levi is always out on his bike, watching.

Nikki stays. Angel is hostile to her, her father is not bothered, although grateful for Wesley’s pills. Life carries on in the trailer and once Nikki finds out that Coy is just a pimp, she is disappointed – he used to be someone. Somehow, she stirs a paternal urge to impress in him and he attacks another pimp for her.

This is the start of a new relationship between Nikki and her father, steeped in drugs and prostitution. Nikki learns the value of being an underage virgin and tries to recruit a girl from the children’s home. You can tell it’s going to descend into a new level of hell – but will Nikki survive?

My word! This novel, once started, doesn’t let go. The language is very coarse, the violence and sex is very nasty, the poverty is extreme. It’s everything you might expect from a tale of poor white trailer-trash folk, but it goes beyond cliché to become something else entirely. You can’t ‘like’ any of the characters, but you have to respect that they have no other way out. Nikki has such strength, you have to admire her for it, as you do Ree in Winter’s Bone. Nikki has a harder edge though, honed by years of abuse, neglect and periods in the children’s home.

Nikki’s story is told in short chapters, sort of vignettes – some only a line or two long, others stretching to a couple of pages. Soon, you recognise that the white space around the shorter ones will usually signal a major moment, be it in thought, deed or conversation. The author never attempts to make us like or judge Nikki, she just tells it like it is in a triumph of understatement.  Brutal, sparse and shocking, this coming of age novel is maybe the darkest one I’ve ever read – but I loved it. You don’t have to take my word for it either, see what Eimear McBride thought of it in the Guardian here(10/10)

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below (affiliate link):
Young God by Katherine Faw Morris. Pub Granta 2014. Paperback, 208 pages.

Weekend Miscellany

It’s been a busy week – but now I have half term – although nothing planned, as my daughter is revising and has her Duke Of Edinburgh Bronze expedition next weekend. I ought to start work on the summer edition of the school magazine, but it’s also a time for catching up with blogging. So here’s a miscellany of my bookish week:

Firstly, a huge thanks to Vintage Books (and Will Rycroft) for picking my name out of the hat to win their latest newsletter competition. It was all about writers who have worked for the New Yorker and their links to another author who was editor of the magazine for a long while. My prize was a set of Vintage classics by that editor – William (Keepers) Maxwell.

Maxwell

I must admit I’ve never read Maxwell, and before I looked him up to enter the competition I had never heard of him! He had a long life, being born in 1908, dying in 2000, and appears to have had an equally long writing career. Will tells me I’m in for a treat, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in… But which to read first?

  • They Came Like Swallows (1937) is a family drama
  • All the Days and Nights (1965) is an anthology of short stories
  • The Folded Leaf (1945) is a coming of age tale set in 1920s Chicago
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980) is about jealous farmers in rural Illinois
  • Time Will Darken It (1948) turn of the century Illinois
  • The Chateau (1961) An American couple holiday in France.

I’m drawn to The Chateau or The Folded Leaf, but do tell me if you’d particularly recommend any of the others.

* * * * *

Secondly, it’s time for a little non-fiction Shiny Linkiness…

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

All I Know NowThis book is part memoir, part advice guide from the young star of Les Miserables who is also a Youtube vlogger and younger sister of Tom from McFly.

Aimed squarely at the teenaged girl market, I snaffled a proof copy to write a ‘Mum’s-eye review’ of it for Shiny New Books – it’s stuffed full of relentlessly cheerful good advice from an obviously lovely girl who wants to be your ‘honorary big sister’. Unlike Zoella and co, Carrie has only herself to plug, and she makes it clear that hard work is required, but tells it with a lot of good humour whilst trying to be a comfort too. If you have a younger teenaged daughter, buy it for her and get in her good books!

Click here to read my full review.

Naked at the Albert Hall by Tracey Thorn

naked at the albert hall Tracey Thorn is back with another book which allows her to explore in detail one area which didn’t fit in the first book, specifically the art of singing.

She serves us up an enticing mixture which includes snatches of memoir, interviews with other singers, singers in literature, the mechanics of singing, ruminations on what it means and its power. She also talks frankly about her stage fright, which has prevented her singing live now for many years.

As with her brilliant memoir Bedsit Disco Queen, this volume is shot through with wit and wonder; she writes beautifully and I really enjoyed reading in her company again.

Click here to read my full review.

Shiny New Books now has an affiliate link to The Book Depository, so if you want to find out more you can click through at the bottom of my full reviews. SNBks remains totally independent though, the affiliate account is just to help pay for the webhosting.

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mostly_booksThirdly, I was shocked to find out this week that the owners of my favourite bookshop – the amazing Mostly Books in Abingdon – have put the business on the market, so they can concentrate on their kids and other things. The good news is that they’re not in a particular hurry and are hoping to sell to the right kind of person.  Could I?….

Despite having no experience of proper retail or bookselling, I do have ideas, and have always had a dream of owning a bookshop. I can’t afford to buy it outright without downsizing my house, which I wasn’t planning to do until my daughter goes to university. But, if I had a business partner, that would give half the financial risk, double the ideas, the ability to have holidays and not necessarily work six or seven days a week. Anyone interested?

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