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Book Reviews

Girl, Balancing by Helen Dunmore

Girl, Balancing is a beautifully written collection of short stories that deal with themes of parenthood, secrets and painful reassesments of life.

Despite the chapters never, with the exception of the 'Nina Stories', being longer then a single chapter, each story leaves an impact through each existing in a surprisingly realised world, with characters who have lives outside what explicitly happens in the story. Dunmore conveys this with subtle details that not only provide information about their lives, but the time and place they exist in (which is extremely importent for a collection of stories that all take place in different time periods). such details include a Zeppelin raid in one story and olive oil being used to cure earache in another. With all this detail what amounts are a collection of stories that feel incredibly real

Although each story was intriguing in its own right, my two personal favourites of the collection had to be 'Esther to Fanny' and 'Taken in Shadows'. This two stood out in my opinion to due to their prose alone. Dunmore's writing took a noticeable step up in these two, with writings that was fluid, unique and bordering on poetry, along with final sentences that really had an impact.




The Pug Who Wanted to be a Unicorn by Bella Swift 

A lovely review from a satisfied customer!

My name is Bethany McManus and I am 9 years old. I bought this book because I love unicorns and dogs and the picture made me think that it would be an unusual story. I would really recommend this book as it was a really sweet story that was also quite funny at times. I was really keen to finish it quickly and find out what happened to Peggy the pug as she was so cheeky but sweet too. I liked the story because it started a bit sad, but then Peggy’s wishes came true which was amazing and made me happy.


Tombland is the seventh novel in C J Samsom’s series and sees lawyer Shardlake in the Spring of 1549 now working for Lady Elizabeth.  He is charged with investigating the murder of Elizabeth’s distant relative, Edith Boyeln and he travels to Norwich with his assistant Nicholas Overton meeting up with Jack Barak along the way.  He becomes embroiled in the local uprisings and his loyalties are torn.  As always Samsom is a great read – the sort of book that you can immerse yourself in fully and not want to surface!


 The Labyrinth of the Spirits


This is one BIG book -not just physically but  also a BIG book full of layers and sub-plots – a real thriller. It is the fourth in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series with Daniel Sempere now a man with a  young son running the family bookshop in Barcelona.  It sees the introduction of a character called Alicia Gris who is a secret police agent in the Fascist era. She leads Daniel to the edge of the abyss and helps reveal the secret history of his family. For those of us who visit Spain on holiday it is easy to forget the recent and painful Spanish history under General Franco but this book certainly reminds you.The story is exciting, violent at times, and enthralling.   Do not be put off by the size – it is worth building up those arm muscles!

Added bonus is that we have signed copies in stock!









A Necessary Evil

Fast paced, exciting and full of characters “A Necessary Evil” is Abir Mukherjee’s second novel featuring Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant “Surrender Not” Banejee.

This is a gem for those who like a good story with atmosphere and interesting people doing interesting things!  The setting of 1920’s India provides a fantastic backdrop for Wyndham and Banejee as they work out how to unravel the mystery behind the assassination of a colourful Indian Prince. And like all good crime thrillers, the answer in not obvious!







Tiger And The WolfTiger And The Wolf

Imagine a world where everyone is a shape-shifter, where people can shift skins as easily as thought. Deer, Boar, Horse, Crocodile. And, battling for supremacy at the icy Crown of the World, the Tiger and the Wolf.

Maniye is a remarkable heroine, conflicted and doubting, but determined and courageous at the same time, facing a conflict within her that she knows could drive her insane. The world is rich with detail, with the clash of cultures though through at every step, from the trade-minded people of the Horse to the savage (Komodo) dragon-pirates of the far south – the interplay between enslaved Dragon Venater and his captor Asmander, a man torn between his loyalty to an unloving father and his desire to do the right thing, is a delight to read.

It’s a novel of shifting perspectives as well as shifting skins, of uncertain alliances and conflicted loyalties, of the fragile bonds between tribe and freedom that can only be stretched so far.

This is a remarkable and unusual coming-of-age novel, the first in a series. I don’t know how Tchaikovsky keeps pulling these out of the bag (three excellent 600-odd page novels in different genres in 18 months, and probably more we don’t know about), but I’m mighty glad he keeps them coming.

Review By Joanne Hall





Haunting Of Tyler MayThe Haunting of Tyler May

The Tyler May series, is an exciting and I would say innovative read. The protagonists age through the books, their experiences allowing them to evolve and change with each challenge that they face. The reason I call the series innovative is its approach to the idea of a ghost story and allowing it to be plausible and relevant as well as engaging. Also the concept of Haunting and what it really means is different to what is expected.

The characters themselves are thought out and exist plausibly. The very mundane teenage worries serve to heighten and ground the supernatural elements of the series. Tyler May, the main character is a likable heroine, gutsy enough to get into trouble but sensible enough to realise when she is in too deep, she unafraid to ask for help but tries hard not to need it. Also sudden skills such as an ability to climb tall fences and other athletic abilities are realistically explained ensuring the reader does not feel cheated. Melissa, the best friend is the voice of reason but also the listening ear, as the series progresses she comes into her own. Lucy says what we are all thinking she is sarcastic and not a little bit bolshie, yet she is likable because of it.

The villains of the series are just as well thought out and the idea of Nazis and the occult is not just well serialised in fiction, but increasingly well known in historical fact. Yet what Mears does with this connection is certainly an approach I’ve never seen before. He does not take the most likely of the Nazi elite as his main villain but picks one, that given the ages of the protagonists and the facts known of the historical person, is truly terrifying.

In all I would highly recommend the series, to give it a target age I would recommend twelve and up. The writing is fluid complex enough to be interesting but not overly so as to isolate the reader. It has been enjoyed by adults and children alike.




Numbers is a chilling adventure about a girl who has a unique ability. When ever she looks into somebody's eyes, she sees a number. A number that is the date they are going to die. But suddenly her life is brightened when she meets a boy called Spider. But there is only one problem ; he has just months left to live. As she grows closer to him, she is determined to find a way to cheat the numbers. Its hasn't worked before but this time it has to...

This book is narrated by Gem, the main character in this ultimately compelling story. It is a fiction but with some very real components to it. I would highly recommend this book to others and it has quite a surprising and chilling ending which really makes you want to read the next book.

Review by Lexie Barnes Ferguson








The King In The NorthThe King In The North

Whilst studies into the “Dark Ages” continue to evolve and our understanding of those times increases, the period between the time the romans left and the rise of the great Anglo Saxon kingdoms is still shrouded in the mists of time.

The King In The North guides us through this changeable half glimpsed landscape. We learn not just the rise of Oswald the king of the combined Bernicia and Deira, but also of his contemporaries. By following Oswald We learn of Dal- Raida and the Ionan monastic movement that gave rise to Lindisfarne and its gospels. We learn also of smaller lesser known kingdoms Elmet, Rheged and Lindsey, now almost forgotten.

But mostly what we learn is about people. In uncomplicated and accessible language, Max Adams introduces a cast of kings, monks, warriors and even those elusive creatures of the early medieval period, Queens.

This is more than a mere biography, this is a window onto the north of England at a most ephemeral stage in history. The author does not blind us with scholarly authority as any conjecture is rationalised but ultimately outlined as such, and all known facts are discussed with insight and common sense.

The King In The North reads like and epic and yet maintains its inherent grasp of history. An absolute must for history lovers.





The Love Song of Miss Queenie HennessyThe Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

If you liked the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry then you will enjoy this book. Whilst Harold walked hundreds of miles to complete his journey, Queenie’s journey is no less meaningful but is done as she lies in her hospice bed.

The author calls it a companion book to the Harold Fry book not a sequel “what I have written is a book that sits alongside “Harold Fry’. They really should come that way – her in the passenger seat, him in the driving seat. Side by side, I would call this book a companion.”

I feel that although you don’t have to have read “Harold Fry” to enjoy this book, you will enjoy it more if you have read it – and not that long ago if your memory is anything like mine!

It is quite sad and poignant at times but a lovely read.








The Golem And The Djinni

The Golem And The Djinni

This first novel by Helene Wecker is not the run of the mill story of two strangers coming together. It has been suggested by some reviewers that this is to its detriment; that the story is lost in the mystical/ fantastic elements placed against the mundane and ordinary world. This is unfair.

This novel is set around two disoriented foreigners, who emerge onto the streets of 1899 New York. One is a golem named Chava (meaning life-force), a clay woman fashioned near Danzig, then shipped across the ocean as the wife of a man who problematically dies on the voyage. The other is a Djinni, Ahmad, from the Syrian desert, trapped inside a copper flask until a tinsmith sets him free during a routine repair.

Mysticism, magic and the mundane are weaved together to show the loneliness of these immigrants in such a different environment. An intelligent and thoughtful piece of writing that pulls at the heartstrings but not so much that it overpowers to become depressing. The story is by no means a happy tale, and although Chava and Ahmad find their place, ends bittersweet, as like most first generation immigrants, they struggle to fit in to their new world and find it difficult to relate to each other within their loneliness.

This novel is a namesake to its lead female characters, Chava, and gains a life-force from the mysticism and fantastical elements used, to make the mundane much more poignant than it would have been, and at the same time making this a much lighter and entertaining read.




A Girl Can DreamA Girl Can Dream

By M. M. Smirk

Have you ever considered the work and complex relationships behind the work of the Women's Land Army?

This book is a fictional portrayal highlighting the respected and valuable work carried out by the Women's Land Army throughout Second World War. This is suitable for both teenage and adult audiences; but does have some complex but not explicit sexual content. The language is unpretentious and makes this book easy to read and this combined with a good range of engaging characters makes it what I consider to be a "Good Read"

The story line revolves around a girl on the cusp of later adolescence who assumes a great responsibility on the death of her mother. She endures emotional set-backs regarding her family and one of her coping methods are to join the Land Army

The main emphasis is on the coping mechanisms of the main character Meg and the complex relationships between siblings are explored on a superficial level. It continues to delve into the complexities of relationships under the strain of war. The book provides a valuable and absorbing look into the life of a young girl during the war years

It is difficult not to like the author with her unassuming compassionate style. Of course, there are some weaknesses in the book, regarding the depth of plot. The structure is a little unsophisticated. Also while the author answers many questions on certain levels, she invites even more appertaining to complex relationships and how they would affect your own judgement.

This is a very readable book that allows you some escapism without taxing your emotions, is easy to read and has an insight into lives and how they were affected by the Second World War.



The Girl Who Saved The King of SwedenThe Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

This novel by Jonas Jonasson is not your typical diamond in the rough, but a black diamond. This second novel by Jonasson follows a larger than life cast, including the main protagonist Nombeko, a Soweto shantytown girl who has a thing for numbers; twin brothers, whom brother number one's life is dedicated to dethroning the king, while brother number two technically doesn't exits. Joining them are three Chinese sisters whom have a penchant for poisoning dogs and selling china geese; as well as two Mossad agents and the angriest woman there has ever been.

This story tells of the events of Nombeko's life, from the Johannesburg slums, to south Africa's nuclear program, and finally to Sweden, where she saves the king. Along the way she interacts with an assortment of 'characters' – there is no other way to put it.

Jonasson makes the reader laugh despite the tragedy that is displayed, with the realities of apartheid and of those who lived it. It is a black comedy that will make you guilty for laughing, but does not condemn you for doing so. You will laugh loud and long.

The Girl Who Saved The Kind Of Sweden is "A black diamond in the rough."