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February 16
The List of My Desires by Grégoire Delacourt

The List of My Desires
 

The List of My Desires tells the story of Jocelyne, the owner a modest haberdashery in a small provincial French town. Her quiet life changes when she wins a considerable amount of money the one and only time she plays the lottery. She could spend the rest of her life without economic worries but there is a problem; she does not think money equals happiness. For this reason, she carefully considers the situation before announcing her win to anyone. She is already happy in her life nowadays and has found the necessary equilibrium to feel happy in spite of things not being as she had dreamt. Moreover, her haberdashery store is getting more clients thanks to her blog where she writes about the pleasures of knitting or a simple delivery of Velcro. 

While she is deciding if it is true what people say about the more money you have, the happier you are, something happens which will change her life.

Sometimes life can be disappointing, sometimes people who you think are honest and trustworthy turn out to be totally opposite. But could we know if somebody is an authentic person? Maybe if you win the lottery you will know…..

Submitted by Maria

Available as a book

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February 15
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy
 

This novel contains action, comedy, and a mystery that is astonishing along with a little romance. It is the beginning of a heroine’s journey. 

The story revolves around a 17-year-old girl called Rose who is half vampire, half human and lives in a world where she is training to be a guard to her best friend Lissa, a vampire princess. We begin learning a bit of background information then to dragging the girls back to their school St Vladimir’s Academy. They must deal with the consequences of running away, a new social order, bullies, being teenagers versus their responsibilities, keeping their secrets and someone threatening Lissa while they catch up on what they missed.

Now I know you may be tried of vampires at this point, but I can assure you, the vampires is this world are a different creation than the usual. Mead took Romanian folklore as a basis for her vampires. She took the moroi and strigoi myths making them vampires only with one being born and the other as a monstrous undead, respectively and also Rose’s type the dhampir. From this Mead built a society that is ruled over by a monarch and royal families hidden within the human world. Mead’s world building is fluid and fascinating as you discover it throughout the novel.

The character Rose is interesting to read about, as she is contradiction personified. She is rebellious and responsible, confident and vulnerable. She has a sarcastic and sassy sense of humour as she fights to protect her friends and defeat the bad guys. Rose is a passionate hotheaded person who is tackling how to dedicate her life to her duty against her personal wants and what she believes to be right. Don’t worry the romance is only plays a part. Mead brings this two elements of Rose crashing together is a delectable and delicious way. 

Add in the other characters each with a different personality well it’s as enjoyable as bloodbaths for Strigoi.

Submitted by Megan

Available as a book and eBook

Reserve a copy here or download it here​




February 06
Be the Monkey: A conversation about the new world of publishing by Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath

Be The Monkey
 

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. I also think the Upton Sinclair quote is appropriate. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Denial is a powerful opiate.

Two self- published authors, Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath, who have had more success with their books in self-publishing than traditional publishing, have an honest yet blunt discussion on the shift of publishing from legacy to indie. 

As a consumer I may not agree with their opinion on eBooks gaining more popularity than paper, as I would rather pay for paperback than an eBook any day, but I’m sure as an author or publisher money is a factor in their evaluation of what makes a good and a better sale. I am undecided as to which spectrum of the debate I fall under, am I an advocate for traditional publishers or a believer of more freedom and control as a manager of my own work? I read this book as part of my dissertation topic research and it has left me with much to think about.

A recommended read for those interested in taking a behind the scenes tour of the book publishing industry and for writers that are curious to know what the best route might be for publication of their work. 

Submitted by Narmeen

Available as an eBook

Download it here​



February 06
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

the raven boys
 

The first half of this novel is mainly exposition, although Stiefvater’s writing style with the fast pace it is an intriguing way to start the story as it makes you want to know what trouble the characters will find. Stiefvater achieves this by changing the point of view allowing us to see the world how the characters do and their commentary on the events happening around them. It presents as a character study.

The characters are four boys – Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah and one girl Blue. The boys go to a private school in the same small town as Blue’s public school. Though Blue feels agonistic towards the boys after a few missteps she becomes a part of their group as they search for the answers they crave. 

We learn that Blue has been told her whole life that when she kisses her true love, he will die by her psychic mother and the household of female psychics, though she herself isn’t psychic. This resulted in her vowing never to fall in love, but she finds out this year will see her break it. After this revelation we move on to find out about Gansey’s search for a sleeping Welsh King who once woken will grant a wish and also learning about Ronan’s and Adam’s background while Noah remains an unknown.

Stiefvater has created a story where everyone is keeping secrets with a mystery at every turn. The tension is built as our characters find the magic that runs through their town, solve the puzzles and build their friendships on a dangerous adventure as they race to be the first to find the Welsh King Glendower against people who want to use the magic for personal gain.

Join Blue and the Raven Boys on their next adventure in their search of Glendower in The Dream Thieves.

Submitted by Megan

Available as a book, eBook and audiobook

Reserve it hereor download it here



February 01
If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch

If I Die Before I Wake
 

I caught a quick review of this debut novel and was sufficiently intrigued to pick it up when I saw it. It is told from the perspective of Alex Jackson who is a newspaper reporter in Bristol. He has been lying in a coma for 18 months following a climbing accident at the Gorge in Clifton. He is showing no signs of response to doctors or family but he is aware of everything going on. 

This a really intriguing novel. Alex uses his remaining senses to determine what happened to him. We find out about his life, his relationships and alarmingly that the accident wasn't that but an attempt to kill him. Koch uses great skill to portray the feeling of alarm that Alex is going through. Alex relies on his investigative instincts, his listening skills to find the culprit, is it one of his friends, his family or someone he has crossed during his career? The clock is ticking, his loved ones are considering letting him die and the perpetrator is still out there waiting to strike.....but even if he works it out how can he communicate it. 

I read this in one sitting, it was so gripping and Alex's situation was so compelling....so much so I don't want to give anymore of the plot away. A well-crafted debut novel with an interesting cast of characters from an author we are bound to hear more from in the future. 

Submitted by Mandy

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February 01
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

The Rooster Bar
 

No better way to start the new year than with another ripping yarn from John Grisham. This time he returns to him familiar stomping ground of law. Mark, Todd and Zola are in third year at a for profit law school called Foggy Bottom Law School. They realise a bit late in the day that they are in a shady law school, with little prospect of gaining a decent degree or job while their student loans have spiralled into a couple of thousand dollars apiece. Their friend Gordy has uncovered that the whole thing is a scam, their school is one of a number owned by a crooked billionaire called Rackley who also has an interest in the firms who supply the student loans. 

When their friend Gordy commits suicide the three friend spring into action by throwing in law school and start a scam of their own by hustling for clients at district court and well ...there is the small matter of them practicing law without licences. It isn't long before they are way over their heads and trying to stay one step ahead of the loan companies, Rackley and his henchmen and the FBI. 

This is a page turner of a novel, each student has a fascinating backstory which means you are rooting for them every step of the way. Yes, they are committing felony but there is a bigger picture and Rackley is in their sights because of what happened to their friend. 

A great read. I was very intrigued by the subject, apparently Grisham read a blog by Paul Campos called The Law School Scam in 2014 which gave him the germ of an idea for a novel. Hope you enjoy. 

Submitted by Mandy

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January 29
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
 

The Catcher in the Rye is an incredibly popular novel, a classic of twentieth-century literature which many people read during their school days. 

At first, the premise of the story, a wealthy teenager named Holden Caulfield who is expelled from his boarding school, does not seem like an experience that everyone can relate to. However, as Holden’s narrative takes you deep into his life and the problems he faces, you soon realise that underneath his privilege are dark issues. The novel is quite obviously of its time, some of the main problems characters grapple with include homosexuality, which would have been considered criminal at the time. Also there is an underlying anxiety about communism, the so-called ‘Red Scare’ that took place in the United States during the Cold War. Although as a reader today you might not initially identify with these social issues, what they represent: inequality, climates of fear and the struggle for acceptance, are problems that still exist today and resonate with everyone.

But one of the best things about this novel is definitely Holden’s personality and how it grips you. He doesn’t tell you about these problems in a boring textbook-style narrative, rather, Salinger perfectly captures the voice of a teenager trying to understand the world through Holden’s sarcasm and cynicism. Holden is incredibly funny and I have read few novels where the protagonist voice has been so realistic. And this is why I highly recommend this novel, everyone can identify with his experiences: the highs and lows, the celebrations and frustrations, which come from that unique moment of adolescence, when you don’t want to be treated like a child, but you’re also scared to enter the adult world. 

Submitted by Michelle

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January 29
Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
Nora Webster.jpg
 
 
 

Nora Webster has lost the love of her life, her husband Maurice, a well-respected schoolteacher. Fiona and Aine,  her two daughters are on the edge of adulthood and pursuing careers elsewhere and she has Donal and Conor still at home to care for. The two boys are watchful of their mother, and Donal the older son has an ever worsening stammer.

 

Nora for her part tries to keep things as normal as possible for the boys. She cannot bear to return to their modest summer house as she would find it too sad. She tells her family that they now need the money which is why it must be sold. She is intensely private and exactly how she is going to get through all of this and live again is never far from her mind.

 

She maintains her dignity when dealing with gossipy neighbours, and feels cramped by everyone’s pity. However gradually and slowly she re-emerges in to life. She returns to work at Gibneys, the big local employer and “owner of everything”. As she ventures out in to the world she finds herself more capable and resilient than she ever realised. She allows herself to pursue artistic pleasures for their own sake and Nora realises that given a little time and space “she would work out how she is going to live”.

 

Tóibín knows well the claustrophobic dimensions of this world, especially the remote south east of Ireland. But he loves Ireland and often returns to Enniscorthy in his fiction. An old nun tells Nora “it is a small town, and it will guard you”.  One evening Nora allows the boys a late film with her. The film is Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman. Conor asks her what the film is about.

“It’s about a woman in a house, “she tells him

“Is that all?

Yes. But in the right hands, that’s enough.”

 

Nora’s story is of an ordinary woman coming to terms with her loss and of her the slow personal reawakening. Nora may live in south east Ireland, but her recovery is universal. In the closing pages of the novel, as Nora burns the pages of Maurice’s letters to her when they were courting she does this because “they belonged to a time that was over now”.

 

This is a beautiful and immersive read for anyone who wants time and space.

 

Submitted by Paula

 

Available as a book. Reserve your book here

 

Available as an audiobook. Reserve your audiobook here

January 25
Dominion by C J Sansom

Dominion
 

Dominion is a “what if” novel which is predicated on Lord Halifax becoming UK Prime Minister in 1940 and agreeing a Peace Treaty with Germany. Over a decade later, Hitler is still alive and the UK is a dominion of Germany which is still at war with Russia. Meanwhile, the race to develop nuclear weapons is underway and Churchill’s leadership of the Resistance has forced him underground.

Dominion’s predominant storyline is the Resistance’s efforts to free the scientist Frank Muncaster who is being held in a mental hospital after his estranged brother disclosed secrets about the US nuclear weapon programme. The Resistance call on the services of one of their spies, David Fitzgerald, who works as a Civil Servant in the Dominions Office and is a friend of Frank’s from university. On the German side the main protagonist is Gunther Hoth, a Gestapo Officer with an impressive track record for hunting down the enemy. 

Readers will accept the feasibility of C. J. Sansom’s alternate history, primarily because he portrays day-to-day life as broadly similar to what actually happened. For example, the UK retains its own dominions, characters discuss arrangements for the coronation of Elizabeth II and enjoy familiar TV programmes and novels. Additionally, the characters are believable and developed in a way that explains the motives for even their most abhorrent actions. For example, Gunther Hoth is a lonely man who yearns for a peaceful future, albeit one that first requires the extermination of all remaining Jews. Furthermore, observing the Resistance from Gunther’s perspective evokes the adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. The scenes when many ignore the deportation of Jews are so realistic that readers will question how they would act in similar situations.

Dominion is a long novel but its readable pace will appeal to fans of thrillers. 

Submitted by David

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Reserve a copy here​


January 24
Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie - BBC Radio 4 Dramatisation

murder on the orient express.jpg
 

“What is wrong with my proposition?”

“If you would forgive me for being personal… I do not like your face, Mr. Ratchett.”

One murder, a train full of suspects, a few clues and a detective on board with a self-appointed mission to solve the mystery.  

Detective Hercule Poirot is one sassy man. I’ve read one of the other Poirot series and found it dull at times, but this BBC dramatization of Murder on the Orient Express was fantastic! A talented set of cast with a spectacular performance and production, I especially loved John Moffat’s version of Poirot; his sarcastic tch tch whilst listening to the suspects narrate their tale of lies cracked me up.

The thing with Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries is that she keeps you at the edge of your seat with all the “who did it guesses”, when in truth your guess is almost always wrong. The BBC audiobook is my first contact with this book and I am glad I chose this adaptation as my source to get familiar with it. It was a captivating and entertaining story from the start.

I highly recommend this to those with an itch to scratch for their crime-mystery palate.

Submitted by Narmeen

Download the audiobook here


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