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December 11
Fire and Blood by George R R Martin

fire and blood
 

Centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones, House Targarye, the only family of dragonlords to survive the Doom of Valyria, took up residence on Dragonstone. Fire and Blood begins their tale with the legendary Aegon the Conqueror, creator of the Iron Throne, and goes on to recount the generations of Targaryens who fought to hold that iconic seat, all the way up to the civil war that nearly tore their dynasty apart.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate game of thrones, giving readers a whole new appreciation for the dynamic, often bloody, and always fascinating history of Westeros.

Submitted by Pete

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December 10
The Burning by Jane Casey

the burning
 

Maeve Kerrigan is a detective in the MET and originally from Ireland.  She lives and breathes her job and is good at what she does.  The Burning follows her as she works on a particularly disturbing series of killings by a suspect referred to as ‘The Burning Man’.  Maeve deals with sexism at work, some ill placed jokes on her Irish heritage and red hair, but most of all, her ability to continue to be focused.

The series of killings are enigmatic, the killer selecting young, pretty, vulnerable females and disposing of them in a degrading manner. The entire community is in fear, particularly the young female demographic. Casey is very good at introducing possible suspects, causing the reader to switch from one to the other and at times feeling as though the killer might not be caught at all. She delivers on the promises she makes to her readers and thankfully does not try to make the plot more convoluted that it need be, which is refreshing from a modern day crime novel. It could be accused of being a little crime-fiction-by-numbers if you are in the habit of dissecting a books methods and structures, but it is by no means boring and I found it thoroughly enjoyable, with a satisfying conclusion.

Great for any reader wanting a bit of excitement, nicely constructed with likable characters along with the gift of those characters we don’t want to like as well. I read it much faster than I thought I would.

Submitted by Noreen

Available as a book, eBook and downloadable audiobook

Reserve or download it here​


December 10
Single Woman Seeks Revenge by Tracy Bloom

single woman seeks revenge
 

Suzie is a woman of a certain age, working for a local newspaper as an unwilling and unlikely Agony Aunt. Unlikely because her own love life is far from perfect.

As Suzie answers the letters she receives for the column, she becomes increasingly angry.  To her, men always seem to have the upper hand.  This is compounded when her own boyfriend dumps her by way of a text message. She publicly shames him for revenge and, on a high; she then begins to write her advice from the revenge point of view, leading to the popularity of her column unexpectedly soaring.  Suzie also embarks on her own series of revenge- on the ex-boyfriends who treated her badly.  Helped by her office partner Gareth, the story is funny and light hearted.

There are a number of supporting characters in the story, who represent many of the different personality types and approaches to love. Suzie herself could be described as the bleeding-heart romantic.  Jackie, Suzie’s best friend who says what she thinks but always supportive of Suzie, and who found true love in her second marriage. Jackie’s husband Dave tells it like it is and is key in the epiphany of Suzie that perhaps she has become a little too righteous and a little hypocritical in her quest for revenge.  He himself is a no frills guy, but clearly deeply dedicated to Jackie.  Gareth, Suzie’s Colleague, who has been coasting through love trying not to get hurt without ever really addressing what he really wants, and Emily, the practical, non-romantic fiancé of Gareth.

I don’t usually read this genre, but this is a pleasant, easy read, though maybe a little on the predictable side.  That doesn’t make the fulfilment of the plotlines any less satisfying though.

Submitted by Noreen

Available as a downloadable audiobook

Download it here​


December 10
Darien by Conn Iggulden

darien
 

This is the first book of Conn Igulden's Empire of Salt Series which follows key characters along a story of magic, grudges, war and social inequality.  Elias Post, a hunter with an unusual talent, Tellius, an old swordsman with knowledge of a long dead martial art, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak and with a dark unknown origin, Daw Threefold, an ambitious and greedy mercenary, Vic Deeds, who will do whatever he pleases for the right price- and Nancy, on a mission to right a personal wrong and with a gift she doesn’t yet know she has. From the beginning of the book each character presents their point of view in their own chapters, to a series of political and social events as well as personal struggles.  The reader gets to know them well and when they are brought together at the culmination of the plot, we are rewarded with the insights we have gained of them, which the other characters do not have. The plot is very well constructed, flows seamlessly and very difficult to tear yourself away from.

If, like me, you are a fan of the fantasy genre, this book is for you.  I loved every bit of it.  It was unpredictable, absorbing and had just the right balance between characters getting what they deserved to make the journey very enjoyable.  I have read lots of other Conn Igulden novels, namely his Emperor series and his Conqueror series and loved them.  This book is a departure for him in that it is not based on historical events and the freedom for Igulden to world-build and explore possible destinies pays off.  I was remined of Joe Abercrombie's the First Law books, which I also loved.  Darien is a highly rewarding read and I look forward to the others.

Submitted by Noreen

Available as a book

Reserve a copy here​


December 10
Turning For Home by Barney Norris

turning for home
 

Loosely intertwined with extracts from the infamous Boston Tapes, the focus on this book is very much personal identity and how our relationships with family and partners shape who we become.

There are two main points of view examined - that of Kate, a young woman with low self esteem, a troubled maternal relationship and the sudden death of a close partner with whom she had found some solace, and her grandfather Robert, an ex-Intelligence Officer whose wife has recently died.  The scene of the story is the family home in which Kate regards as her childhood home and in which Robert made his marital and family home.

Through sensitive, thoughtful and emotional testimonies from both these key characters, the reader develops an insight that our protagonists are more alike than not, and how their regrets and their hopes from their journeys affect them in the days which follow a large family get-together.  The two characters take some time in coming to their own conclusions through painful soul searching.

Norris’ writing is of such a personal nature that I was often struck by the thought that I had experienced much of what the two key speakers had.  I was so touched at times that it was almost difficult to keep reading. Even the extracts from the Boston Tapes, deplorable as any actions of the speakers may be, can be viewed from a different, more thoughtful angle, on the topic of Home and how it shapes us.

A truly enjoyable, provocative read.  I cannot wait to watch as Barney Norris continues in his budding literary career.  Highly recommended.

Submitted by Noreen

Available as a book, eBook and downloadable audiobook

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December 07
The Corset by Laura Purcell

the corset
 

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder. When Dorothea's charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations, of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses shakes Dorothea's belief in rationality and the power of redemption.

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

A classic Victorian tale of murder most foul, twisted with a curious supernatural thread.

Submitted by Pete

Availaable as a book

Reserve a copy here​


December 03
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

northanger abbey
 

This novel has a very peculiar story behind it. It was the first novel Jane Austen wrote in 1798, but it wasn’t published until 1818, after her death. Oddly enough, Jane Austen’s publisher bought the rights in 1803, but he decided not to publish it since he didn't think he could make any money from it. However, thanks to the revenues from previous publications, Austen was able to buy the book back in 1813.

What’s ironic is that Northanger Abbey has one of the most specific historical contexts and agendas, and the author knows it and apologizes to the reader from the very first page: “The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes”

The target of her irony is clear: the Gothic novel that was very popular in the late 18th and early 19th century. The protagonist, Catherine Morland, is very fond of this genre and when invited to stay at Northanger Abbey struggles to distinguish the difference between reality and her favourite character’s life.

Out of all Jane Austen’s heroines, Miss Morland is probably the least of a heroine and Jane Austen won’t try to hide it: “No one who had ever seen Catherine in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.”

She’s not as responsible as Eleanor Dashwood, not as brilliant as Elizabeth, not as passionate as Marianne, and not as independent as Emma Woodhouse. However she’s still a very likeable character, whose only wit is to have an overactive imagination.

There’s a love story in here as well between the protagonist and Mr Henry Tinley, but the author focuses more on the development of the single character, rather than a complicated relationship. Which is not to say that Catherine and Henry’s path is easy — as always, Austen navigates issues of income, societal expectations and family approval.

Submitted by Federica

Available as a book or eBook

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November 29
Melmoth by Sarah Perry

melmoth
 

For centuries, the mysterious dark-robed figure has roamed the globe, searching for those whose complicity and cowardice have fed into the rapids of history’s darkest waters—and now, in Sarah Perry’s breathtaking follow-up to The Essex Serpent, it is heading in our direction.

Loosely inspired by Charles Maturin's 1820 novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, Perry's latest novel is a richly atmospheric, daring and surprising gothic thriller.

It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it; Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy. But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears. . . .

A masterly piece of postmodern gothic!

Submitted by Pete

Available as a book

Reserve a copy here​


November 23
Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

midwinter break
 

Midwinter Break is only Bernard MacLaverty’s fifth novel, and his first in sixteen years. It has been worth the wait.

The storylines centre exclusively on Gerry and Stella Gilmore who are originally from Belfast and now live in Glasgow. A literal interpretation for the book’s title is the short trip to Amsterdam arranged by Stella to break up the seemingly long weeks between Christmas and Easter. In reality, the novel portrays a couple facing the midwinter of their lives and wondering if it is time to take a break from their long marriage. 

There have been cracks in their relationship for some time, exacerbated by Gerry’s struggle with alcohol - MacLaverty is particularly convincing in portraying a deluded alcoholic who believes he is hiding the full extent of his addiction from Stella. Meanwhile, his long-suffering wife has her own secret because she planned the trip to provide herself with the opportunity to explore following a new life in a religious order in Amsterdam that is reserved exclusively for women. 

MacLaverty skilfully fills in the back stories of Gerry and Stella by providing insights into their thoughts as they visit the sites of Amsterdam. While both reflect on their life in Belfast during the Troubles and the reason they moved to Glasgow, it becomes clear that Stella, more than Gerry, misses their only son and grandchild who live in Canada. 

In writing believable storylines for sympathetic characters, MacLaverty has produced a page turner about everyday life. Midwinter Break is highly recommended literary fiction by an author at his best. 

Submitted by David

Available as a book, eBook and audiobook

Reserve it here or download it here​


November 20
The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts
indexCA9X0D2T.jpg
 
 
 

Polly Spencer is single, turning thirty and still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s wedding are looking very slim.

It’s a new year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her act together. The main protagonist, Polly, is sent on various assignments by her boss about which she has to write.

Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one, nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

I think this is a nice book to kick back and relax with and one which will have you howling with laughter.

If you only read one book this winter make it The Plus One. It’s very  Bridget Jones in style and  perfect chick-lit.

 
 
Available as a book
 
Submitted by Bríd
 

 

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