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July 18
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

the trouble with goats and sheep
 

Grace and Tilly are two young girls who speak to their local vicar about the disappearance from The Avenue of their neighbour, Margaret Creasy, during the hot summer of 1976. The vicar bemoans the decline in religion and tells Grace and Tilly that if more people found God then Mrs Creasy would come back. Consequently, the girls latch on to the parable of goats and sheep in the belief that good works will reveal Mrs Creasy’s whereabouts.

The novel is structured around Grace’s first-person narrative of the girls’ attempts to solve the mystery of Margaret Creasy’s disappearance and includes the misunderstandings and misinterpretations to be expected from someone so young. Other chapters provide readers with details not known to Grace and Tilly, particularly a back story about the fire in 1967 which killed the elderly mother of the reclusive social misfit, Walter Bishop. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that most of the residents in The Avenue confided their secrets to Margaret Creasy, adding to the mystery of what has happened to her.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is perhaps overly long and some scenes are far from subtle – for example, when the Kapoors move into The Avenue the uninformed racism is cringeworthy because the new neighbours were born in Britain and clearly have benefited from a better education. Nevertheless, the novel has thought-provoking storylines and its pace will keep readers engaged to the end. A recommended summer read to be enjoyed during a long plane journey or lying by the pool.

Submitted by David

Available as a book and eBook

Reserve or download it here​


July 16
More Than This by Patrick Ness

more than this
 

A boy wakes up dead. He drowned, alone in the ocean after smashing into a rock. So, he shouldn’t be waking up here, outside his old childhood home, halfway across the world. But he does. And he’s alone, with no one else around him. So how did he get here? What is happening? Where even is he?

More Than This looks at life and death, and how these two things are strongly interlinked. Ness takes the idea of what if there is more than this, and what this could possible mean for some. Seth’s story is the one that is told, with him coming to rediscover who he is, and all the things that he has experienced in his life and what this could possible mean for him now. How these events could have lead him to the situation that he currently is in. But things don’t come all at once. Ness gives them out bit by bit, each discovery coming slowly before they all fall together wonderfully and you know the story of Seth and how he ended up in this place that is so familiar but so different at the same time.

Dealing with topics such as life and death, love and homophobia, family and friends, More Than This by Patrick Ness takes you on a ride that will leave you thinking about what you have read for weeks after you have finished the book. It makes you consider all that you have in your own life, the friendships and relationships that you have, the things you have experienced or are to experience, and whether there really is more than this. 

Submitted by Jessica

Available as a book, CD Audiobook and eBook

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July 08
The Rosie Result by Graham Simsion

the rosie result
 

Like the earlier books The Rosie Result focuses on Don, a high functioning aspie and Rosie his neurotypical and long suffering wife. The baby they had in The Rosie Effect is now 10 and displaying significant behaviour patterns similar to his father who has never been formally diagnosed as being on the spectrum, though to us the reader,it is very obvious. To label or not to label....that is the big question of this story, We also come to understand, through a series of comical scenarios, the struggles and pressures we put on our kids to conform and behave in certain ways, whether normal or not. Friendships are key with support being crucial to help navigate through the choppy waters of social niceties and expectation. The range of characters, the use of humour, and the empathetic style help us to learn to appreciate those who are on the spectrum, with the emphasis by the ending of being free to be yourself whatever the pressures. An excellent, and easy read that had me laughing out loud in places and which left me with a much clearer picture of the effects of autism. Highly recommended.

Submitted by Jillian

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July 08
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

the peacock summer
 

Hannah Richell has produced yet another highly readable tale with a country house at the centre. Cloudesly is the family home of Charles and Lillian and it is their chequered history and dysfunctional family secrets which are revealed in this tale told over different decades jumping from modern day back to the previous generation. .Maggie returns to Cloudesly to take care of her elderly step grandmother Lillian after her grandfather's death, The house is in a bad state of decay after years of neglect but Lillian insists on returning after a spell in hospital. Subsequent events and startling revelations force Maggie to face up to her past at the same time as we learn of Lillians past life and secret loves. Beautifully told with an eye for detail Hannah Richell takes us on a trip through time in a tale which will stay with you for a while, details such as the peacocks haunting cry, to the burnt nursery with the stunning murals -these are not easily forgotten and are what makes this story stand out. Recommended read!

Submitted by Jillian

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Reserve a copy here​


July 08
Love & Ruin by Paula McLain

love and ruin
 

Love and Ruin is an insightful and tantalsiing glimpse into the intimate life of Ernest Hemingway. It documents his relationship with his 3rd wife journalist Martha Gelhorn, who joined him during the Spanish Civil War at the front in Madrid and later in Europe during WW2. Their tempestuous relationship, marked by periods of solitary writing versus mad parties and drinking, show the extremes of their lifestyles and the damage that was ultimately to result in their inevitable divorce in 1945. Martha was a talented writer and, of all of his wives, was the one who pursued her career nearly as vehemently as he did himself, a fact that ultimately contributed in their demise. Strong willed and stubborn, she used those qualities to take advantage of situations. The drive motivating her is what leads to her success both as a journalist and a novelist, something that did not go down well with Hemingway who would have liked her to stay home and have a baby to add to his family of 3 some from his previous relationships. So well written and gripping is this novel, that I feel I have lived in that Finca in Cuba, endured the night's of bombing raids over London, and watched fascinated at Hemingway's bitterness towards Martha as he recognised her success at a time when his seemed to have dried up. His love turns overnight into antagonism and she cannot reach him anymore. The destructive pattern of the relationships in his life continues with the introduction of the next girlfriend towards the end of the novel -she will indeed go on to become the 4th and last Hemingway wife. 

Highly recommended along with the previous novels ‘The Paris Wife’ about his first wife Hadley and ‘Circling The Sun’ which is based on the life of the legendary Beryl Markham, horse trainer and aviatrix from Kenya who famously rejected the advances of Ernest Hemingway.

Submitted by Jillian

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July 08
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

the scholar
 

Based in Galway Det Cormac Reilly makes his second appearance in this police procedural by Dervla McTiernan. His girlfriend Emma comes across the body of the granddaughter of her employer Darcy Therapeutics late one night as she visits the Lab. The apparent hit and run develops into a full blown investigation when it becomes obvious that it was no accident. The murder enquiry is complicated by the relationship between Cormac and Emma and threatens his hard won lead in the investigation. His attempts to distance Emma from the case threaten to bring into question his integrity as more evidence is brought to light regarding the ethics of the research being undertaken in the lab. The unravelling of the case mirrors the unravelling of Emma’s mental state, as she relives earlier trauma and Cormac finds he needs to step away from enquiry and trust his colleague Carrie O’Halloran to find out the truth.

Engaging characters result in characters that we care about and we root for Cormac and Emma’s relationship as more and more evidence reveals the truth about the running of the research labs. 

Can be read as a stand alone, though fits well as a sequel to The Ruin, Dervla’s first novel.

Submitted by Jillian

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July 01
Thin Air by Lisa Gray

Thin Air by Lisa Gray.jpg

Jessica Shaw is an investigator, specifically of missing persons.  With no real roots after the death of her father, she leads a nomadic and sparse life travelling the country in pursuit of abductees and other missing persons.  With no base, most of her cases come to her through email or other online media.

When she gets an email suggesting she investigate the cold case of a kidnapped child, she is stunned to realise that she recognises the girl in the photo – she’s looking at herself!  And the mother of the girl in the photo was murdered!

It seems the life she had in New York with her father was a complete fabrication and her early childhood in Los Angeles was kept from her.  In order to piece together some semblance of who she really is and what happened to her mother, she ‘returns’ to L.A. where Detective Jason Pryce is currently investigating a particularly brutal murder.

As both cases unfurl similarities emerge and the motivation of the person who tipped Jessica comes into question. Was it coincidence, an attempt to help her reclaim her life or something much more malevolent?

The plot is interesting as a mystery but also as a device to examine identity and belonging.  It’s pretty clear that Jessica was somewhat lost before her father’s death – but she convinces as a classically dysfunctional high performer.  Quite frankly she is a mess but has skills that make a difference.  And as this is the first book in what looks set to become a series, there is plenty of scope for evolution and redemption.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as hardback

Reserve your copy here​

July 01
Black Summer by M W Craven

Black Summer by M W Craven.jpg

Black Summer is the second book depicting the partnership of Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw.  You could certainly read each standalone but for maximum engagement with this duo, I’d advise you to read ‘The Puppet Show’ first.  It’s somewhat gorier than this one so you can skip it if that’s not your thing.

Six years ago Poe gave evidence in the trial of a celebrated chef Jared Keaton – the victim his 18-year-old daughter Elizabeth Keaton.  Her body was never found, but Poe’s evidence was enough to convict and sentence him to life imprisonment.  That is until present day when a young woman presents herself to the police claiming to be Elizabeth; that she has been held captive all this time.

Poe’s motivation is called into question, he is under fire from the public, the legal system and the target of Jared’s vengeance.  In a race against time, he and Tilly reinvestigate the case taking into account what they now know in an attempt to figure out what really happened.

Which might have been a lot easier had Elizabeth not disappeared all over again!

This is a great partnership, two semi-misfits who although they are very different just gel.   Despite or perhaps because of the pervading menace, the way they bounce off each other with witty but realistic dialogue really draws the reader into their, or rather Poe’s, plight.  As this is only book two of the series you feel safe in your expectation that they will prevail, but that expectation does nothing to diffuse the tension. 

Submitted by Lorna

Available as hardback

Reserve your copy here​

July 01
Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Something to Live For by Richard Roper.jpg

Andrew is a house inspector – looking through the belongings of people who have died with the purpose of locating a relative, finding a will, assessing finances.  He also attends their funerals if he believes that no-one else is likely to attend, but that is not part of his job.

Andrew has a secret.  He’s managed to keep it from his colleagues and bosses for his five years of working at the Council. 

Everyone thinks he’s a married parent – they’re all wrong.  It was much easier to tell the lie than correct it, so he just plays along, in some way enjoying the escape from his real life.  A life alone, alive but not really living, muddling through with online forums where he can be himself or not.

When Peggy joins the house inspection team, his life is upended.  Peggy is his polar opposite – she is forthright, transparent and lively despite her troubled home life.  And she may be the catalyst that allows Andrew to escape his self-imposed social prison.

If all of this sounds depressing it is not.  It reveals no more than the title to say that there is redemption within.  Both characters deliver humour at different levels and despite the fact that Andrew is acting from a place of pain, the dignity and compassion he bestows on the deceased is inspirational. 

This is a beautifully written book, evoking a variety of emotions but ultimately challenging the reader to find their own ‘something to really live for’.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as hardback

Reserve your copy here​

July 01
In Safe Hands by J P Carter

In Safe Hands by J P Carter.jpg

It’s summer and with only nine children in attendance the Peasbody Nursery in London is relatively quiet.  At least it was until three armed men locked the staff in a cupboard and abducted the children.

DCI Anna Tate takes charge of the investigation which is made more fraught by the discovery that one of the children has Cystic Fibrosis and requires medication that he doesn’t have.  Anna is a consummate professional but has an emotional connection to the case as she is still searching for her own daughter who was kidnapped by her ex-partner years ago.

The kidnappers are slow to make any demands but eventually get in touch online, making a demand for six million pounds for the safe return of the children.  The pressure is piled on when the demands increase by one million per day.

With few clues and a gut feeling that she is being lied to, Anna is only too well aware that every second counts and the longer the case continues the less likely it will conclude favourably.

While this is a police procedural, it delivers on the human side of things too, giving a voice to the mother of the little boy who is without his medication.  Anna is a likeable character, strong and independent, smart and determined and the only real chink in her armour is the impact of the loss of her own child. 

There’s plenty of tension but the real hard-hitting aspect is how real it all feels.  Whether you figure out the perpetrator or not, there’s much to enjoy in the execution and characterisation.  A page-turner with heart.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as paperback

Reserve your copy here ​

 

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