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Review of

Wild East by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

4.5star.jpg Teens

Written in verse, this is Ronny's story, a young black fourteen year old boy from Hackney who suddenly has to move to Norwich and start at a mostly white school. The move is initiated by Ronny's mum who is worried for Ronny's safety after a tragic event, and so Ronny finds himself trying to settle in a new town, a new school, and keep himself out of trouble. He listens to music constantly, and has always dreamed of being a rapper. But now, in this new school, his teacher encourages him to be part of a poetry writing workshop group and, slowly, Ronny begins to see the connections between rap and poetry, and the power of creativity and crafting your words. Full Review

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Review of

The Lavender Companion by Jessica Dunham and Terry Barlin Vesci

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

It's strange, the things that make you immediately feel that this is the book for you. Before I started reading The Lavender Companion, I visited the author's website and there's a picture of a slice of chocolate cake on the homepage. I don't eat cakes and desserts - but I wanted that cake viscerally. (There's a recipe in the book, which I'm avoiding with some difficulty!!) Then I started reading the book and I was told to make a mess of it. Notes in the margins are sanctioned. You get to fold down the corners of pages. You suspect that smears of butter would not be a problem. I loved this book already. Full Review

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Review of

Childish Spirits: 10th anniversary special edition by Rob Keeley

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Around here, we're big fans of children's author Rob Keeley. He's a ball of happy positivity, he understands children, and he writes for their pleasure and enjoyment, not to lecture or hector.

The Childish Spirits series is one of his greatest achievements. It's a sequence of ghost stories centring on Ellie, a stalwart young girl who can cope with anything the spirit world throws at her, and Edward, a spoiled lordling and the first spirit Ellie encounters Full Review

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Review of

Us in the Before and After by Jenny Valentine

5star.jpg Teens

Elk and Mab are best friends, or more than that even, their friendship is a once in a lifetime connection. They meet as children one day on a trip out but unfortunately they don't get each other's contact details at the time. But then chance brings them back together, and they are inseparable. Something has happened though, something terrible and tragic, and now they must work through their grief, and their friendship, together. Full Review

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Review of

Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Kieran Larwood and Joe Todd-Stanton

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Meet Kit. Like most of the people in his world, it seems, he is an avid fan of Dungeon Running – the sport where a team of warrior, mage and healer enter specially prepared, century-old, magical mazes, and race to the exit, perhaps bothering with the treasure or the big bad and the points they grant you along the way. Unfortunately for Kit, the only thing he's seen of the latest race on the inn TV equivalent is that one team has been retired, eaten, and a new trio of questors is needed. Possibly very unfortunately indeed for Kit, he has taken to the goading from the token bully of his world and stumbled into declaring he'll enter as a team. What chance does this friendless, muscle-free-zone have in actually managing that, and how could he possibly hope to succeed? Full Review

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Review of

Vengeance by Saima Mir

3.5star.jpg Thrillers

I was instantly intrigued by the premise of this novel – an organised crime syndicate in the north of England run by a Muslim woman. The fact that it was the second in a series I hadn't read didn't stop me – I've jumped midway into a few series before (on page and screen) and it needn't be a hindrance if it's good enough. And that wasn't a problem here. Vengeance swiftly brings you up to speed, and I never felt lost. Full Review

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Review of

Lowe and Le Breton Mysteries - Death at the Dress Rehearsal by Stuart Douglas

3.5star.jpg Crime

During location filming for his 1970's sitcom 'Floggit and Leggit', leading man Edward Lowe stumbles across the dead body of a woman on the edge of a reservoir. The police seem happy to assign it as an accidental death, but something about the whole thing bothers Lowe, and he enlists the help of a fellow actor, John Le Breton to help him investigate matters further. They travel across the country during their days off filming, uncovering more possible murders and, seemingly, a link to death during the Second World War. But is there really a link between the deaths? And will they manage to uncover who is responsible before more people lose their lives? Full Review

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Review of

Swanton Morley (John Tanner) by David Blake

3.5star.jpg Crime

It seemed like an open-and-shut case. A man, covered in mud and blood - and carrying a knife, comes into the police station shouting that he hasn't killed the man. A body at the bottom of a freshly dug grave at Swanton Morley church - he's been stabbed to death. DCI John Tanner is just back from his honeymoon, which coincided with the birth of his daughter Samantha. You would think he'd be grateful for an easy answer but the words 'perverse' and 'John Tanner' were made for each other. He's sleep-deprived to the point of falling asleep at work but he's determined to keep going - probably because he can't get any sleep at home. Full Review

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Review of

You Don't Have to be Mad to Work Here by Benji Waterhouse

5star.jpg Popular Science

I was tempted to read You Don't Have to be Mad to Work Here after enjoying Adam Kay's first book This is Going to Hurt, a glorious mixture of insight into the workings of the NHS, humour and autobiography. You Don't Have to be Mad... promised the same elements but moved from physical problems to mental illness and the work of a psychiatrist. I did wonder whether it was acceptable to be looking for humour in this setting but the laughter is directed at a situation rather than a person and it is always delivered with empathy and understanding. Full Review

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Review of

Allow Me to Introduce Myself by Onyi Nwabineli

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

Anuri spent her childhood on display to the world, thanks to her step-mother Ophelia's increasingly popular presence on social media, where she posted every step of Anuri's childhood for sponsorships and influencer deals and, basically, monetary gain. Now Anuri is in her twenties and she is slowly trying to regain her confidence and to get her life back, suing her step-mother to take down the content about her. Anuri is battling alcoholism, failing to start her PhD, undergoing therapy and secretly abusing people online and receiving money from them for doing so. Most importantly, she is desperately worried about her little sister, who is the new focus of Ophelia's online empire. Can she save her sister, and perhaps herself and her relationship with her father at the same time? Full Review

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Review of

Headload of Napalm by David Chadwick

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

It's September 1973 in Hicks, California. Hicks is a Mojave desert town of a few thousand people with its nearest neighbours of LA and Las Vegas both a significant drive away. Not much happens in Hicks. A silver mine and a defence contractor are the main local employers but otherwise, there's not much of note other than dive bars and Joshua trees. Life is quiet, until.... Full Review

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Review of

The Wrong Shoes by Tom Percival

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Will's life is difficult, in a multitude of ways. He is bullied because he has 'the wrong shoes', he has the wrong shoes because his dad can't work and doesn't have enough money for even the most basic of things like food, and his dad can't work because he lost his job at the college, was working a cash-in-hand job on a building site and had an accident. Throw into that mix the fact that his mum and dad are separated, and Will's life seems bleak in every direction. And yet, he still has a tiny amount of hope. He is good at art, and clings to the moments of joy when he is drawing, that feel like a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Full Review

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Review of

A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall

5star.jpg Science Fiction

There are few greater joys than a book which lives up to a compelling premise. And this is one of them. Full Review

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Review of

Death in a Lonely Place by Stig Abell

4star.jpg Crime

Former Metropolitan Police detective, Jake Johnson, has settled into his rustic life at Little Sky. There’s perhaps a little uncertainty about the future of his life with his vet girlfriend, Livia and her daughter Diana, as moving in together would mean a lot of compromise: does Jake give up his off-grid and relaxing life to move in with Livia or does Livia move to Little Sky despite her reservations about whether or not this is the future she wants for herself and her daughter? For the moment they’re enjoying life in the present and putting the future on the back burner. Full Review

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Review of

The Janus Stone (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

4.5star.jpg Crime

Builders were demolishing an old house in Norwich - the site was going to hold seventy-five 'luxury' apartments - when they discovered the bones of a child beneath a doorway. There was no skull. Was this a ritual killing or murder? Inevitably, Dr Ruth Galloway finds herself working with DCI Harry Nelson. It's difficult as Ruth knows, but Nelson doesn't, that she is pregnant with his child as a result of the one night they spent together some three months ago. Her condition will be obvious before long, not least because Ruth is prone to sudden bouts of sickness. Full Review

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Review of

The Devil You Know (D S Max Craigie) by Neil Lancaster

4.5star.jpg Crime

It's unusual for anyone from the Hardie family to approach the police. Neither side likes or has any respect for the other. But Davie Hardie is struggling in prison and he's prepared to tell the police where the body of a missing person is buried and who was responsible for her death. This person, he promises, is someone big and it will be worth the police doing what he wants. And what he wants is to be transferred to an open prison to serve the remainder of his sentence and to get an early parole date. Not much to ask, is it? The new Deputy Police Constable doesn't think so and she's even prepared to do the other thing that Hardie demanded - make certain that DS Max Craigie and anyone who works with him is kept well away from what's happening. Full Review

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Review of

A Stranger in the Family (Maeve Kerrigan 11) by Jane Casey

5star.jpg Crime

It's sixteen years since nine-year-old Rosalie Marshall disappeared from her bed one summer night. She was never found and the investigation ground to a halt. Now, her mother, Helena, and her father are dead in their bed. Initially, it looks like a straightforward murder/suicide but there's something about the positioning of the bodies that makes DS Maeve Kerrigan and her boss DI Josh Derwent suspicious. What looked as though it was going to be an open-and-shut case is now a complex double murder. Kerrigan is convinced that the explanation lies in Rosalie's disappearance: others (such as Derwent's boss, Una Burt) are less convinced. Full Review

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Review of

The Kellerby Code by Jonny Sweet

3.5star.jpg Crime

Edward Jevons is a working-class young man, obsessed with his upper-class friends, Robert and Stanza. Robert's a theatre director. He's also self-obsessed, demanding, handsome and entitled and uses Edward to run errands for him. Edward has been in love with Stanza since their university days - and he's drunkenly confided how he feels to Robert. Most men in Robert's position would stay away from Stanza or tell Edward that a relationship had begun between them but he's not like most men: Edward is left to stumble upon the two of them kissing in a dark passageway. Full Review

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Review of

Leave No Trace by Jo Callaghan

4star.jpg Crime

When a man is found crucified on the top of a hill in Nuneaton, DCS Kat Frank finds herself assigned to the case alongside her sidekick, the AI detective Lock. It's their first live case together, having previously been very successful with several cold cases. But when there is a second body found crucified a few days later, Kat is suddenly struggling with a potential serial killer and a very high profile case that draws a lot of unwanted attention to their AI Future Policing project. Will they be able to solve the case in time, or will Kat find herself taken off the case and, potentially, out of a career? Full Review

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Review of

Moral Injuries by Christie Watson

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Olivia, Laura and Anjali met on the first day of medical school and their friendship would keep them inseparable for a quarter of a century. Olivia is ruthlessly ambitious, which is a bonus when you aim to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. Laura is a perfectionist and a trauma doctor. Anjali is the free spirit of the group and she becomes a GP. When we first meet them they're at a drug and alcohol-fuelled party and it's going to end in tragedy. We don't know who suffered the tragedy or the consequences. Twenty-five years later there will be an eerily similar event that will impact the three friends. This time, it's their teenage children who are involved. Full Review

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Review of

The Trading Game: A Confession by Gary Stevenson

4.5star.jpg Autobiography

If you were to bring up an image of a city banker in your mind, you're unlikely to think of someone like Gary Stevenson. A hoodie and jeans replaces the pin-stripe suit and his background is the East End, where he was familiar with violence, poverty and injustice. There was no posh public school on his CV - but he had been to the London School of Economics. Stevenson is bright - extremely bright - and he has a facility with numbers which most of us can only envy. He also realised that most rich people expect poor people to be stupid. It was his ability at what was, essentially, a card game which got him an internship with Citibank. Eventually, this turned into permanent employment as a trader. Full Review

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Review of

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder by C L Miller

3.5star.jpg Crime

It's twenty years since Freya Lockwood has been back to the English country village where she grew up. She's back now because of a request for help from her beloved aunt, Carole. Freya's former mentor and Carole's close friend, Arthur Crockleford, is dead and the circumstances seem suspicious, to say the least. Arthur was the reason why Freya had not been back to the village: Arthur, she feels, let her down badly. Even though they were in business together as antique hunters, she has not felt able to be near the man or pursue the profession she loved. After the split, she worked in a cafe, met and married James (on the rebound from the love of her life, who was murdered) and Freya and James have now divorced. Full Review

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Review of

All Tomorrow's Futures: Fictions that Disrupt by Benjamin Greenaway and Stephen Oram (Editors)

5star.jpg Science Fiction

Opening up new ways of thinking about the shape of things to come.

I've heard it said that 'technology' is what happens after you're eighteen. Well, I must confess that there have been more than a few decades of technology in my lifetime. I've kept up reasonably well with what's advantageous to me but I'm left with the feeling that it's all getting away from me. Some of it is - frankly - quite frightening. Of course, I could research the possibilities and the probabilities and end up down rabbit holes without really understanding whether I'm reading someone who knows what they're talking about or the latest conspiracy theorist. I needed people I knew I could trust and who could deliver information in a way I could understand. Full Review

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Review of

Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh

3.5star.jpg Thrillers

The Hotel Arcadia is a luxury hotel in an unnamed city that has suddenly been violently taken over by a terrorist group. Hiding from the terrorists who are rampaging through, killing everyone on site, there is Sam, a wartime photographer and Abhi, the hotel manager. As Abhi continues to try to care remotely for the residents who are still alive in the hotel, he forms a bond with Sam who refuses to be cowed by events, and keeps on venturing out of her room to try to capture what's happened through her photography. Although they only ever talk over the phone, their friendship grows as Abhi tries to help her keep safe and they both wait to see if they will be rescued before they are discovered by the terrorists. Full Review

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Review of

The List of Suspicious Things by Jennie Godfrey

5star.jpg General Fiction

It's 1979 and Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister. (A woman? I mean, honestly...) She's not what's worrying Miv's family, though. Women have been disappearing. Well, they've been murdered, but to have 'disappeared' doesn't sound quite so frightening. Miv's upset because she's overheard that her father wants to move the family 'Down South'. When you're from Yorkshire, Down South is a frightening, foreign place, best avoided. For Miv, the move would mean leaving her best friend, Sharon, and she'll do anything to prevent that. She's not worried about the dangers or that her Mum's stopped talking - to anyone. Full Review

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Review of

Has Anyone Seen Charlotte Salter? by Nicci French

5star.jpg Crime

Charlotte Salter was expected at her husband's fiftieth birthday party but never turned up. Her children, sons Niall, Paul and Ollie and her daughter, Etty. are all worried but - strangely - her husband, Alec, is not. Shortly afterwards, Etty and Greg, find the body of Greg's father, Duncan Ackerley, in the river. It was an easy assumption for the police to make that Duncan had murdered Charlie and then committed suicide when he couldn't stand the guilt. The Salter children are not convinced but there's little else they can do but get on with their lives and wonder about what really happened. Full Review

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Review of

Diva by Daisy Goodwin

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

We tend to think of Maria Callas as Greek, but she was born to Greek parents in Manhattan, New York, in December 1923 and only moved to Athens when she was thirteen. Her original surname was Kalogeropoulos but her father changed it to 'Callas' to make it more manageable in the States. When she was back in Athens - supposedly so that she could get appropriate training for her voice - she was raised under the Nazi occupation by a mother who mercilessly exploited her and made no secret of her preference for her elder sister, Jackie. Full Review

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Review of

Black Hole Cinema Club by Christopher Edge

4star.jpg Confident Readers

Lucas and his friends are all booked in for a movie marathon at their local cinema, a place that has the nickname of 'The Black Hole'. All big movie fans, they're looking forward to lots of exciting films, and many, many snacks! However, as the movie starts, they very quickly realise that something about this new film format is very different, and they are swept up into an adventure they couldn't even imagine. But as they lurch from one film genre to the next, can they figure out what on earth is going on? Will they ever get back to the cinema, and to their real lives? Full Review

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Review of

Compass and Blade by Rachel Greenlaw

3.5star.jpg Teens

I can hear the song of the sea. The call of the deep, the answering beat in my heart.

Rosevear, a remote and partially forgotten island, survives on luring ships into the rocks and plundering the wrecks. Mira, like her mother before her, is one of the seven who swim out to survey the ruins – rescuing any survivors and any treasure that lies within. But when the Council Watch lays a trap to end the wrecking, they capture the island's leader and Mira's father. Desperate to save him from death, Mira makes a bargain with a wreck survivor who is as charming as he is secretive and with only coordinates to guide her, she sets off in search of a family secret that lies buried deep in the sea. With only nine days to unearth what might save her father, as her journey takes her from the watched streets of foreign islands to the heart of the smuggler's territory, Mira must be determined to stop at nothing to save the future of her home and the ones she holds most dear. Full Review

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Review of

Planet Storyland by James Sherwood Metts

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Things have been a bit sticky for the Earthlings. AI and automation have been proceeding apace, often replacing jobs they're paid to do and other tasks that took time to accomplish. Just as they were beginning to get used to all this technological change and starting to think of other, new ways to spend time, along came an awful pandemic. Life was pretty much shut down and, along with it, all the many daily social interactions on which they depend so heavily. Full Review