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Review of

The Whole Truth (D I Fawley) by Cara Hunter

5star.jpg Crime

DI Adam Fawley's team got to Edith Launceleve College first, called there by Jancis Appleby to see the Principal, Professor Hilary Reynolds. There had been an accusation of sexual assault by a professor on a student. When Fawley arrived he was almost cross: what was the alleged perpetrator doing in the room before they'd even got the details from the victim? The problem was that Caleb Morgan was the 'victim' and the alleged perpetrator was Professor Marina Fisher. Just to complicate matters further, Caleb's mother is Petra Newson, the local MP, and Professor Fisher is a big name in Artificial Intelligence. She has an eight-year-old son, buys her wine by the case from Berry Brothers & Rudd, spends more than £1000 a month on clothes and has more than ten thousand Twitter followers. When the excrement encounters the ventilation equipment, this is going to be very public. Full Review

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Review of

A Tattoo on my Brain by Daniel Gibbs with Teresa H Barker

3.5star.jpg Autobiography

Alzheimer's is a disease that slowly wears away your identity and sense of self. I have been directly affected by this cruel disease, as have many. Your memories and personality worn away like a statue over time affected the elements. It seems as if nature wants that final victory over you and your dignity. This is what makes Daniel Gibbs' memoir so admirable. Daniel Gibbs is a neurologist who was diagnosed with Alzheimers and has documented his journey in A Tattoo on my Brain. Full Review

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Review of

The Sandalmaking Workshop by Rachel Corry

4.5star.jpg Crafts

A sandal-making workshop? I couldn't really believe it, mainly because I'd always thought that you'd need more equipment than the average home was likely to be able to contain but I was intrigued. Rachel Corry started sandal making accidentally - a small fire destroyed some of her shoes. One pair had come apart and she could see how the sandal was constructed. Then she realised that she couldn't afford to replace all her shoes. Could she combine these two facts to create a new and worthwhile craft? She showed quite a few people her first pair and they all either wanted to know how to do it - or if she'd make them a pair. A new career was born. Full Review

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Review of

How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance

5star.jpg Politics and Society

When we do think about animals, we break them down into species and groups: cows, dogs, foxes, elephants and so on. And we assign them places in society: cows go on plates, dogs on sofas, foxes in rubbish bins, elephants in zoos, and millions of wild animals stay out there, somewhere, hopefully on the next David Attenborough series.

I was going to argue. I mean, cows are for cheese (I couldn't consider eating red meat...) and I much prefer my elephants in the wild but then I realised that I was quibbling for the sake of it. Essentially that quote sums up my attitude to animals - and I consider myself an animal lover. If I had to choose between the company of humans and the company of animals, I would probably choose the animals. I insisted that I read this book: no one was trying to stop me but I was initially reluctant. I eat cheese, eggs, chicken and fish and I needed to either do so without guilt or change my choices. I suspected that making the decision would not be comfortable. Full Review

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Review of

Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi

4star.jpg General Fiction

At not even 200 pages, Eve Out of Her Ruins is one of the shortest books I've read in a long while, but it's one of the most dramatic. It's also told in a way that I can only describe as brutal: it spares nothing and pulls very few punches, the descriptions stark and unromantic. Full Review

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Review of

The Whole Truth (D I Fawley) by Cara Hunter

5star.jpg Crime

DI Adam Fawley's team got to Edith Launceleve College first, called there by Jancis Appleby to see the Principal, Professor Hilary Reynolds. There had been an accusation of sexual assault by a professor on a student. When Fawley arrived he was almost cross: what was the alleged perpetrator doing in the room before they'd even got the details from the victim? The problem was that Caleb Morgan was the 'victim' and the alleged perpetrator was Professor Marina Fisher. Just to complicate matters further, Caleb's mother is Petra Newson, the local MP, and Professor Fisher is a big name is Artificial Intelligence. She has an eight-year-old son, buys her wine by the case from Berry Brothers & Rudd, spends more than £1000 a month on clothes and has more than ten thousand Twitter followers. When the excrement encounters the ventilation equipment, this is going to be very public. Full Review

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Review of

Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters by Greg McKeown

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

The marginal return of working harder was, in fact, negative.

That's what happened to Patrick McGinnis. It's no exaggeration to say that he devoted his life to the company he worked for, struggling through, even when he was ill, only to find that he was working for a bankrupt company. His stock had fallen by 97%, he had lost his health and his job had little value. He made a bargain with God; if he survived, he would make some changes. He did survive and came through stronger - and richer. There is, you see, a different way: great things are not reserved for those who bleed, for those who almost break. Full Review

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Review of

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

4.5star.jpg Crime

Sheffield's Botanical Gardens (on Clarkehouse Road, if you'd like to visit) are an oasis of calm in what's otherwise thought of as an industrial city but this was disrupted when the body of a young woman was discovered. It had obviously been buried in one of the beds but who would have started to dig her up? It had been in the earth for months and could have been undiscovered for years. The police need to establish who stabbed her - and who left the two, very rare, gold aurei on her eyes. DCI Diane Jordan is the Investigating Officer and her foot soldiers are DS Adam Tyler and DC Mina Rabbani. They're joined by DS Guy Daley who's just returned from extended sick leave. Mina thinks he's as obnoxious as ever but suspects that he's not fully recovered from his injuries. Full Review

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Review of

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

4.5star.jpg Women's Fiction

This re-telling of the myth of Ariadne and the Minotaur is interesting and unusual. Jennifer Saint presents the story in a way that is sympathetic to its origins but also appealing to a modern audience. Saint's narrative is told predominantly through the viewpoint of Ariadne, spanning from her childhood to her death, allowing the reader to really connect with Ariadne as a character in her own right rather than just a prop in the heroics of Theseus. Full Review

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Review of

Monster Doughnuts by Gianna Pollero and Sarah Horne

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

After their parents mysteriously disappeared, Grace and Danni have been left to run the family bakery. But Grace needs the doughnuts and sweet treats that Danni bakes for a rather unusual reason...even though she's only ten years old, she is a monster hunter! Monsters have a very sweet tooth, and Grace uses a number of methods to defeat them such as throwing baking powder on them, or tricking them into eating a sweet treat that will, ultimately, be their demise. One day, though, Grace finds herself facing a cyclops monster called Mr Harris, who has a weakness for doughnuts but doesn't seem to explode as the other monsters do, and so things start to get very strange… Full Review

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Review of

Sadie and the Sea Dogs by Maureen Duffy and Anita Joice

3.5star.jpg For Sharing

Sadie's mother always said that she was a dreamer, her mind never on what she should be doing. She lives by the River Thames at Greenwich and she loves to spend hours at The Maritime Museum or gazing at Cutty Sark.

Her class had gone one rainy afternoon
When all the houses cowered in the gloom,
To the Maritime Museum.

Her imagination was fired. She'd love to sail the oceans on an ancient sailing ship and went back regularly. One day she fell asleep under a glass case (it's the one where Nelson's Trafalgar breeches are on show) and missed the closing bell and the attendant's warning shout. When she woke (hard floors don't make comfy beds) she was in the midst of an adventure that she could never have imagined in a world of dolphins, pirates, mermaids and treasure. Full Review

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Review of

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O'Neal

5star.jpg Teens

Having recently been diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, Priya has to come to terms with the fact that she may be in constant pain for the rest of her life. She joins Oof Ouch My Bones, an online support group where she talks to a bunch of other teens living with chronic illnesses. They talk about their troubles and help each other out, while also providing an escape to just joke and mess around. When Brigid—one of her closest friends—doesn't respond to the chat for a while, Priya becomes concerned. She decides to steal her parents' car and drive to Brigid's house to check up on her. But what she doesn't expect to find there is a werewolf in the basement – and for that werewolf to be the girl she has been talking to online for the past few months. Full Review

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Review of

Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein

3star.jpg Teens

Gracie Welles has resigned herself to being lonely. As a secret illegitimate daughter of a man with a "real" family, she is used to not being a priority in people's lives. But when she defends a random boy in her class with her slingshot, her simple existence is changed for good. No longer can she spend her time writing novels in solitude, for her life now has a boy in it that she never asked for: Wade Scholfield. Full Review

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Review of

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

The story opens to probably the worst news of all: Lady Glencora Palliser is dead. Her husband, Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium, is nearly paralysed by grief and struggling - at the same time - to adjust to no longer being prime minister, or even in office. He seeks to protect and guide his three adult children, which is easier said than done when none of them wishes to be guided. Silverbridge (his elder son, actually called Plantagenet, but always known by his title) and Gerald are destined to be sent down from Oxford and Cambridge respectively and to run up gambling debts, occasionally in eye-watering sums. Lady Helen has fallen in love with - and wishes to marry - Frank Tregear, the penniless son of a poor squire, which the Duke cannot countenance, not least because he sees echos of what might have happened when he married Lady Glencora. He's about to learn that parents do not always get their way. Full Review

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Review of

The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

5star.jpg Teens

Rachel Chavez is the new girl at Manchester Prep. A school filled to the brim with the richest children in the city – and Rachel doesn't belong. She's not rich, she has no ties to some royal family in Serbia, and most of all, she spends the majority of her spare time watching horror movies as a source of comfort. She struggles to find anyone to connect with, until one day she stumbles upon the Mary Shelley Club. A secret society with one aim: pull off the best prank in true horror movie style, and unless someone screams, you have failed. Rachel becomes immediately engrossed in the competition. But as the pranks escalate, and Rachel finally feels like she has found her place in this school, things start to go wrong; a masked figure keeps showing up to the pranks, and people begin to get hurt. When the competition then takes a deadly turn, Rachel must figure out who this masked figure is before it's too late. Full Review

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Review of

Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton

4.5star.jpg Politics and Society

Where do I start? I could start with where Barton herself starts, with the question Why Japan? Japan has been on my radar for a while and if the world hadn't gone into melt-down I would have visited by now. I may get there later this year, but I am not hopeful. And like Barton, I don't know the answer to the question why Japan? She explains her feelings in respect of the question in the first essay, which is on the sound giro' – which she describes as being, among other things, the sound of every party where you have to introduce yourself. Full Review

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Review of

Sistersong by Lucy Holland

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Sistersong is part of a genre I particularly enjoy, the modern retelling of folk and fairy tales. These stories, for most of us, are a cornerstone of childhood and I relish seeing them retold with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. If handled well these retellings give new life and new meaning to stories that are now becoming increasingly narrow and outdated, fleshing out characters, examining relationships and re-evaluating the role of women. Sistersong is a perfect example of a modern retelling done well, the plot is handled with care, keeping its archaic historical feel but allowing the characters to come to life, to feel real and human, most importantly they feel relatable in a modern world whilst still feeling appropriate for the pre-Saxon age they live in. This is a masterpiece of storytelling and I was captivated from beginning to end. Full Review

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Review of

The Whispers by Heidi Perks

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

We know straight away that there's going to be a body. It's on the beach under Crayne's Cliff near the town of Clearwater and it's new year's day. To understand what happened we're going to have to go back to the previous September. Grace Goodwin has a soft Australian accent - she's lived there since her teens and now, in her mid-thirties, she's returned to her home town to live. Her husband, Graham, works in Singapore and she and her eight-year-old daughter, Matilda, might as well be in the lovely apartment she's found. Grace's best friend, Anna Robinson, is still in Clearwater and she has an eight-year-old child too. Ethan's in the class Matilda will be joining. It's perfect! Full Review

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Review of

The Source by Sarah Sultoon

2.5star.jpg Thrillers

1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak... Full Review

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Review of

The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope

4star.jpg Literary Fiction

Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium, is the prime minister of a coalition government but he's privately enraged at the seemingly unstoppable rise of Ferdinand Lopez. Lopex is exotic - some describe him as Jewish, others as Portuguese but the truth is that no one knows and Lopez is not going to explain. The ladies of society, even Palliser's own wife, Lady Glencora, are supporters but after Lopez makes an advantageous marriage Palliser is placed in the position of having to support his wife's actions when Lopez loses a by-election. The Duke's payment of Lopez' election expenses in an attempt to stem gossip about his wife will come back to haunt him. Full Review

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Review of

The High House by Jessie Greengrass

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Charles Darwin taught that all living matter evolved to pass on its genetic material with the implied belief that your progeny will then pass on theirs. However, that train of thought is slowly seems to have fallen out of favour. Today's young generation are discovering that their parents and their parents' parents did not seem to think that far ahead. Or they did think that far ahead and thought "it's not my problem" or "there's nothing I can do". Raising a child and living in a world on the precipice of catastrophe is what drives The High House by Jessie Greengrass. This is not a science-fiction novel. This is our reality. This is the life our children and their children will have to live. Full Review

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Review of

Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

This book lets us discover several people in different stages of life in the early 1970s, all vaguely connected. So we have a bullied half-cast boy (as he would have been called then), a girl in a humdrum job wanting to become a singer, and chiefly, Imelda, the third generation of Madame Burova, Tarot-Reader, Palmist and Clairvoyant, to use her family's sea-front booth. The singer, the scryer and the sufferer's mother will all become staff at a revamped holiday camp, but just before then we see Imelda fly solo for the first time in the family stall. We also see her on her last day, fifty years later, in possession of a pair of letters that will change everything for a woman called Billie. Just who is she, and who delivered the secrets about her to Imelda, and why did it have to remain a secret all this time? Full Review

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Review of

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud

4star.jpg Teens

Scarlett McCain is an outlaw, rejecting the draconian conformity of the Surviving Towns and Faith Houses to wander the wildlands between the Seven Kingdoms of Britain, robbing banks and shooting other outlaws to keep herself alive. But then she meets Albert Browne, a dark boy with dark powers and a darker past. With mysterious militiamen hunting them down, they plan to flee to the mythical Free Isles of the London Lagoon. Together, they must brave man-eating wildlife, the cannibalistic Tainted and all the horrors of post-apocalyptic society to reach the Free Isles, but will they be any more accepted there than they are in the rest of Britain? Full Review

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Review of

Remy: A book about believing in yourself by Mayuri Naidoo and Caroline Siegal

4star.jpg For Sharing

Remy is feeling miserable. He's let himself down again. The school bully Jayden, together with his sidekicks Ryan and Brandon, have been laughing at Remy, calling him names because he is short and has small eyes. They are mean but they are not stupid. They are careful to wind up Remy when nobody can see and then push him just that little bit further when the other kids are around. So, when Remy reacts, it looks as though he was the instigator. And then he gets into trouble at school and the teachers don't believe him when he tries to explain what happened. Full Review

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Review of

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It's some time since we heard from Phineas Finn. Having succeeded in parliament and achieved a paying position he fell out with those who provided his income and returned to Ireland where he married Mary, his childhood sweetheart. He was fortunate to get a job in Cork (or Dublin - recollections may vary) and seemed settled into a life of domesticity. To bring Finn back, Trollope had to kill off poor Mary and Phineas emerges in London as a childless widower with a legacy from an aunt who died at just the right time to allow the move to be possible. Full Review

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Review of

The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

4star.jpg Thrillers

Our hero David Thorne is an author, who shares his life between the two US coasts. It's the western coast we're concerned with, a place he has to return to, and a place he has to be able to leave. David lost contact with his partner there ten years ago, when she vanished from a remote road late at night. He's paying for contact with the man he thinks the only suspect, a lifer now, who went a bit Hannibal Lecter, and has a dozen and more unfound Jane Does on his record. David is trying to pry the connection between the murderer and his girl from the man's mind, but to no avail. He's also having a recharge ready for his next hit novel when into the restaurant walks the sheer spitting image, the very embodiment, the virtual resurrection, of his love. What is a man to do? Full Review

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Review of

The Lip by Charlie Carroll

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Melody Janie Rowe even the name is evocative of…probably of whatever we want it to be, and maybe that's the point. To me the name sings of English folk music, but even in my use of that word English, I know I'm putting an emmet take on things. And Melody Janie Rowe is anti-emmet. Full Review