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Review of

These Thy Gifts by Vincent Panettiere

4star.jpg General Fiction

2006 is a tumultuous year for the Catholic Church. Reports of horrific sexual abuse are becoming widespread. Monsignor Steven Trimboli is troubled. He worries for the future of the church—and rightly so. A new crime will soon reverberate throughout his church and hit closer to home than he ever imagined.

As ageing priest Steve Trimboli begins to try to make sense of the child sexual abuse scandal that is rocking his beloved Catholic church, he discovers that one child in his own parish has been abused by a priest sent by his bishop. And this isn't just any boy: this is Steve's grandson whose mother is the offspring of a long past relationship between Steve and a gangster's widow. Steve is determined to seek justice for this boy and all children victimised by priests who have been protected by his church. But he must also face up to his own failings, going right back to his breaking of the celibacy vows. Full Review

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Review of

The Body on the Island by Nick Louth

4.5star.jpg Crime

A prison transport left HMP Wakefield, heading for HMP Spring Hill. Steve and Aaron were accompanying Neil Wright who was 67 years old and had served six years for the manslaughter of his wife. Only that wasn't who he was. Sixty-three-years-old Neville Rollaston had served thirty years for the murder of five boys between the ages of ten and seventeen. He was being ghosted out of Wakefield and into a new identity set up in a deal whereby he divulged the whereabouts of the body of one of his victims. The Bogeyman was going to be set free on 2 July 2019. He appeared to be a reformed character but he had a list of people upon whom he wished to exact revenge. Full Review

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Review of

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

4star.jpg General Fiction

Dawn Edelstein is a death doula: that's someone who is there for the person who is dying, to make their passage to whatever they believe in as easy as possible and to support their carers. It's a rewarding, caring occupation and Dawn puts her heart and soul into it but this wasn't always her life. Some fifteen years ago she was a graduate student at Yale working towards her doctorate: as an Egyptologist, she was working with her supervisor, Professor Ian Dumphries, on the Djehutyakht tombs at Deir el-Bersha on the Nile in Middle Egypt. Then she was Dawn McDowell: that was her maiden name, the name she published under. Full Review

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Review of

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5star.jpg General Fiction

In 1952, Kya's mother disappeared up the dirt track to town, wearing her alligator heels, and never came home. Then one by one her siblings left, ran from the shack on the North Carolina marsh that served as home and the life that would lead to nothing but suffering, leaving 7-year-old Kya with her drunken father. Years pass and Kya - now nicknamed 'Marsh-Girl' – still yearns for a mother that would never return and grew up far too fast for a girl who can neither read nor write. Finally, one night her father never came home leaving Kya completely alone to survive on the marsh. Eventually, as the years drift painfully by, the time comes when Kya, now an emotional and vastly intelligent young woman, yearns for company besides the gulls and the land, yearning to be loved and to be held. So, when 2 boys from the town of Barkley Cove find their way to her, she finds a new way of life. But in 1969, the body of former star quarterback and new husband Chase Andrews is found lying in the mud of the marsh, and everyone in town immediately suspects the mysterious, run-down Marsh-Girl. Who is Kya now, after years of isolation and a broken, hardened heart? Is she really capable of murder? Full Review

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Review of

Pandora's Gardener by David C Mason

3star.jpg Crime

John Cranston is a gardener, although what he did before he became a gardener, he claims, is classified. That is just as well because he is about to be caught up in a criminal / spy / terrorist plot, where only he can save the day. Full Review

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Review of

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

5star.jpg Fantasy

There's no such thing as witches, but there used to be.

In 1893, after the purges and the burnings, witching has been reduced to little more than weak charms and simple spells. If women want to hold power in their hands, to have their voices heard, it is now through women's suffrage. Full Review

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Review of

The Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q Rauf

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Hector is a bully. Egged on by his two 'friends', he takes other children's sweets, harasses and threatens, plays pranks at school, and gets into trouble at every turn. Yet he finds himself frustrated when something actually isn't his fault, but then he isn't believed as everyone expects him to be telling lies. Nothing seems fair. His parents are barely home, and seem to only care about his perfect sister and his annoying little brother when they are, and his teachers have abandoned him as a lost cause. So what happens when, in trying to tell the truth & fight to be believed, Hector finds himself embroiled with the police; first trying to accuse, and then trying to save a homeless man from his local park? Full Review

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Review of

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The title and format of this book might lead you to think that it's either about responsibility - or it's a basic 1-2-3 book for those just starting out on the numbers journey. It isn't: it's a hymn of praise to maths. It's about why maths is so wonderful and how you meet it in everyday life. Full Review

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Review of

Everything is MINE by Andrea D'Aquino

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Marcello Von Cauliflower Bonaparte Jackson is a schnauzer: what else could you be with a name like that? He knows that you'll realise that he's kind, clever and loyal. You'll also need to know that everything is MINE. And he means everything. It begins with the slipper: mum still has one. Why would she need more? You sense that Marcello feels that he's being generous in allowing that. Then it was the pork chop. Well, did you see anyone's name on it? And he left the carrots for Leo. That's another example of Marcello's generosity. There was the acorn which squirrel was gnawing at: there was no documentation to prove ownership. And talking of ownership the tree would provide all the sticks he could ever want to chew. There's nothing unreasonable in any of that, is there? Full Review

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Review of

It Isn't Rude to be Nude by Rosie Haine

5star.jpg For Sharing

This could have been one of those books which 'preaches to the choir': the only people who'll buy it are the people who know that nudity is OK and the ones who know that it's shameful will avoid it like they avoid the hot-and-bothered person in the supermarket who is coughing fit to bust. But... Rosie Haines makes it into something so much more than a book about not wearing clothes. It's a celebration of bodies: bodies large and small and of every possible hue. Bodies with disabilities and markings. They're fine. In fact, they're wonderful. Full Review

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Review of

Trio by William Boyd

5star.jpg General Fiction

It was 1968: the year when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. It's also the year when YSK Films are making a movie in Brighton. It's called Emily Bracegirdle's Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon, or Ladder the Moon as it's known on set. Anny Viklund is the female star in a production which is proving to be just a little bit rackety. There are odd pressures on the producer, Talbot Kydd, to employ this old actor friend for a couple of days because he needs the money, allow a fading star to use his catchphrase, or include a song from the leading man, whose musical star is fading. Full Review

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Review of

The Curious History of Writer's Cramp: Solving an age-old problem by Michael Pritchard

4star.jpg Popular Science

Society is based on speech but civilisation requires the written word.

I came to Michael Pritchard's The Curious History of Writer's Cramp by a rather strange route. I have problems with my hands which orthopaedic surgeons refer to as 'interesting': I prefer the word 'painful' but I have an interest in the way that hands work. An exploration of the history of a problem which has defeated some of the best medical minds for some three-hundred-years seemed liked excellent background reading and so it proved, with the book being as much about the doctors treating the sufferers and the changing medical attitudes as the problem itself. Full Review

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Review of

Child of Galaxies by Blake Nuto and Charlotte Ager

5star.jpg For Sharing

What does it mean to be alive? What are we made of, and where are we going? Child of Galaxies is a lovely children's picture book that deals with all the big questions. Written as a poem, the lyrical words don't shy away from darkness, nor talk down to the children you are reading to, but rather than work beautifully together with the illustrations to create a powerful, uplifting reading experience. Full Review

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Review of

Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates (translator)

3star.jpg Crime

Meet Ursula, the stand-in minister, drafted in from outside the leading party to cover the post for a year. You might get to meet her hunky husband she can't believe she deserves, and the children who are ignorant of just how she spent all her empathy for them on previous jobs in the foreign aid charity sector. You'll meet her ministry's cleaner, who bizarrely has fallen into the task of helping a famous newsreader with her Tinder profile. You'll certainly meet a homeless tramp, who has taken one look at a newspaper image of Ursula, and, knowing her of old, decided she needs saving from the devil posing beside her. You'll meet the ministerial bodyguard and driver the tramp almost immediately forces Ursula to accept. But as for the first ministerial case, of a woman demanding her daughter's rape get looked at and pronto, nobody can say, for all records of Ursula's meeting with the woman have been wiped… Full Review

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Review of

The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Elsie is an ordinary sort of girl. The sort of small girl who often gets overlooked, and forgotten. She is quiet, and compliant, and makes the best of whatever happens to her. So when her parents forget that her school holidays have started before they are free to take care of her, they have to arrange for her to go and stay with her Great Uncle for a week. Poor Elsie, forgotten again, just decides to make the best of things. On investigating the house she finds that her Great Uncle had lived in India as a boy, and he has an enormous tiger rug on the floor of one of the rooms. When Elsie asks him about the rug he seems unhappy, and he says he has to keep it because he was the one who shot the tiger when he was 12 years old, and he says it was the worst thing he ever did. So when Elsie suddenly finds herself magically transported back many, many years, to the time in India when her Great Uncle was 12 years old, she believes that she must try to stop him from killing the tiger, in order to put something right that happened a long time ago. Full Review

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Review of

Agatha Raisin: Hot to Trot by M C Beaton and R W Green

4.5star.jpg Crime

Raisin Investigations had quite a bit of work on hand. The chairman of Philpott Electronics was concerned about his managing director, Harold Cheeseman, who had apparently returned from Australia because his wife did not like it there. This was unusual, as his wife had died before Cheeseman went to Australia. Then there was the Chadwick divorce: Chadwick was convinced that his wife, Sheraton, was seeing another man. Mr Gutteridge wanted Raisin Investigations to instal listening devices in the staff canteen: he wanted to know what the staff were saying about him and his secretary, who was from Geneva. Apparently, the staff called her The Swiss Roll.

Then there was the murder. Full Review

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Review of

Failosophy: A handbook for when things go wrong by Elizabeth Day

4star.jpg Lifestyle

What do Malcolm Gladwell, Alain de Botton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lemn Sissay, Nigel Slater, Emeli Sandé, Meera Syal, Dame Kelly Holmes and Andrew Scott have in common? They've all failed and - more importantly - they've been willing to appear on Elizabeth Day's podcast to discuss their failures and how life worked out for them afterwards. You'll find the results of these discussions in Failosophy Full Review

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Review of

Snow by John Banville

5star.jpg Crime (Historical)

Well, at least you're a Wexford man.

So said Colonel Osborne when he welcomed DI St John (pronounced 'Sinjun') Strafford to Ballyglass House just before Christmas 1957. Osborne was master of the Keelmore Hounds and had done something memorable with the Inniskilling Dragoons at Dunkirk. The niceties had to be established even when there was a Catholic priest dead on the library floor with some precious bits of his anatomy missing. Strafford was from Roslea at Bunclody and this, along with his good-but-shabby suit, marked him out as of Osborne's class and obviously Protestant. The dead priest was Father Tom Lawless from Scallanstown, who - despite the different religions - was in the habit of spending time at Ballyglass House. His horse was stabled there. Full Review

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Review of

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

4star.jpg Crime

When a 90-year-old-woman with a heart condition dies peacefully in her armchair, it really shouldn't be suspicious and that was the view taken by DS Harbinder Kaur until she spoke to Peggy Smith's carer. Natalka Kolisnyk was adamant that there was more to Peggy's death than met the eye - particularly as she knew that there was no heart condition and that Peggy had worried that she was being followed. Then there was the fact that Peggy was a 'murder consultant' who helped authors with knotty plot lines in their books: she knew more about murder than any elderly woman should need to know. Full Review

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Review of

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

3.5star.jpg Thrillers

When we start The Stolen Sisters we know that twenty-years on from a dreadful event they are all healthy adults. Well, they're healthy in the physical sense, but Carly has trust issues, Leah has OCD and Marie drinks. They're the Sinclair sisters and one day they were all stolen. Carly was thirteen-years-old and she was in charge of her sisters, the eight-year-old twins. Much as she loved them Carly was desperate to get a text from Dean Malden and her mobile phone held her attention. Leah and Marie were nattering about a lost ball and a fleece which had been left outside. The gate wasn't shut properly and Bruno, their boxer dog, escaped. As the three girls went to chase after him they were snatched by two men. Full Review

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Review of

Signs of Life by Stephen Fabes

5star.jpg Travel

I was brought up on maps and first-person narratives of tales of far away places. I was birth-righted wanderlust and curiosity. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit what Dr. Stephen Fabes clearly had which was the guts to simply go out and do it. I also didn't inherit the kind of steady nerve, ability to talk to strangers and basic practicality that would have meant that I would have survived if I had been gifted with the requisite 'bottle'. In order words I'm not the sort of person who will get on a bike outside a London hospital and not come home for six years. Fabes did precisely that. Full Review

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Review of

How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

4star.jpg Teens

18-year-old Amir is American Iranian, a Muslim, and gay. He struggles with his identity, unable to face telling his parents who he really is, so when another student at his school starts blackmailing him, threatening to show his parents photographs of Amir kissing his boyfriend Amir panics and runs away...to Italy! So begins a journey for Amir, and his family, where they all discover more about him, and who he really is, and who he really wants to be. Full Review

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Review of

The Readers Room by Antoine Laurain

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Violaine's publishing house has had a great success, and it was through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts. The three people who work in the Readers' Room to sift through what is ninety-nine per cent dross – plus the fourth advisor in her rarefied mansion up the road – all agreed the book would be a huge smash, and so it has proven. But there are several 'howevers' to that. As in, however – Violaine herself is not having life all her own way, for she has been involved in a near-fatal accident, and starts this book coming round from a coma. And, however – despite all urging, the author of the book has never once made themselves known to the publishers in person, and in fact offered up a most peculiar statement-come-threat in their last email. What is going to befall Violaine, her memory, her staff – and how much is any of it due to the hit novel? And just where the heck did that come from? Full Review

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Review of

Think Outside the Box by Justine Avery and Liuba Syrotiuk

4star.jpg For Sharing

Whenever you find a problem
Wherever there's a puzzle to solve
However you get stuck in a sticky situation
Just think outside the box

And so begins the latest picture book from Justine Avery and Liuba Syrotiuk. It's a clarion call to children to use their imaginations and not logic alone when it comes to solving problems. Full Review

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Review of

The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn and Rosie Hedger (translator)

4star.jpg Crime

Come here for a thriller that interestingly doesn't even try to suggest a genre of any kind until we're a full fifth of the way through. We start with our couple, she a literature lecturer, he big in medical provision and decisions at the council, being forced to move out of their home, a building that had existed throughout her life since childhood and which they'd occupied for over thirty years. The building he's inherited, meanwhile, and which they let out to a single mother, is needed by their adult daughter, who quite blatantly says to its occupant 'take a hike, I'm moving in and you're moving out'. Now, at this stage you may well, if you know this is a genre read, think it's going to be a throwback to those 'home invasion' thrillers Hollywood gave us in the 1980s, but no. We avoid genre completely, as I say – instead learning about Greek tragedy, in case that has any bearing on what happens here, and seeing how an older-middle aged couple live their lives. Until at that twenty per cent stage we find something that raises an eyebrow as any crime book should – until the point where the evicted tenant is found to have completely vanished. Full Review

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Review of

A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone

3star.jpg Crime

Film star Amelie Hart throws up a career that is only beginning to hit the heights to retire to the highlands with an ordinary guy…an accountant of all things, though to his credit he would rather be working in forestry. They have found a hideaway on a small Scottish estate, but things are starting to feel wrong between them. Full Review

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Review of

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

5star.jpg Science Fiction

On the moon of a distant gas giant, Xenobiologist Kira Navárez is helping with the efforts to make the planet habitable to human life. However, a discovery of an ancient alien bunker under the moon's surface leaves her bonded with a strange alien entity. After the entity bonded to her loses control and kills half the staff of the research station, the United Military Command cruiser Extenuating Circumstances arrives in the system to take Kira in for examination. Things go from bad to worse when the Extenuating Circumstances is attacked and destroyed by an alien ship, and she has to flee to the 61 Cygnus star system. She is revived aboard the freighter Wallfish, crewed by Captain Falconi and a rag-tag bunch of misfits, and the news is grim. The same aliens that destroyed the Extenuating Circumstances are now wreaking havoc across all of human-occupied space, and only a mythical weapon known as the Staff of Blue can stop them. As the death toll climbs and more players are introduced into this war, Kira slowly begins to realise that she may have had a greater hand in the conflict than she could've possibly imagined… Full Review

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Review of

My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

This is the story of an alien who has come down to spend some time on earth living as a human. It's something that each member in the alien collective is allowed to do, for 1 month, once they reach a certain age. Leonard comes to earth but gets distracted en route, and so something goes wrong with his arrival and he finds that instead of landing in Yellowstone Park, ready to work as a park ranger, he is instead in the body of a cat on the other side of the country! This is not what he had planned! Not only is he in the wrong place and the wrong body, he is also in the middle of a storm, stuck in a tree! And so he meets Olive, the little girl who rows out in a boat to rescue him, and who names him Leonard. Full Review