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Review of

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

It was generally thought that Sir Florian Eustace had come to regret his marriage but he didn't live long enough for this to become a problem. After his death, his wife, Lizzie - still only in her late teens - was in possession of a very valuable diamond necklace and was determined that she would not hand it over to her husband's executors. She was adamant that Sir Florian had given it to her absolutely, although the precise circumstances of the giving varied from telling to telling. Lady Eustace was not a woman to whom truth meant a great deal. All that was important to her now, she maintained, was her son. And, of course, her diamonds. Full Review

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Review of

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

5star.jpg Thrillers

A fisherman told him once about the sea having two faces. You have to take them both, he said, the good and the bad, and never turn your back on either one of them.

In 1972, fifteen miles off the coast of Cornwall, three men disappeared without trace from The Maiden Rock Lighthouse in the frigid pause between Christmas and New Year. Jory Martin had taken out a relief keeper, the weather such that the boat [was] rocking and bobbing like a bath toy over the wavelets but they were unable to get any response from the Maiden Rock. It was broken into the next day, but there was no sign of the men. The table was set for a meal for two - and the clocks were stopped at 8.45. Contact with the light had not been possible as the radio was broken. No explanation was ever found for what happened to the men. Full Review

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Review of

Yolk by Mary H K Choi

5star.jpg Teens

Jayne Baek is a fashion student that's barely getting by. She drinks. She smokes. She makes bad decisions about the men she sleeps with. She's an all-round messy character; and that's her charm. June, on the other hand, is a complete contrast to Jayne. She's a typical older sister: she's smart, thinks she knows it all, and has a successful job. She constantly criticises Jayne for her life choices, and the two have barely kept in contact despite living in the same city for the past two years. This is until June finds out she's sick, and Jayne is the only person she can turn to. The two sisters have to come together and decide how far they'll go to save each other's lives – even if it means swapping identities. Full Review

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Review of

The Khan by Saima Mir

5star.jpg Crime

Jia Khan has alway lived by the motto be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men. This has served her well in her rise through the criminal justice system and by the time she is called home for her sister's wedding after fifteen years in self-imposed exile, she is at the top of her game. Returning to the city of her birth, to old scars and fresh wounds, Jia must confront her past and reconcile her visions for the future with her sense of honour and duty. Full Review

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Review of

Two Wrongs by Mel McGrath

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Sondra was on her way home after work when she saw a young woman looking as though she was going to jump from the Clifton suspension bridge. She talks to her, and Sondra finally persuades Satnam to call her best friend and flatmate, Nevis Smith. Nevis is unworldly and rather reserved - and she can't understand why Satnam hasn't shared her problems with her. She thought they shared everything. Satnam is taken to hospital and Nevis calls her mother, Honor. They've not been on good terms since a discovery Nevis made the previous summer but right now, Nevis needs her mother. Full Review

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Review of

If You Kept a Record of Sins by Andrea Bajani and Elizabeth Harris (translator)

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

This was an incredibly readable novella, but one that left me a little conflicted. We start as our hero arrives at Bucharest airport, and before we even know his gender or the nature of the person he's addressing in his second person monologue of a narration, we see him picked up by his mother's chauffeur, and carted off to do all the necessary introductions before said mother is buried the following day. The mother was a businesswoman, who clearly left northern Italy and settled in Romania with her (night-time and business) partner, and feelings of abandonment are still strong. And so we flit from current (well, this came out in the original Italian in 2007, so moderately current) Bucharest, to the lad's childhood, and see just what he has to tell her as a private farewell address. Full Review

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Review of

My Cat Called Red by Jane Lightbourne

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

Robin has red hair. He hates it, and the freckles that go along with it. He's been bullied and mocked at school because of it. Ginger Minger! Carrots! Kids are mean. But red hair is not Robin's only misery in life. He's already lost his dad to a mountaineering accident when his mum gets ill and is taken into hospital. She doesn't come home again. Full Review

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Review of

Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Phineas Finn is the son of Dr Malachi Finn, a successful doctor in Killaloe in County Clare, who sent his son to London to train as a lawyer. Phineas's interest is more in making influential friends than in becoming a lawyer and one of them, Barrington Erle, suggests that he runs for Parliament in the forthcoming election. His father is not entirely in favour of this as members are not remunerated and it would be up to him to provide financial support for his son as well as funding his election. One of the doctor's patients is Lord Tulla who controls the borough of Loughshane and by this stroke of luck Finn is, eventually, elected by a small margin. Full Review

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Review of

Crooked: Honest Criminality by Bronwen John

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

The con had seemed like a good one: tricking people into buying artwork supposedly by the new Banksy - and they should have made a decent profit from it. The problem was they were too successful: one of the marks had bought a few and then discovered that they were valueless. Henry Martin Holmes had fallen for a simple con and his father, celebrity criminal Harry Holmes, was determined that he and his family could not lose face like that. The grifters were going to pay. Ashia 'Ash' Cox and Max 'Colorado' Ying needed to be got out of the country. In the course of bringing this about, Luke Gaines, Ash's foster father, lost his life. Full Review

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Review of

Luna Rae is Not Alone by Hayley Webster

5star.jpg Confident Readers

Luna Rae has just moved house. Moving house is always tricky, but especially when you're ten years old, and you miss your old home, and you and your little sister have to start a new school but your mum seems to be out working all the time. Then there's your dad, who doesn't seem like he's coping so well, and so there's no one to take care of things but you. Everything feels different and strange, and mysterious, and so Luna finds a way of coping is by watching. She turns detective and starts keeping an eye on her new neighbourhood, but it turns out she's not the only one keeping watch! Full Review

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Review of

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

On the surface Can You Forgive Her? looks deceptively simple: it's the story of one woman and two men who are vying with each other for her love. Alice Vavasor was originally engaged to her cousin, George Vavasor but she broke off that engagement and later became engaged to John Grey. When we first meet Alice she's on an extended tour of the continent with George Vavasor and his sister Kate. It's obvious that there's still a great deal of chemistry between John and Alice - and Kate is all for encouraging the relationship as it would tie Alice to her. George wants Alice but it's a matter of amour propre rather than love: he has little consideration for anyone other than himself and the original engagement had fallen through because of his infidelity and deceitfulness. This thread is the story of a very complicated love affair and a woman who lacks confidence in her own judgement. You might not like Alice to start with but you will warm to her. Full Review

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Review of

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

April's father, a scientist, has been given a job on a remote island called Bear Island, and he accepts the job deciding to take his daughter April with him. They live alone anyway, since April's mother died some time before, and he feels it will be educational for her to experience the island and all its natural beauty. April already has an affinity with nature, and she's excited to travel with her father, thinking of all the fun things they will be able to experience together on the island. But when they get there, her father finds that his work monitoring and recording the temperatures just takes up too much of his time, and so April is left to explore by herself. Her father had reassured her that there were no longer any bears living on Bear Island, but one day April thinks she catches a glimpse of one, and so she sets out to find the Bear, and then when she sees he is injured, to befriend and help him. Full Review

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Review of

What Will Burn (Inspector McLean) by James Oswald

5star.jpg Crime

When Cecily Slater's body was found, she'd already been dead for a week - in a house fire in deserted woodland near Edinburgh. Heavy rain had washed away most of the evidence, but DI Tony McLean, demoted and just returned from suspension, is reluctant to accept that this is nothing more than a careless accident. There were indications that Slater had been savagely, almost ritualistically beaten before the fire. But who would hate a ninety-year-old woman to the extent of doing something like that? She was a virtual recluse: who could she have upset to that extent? Full Review

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Review of

Where Ravens Roost by Karin Nordin

4star.jpg Crime

Inspector Kjeld Nygaard had been estranged from his father, Stenar, for more than a decade but when he got the rather muddled phone call from him saying that he'd seen a murder in the barn on his land he didn't hesitate to drop everything and go to Varsund. Actually, 'drop everything' rather overstates the situation. Nygaard was on suspension following the shooting of a suspect in the Aubuchon murder enquiry. There had been a complication: the Kattegat Killer turned out to be Nils Hedin, Nygaard's best friend. Still, the ten-hour drive from Gothenburg in the south of Sweden to Varsund in the far north shouldn't be underestimated. Full Review

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Review of

A Beautiful Spy by Rachel Hore

4star.jpg Historical Fiction

Minnie is an 'ordinary' girl living an unexciting life in a leafy provincial suburb. The book is set in the 1930s and Minnie is expected to live up to her mother's expectations and find a nice young man to marry, produce children and spend the rest of her days looking after her husband and their home. Unfortunately, this isn't what she wants to do at all and neither does she want to continue working as a secretary. As a result of a chance meeting, she finds herself drawn into espionage, working for the secret service and effectively living a double life - attempting to infiltrate the Communist Party of Great Britain. Minnie finds herself torn between what she perceives as her duty and the friends she has made - and likes - whilst working for the Communist Party. Full Review

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Review of

The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu

4.5star.jpg Teens

Ropa Moyo is a ghostalker, using Zimbabwean magic (and a bit of Scottish pragmatism) to take messages from the dead of Edinburgh for their living relatives. Ever since she dropped out of school, she's been using it to support not only herself, but her younger sister and her aging grandmother. However, there's an evil stalking the ruined streets of Edinburgh, targeting the city's children. Soon, Ropa is pulled into the search for a missing boy at the request of his dead mother. She will end up discovering an occult library and realise that the world of magic is far bigger and more dangerous than she ever could've imagined. Will she find the missing children and bring an end to this evil, or will it claim her too? Full Review

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Review of

Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell

5star.jpg Science Fiction

Prince Kiem is a famous political disappointment. He's outgoing, carefree, and has gotten into many drunken scandals over the past few years. So when an important political alliance is to be arranged – one that is supposed to prevent an interplanetary war – no one expects him to be chosen for the role. Least of all him. Full Review

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Review of

The Favour by Laura Vaughan

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

The rejection by Oxford came as a bit of a shock to Ada Howell: she was, after all, the daughter of the renowned author, Anthony Howell, who'd been to this college. Well, she wasn't actually Howell's daughter: he'd married her mother after her birth and had then adopted her, so she was 'chosen' rather than just 'made', which was better really. And whilst we're being honest, we might as well admit that 'renowned author' might be stretching the truth a little: his books degenerated into self-published poetry which Ada couldn't understand. Still, Ada had felt entitled and this was why her godmother's offer had come at such a brilliant time. Full Review

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Review of

Legacy: A Political Thriller by C A Sacha

4star.jpg Thrillers

Corporate boss Gene Finnegan has a plan to increase his already startling wealth and ensure his legacy: to bring the world's first emission-free car to market and dominate production. The secret development project to enable this, Bucephalus, is already underway and Finnegan bankrolls US president Joseph Montgomery into a second term to help him carry it out. Montgomery is also looking for a legacy and one that does not involve his controlling mother and her foundation, so grabs onto Finnegan's Feed Africa programme with both hands... Full Review

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Review of

The Primary Objective by Martin Venning

2star.jpg General Fiction

Sometimes a book starts off slowly, but eventually draws you in to caring about the characters or simply wanting to know what happens next. Sometimes it doesn't. The basic premise is a good one – a clandestine organisation, operating as a charity, but funded by various governments around the world and partially (maybe, I'm not sure) under the auspices of the UN, with the primary objective of keeping the peace, by any means possible. Diplomacy is always the first option and sometimes one that needs to be carried out by third parties, but for situations when that looks unlikely to yield results Peace International maintains a call-on list of field operatives, ex-military, medics, scientists or anyone else with a taste for adventure and willing to risk their life for the sake of it. Full Review

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Review of

Two Terrible Vikings by Francesca Simon and Steve May

4star.jpg Emerging Readers

In a small Viking village there live two twins, Hack and Whack, who are eager to be the very worst Vikings ever! Nothing can stop their mad marauding, as they cause havoc at a birthday party, chaos whilst tracking a troll, and undertake a grand journey to raid Bad Island with their friends! They get up to all kinds of mischief and naughty behaviour, along with their wolf-cub Bitey-Bitey, and their crazy cast of friends. Full Review

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Review of

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

3.5star.jpg General Fiction

Faye lost her mum when she was very young. She was raised by some elderly neighbours after her mum died from a cold that got worse, and although they were kind and very good to her she of course missed her mum enormously. So when, unexpectedly, she discovers a time travel conduit (via an old space hopper box in her attic) that takes her back to the 70's and her mum, she revels in the chance to create some memories and get to know the woman who meant so much to her. The time travelling, however, is neither easy nor safe, and Faye fears that her husband won't believe what's happening and so lies to him instead. The lies grow more tangled, and Faye begins to wonder if it's safe for her to return one last time to the past. Should she try to see her mum one last time before her mum's death, or will it change her own future forever to attempt it? Full Review

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Review of

The Night Hawks (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

4.5star.jpg Crime

The night hawks are metal detectorists and they're out on Blakeney Point where they suspect that there's treasure to be found. Unfortunately, the youngest of the group, twenty-one-year-old Troy Evans, finds the body of a man floating on the incoming tide. After pulling it ashore, they call the police. DCI Nelson thinks that it's probably the body of an asylum seeker but there's no evidence of any activity to be had from the coastguard. The dead man turns out to be Jem Taylor, a North Norfolk man recently released from prison. Full Review

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Review of

Slough House (Jackson Lamb 7) by Mick Herron

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Someone is killing secret service agents, past and present, from the Slough House team. Jackson Lamb can't understand it. Well, what he actually can't understand is why, having seen them, anyone would bother. But the deaths are mounting up and something needs to be done. After all when things went awry on Spook Street, they generally went the full Chris Grayling. Over at Regent's Park, Diana Taverner is quietly jubilant about an operation which saw the perpetrator of a Novichok poisoning in the UK (three people seriously injured and one dead) dispatched. It isn't just the message that was sent: she's also delighted that she managed to fund the operation off the books. Some private money was brought in. She won't always be so jubilant about this. Full Review

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Review of

The Art of Death by David Fennell

4.5star.jpg Crime

It was an art installation of the type which does appear in Trafalgar Square: a depiction of three homeless men in glass cabinets surrounded by liquid. Only this time it's not a depiction: these are the bodies of Billy Perrin, Stan Buxton and 34-year-old Noel Tipping. The installation is the work of @nonymous, underground artist and extreme version of Banksy. He's made a macabre promise: more will follow. In fact, we've already met the artist although not by name: he's been in the Lumberyard Cafe with his Moleskine notebook, Maki-e fountain pen, MacBook Air and iPhone. Elaine Kelly is there with her son, Jordan, and she's explaining to her best friend, Jackie Morris about the state of her marriage. Actually, it doesn't take a lot of explaining: Frank's attentions are obvious on her face despite the foundation she's applied. Chau Ho is behind the counter. There's someone online, CassandraH, that the artist has his eye on, too. Full Review

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Review of

The Invisible by Tom Percival

5star.jpg For Sharing

This is the story of Isobel, a little girl who made a big difference. Isobel lived with her parents in a house - a very cold house, because her parents couldn't afford to put the heating on:

Ice curled across the inside of the window and crept up the corner of the bedpost.

The family didn't go to the cinema or on holidays but they had each other and they were happy. Then the day came when they couldn't afford the rent for the house and they had to move to the far side of the city. This part of the city was cold, sad and lonely and Isobel felt invisible. Full Review