In a past life I used to write book reviews every week (you can find them over at alexjcall.wordpress.com) – but setting up a website, and reading about a million books a month has taken up all my time and I’ve not done any in-depth reviews for a while.
Fortunately, I’ve become much more productive AND I’ve built a new spreadsheet (you should know by now, I love a spreadsheet) which will help me not only keep track of the millions of books but also score them based on five factors:
I’ll talk more about these measures, why they’re important in and how I measure them in more depth in the future, but for now, it’s time to look at the first book to receive the Bert’s review treatment.
As the name suggests, the book focuses on the Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – as they solve crime in the sleepy setting of Haworth in West Yorkshire.
We join the sisters in the summer of 1845 when Charlotte receives news from her friend Matilda, a governess at nearby Chester Grange. Her mistress is missing and her bedroom is covered in blood.
It is Anne who first suggests that they investigate, having read about detectorists in the paper, but it is Emily who runs with it, determined that it not be against the wit of three intelligent women to be able to solve the mystery.
The three of them set off to Chester Grange to find out more about what has happened, and from there they find themselves embroiled in a plot that only gets more befuddling the further they look into it.
Bella Ellis is the pseudonym of Rowan Coleman, author of – amongst many other things – The Summer of Impossible Things. This is meant as a compliment, but if I hadn’t known that this book was written by Coleman, I wouldn’t have been able to guess.
I’ve never read any of the Brontës before, but the three sisters are written completely in period style, as if a classic Victorian writer had written the book themselves. The dialogue and their thoughts immediately take you straight into nineteenth century life, such that you simply cease to notice it’s a historical novel at all.
The plot itself is a satisfying mystery which is resolved without resorting to hiding anything from the audience, and definitely left me wanting more from the sisters – each of whom have distinct personalities.
It is clear Ellis/Coleman has a great fondness for the Brontës and as she notes herself in the acknowledgements, while there is no evidence that the sisters solved crime in their spare time, neither is there any evidence that they didn’t.
I’m not sure the book is enough to make me want to read anything by the Brontës, but it has definitely made me want to find out more about them – perhaps even a trip to Haworth is in order to see the parsonage.
A few notes on the scoring before I reveal it –
I favour a 1–10 scale as I think 5 doesn’t give a lot of difference.
I’m a harsh judge – I’ve never given a book perfect marks before – truly exceptional books will get a 9.
I’ll not review books which score less than five – it means I don’t recommend them, which means we don’t need to talk about them.
In a past life, I was responsible for shortlisting books for a prize, and I read some books I wouldn’t normally read.
One of those – and eventual winner of the prize – was the gothic horror novel The Silent Companions. Before reading this, I wasn’t really a fan of historical fiction, but it really seems to have converted me into the genre.
Bone China is the latest from author Laura Purcell.
It features Hester Why, a nurse who has moved to a remote part of the Cornish coast to avoid her own past. There she meets the strange inhabitants of Morvoren House, including the frail lady of the house Louise Pinecroft.
Hester is trying to keep a low profile, but also, she knows that something strange is going on and she starts trying to get to the bottom of it.
We alternate between Hester’s story and forty years previously when Louise first moves to the house with her father, a doctor who is trying to cure consumption.
The character that links the two stories is the creepy Creeda, a young maid that starts at the house when Louise and her father first move in. She comes from a family that produces Bone China and it’s this crockery that forms part of the gothic mystery.
I think I enjoyed this more than Silent Companions– it really pulls you into the world that you can almost feel the wind whistling around you as Louise walks across the cliffs.
Like Silent Companions it presents a gothic mystery, one that it doesn’t fully explain as well, so it leaves open the possibility that the fairies are real.
I read Daisy Jones & The Six right at the beginning of 2019 and declared then that I thought it was going to be one of my favourite books of the year.
I haven’t stopped banging on about it since then, so it seemed the right time to finally get around to doing my review of it.
It’s also part of Bert’s Books of the Year on twitter – check it out. #BBOTY
Set in the 1970’s, it’s the story of an average rock band who release the defining record of the era when they collaborate with Daisy Jones.
It has a unique way of telling the story – it’s a transcript of a Talking Heads TV documentary. The unseen interviewer speaks to various members of the band as well as people who were around the band as they rose to fame.
There are some members who don’t get spoken to, though it’s not clear why – is there a rift? Have they died? All options are quite possible as we learn about the bonds that formed amongst the band members – and the bonds that broke down over time.
It’s fascinating to see the relationships change, plus the different perceptions of different events. You almost forget that these aren’t real people – in fact, I had to google just to check.
Though it’s a book, you can almost hear the album sound-tracking the story, so it becomes a bit of a disappointment once you get to the end that the album doesn’t actually exist.
I was a bit put off at the beginning because the style is so different, however you very quickly get into the rhythm of it and the characters – particularly Billy and Daisy – end up staying with you longer after the final page.
It’s being made into a mini-series set to air on Amazon Video, and with Reese Witherspoon set to executive produce it looks like it will be a big hit, so make sure you’ve caught up on the book beforehand.
I’d read it, it was excellent and yet Matt was turned down by thirty publishers because the book was ‘too gay’.
It’s really not. I’ve read much gayer books – but they’re usually confined to the heavy tomes written by writers who suck on pipes and win the Booker.
If The Madonna of Bolton – the fastest funded book on Unbound – isn’t reaching the hands of the every day customer, how many other books aren’t I thought?
You know the rest – but the reason I’m talking about it today is that this week sees the publication of The Madonna of Boltonin paperback you can buy it on Bert’s, of course, but if you want to know more about how Matt ticks, here in his own words he explains ten important books from his life – handily, most of them are available to order by clicking on the links.
My mum first read this to me, my brother and sister when we were little and I was completely blown away. Over the next few years I must have read it myself at least ten more times. Because I was a camp, girly boy living in a rough northern town I never really fit in and had a horrible time at school. There were times I was so unhappy I would have loved nothing better than being whisked away to a fantasy world like Narnia, where I was a king and everyone loved me. I think that’s why the book made such an impact on me.
La Gloire de Mon Père by Marcel Pagnol
When I was a teenager I fell in love with learning different languages; I think that again part of the appeal here was escaping reality and transforming myself into a slightly different person. The first novels I read in French were by Marcel Pagnol and I loved them all, although this, the story of a young boy who bonds with his dad on hunting trips around their holiday home in Provence, is the first one that really drew me in. The films are lovely too.
Sex by Madonna
I was at sixth-form college when Sex was released in 1992 and my obsession with Madonna was at its height; as an outspoken ally of the LGBT community and a sexually confident woman whose insistence on expressing her desires labelled her a fellow outsider, I elected her as my spirit guide. Sex was a coffee-table book of explicit images exploring Madonna’s sexual fantasies that was shot by photographer Steven Meisel. The project represented the most transgressive move of Madonna’s career and saw most mainstream media outlets align against her for the first time. But this didn’t stop the limited edition of 150,000 sealed, aluminium-backed copies from selling out on the first day. I was struck by Madonna’s bravery as a feminist and the defiantly queer tone of much of the book, as well as the beauty and power of some of the imagery.
Fortunata y Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós
When I went to Cambridge to study French and Spanish literature, I found myself forced to read countless novels that I found really hard going. But I did fall in love with the work of Flaubert, Balzac, Zola and Gide in French, and Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa and Manuel Puig in Spanish. One of my favourite novels on the reading list was Fortunata y Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós, which was written in 1887 and tells the interlinking stories of two women of different classes living in Madrid. The book is bitingly critical of the class snobbery and sexism of the time and I loved it. When I spent a year living in Madrid between 1996 and 1997, I re-read it and would often stroll around the streets where it’s set bringing the characters to life in my mind.
By the time I left Cambridge, being forced to read and analyse so many worthy, academic books had pretty much killed all the joy I used to find in reading. That summer I went on holiday with two girlfriends and we each read a Jackie Collins. I picked up Hollywood Wives and within minutes I was drooling, gasping and giggling out loud on the beach. After years of feeling like my batteries had run out, it was as if somebody had switched me back on again. I’ve since read several of Jackie’s books and love her colourful characters, energetic plotting, and the intoxicating cocktail of humour, glamour and sex that she serves up every time.
When I started my career in TV arts programming, Jackie Collins was one of the writers I was lucky enough to interview – and over the years I’ve also had the opportunity to interview or work with David Mitchell, Alan Hollinghurst, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Jonathan Harvey and Barbara Kingsolver. But one of the first authors I interviewed for TV was Sebastian Faulks, whose World War 1 epic Birdsong is one of my favourite books of all time and was the first to reduce me to tears. Meeting its author made me see writers as real people and writing itself as something that maybe I too could do one day.
During the eight years I spent making documentaries for The South Bank Show, I worked with several amazing artists, including Carol Ann Duffy, Ewan McGregor, Darcey Bussell and Ian McKellen, each of whom inspired me in different ways to draw on my own creativity. But my early attempts at writing fiction were rejected by countless agents and publishers, something which left me feeling devastated. Then, in 2006, I made a documentary with Claire Tomalin about her biography of Thomas Hardy. I’d always loved Claire Tomalin’s work; although her biographies are impeccably researched, they read like freely-imagined fiction. And I was hooked on her latest when I discovered that, like me, Hardy was devastated when his first novel had been rejected for publication – and even when he’d achieved success, his work was often derided by critics. I went on to devour all of Hardy’s novels before setting off to shoot the documentary on location in Dorset and Cornwall, where I spent a wonderful few weeks that inspired me to keep writing and not to give up on my dream.
I love this book so much that I don’t think I could ever be friends with someone, and I certainly couldn’t fall in love with someone, if they didn’t feel the same way about it. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t read it, it tells a twenty-year love story through a series of set-piece scenes taking place on the same day at yearly intervals. I read it when I was writing my first novel Shot Through the Heart, when I’d been single for ages and needed switching back on to romance so I could make my own fictional love story come alive. One Day delivered exactly what I was looking for – and a whole lot more besides. It’s a book that has been written with such sensitivity and humanity I think it has the power to make everyone who reads it a better person.
Between 2010 and 2013 I worked as Culture Editor on Channel 4 News, reporting on all areas of the arts. During my time in the role I was lucky enough to meet even more amazing artists working in various fields, such as Grayson Perry, Pedro Almodóvar and the Spice Girls, but I made sure I devoted a lot of attention to stories about writers and the publishing industry as I was trying to use my position to finally secure a book deal for my own fiction. While covering the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize) I interviewed the author Madeline Miller, who’d just re-worked the Greek mythology in Homer’s The Iliad to create the gay love story at the heart of that year’s winning novel, The Song of Achilles. I don’t think you’ll ever read a more beautiful account of romantic, lustful and intimate love – gay or straight. I felt stunned after I’d read it – and was relieved to find that its author wasn’t just clever and talented but adorable and friendly too.
This series of novels set in San Francisco burst into life in the mid-1970s and they’re a riotous romp through the interlinking stories of several ‘gay, straight and travelling’ characters from different backgrounds, many of them tenants of 28 Barbary Lane, a boarding house run by transgender landlady Mrs Madrigal. It was while working as Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men, that I went to San Francisco to shoot and interview author Armistead Maupin. The experience was one of the things that inspired me to dig out my manuscript for The Madonna of Bolton, a novel I’d written that had been rejected by over thirty publishers who considered its gay content and central character ‘uncommercial’. I wanted to prove them wrong – and that’s when I decided to crowdfund the novel through Unbound and attempt to raise the funds in record time. I succeeded in seven days and this helped secure a mainstream release for the novel. It became a bestseller in hardback last year and attracted some very positive reviews – and now I can’t wait for it to be released in paperback!
The Madonna of Bolton is available in paperback from Thursday 16th May
I didn’t really like Paul takes the form of a mortal girl to start with – which is a funny thing to say as I’m now billing it as my book of the month! I found Paul quite unlikeable, but after about fifty pages or so, I was glad I stuck with it. The writing is top notch, and you really start to care about Paul – even if you don’t really like him…!
Paul is a shapeshifter. He changes his height, his hair colour even his gender to suit his mood as well as those around him.
He is confident in who he is, but then he falls in love and he starts to question everything. It’s a brilliant metaphor for a young person trying to find their way in the world and one of those books I’ll struggle to forget.
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna tells the story of Stella’s life through the eight brushes with death she has. One of the brushes is a distant brush so hard to know whether it counts, hence the title.
To understand Stella’s life, though, you must first understand that of her mother Assunta. Through her we learn about life in their village in the hills of Italy, and of Stella’s early life.
In fact, the stories of Assunta and Stella – spanning more than a hundred years – serve as a social history of Italian-Americans and in a way reminded me of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair but better.
Normal People by Sally Rooney Normal People has been one of the biggest hits of the last year since it was published in Hardback last August – it has the rare distinction of being shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book of the Year.
It was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 – so what makes it such a great book?
Rooney is one of the best young writers around and her energy shows in this novel of boy meets girl, bringing to it a believable look at what it means to be growing up in the modern era.
Connell and Marianne are in the same year at school, but they’re very different. For a start Connell’s mother is Marianne’s family cleaner. They don’t have much to do with each other apart from that, but one day, when Connell comes to meet his mother from work, that all changes.
We follow their lives and their on again off again romance through the years, as they both grow and learn to be who they’re meant to be.
We meet Tom and Esme on the night of their tenth anniversary. Esme has created a game for Tom to play – he has to p
ick the defining moments of their relationship from the past ten years – one for each hour of the day.
The book moves back and forth through time as Tom picks each of the moments that means something to them.
It’s definitely one of my books of the year – not only is a wonderful love story, but it explores male mental health, a subject that is currently not talked about enough.
Picture of Innocence is a difficult book to talk about – mostly because I don’t want to spoil anything for you!
Maddie is a busy woman – not only is she looking after three children but she’s also running a charity too. She’s just about keeping it all together on the outside – but a tragedy is set to send her whole life spiralling out of control
One of her children has been hurt – and she starts to suspect everyone of being responsible, even herself!
All the Little Lies is a brilliant thriller full of untrustworthy characters. It all kicks off when Eve receives an email with details the details of her birth mother.
Eve had always known she was adopted, but learning that her mother Stella was killed in a house fire in Italy is new information.
Told from alternating points of view as Eve investigates what really happened to Stella, we get to see it first hand from Stella’s point of view as events build to an unpredictable climax.
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding Little Darlings is a creepy, paranoid story about a woman who begins to believe her new-born twins have been taken by a strange a woman.
It starts when Lauren is on the maternity ward overnight and she sees an old looking woman lurking behind a curtain. She is chased into the bathroom and from there she rings for help… but no one believes her.
Only one person believes her, DS Joanna Harper.
Apart from the plot, one thing I liked about this book was that Harper is a bisexual woman, pursuing a relationship with another woman – and no one bats an eyelid. It’s not made a fuss of – and it’s things like this I want to see more of in fiction. Diverse characters where their difference isn’t driving the plot.
Critical Incidents by Lucie Whitehouse Critical Incidents is a more traditional crime novel. Although our protagonist is female, both her personal and professional life is in tatters. She’s been kicked out of the force she’s single and she’s sharing a bunk-bed with her daughter in her parent’s house.
When her best friend’s husband becomes the prime suspect in a murder she takes it on herself to investigate, but things are further complicated when she discovers the detective actually in charge of the case is her teenage sweetheart.
As well as the dark suspense you’d expect from a crime novel, the characters in this book feel real – all of which means you shouldn’t start this book before bed, else you might be up all night!
It’ll come as no surprise that my book of the month Paul takes the form of a mortal girl is the first title in this bundle, but what’s the second?
Hold starts off in Ghana with Belinda, a seventeen year old housemaid for a couple she knows as Uncle and Aunty. She has to break the news to her co-worker young Mary that she is leaving, being sent with Nana to live in London.
Mary doesn’t want her to go, but Belinda must and there she meets Amma, Nana’s teenage daughter.
The two young women are very different, from very different worlds but they start to form a bond in this beautiful novel. Donkor manages to capture real life so well, that you find yourself laughing at Belinda’s wry observations one moment to worrying for her the next.
Every month as well as picking two favourites from ALL the books, Bert picks one of those two be our Book of the Month – Damian Barr’s debut novel is that book.
It starts in the last days of what is now known as the Gentleman’s war – the Boer War in South Africa. We follow Sarah van der Waat as she is taken from her home and placed in a concentration camp by the British. These camps would go on to become the blueprint for the Nazi concentration camps – and what happened in those camps had a lasting effect on South Africa that is still being felt today.
As well as Sarah’s story, we move forward through the history of South Africa as we learn just how that war shaped the country today.
Diana Athill put it best by saying ‘You come out of reading it a different person from when you went in’.
A truly brilliant read that will stay with you long after you put it down.
Queenie is a very different kind of novel to Barr’s – but it also stays with you after reading as well.
It’s funny, but feels heartbreakingly real. Queenie is a young black woman trying to navigate her way through a mini-crisis of self. Who is she? Where does she belong in this world? Does she even like herself?
In short, she’s suffering from all the things we all suffer from, but for Bert it was the insights into her views on race that really made this book. It’s not the big moments, but the small ones, ones where we, the reader, offended on her behalf but Queenie simply shrugs them off as normal.
It might help you see society in a new way – or it will feel horribly familiar. Either way, it will make Queenie feel so vivid and real – you’ll be rooting for her all the way through.
Queenie is published on 11th April, so subscribers to the Bert’s Best Books bundle will receive their books week commencing 8th April 2019.
As well as Bert’s Best Books – Queenie also features in our Proud to be Different Bun
dle it is a startling insight into the life of a young black woman – but it’s not all about her race. It’s about a young woman growing up with all the challenges of life around her.
We would normally try to avoid putting a paperback into this bundle, but as it’s our first month we couldn’t resist shouting about this brilliant book and the way it explores the youth of our protagonist Eustace.
He’s growing up different in 1970’s Weston-Super-Mare – and he has to face all the challenges of growing up alongside trying to work out what these differences are.
But there are moments of Eustace’s older life which frame the younger years which are just as touching.
Patrick Gale is one of our favourite writers here at Bert’s and we mean no disrespect to his previous novels when we say we think this is one of his best yet.
There are moments of Eustace’s childhood which most men – straight or gay – will be able to identify with – but the sections where he describes playing the cello are surprisingly moving and among the highlights of a book filled with special moments.
Queenie is published on 11th April, so subscribers to the Proud to be Different bundle will receive their books week commencing 8th April 2019.
Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing With You is another book that is featured in more than one bundle – it’s also in our General Fiction paperbacks – it really is that good!
The Lido is a story about a young journalist and an old lady trying to save Brockwell Lido from developers doesn’t sound particularly likely at first – but it’s a great piece and a really nice commentary on loneliness in all its forms.
It also explores the changing nature of community – when Rosemary was young, her community were her friends and family who lived around her.
Fast forward to the modern day and both Rosemary and Kate are isolated, not really a part of any physical community as such, but as they start to work on saving the Lido, they find out that community hasn’t disappeared, it’s just changed a bit.
Page does a brilliant job of bringing the reader into the community that she creates as well. Ultimately, it’s a lovely, uplifting read.
The General Fiction paperback bundle is on its way to subscribers now.
Those of you who like your fiction a little less serious, a little bit more quirky, will love this novel from Jess Kidd – the bestselling author of Himself. It follows Bridie Devine – the most famous female detective of the Victorian era.
She’s fresh off one case that’s gone quite badly wrong, and now determined to do better on her mysterious new case – a girl kidnapped from her father, who seems to have strange abilities.
Bridie is joined by her seven-foot servant Cora and the ghost of an Irish boxer – Ruby Doyle. Somehow, Kidd makes all of this seem very believable and very real.
The General Fiction Hardback bundle is on its way to subscribers now.
The first of Crime and Thriller hardbacks follows Abigail Boone – a woman who wakes up in a room that is barely a room. She is being held prisoner and remembers nothing of how she got there, or even who she is.
After managing to escape Boone must put her life back together, even if she can’t
Discharged from the police force, living with a husband she can’t remember loving and a son she doesn’t remember giving birth to, she decides that the only way to try and start rebuilding her memories is to resume investigating the case she was following before her capture.
The disappearance of a young woman, now missing for five years.
Anna is suffering from a chronic lack of sleep – and when she does get sleep, she’s besieged by night terrors and horrible flashbacks to events she wishes she could forget.
Moving to the Isle of Rum in Scotland to avoid her past, she takes a job working in a hotel, where she is joined by seven guests – each of whom has their own secret. One of them appears to be out for murder, targeting Anna.
We were hooked from the blurb of this book straight away and we weren’t at all disappointed by it
The Crime and Thriller Hardback bundle will be dispatched in the week commencing 1st April.
From the bestselling author of Thirteen – this is one of those books you just have to read. It’s received a huge amount of critical acclaim including from C L Taylor – the author of one of our Hardback titles
So what’s it’s about? We don’t want to give too much away – so we’ll just give you the blurb on this one:
BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:
1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.
Our final book of April is this thriller from a debut author.
The titular Olivia is the daughter of Abi Knight who wakes one night to a phone call from the local hospital with terrible news. Olivia has fallen from a bridge and is now in a critical condition on life support.
We follow the story in two time frames, from Olivia’s point of view in the run up to the accident, and from Abi’s as she tries to find out just what happened on the bridge that fateful night.
A read that you will struggle to put down, early on you will think you know where this is going, but trust us, you don’t.
The Crime and Thriller Paperback bundle will be dispatched in the week commencing 1st April.
The oldest book in Bert’s Top Nine is the first in the long running Roy Grace series – the fifteenth instalment Dead at First Sight is due out in May 2019.
The Roy Grace books can be read as standalone novels, but the magic of this series is in its continuing characters – Glenn Branson, Bella Moy, Norman Potting and Cleo Morey are amongst those who feature within Roy Grace’s world and continue to grow and develop throughout the books.
These characters along with the underlying mystery of Grace’s missing-presumed-dead wife Sandy help add a sense of jeopardy to the popular crime series, while James’ tireless research brings a gritty realism that other police procedurals lack.
After reading Dead Simple you’ll very quickly want to devour the entire series
The hero of one of Gale’s finest novels – Harry Cane (not the footballer) – is a well-off bachelor, living at the beginning of the twentieth century. His life is ticking along nice, although he has no job to speak of, nor does he have any particular commitments either.
When he helps his brother court his future wife, he meets a woman of his own whom he quickly marries and has a child. Scandal soon threatens to hit however, when his affair with another man is discovered. In order to keep it quiet and protect his wife and daughter from the news, Harry signs over his entire wealth and boards a boat to start a new life in Canada.
This sounds like a novel in itself, but this is merely a prelude to the main thrust of the novel – Cane’s attempts to start a new life in the rural, undiscovered, uninhabited plains of Canada.
All of this unique tale is told in Gale’s beautiful prose that a 200-word summary could never do justice to.
The phrase ‘shortlisted for the Man Booker prize’ will usually have one of two effects on a reader. Either they’ll rush out and buy it, or they’ll avoid it like the plague. This is the book you should cast aside your preconceptions for.
It’s a hefty tome – at 700+ pages, it’s no one session read, but the time invested in this story is immensely rewarding. It follows the tale of four men – Jude & JB & Willem & Malcolm.
The chances are if you’re not aware of the novel, then you’ve at least seen these four names on merchandise in a book shop – or emblazoned across Anton Porowski’s chest in episodes of Netflix’s Queer Eye. They are the four lead characters of what is fast becoming a modern classic.
Yanagihara’s epic tells of the relationships between these four men, particularly their relationships with the enigmatic Jude St Francis. It tells of all kinds of male relationships from platonic to paternal, sexual to fraternal.
This is Bert’s favourite book of all time – and it has created a special bond, a fellowship of knowing looks, between anyone who has read it. Highly recommended, just make sure you have some tissues on hand for the emotional climax
This spooky offering from Dutch writer Heuvelt sees a town in North America besieged by the ghost of the Black Rock Witch.
For the residents of Black Spring, her presence is tolerated, expected. Both her eyes and mouth are sewn together protecting them from the curse, the myth that the whole town will be destroyed should the stitches ever be removed.
While they live a normal life within the town, none of its population can be allowed to leave. With Black Spring in quarantine, a group of teenagers are starting to grow restless. They set in motion a chain of events that will change their lives forever.
In the tradition of horror maestro Stephen King, Hex is more than just a spooky, gory story. It explores the mass hysteria and paranoia that can fall upon any small community and it does so in a way that will leave you questioning can you always believe what you’ve always believed?
All of this builds to a heart-pumping, page-turning climax that will leave you reading well into the witching hour.
Soon to be made into a Netflix series this is a brilliantly simple yet unique concept. A person’s DNA can reveal the identity of their one true love – but only if they are also on the database.
The One follows five different characters, exploring different questions that would be raised by such a discovery:
Is it ethical to sell this data? What if your one is not the person you’re married to? What if the one lives thousands of miles away? What if the one for you is a serial killer? What if there is no one?
Cycling through our five main characters one chapter at a time, it’s easy to see how this addictive book could be made into an anthology series. Each of the chapters is short, constantly pushing you on to just one more.
The stories are largely unconnected, but they do brush up against each other sometimes – creating some truly gasp-out-loud moments. A fun read, that will leave you eagerly anticipating the TV series.
Another book that will leave you wanting more – in a good way!
Tom Hazard suffers from a rare genetic condition, he ages at a tenth of the rate as everyone else, which means that while he appears to be a sprightly forty-one years old, he’s been alive for over four centuries.
A brilliant concept that gives huge scope for more tales set within the same world, especially as Hazard starts to look for others like him.
But forget that huge scope for now, How to Stop Time concentrates on one man’s life. While he may experience life at a slower rate he suffers many of the same emotional problems as the rest of us – he just has to do it over and over again.
Constantly reinventing his life, Hazard avoids making any long term connections, but someone is about to enter his life that will the test this resolve.
Soon to be made into a feature film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is another of those read-it-firsts that will soon be everywhere.
This beautiful novel – almost a novella at just over 200 pages long – is one that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Ellis and Michael are best friends growing up, a twosome that cannot be separated, that is until Annie enters the scene. What happens next is not necessarily what you expect.
The two men do not fight over the woman in their life, instead the three of them become bonded with Ellis at the centre of the triumvirate. Annie, his wife, and Michael his best friend.
With such a short page-length, Winman does not waste a single word in this moving tale of love and grief. By page forty – a point at which longer novels are still only getting to grips with the characters – Tin Man will have you feeling so intensely for its characters, Ellis specifically, that you will find tears pricking the corners of your eyes.
While a novel to be savoured, you will find yourself immersed in its poetry, weeping as it breaks your heart and then heals it all over again. It’s a story you won’t forget in a long time.
Anyone that tells you they saw the massive success of this memoir coming is a liar or a witch. Sitting atop the Non Fiction charts for forty+ consecutive weeks if you haven’t yet read This Is Going To Hurt then you’re the only one.
Kay is now a comedian and writer, but in a past life he was a junior doctor specialising in obstetrics – this is an account of that time of his life, with the names changed to those from the Harry Potter series to protect the innocent.
(If nothing else, spotting the Potter names is a fun game in itself)
Initially this is what might be known as the perfect toilet book. Short diary entries which don’t need a lot of time invested in them, it can be picked up and flicked through at the reader’s leisure. But it builds to a powerful crescendo as you discover the reason why Kay decided to leave the profession.
Like all good books, this is being developed as a TV series, but this truly is one where you should read the source material first, because the first time you don’t want the first time you come across a de-gloving incident to be through a visual medium. Trust us.
Cannon’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was one of the biggest hits of recent years, but with Three Things About Elsie she brings us a novel that does the almost-impossible and surpasses its predecessor.
Florence lives in a care home, nearing the end of her live. In fact, she’s lying on the floor of her flat in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly when we meet her. She’s suffering from dementia, but there are some things that are clear as day to her.
As she lies there, waiting to be rescued she reminisces about life with her best friend Elsie, both in the youth they spent together and in their time at the care home.
There are three things to know about Elsie. 1) She’s Flo’s best friend; 2) She always knows what to say to make Flo feel better; 3) And… and… what is the third thing?
As Florence tries to remember what brought her to that moment, we are treated to the tragic, heartbreaking reality of what it means to be elderly, of the effects of dementia – but also the power of friendship.
Which of these is your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comment below.