Lullaby by Leila Slimani
 
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Lullaby by Leila Slimani

The baby is dead.” It is this genius opening line of the book that first grips you (by the throat) and doesn’t let go until you turn the final page. 

Lullaby is the story of Myriam and Paul, a young couple with two small children and their nanny Louise. When Myriam decides to return to work, a choice accepted only reluctantly by Paul, the couple hire Louise, prim and proper, with her Peter Pan collar and her hair tied back in a clean knot, to look after their children. “My Nanny is a miracle-worker," Myriam proclaims to her friends, as they file in for Louise’s perfect meals in the small but, thanks to Louise, perfectly tidy apartment. Louise adores the children who adore her right back and Myriam and Paul can’t believe their luck and return to the lives they had dreamt of for themselves.

Things are, of course, never quite as they seem and as Louise slowly weaves herself into the fabric of the family, author Leila Slimani takes the reader back into the dark story and history of this woman who while she is in control of everything in Myriam and Paul’s life has lost control of everything in her own life. Her enhanced position in the household juxtaposed with the life she lead in the shadows of French society and the dark streets of Paris.

Lullaby is a beautifully written, atmospheric thriller, but it is also a strong and deftly crafted critique of society; of those who rise up and those who spend their lives in an unstoppable freefall towards the bottom.

The ending is on the first page, but the journey back to that beginning is at turns exciting, sad, thought provoking and frightening.

Lullaby is a book that requires a few breaks, but can so easily be read in just one sitting, breathlessly, anxiously on the edge of your seat.

Do it. You won’t regret it!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Lullaby by Leila Slimani  

Hannah Gough
Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be by Kevin John Scott
 
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Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be by Kevin John Scott

'Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn’t possibly be' is a fantastic tale based in the near environment of the scandinavian countries. Frederik Sandwich was born in Frederik’s Hill where almost every male in the town was called Frederik. However he is not completely from the place, Frederick was born on Frederiks hill  because his family moved there before he was born, hoping to start a new and peaceful life. Although the fact that Frederik Sandwich was born on Frederik’s Hill he wasn’t treated the same way as the rest of the inhabitants of the hill. Frederik was constantly bullied at school and throughout his day. But when a peculiar ‘earthquake’ occurs at Frederik’s Hill Frederiks life changes forever. With Pernille tha strange and so called ‘freak’ or ‘weirdo’ of the school drags Frederik Sandwich into an investigation on the peculiar events that are occuring throughout Frederik’s Hill. The two soon discover intriguing facts on the towns history and on her ‘ladyship the mayor’ Muriel Kristensen. Frederik and Pernille discover the whereabouts of a crazy tramp and a train conductor and will do the impossible to save the mayor from being harmed.  Will Frederik and Pernille save Frederik’s Hill…

My favourite character in this fantastic book is Pernille, I love her smartness and quick-thinking, her agility and caringness. I can compare many skills and attributes to her including her love for reading and thirst for adventure. My opinion on this novel is that it is very gripping and is full to the brim with intriguing characters, marvelous plots, mysterious cases, and most of all friendship and trust. I love the way this novel makes you turn the pages non stop always looking forward for a new chapter and twist and turns to the already quirky storyline. I, Lahiri Paolella greatly recommend to all the Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart fans and all other magnificent and quirky books, and trust me this book will amaze you!     

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Frederik Sandwich and the earthquake that couldn't possibly be by Kevin John Scott

 

Hannah Gough
Educated by Tara Westover
 
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Educated by Tara Westover

Educated reads like a novel but is a true story of the kind that is almost impossible to believe.

Tara Westover grew up on a mountainside in Idaho in a mormon survivalist family. The winters were harsh and isolating, the summers spent canning fruit, collecting weapons, learning morse code and planning for the end of the world. Tara and her five siblings, several of which were not even registered at birth, are not allowed to attend school, but spend instead their days working with their father in his scrapyard or making herbal mixtures with their midwife mother.

It is a life dominated by fear, isolation, injuries and pain inflicted by parents and siblings suffering from emotional and psychological challenges that go untreated and undetected.

The family’s conviction that the government is out to get them, that they will not be allowed to live according to their norms and beliefs and that they must therefore always be prepared to defend themselves against the outside world leads to life threatening decisions and a paranoia that colors their every move.

More than anything Tara experiences a world where there is absolutely no room for dissent, no allowance for different choices or outside voices. Even as she starts to slowly move away, to separate herself emotionally and physically from her parents and even years later when she finds herself in an entirely different life, she struggles to trust her own voice and her own strength:

“Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

Tara Westover’s story is one of resilience, courage and grit. She succeeds in catapulting herself from no schooling to university, first in Utah and later at Cambridge and Harvard. Every decision comes with its own price tag and it is fascinating to watch Tara realize that education is so much more than math, reading and writing. It is about community, about friendships and about understanding social and cultural norms.

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to grow up thinking that yours is the only world, only to realize at the age of 17 that everyone has lived in a different world. One where you don't have to sleep with a packed backpack under your bed ready for the world to go under; a world where historical and scientific facts matter and a world where the government, schools and doctors are your friends not your enemies.

Educated reminded me in many ways of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It too was the hard to believe story of a young girl growing up under circumstances that were at once, strange, terrible and fascinating. But what the two books mainly have in common is a lack of sentimentality which becomes both authors and both books. Neither woman sees herself as a victim and neither woman hates her family; both women genuinely try to understand the choices their parents made and both women rise above and go way beyond what could reasonably have been expected of them. And for that they deserve our admiration.

Educated is a fascinating and riveting read. You won’t be able to put it down - Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Educated by Tara Westover  

Hannah Gough
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
 
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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer is a book filled to the brim with intrepid characters, deadly animals of the Amazon rainforest and a lost city in the neverending wild. Fred is on an airplane directed to Manaus, with him are two brazilian looking kids a boy and a girl,  whose names are Max and Lila, and a anxious looking british girl whose name is Con. Everything is quite normal until the airplane crashes in the Amazon rainforest. The only survivors of the crash are the kids, Fred, Max, Lila and Con. They soon realize that they have to work together to survive in the harsh jungle. During their daring  journey through the amazon they discover a cigar box with a mysterious map inside - that's when the journey really starts. So now the intrepid children follow the map in the cigar box to a lost city during their voyage they encounter a baby sloth who is taken care by the animal loving Lila. The kids soon arrive to the lost city marked by the map after weeks of surviving and hard work. There they cross paths with a intruiging man whom they nickname The Explorer. But the kids are not sure he is entirely willing to help…

I loved this book because of the complexity of the characters and the gripping storyline full of courage and nature. My favourite character in the novel is Fred the intelligent and daring young man, who is very fascinated by the explorers of lost cities and archeologists of old civilaizations. I reccomend this book to fans of M.G. Leonard and all books filled with Kid - Power!

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Explorer by Katherine Rundell 

 

Hannah Gough
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
 
 

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Death and the Penguin is a cool and quirky book by Ukranian writer Andrey Kurkov. It tells the story of an unsuccessful writer called Viktor who is living in Kiev during the post Soviet turmoil in the early 1990s.

His only companion in the quiet and isolated life that he leads is a penguin called Misha who he adopted when the zoo in Kiev could no longer feed and look after all the animals. Misha is clearly living in the wrong environment for a penguin and is seemingly depressed, but potters quietly around the apartment and provides company for lonely Viktor.

Viktor's life changes however when he is hired by a newspaper to write obituaries. He is given files of famous people who are still alive and his job is to create a bank of work that will be readily available should these people die. He is initially pleased to have regular work and a regular income but things quickly become more sinister when the subjects of his obituaries start dying. Misha the penguin is also dragged into this murky situation when it is requested that he attends (for a fee) the funerals and wakes of those that have died.

The book isn't laugh out loud funny and is better described as black comedy; a slightly exaggerated and comic take on the difficulties of navigating the post Soviet world where all the rules and social cohesion that had previously existed have been swept away. Mafia gangs have infiltrated society and life is cheap but the serious subject matter is dealt with in a charming way through the eyes of Viktor, Misha the penguin and the various people he forms friendships and relationships with during the story.

I really enjoyed reading 'Death and the Penguin' and will definitely be seeking out 'Penguin Lost', which is the sequel to Viktor and Misha's story.

Reviewed by Alison Walker

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov  

Hannah Gough
The Whiz Mob And The Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

The Whiz Mob And The Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

'The Whiz Mob And The Grenadine Kid' is an enchanted tale of friendship pickpocketing and intriguing adventures. I read this book in less than 5 days it kept making me turn the page countless times non stop, hanging to every word the book told you. One reason that I loved this book is how the author really describes the setting in the story, in this case Marseille 1961, the pearl of the mediterranean. I also really enjoyed the storyline, with all its twists and turns, pickpocketing and binging (means to steal or pickpocket in whiz Mob slang).

Briefly the storyline is simple but thorough and very catchy, Charlie Fisher is a rich american 12 year old, who meets a pickpocket band called the Whiz Mob. He slowly gets closer and closer to the gang and starts to take part in their pickpocket robberies and routines. At that point his life takes a completely different turn, and more important things are at stake. My favourite character in this book is Charlie due to his courage, love for writing and intelligence. If you love dramatic adventure (and pickpocketing) I highly recommend this book!

 Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

 Happy Reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Whiz Mob and Grenadine Kid! 

Hannah Gough
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
 
 

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling is the story of Turtle Alveston, a 14 year old girl who lives with her father Martin in a run down and isolated house beside the coast in Northern California. Martin is a widow and Turtle's mother is said to have drowned when she was small, but her grandfather also lives in a caravan on the property and she appears to get on well with him.

At the beginning of the book Turtle has no friends and is very rigidly controlled by her father who is a philosophy reading eco-warrior, and a brutal survivalist. He is obsessed with guns and taught Turtle to shoot at the age of 6. Turtle is independent, struggles at school and knows how to survive. However for the reader it is hard to really get to know Turtle because the life she has led has made her silent and insular. She loves her father, seems to accept that she cannot escape but also longs to be free of him. This leads her to push the boundaries he sets which inevitably lays her open to abusive retaliation.

Things change for Turtle when she rescues two boys called Jacob and Brett who are lost on a hike.  They are a funny double act who accept her as she is and manage to penetrate her reserve. For the first time in her life she has friends and it is a massive understatement to say that this situation does not go down at all well with Martin.

When Gabriel Tallent first started writing the book it was meant to be about ecological disaster but although the main subject matter eventually changed dramatically, the book does still retain some wonderful descriptions about the landscape and nature.  Turtle goes hiking through the countryside, goes crabbing with her grandfather, catches eels with Jacob, and catches and eats Scorpions with a little girl called Cayenne who her father brings home one day. Occasionally the descriptions are hard to follow, for example when Jacob and Turtle get caught in some sort of strange tide and nearly drown, but on the whole I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

Overall though, My Absolute Darling is not an easy book to read.  In fact, I had to mentally prepare myself every time I picked it up. That isn't to say that I didn't like it, although opinions were mixed amongst our book club members, because once I was reading it I was inevitably sucked in to the story. I loved the descriptions of the Californian landscape, and I was very invested in Turtle's story. However, Martin is often extremely abusive and cruel and it can be challenging to read. It was impossible to tell how the book was going to end but it was clear throughout that the story was hurtling towards a shattering conclusion.

Reviewed by Alison Walker

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent!  

Hannah Gough
Battle of the Beetles by M. G. Leonard
 
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Battle of the Beetles by M.G. Leonard


The last-gasp conclusion of the Beetle Boy series. This book starts off from where the previous novel of the series (Beetle Queen) wrapped up. Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt just returned from their trip to Los Angeles film awards, where the evil fashionista Lucretia Cutter based her latest attack on humanity, threatening the globe of beetle infestations on crops around the world.

However Darkus and his friends held tight and vigorously fought against Lucretia Cutter who now is an enormous titan beetle, due to the effects of the pupator. But Lucretia didn’t leave before snatching Darkus's just found father, Bartholomew Cuttle. Although the struggle Darkus's Dad managed to share the coordinates of Lucretia's biome in the middle of the Amazon. Now, Darkus, his friends and Uncle Max ( and the beetles from base camp) are plotting a risky trip to the biome to save the world, and Darkus’s Dad. Using Uncle Maxes friends plane they manage to travel to the amazon. When they arrive they have to face the harsh Amazon Rainforest, fighting snakes, facing incredibly spiteful monkeys, and keeping away from any dangerous animals. But in the end when they get to the Biome things don’t quite go as planned.  Darkus and his friends now have to face Lucretia Cutter for (hopefully the last time)... 

I've read hundreds of books but I think this one hugely entertained me. For I highly recommend this book to all beetle fans around the globe (mostly those who have read Darkus previous adventures). Due to its fabulous characters whom I love immensely. Also to M.G. Leonards wonderful writing style. So believe go to one of the only English bookstores in Copenhagen, Books & Company and read it yourself.

Reviewed by Lahiri Paolella (Aged 11)

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Battle of the Beetles by M. G. Leonard  

 

Hannah Gough
Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
 
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Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Fortune Smiles is a morally complex and thought provoking collection of short stories, embedded with love, loss, technology and disaster.

Entwined within these themes are characters you least expected to meet. A former Stasi prison warden, unwilling to come to terms with his inhumane past. A UPS driver desperately searching for the mother of his son in the aftermath of hurricane torn Louisiana. A refugee from North Korea disturbed by his new freedom. A woman plagued by a terminal illness, trapped alone with the unsettling thoughts in her mind of how life will continue on without her.   

From Louisiana to Berlin to North and South Korea, the reader is taken on a tour of devastated american cities to abandoned prison chambers. Stories that are tucked away in the corners and hidden in the shadows of the world you know but don't fully understand. These riveting stories will introduce you to new realities, new personalities, and new outlooks on life.

This collection of short stories balance on the fragile seesaw between life and death, right and wrong and good and bad. They are filled with unique and unusual characters that practically leap right off the pages straight into your mind. These new voices will confuse you, fascinate you and will continue to reside in your thoughts long after reading this book.

Fortune Smiles is the type of book, whose characters, settings and perspectives you can't help but revisit and question, because of just how intriguing and layered they are.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson  

 

Hannah Gough
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
 
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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a story of secrets wrapped in mystery, wrapped in drama, wrapped in love.

It's the story of Elena Richardson who has spent her whole life building the perfect life with the perfect husband in the perfect neighborhood with four children of whom unfortunately only three are perfect. 

It's the story of what happens when a stranger, Mia Warren, with her own layered story of secrets wrapped in mystery wrapped in love moves into the perfect neighborhood with her teenage daughter Pearl in tow, testing the tolerance and inclusiveness the Mrs Richardsons of the world - and of Shaker Heights - pride themselves on. 

To those who followed Celeste, Madeline, Jane and Renata in Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, parts of Little Fires Everywhere will feel eerily reminiscent of the sense of foreboding that fills the viewer/reader with dread from the very beginning. 

There is something so dangerous about communities that cling so hard to outward perfection that they become deaf to what's going on inside - or oblivious to what's coming at them from the outside.

But Celeste Ng is also telling the age old story of the lengths a mother will go to to protect her child, in this case even if it means harming the child in the process.

A very enjoyable read with surprising twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng  

 

Hannah Gough
Delicious by Ruth Reichl
 
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Delicious by Ruth Reichl

I love food, I love cookbooks and I have a particular soft spot for food writing!

I was therefore, along with many others greatly saddened when Condé Nast decided to close down Gourmet magazine which had been edited for years by the wonderful Ruth Reichl, formerly the food critic at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Fortunately for us all, however, Ms Reichl has a number of books such as Tender at the Bone and Comfort me with Apples, in which she tells the story first of growing up with a mother (the food-poisener, known as the Queen of Mold) and then her own road to a life with food. 

My personal favorite is Garlic & Sapphires about her start and early years as the New York Times food critic at a time when the New York restaurant scene was in its infancy with just a handful of star restaurants and no appreciation or understanding whatsoever for all the different cuisines that would come to be the hallmark of the city’s culinary life. The book is filled with great stories from a bygone age and peppered throughout with Ruth Reichl’s wonderful sense of humor.

With Delicious, Ruth Reichl has moved into fiction territory with a novel about a young girl, Billie Breslin, who grows up in the shadow of her perfect older sister whom she admires tremendously and with whom she starts a small homespun cake shop. The sister is the artist, while Billie has an exceptionally well developed palate. For reasons which shall not be divulged here, Billie decides to move to New York to work at Delicious, an iconic food magazine where she meets a colorful bunch of people from the chefs who test recipes to the Italian deli owner who refuses to compromise on quality. When the magazine folds, Billie stays on answering letters from readers all over the country and finds a long hidden and forgotten correspondence that puts her on a mysterious trail meant - in the end - to help her come to terms with who she is.

If Delicious sounds a bit light, it is. It feels very much like a made-for-television script to be enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea and a slice of delicious gingerbread cake (check out the recipe in the book) - and for that purpose it is perfect.

If, however, you are looking for some of the best food writing around, then I highly recommend picking up one of Ruth Reichl’s non-fiction books, especially Garlic & Sapphires.

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Delicious by Ruth Reichl  

 

Hannah Gough
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
 
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Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Yes, it is THAT Tom Hanks and much to many people’s surprise, THE Tom Hanks has written a collection of entertaining, well-crafted short stories that provides what is, these days, a rare commodity: a warm fuzzy feeling and a smile on your face. There is no pretense of high literary style here, just good old fashioned story telling with a twist. 

Most of the 17 short stories are unrelated, with a few being pulled together by the same cast of four friends. The stories are in turn moving, thoughtful and some are downright hilarious. 

One thing that all the stories do have in common, however, is a sense of wholesomeness, Tom Hanks style. It is obvious that Mr Hanks would like to shine a light on - and remind the reader of - the good old fashioned values and virtues that make America great (not again, just great) the ones that welcome immigrants, respect diversity - and put a man on the moon. 

The stories all celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary. There are no heroes in the stories - not the kinds we read about in the papers at least - but plenty of everyday heroes who try to navigate the difference between right and wrong and whose moral compasses are set on trying to always "do the right thing". 

Uncommon Type does feel like a drink of water in the desert of our current political climate, but the harking back to times when, at least the idea of such values was stronger in American society, can also at times seem a bit too nostalgic and Pollyanna like. 

But maybe we could all do with a bit of nostalgia and Pollyanna for a few hours.

Happy reading! 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks 

 

Hannah Gough
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
 
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The sun and her flowers is like a warm cup of tea to comfort your soul and a sweet symphony that you'll find your heart twirling and dancing to. This unique and beautiful poetry book is divided up into five different chapters that explore the cycle of wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming. Through this book you are taken on a rollercoaster ride of the ups and the downs, the beauty and the pain, the hope and the fear, the strength and the weakness, and the love and the hate.

What really sparked my fondness for this book and enriched the reading experience for me, were the raw and delicate illustrations that accompanied the poems. The illustrations are done by Rupi herself, and add a new fresh layer of depth and meaning. I also love how the collection of poems in each chapter delve into a distinct and diverse sea of emotions, thoughts and topics that people can connect with and relate to in different ways. You will come out with a new sense of strength and power after reading this book, as the words will guide you on a journey from wilting and being at your lowest point to blooming and reaching your highest point.

The sun and her flowers is the perfect book to lift you up and inspire you on a dark and gloomy day. The sun and her flowers is the perfect book to pick up all your broken pieces and make them new and whole again. The sun and her flowers is the perfect book for anyone looking to escape and get lost in the pure beauty and fluency of poetry.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Sun and Her Flowers! 

 

Hannah Gough
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
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I Am Malala is a powerful and inspirational book, that tells the story of one courageous girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. Malala was just 17 years old when she received the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest ever recipient. Her passion, determination, and bravery resonates deeply within each and every page, touching the hearts and encouraging the minds of many.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, they banned all girls from going to school. They took their books and pens, and gave them pots and pans. They took their knowledge and joy, and replaced it with fear and sorrow. A storm cloud of gloom cast the valley into darkness, but there was one blazing beam of light that refused to be extinguished. Malala fiercely spoke out against the Taliban, through speeches and interviews, demanding that the gift of education be handed back to girls. When the Taliban threatened her, she spoke up even louder, With a thirst for education that could not and would not be quenched.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when Malala was just 15, she was shot in the head at point blank range by the Taliban, while riding the bus home from school. They thought their bullets would silence her, but instead they amplified her voice. intensifying her strength, to fight with her burning devotion for girls rights and education for all. Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on a remarkable journey, from a remote valley in Pakistan to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. Malala is an icon for peaceful protest and a role model for girls all around the world.

I Am Malala is an absolute must read, that highlights just how much we take for granted every day; freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the freedom to dream. For although Malala wasn't allowed to dream beyond the Taliban's strict rule, she took her dream of equality for girls and education, watered it day by day with love and care, and watched it blossom into something beautiful that sheds it petals all around the world today.    

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF I AM MALALA!

Isabella Smith
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
 
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The Woman in Cabin 10 is a gripping story that plays on deception and the struggle of disentangling reality from delusion. Its claustrophobic atmosphere will entice your curiosity and keep you longing to explore and dive deeper into this unsettling, yet eerily beautiful thriller.

Lo Blacklock is a travel journalist who has been presented with the assignment of a lifetime, a chance to travel onboard the Aurora, a brand new boutique cruise ship travelling through the Norwegian fjords, offering nothing but luxury and leisure. At first she is overwhelmed by the floating palace that is to be her home for the next week, astounded by the dazzling chandeliers, extravagant dinner parties and grand cabins.

A perfectly smooth sailing trip, or so it seems until the night that Lo bears witness to something so chilling and horrific, from the next door cabin, that it threatens to drown her in a single crashing wave of fear. A scream biting the air, a splash interrupting the calm of the waves, a smear of blood staining the glass, a body sinking into the depths of oblivion; these were the sights and sounds that would be forever etched into Lo’s mind.

Desperate to find answers,  Lo learns that no one ever checked into cabin 10 and that no passengers are missing from the boat. Dazed and confused, Lo is certain that she saw a body being thrown overboard, but could it possibly all just be a bad nightmare?

This tense thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat, captivated by the dark unknown and guessing right till the very end.

Reviewed by Vindhya Kathuria

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF The Woman in Cabin 10! 

 

Hannah Gough
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
 
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Turtles All The Way Down is the new riveting book by John Green, that encapsulates a young girl name Aza’s plight both mentally and with the mystery she must solve.

When her witty and curious friends discover that she was childhood friends with a boy whose father has disappeared and that there is a pretty hefty sum awaiting those who find him, it  causes Aza to dig up her past. The result of their endeavors is far more than they ever could have expected.  

This book is incredibly captivating and very different from any other book I have read. I enjoyed it immensely! What I found especially fascinating was that while there is a general plot and set of interactions between the characters, the real story lies in Aza’s struggles with herself and her mind. In this book, Green pulls out all the stops and really let’s his imagination choose where the story should lead. This results in Aza’s every thought being documented, making her character very relatable and I think most people will feel the same way. Of course, very few people actually understand what she is going through as she has a medical condition, but thanks to Green’s exceptional writing, you can put yourself in her shoes and absolutely feel what she feels.

This book is a perfect cross between a thrilling mystery and a poignant tale of a girl struggling with a mental disorder. It mixes the harsh realities of life, with the uplifting slightly comical fiction of a mystery, all topped off with a heartwarming tale of young love. I most definitely recommend this book to everyone of all ages as it is enlightening and an absolute page turner.

Reviewed by Anna Maryam Smith

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Turtles All The Way Down! 

 

Hannah Gough
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
 
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Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest book, What Happened, could not have been an easy book to write. To put it mildly…..because what it really is, is a 500 page balancing act. 

To criticize your opponent (even if he is Donald Trump) in such a way that you make sure you don’t come across as a sore loser (despite winning the popular vote), not easy. To temper your need to explain the role of others in your defeat with a willingness to take responsibility for your own mistakes, not easy.

These are pitfalls that Mrs Clinton is acutely aware of and while the reader is left with no doubt as to where she feels the blame should be placed for the fact that she didn’t win and that we now have someone she believes to be a menace to society and the world in The White House, it is obvious that the former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady has done some soul searching to try to understand how this could have happened

The best parts of the book are perhaps the ones where she describes her own personal experience of running for president of the United States as the female nominee of a major party, - a first in American history. In a race where personality plays such an enormous role, Hillary Clinton has had to struggle with an image of insincerity, that people didn’t ever believe she was being genuine, that they didn’t feel like they really knew her to the point that she was treated as someone incapable of emotion and immune to insult. Her response to this in the book and the descriptions of what it all felt like before, during and after the election are perhaps the most poignant.

Hillary Clinton is also angry, not just on her own behalf, but also on behalf of her supporters, her staff, her party and her country. She is sincerely concerned about the way the election turned out, the key players who she feels orchestrated it, the people who allowed it to happen and, of course, the man who won thanks to an electoral college system she fervently opposes and criticizes. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the bulk of it is placed squarely on the shoulders of FBI Director Comey and the Russian involvement / hacking of the election process. 

What Happened also tries to reconcile her role as someone who is so clearly part of the establishment, someone almost doomed to win right up until the moment she lost, with the role of the outsider, the woman destined against all odds to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling on behalf of women everywhere. She makes it very clear that much of her strength comes from the women she has met throughout her life; the ones who raised her, literally and metaphorically, the ones she studied, learned from, tried to emulate and tried to educate throughout her life. Indeed, some of the most heartfelt, defiant passages of the book relate to women, the women’s movement, the role and struggle of women in politics and public life.

In What Happened Hillary Rodham Clinton tries to explain, understand and move on. Yes, she is angry, yes she is hurt, yes, she is at times biased and yes, taking responsibility and letting go of grudges don’t come easy to her, but after all that has happened and especially given where we are today #imstillwithher

Happy reading!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF What Happened! 

 

Hannah Gough
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
 
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Mohsin Hamid’s beautiful novel Exit West, recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, strikes an extraordinary balance between depicting life in a country ravaged by war and a city swollen by refugees and the beauty of a love story between two young people and the choices they make to better their lives.

Saeed and Nadia meet as friends in an unnamed city in an unnamed country, although one cannot help but picture Syria, Afghanistan or Irak of today and decades past.

“Neighbourhoods fell to the militants in startlingly quick succession, so that Saeed’s mother’s mental map of the place where she had spent her entire life now resembled an old quilt, with patches of government land and patches of militant land. The frayed seams between the patches were the most deadly spaces, and to be avoided at all costs.”

It seems unimaginable to those of us fortunate enough to live in peace, but as the number of refugees from other towns, cities and villages increases and the bombings draw nearer, Nadia and Saeed go on with their lives at work, at university, because what else can you do?

Meanwhile, they start hearing of mysterious black doors appearing. Lines form outside closets and doorways allowing residents to step through to other countries and better lives, promising peace and a hopeful future. 

Our young couple decides, after agonizing about what is left behind and whether what is promised is worth more than what is lost, to open first one then multiple doors which take them in turn to faraway places such as Mykonos, Vienna, London and Mill Valley, California. 

This allows not only for a lovely fable-like quality to the writing, but also for Hamid to broach many of the issues brought on by the multiple crisis of today, such as the pro- and anti refugee movements across Europe and the promise of a better life in an America increasingly marked by inequality. 

“Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of co-existence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process, and too many native parents would not after have been able to look their children in the eye, to speak with head held high of what their generation had done.”

But Exit West is much more than a gifted novelist depicting the urgency of our times. The black doors are also there for forgotten lovers, for dreamers of all kinds, of all ages and all nationalities to move forward or return for a second chance at what life had once promised but they had perhaps squandered.

“…..and both would also wonder if this meant that they had made a mistake, that if they had but waited and watched their relationship would have flowered again, and so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgia are born”.

War and the politics of displacement are indeed serious topics that could so easily have resulted in a heavy book and while the sense of the surreal evoked by the black doors can sound daunting, Exit West is far from heavy and the black doors quickly become completely plausible and even natural.

Exit West has a lightness and a beautiful poetic quality that makes you feel like you are traveling - almost floating - alongside Nadia and Saeed through the doors, across continents, that you live with them on the beaches of Mykonos, while they take refuge in designated apartment buildings in London and as their relationship takes a quiet turn in the green hillside communities of Marin County. You feel as though you are right there marching alongside Nadia as she protests violence against migrants and that you are seated beside Saeed and the other young men as they grapple with the idea of violence, arms and terrorism.

Exit West starts in one corner of the globe and with engaging and artful prose makes its way across countries and expands to encompass a world of emotions, experiences and encounters.

I highly recommend going along for the ride.

Happy reading!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Exit West! 

 

Hannah Gough
Facts: One for Every Day of the Year by Tracey Turner and Fatti Burke
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'Facts: One for Every Day of the Year' by Tracey Turner and illustrated by Fatti Burke

This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for all those fact loving kids (and adults )out there. There is a fact for every day of the year; funny, shocking, astonishing, surprising, mind-blowing, scary facts. The layout and brief descriptions also make the book the perfect starting point for lots of interesting conversations and quizzing!

Did you know, for example, that during an average lifetime, your heart will beat about 2.21 billion times and you’ll take around 672 million breaths? Or that cash money isn’t always made of metal or paper. That pepper was used in Europe as money, while Dogs’ teeth were used as currency in New Guinea. 

Or did you know that not all blood is red? That lots of creatures have yellow or green blood and that cockroaches have white blood!

There is something in here for everyone - Facts! promises to be the gift that keeps on giving!

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Facts: One for Every Day of the Year! 

Hannah Gough
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
 
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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, reviewed by Natalie Kelly-Haigh. Thanks Natalie!

Meet Amani, the Blue Eyed Bandit. Her life seems to be closing in on her, trapping her into the hell she has always been planning to escape. Having only what she thought were her blue eyes from her father that she never knew, her mother was the only one she had. Her mother told her stories of a city, full of freedom and opportunities for them. A place where they could go and find Amani’s aunt. Instead her mother is killed when Amani is young, and Amani confides in teaching herself the skills in firing a gun up on the far and hidden sand dunes that surround her only reach of life. Only to come back later to the only place she has to call home; to the sexist, traditional and close minded people she hates.   

Her desperate tries to get money to leave to the city her mother described, lead her to an arena with a gun and a scarf to mask the girl behind it. While shooting for money, her unusual blue eyes call on the title of the Blue Eyed Bandit. When all hope of leaving seems lost, the mysterious foreigner she shot with in the arena and hid in her shop, saves her. After brutally sacrificing a friend, she seizes her only chance at freedom, and rides across the empty sand dunes on a godly creature with a broken compass to guide the way. 

When the last piece of hope she thought she knew turns out to be a lie, she follows her connection with the foreigner, running from pursuers and chasing a goal. However Amani doesn’t actually know, what that goal is… 

The Rebel of the Sands is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read, the story so well told that it blesses those that read it. If you’re looking for a good book, this story has it all. 

RESERVE YOUR COPY OF Rebel of the Sands! 

Hannah Gough