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Feb 13, 2020

Russ Thomas's debut novel, Firewatching, our Thriller of the Month for November, harnesses an exciting cold-case thriller to the evocative landscape of Sheffield and its environs. In this exclusive essay, Russ selects some other great novels that make brilliantly effective use of place and locale. 

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Feb 12, 2020
by Lloyd N: American Dirt is a book that embraces you in a tango of drama, love and strong emotions during a time of turbulence and unrest. It's hard to put the book down once you start reading. It is strongly and confidently written and will appeal to many readers, lovers of fiction and history. I would strongly suggest having a Spanish dictionary nearby to translate words that you are unfamiliar with. You won't want to miss a word! I highly recommend this book, and would even consider giving it as a gift.

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Feb 11, 2020
Sarah Phelps and Dane Baptiste talk to Harriett Gilbert about books they love.
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Feb 09, 2020
100 Novels; Love and Romance with Marian Keyes, David Nicholls, Sara Collins
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Feb 07, 2020

Thursday 5 March sees one of the biggest publications for many a year, as Hilary Mantel's The Mirror & the Light is released into the world. But, much as anticipation is at fever pitch for the conclusion of the celebrated Thomas Cromwell trilogy, that should not distract from other superb books emerging in the same month. Indeed, with more immersive historical fiction from Maggie O'Farrell and Jane Healey, blockbuster fantasy from Sarah J. Maas and a fascinating document of life in the Thunberg household, March is a bumper month for hotly anticipated publishing.  

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Feb 07, 2020
by Liz Devlin: I came upon The End of the Ocean by happy accident. This book was a captivating read from page one. The stories of the two main characters seemingly unrelated and their separate stories were both worth a book in themselves. The very gradual hints of the two stories connection made each story important by its self. This was a powerful message in a form acceptable to the uninformed A really good novel with an important message

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Feb 05, 2020
by Dorinne Dobson (Wickenburg, AZ): This is nonfiction: the true story of the evacuation of the Mosul Zoo. Imad, also known as Abu Laith which means Father of Lions, is a car mechanic and the self-proclaimed zookeeper of the Mosul Zoo. Abu Laith does not have formal training in taking care of lions and bears, but he is an animal lover who is especially fond of lions. The story takes place from 2014 when ISIS took control of Mosul and 2017 when the Iraqi forces retook the city of Mosul, and the description of life under ISIS occupation is particularly interesting. The fight to survive with limited food amid shelling and bombing is difficult for humans, and almost impossible for caged animals in the zoo. Amidst all the angst of living in a war zone, the story is told with humor and pathos. I enjoyed reading this book.

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Feb 04, 2020
Harriett Gilbert talks to Syima Aslam and Stig Abell about books they love - all classics
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Feb 04, 2020
by Challis: I was so sad to reach the end of this book …. sniff, sniff...I always feel like crying a little when this book ends. Especially, this one. I always want great reads to go on forever, but this one in particular is a story and it's telling that I will miss. Ann Patchett was telling me a wonderful, complex, deeply satisfying story. When it ended, it was like I stopped at a traffic light and Ann Patchett got out of the book and it just stopped, this wonderful story and I wanted to keep reading and beg Ann to keep writing this wonderful story; surely there must be more to the story that she just forgot to write? The story was nicely wrapped up, all the loose ends were tied, and the tale was deeply satisfying in a way many books just can't achieve.

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Jan 29, 2020

Drenched in sinister rural gothic, Francine Toon's Pine is the Waterstones Thriller of the Month for October. A hugely atmospheric blend of crime novel and folk horror, it has drawn enormous acclaim from all quarters. Here, Francine picks her favourite volumes of spine-tingling folk horror. 

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Jan 28, 2020
Nick Hornby and Carlo Rovelli tell Harriett Gilbert about the books they love the most.
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Jan 26, 2020
Jeanine Cummins on American Dirt, and forgotten classic The Street with Tayari Jones
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Jan 23, 2020

When the pioneering and hugely gifted journalist and editor Deborah Orr died in October 2019, the world lost a unique literary voice. In this exclusive essay, Jenny Lord describes her working relationship with Deborah and the daunting task of editing Deborah's masterclass in memoir writing - and Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month for January - Motherwell.

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Jan 22, 2020

We are all familiar with literature's totemic love stories, from Romeo and Juliet and Pride and Prejudice to Gone With the Wind and Doctor Zhivago. But there are plenty of modern novels that deal in affairs of the heart, be it forbidden desire or the complexities of married love. Ahead of Valentine's Day, these twenty books culled from the past twenty (-ish) years prove that when it comes to love and relationships contemporary authors remain head over heels about a spot of romance.       

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Jan 20, 2020
by Annalisa Damley: "If the creek don't rise," debut novel by Leah Weiss, is a treasure. Set in an environment of extremes-wretched poverty amidst the majesty of the NC mountains, its inhabitants scratch out a living in primitive 1970 Appalachia. The book is written in the first person & each character tells its own story, in the dialect of the time of this isolated mountain community. The richness of the writing and its descriptive prose is a joy to read. It brings to life the culture and nature of this remote corner of years gone by. Birdie Rocas (crone/mid-wife/witch) says some of the most memorable lines: "Two men, skinny as hickory sticks, pointed their rifles at us, ready to do us wrong. I won't the cleanest woman, but they was the dirtiest men I seen all year." I didn't want this book to end and look forward to the writer's next work. Can't recommend enough!

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Jan 19, 2020
Deepa Anappara and Rob Doyle on their new novels; Helen Fielding's book she'd never lend
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Jan 18, 2020
by Reid (Seattle): As with the first book, Olive Kitteridge, this is the story of a singular woman living her brief life on the coast of Maine, creating wreckage with her acerbic tongue and caustic judgments. She is deeply broken, our Olive, and not very likeable, and yet we love her and wish for her to succeed. This is the tightrope Elizabeth Strout has walked yet again in this second volume. How is it that such an unpleasant person can elicit such sympathy from us? I suspect the answer is the resonance we feel in response to her brokenness, how it chimes with our own. Though she is far more unskillful in her dealings with those around her than most of us, we have all had our moments of being the Olive in the room, the one who blurts out the ugly truth or the intolerant judgement, then wonders why we have become the pariahs.

It is rather odd to call this a novel (as it was the first book), because this really is a book of short stories interconnected by a single character, who sometimes is front and center, and other times barely even mentioned. Yet it becomes the story of a single life, much like a paint-by-numbers picture becomes comprehensible with the addition of each subsequent color, different shadings and hues of Olive become more evident with each passing chapter.

I particularly like her relationship to Jack Kennison, a person in whom she has met her match and who loves her despite herself, as did her late husband, Henry. But I also deeply appreciate Strout's expansion on Olive's connection to her son, Christopher, with whom she has both a deep bond and troubling animosity. She wishes to be loved by him, but seems incapable of being lovable with him. It is terribly heartbreaking, but also feels truthful and genuine.

A few quick notes: first of all, though this novel would stand alone, reading the first will give this one greater depth and meaning. Second, if you have not watched the adaptation of Olive Kitteridge with Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins (with Bill Murray as Jack Kennison), please do. They embody the characters so thoroughly and so well, it is difficult to imagine anyone else in those roles.

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Jan 15, 2020
by Reid (Seattle): I am not surprised to see that this strange and wondrous novel has generated a wide range of opinions, that it is found by some to be opaque or even pointless. As with Obreht's previous novel, The Tiger's Wife, there is a bit of magical realism to this book, whiffs of Gabriel García Márquez and Cormac McCarthy, particularly the latter in this novel of the American West. This is a fever dream of a book and it's no wonder that not everyone cozies up to it.

But for my money this is an expertly realized, fascinating read, an invocation of a time and place that resonates deeply, all the more so for its tinge of unreality. All of the characters are caught in a nightmare not (entirely) of their own making and are simply making the best they can of their hard lots in the hardscrabble year of 1893.

There are two parallel plots here, the first that of Lurie, an orphaned child who takes up with rough characters and runs as far as he can with them before encountering a train of camels, brought over from Asia by the United States army in the hope that they can do a better job of transporting goods across the American deserts than horses can. This is factual—I have read elsewhere about this effort, which actually seems pretty sensible (but didn't work out all that well). Lurie ingratiates himself with the camel herders and tries as best he can to hang on to the fragile thread of his life. The other plot line involves Nora, a strong, independent woman of the Arizona desert, trying to stay upright in a world that seems to be doing everything it can to destroy her and her family, especially the drought that is turning her farm and the surrounding community to ash and dust. Everything about their lives speaks of dissolution and decay, though Nora does everything she can to keep herself and her three boys afloat. Her husband has been gone for days, out negotiating for the water they so desperately need, and the situation has become dire.

Thirst is the thematic core of these stories. Lurie gathers water everywhere he goes in a canteen previously owned by his adoptive brother, and it whets but never slakes his thirst to know what is coming and what has been. Nora is perpetually dry, sacrificing what little water she has to her children and, eventually, the dressing of wounds.

But no description of plot or theme can scratch the surface of the beauty of this book, which is carried in the expansive prose Obreht employs. While The Tiger's Wife bore the signs of a first-time author, with its too-careful elucidation and somewhat stilted language, in Inland she has come into a mastery of her craft and never sets a foot wrong in climbing this particularly challenging terrain. This is not a perfect book (often motives are obscure and some of the action seems unlikely, even for the hallucinatory reality it lives in), but it is excellent. One must be willing to surrender, though, to the wonderful strangeness of the world evoked here, and this is not always easy. The reward is worth the effort and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the authors I listed in the first paragraph. While not as accomplished as either of those masters, Téa Obreht is clearly a talent to watch and read.

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Jan 15, 2020
by Veronica Earley: I loved this book just as I loved THE NIGHT CIRCUS. Two different reads but Erin Morgenstern is a wonderful writer. THE STARLESS SEA is a book you need to read daily or until you finish it. There is so much going on in this story and it is easy to get lost...but that doesn't take anything away from the story. In fact, getting lost is part of the story's fascination. I was always asking myself could this be happening. The characters are creative, smart and have very little fear of the unknown. Their personalities help make up this wonderful tale. They change each other's lives with love, strength and mystery. I highly recommend this book.

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Jan 14, 2020
by Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews: Captain Kidd had experience traveling uncharted lands as he read his newspapers in different towns to spread the news of the world, but traveling with a ten-year-old girl who couldn't speak English was quite a different task for him.

Johanna had been kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians after her family was killed in a raid, but Johanna was now released and needed to be returned to her aunt and uncle. She didn't know who they were, and they didn't know her.

NEWS OF THE WORLD flows beautifully as we follow Captain Kidd and Johanna on their 400-mile journey that Captain Kidd regretfully had accepted. He had to deal with no language communication except for a few words and sign language as well as Johanna's numerous attempts to escape.

NEWS OF THE WORLD was an enjoyable read because the writing was marvelous, the story line was interesting, and the characters were authentic and likable. Johanna grew on you. Mrs. Gannet was charming. Captain Kidd was a perfect gentleman, a wonderful father, and an all-around good guy.?

I enjoyed the historical aspect of how there were folks who went from town to town reading the news. I loved the descriptions of the undeveloped country and am happy I didn't live back then. It was difficult to imagine there were no paved roads. We readers even get to be in the middle of a gun fight.

NEWS OF THE WORLD is filled with beautiful, descriptive writing that pulls you in I truly enjoyed NEWS OF THE WORLD mainly because of the characters and definitely the warmth and kindness of Captain Kidd.

If you need a quick, enjoyable, heartwarming read, NEWS OF THE WORLD fits the bill along with a history lesson. 4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Jan 12, 2020
100 Novels That Shaped Our World: Identity
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Jan 04, 2020

Sally Rooney’s screenplay, Hilary Mantel’s final Thomas Cromwell novel … what to look out for this year

Continue reading...
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Dec 29, 2019
Graham Greene special
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Dec 22, 2019
Highlights of 2019
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Dec 15, 2019
Benjamin Markovits, PG Wodehouse, Family rows in novels and child prodigies
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