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The Sisters Brothers
(Paperback)
Patrick deWitt
If Cormac McCarthy suddenly developed a sense of humour, or the Coen Brothers decided to adapt Cervantes’ Don Quixote, The Sisters Brothers is what you might get. Eli Sisters is an unhappy man. He’s unhappy with his new horse, Tub. He’s unhappy about his lack of a wife. But mostly, he’s unhappy with his line of work. With his brother Charlie, he is one half of the notorious Sisters Brothers. At the height of the great Californian Gold Rush, the brothers have been tasked with the assassination of a particular prospector, the wonderfully named Hermann Kermit Warm. Along the way the bickering brothers meet a carousel of strange characters and odd situations, all of which lead Eli to question his sorry lot in life. - Christopher
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The Complaints
(Paperback)
Ian Rankin
You may be disappointed if you thought Malcolm Fox, Rankin’s latest protagonist, is a duplicate of Inspector Rebus. Sure he’s middle-aged and grumpy, but he’s teetotal and enjoys his work: he is ‘The Complaints’, policing the police with Internal Affairs. But like Rebus, ‘Foxy’ works a case to the end, which is just as well, since two have simultaneously landed in his lap. A colleague’s credit card details have been logged on a [ahem] questionable website and his sister’s good-for-nothing boyfriend has been found murdered. It wouldn’t be Rankin if the two weren’t linked now would it? - James
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The Last Hundred Days
(Paperback)
Patrick McGuinness
This is a fictionalised account of the final days of communism in Romania. McGuiness tells the story of an English Professor who has found himself teaching at a Bucharest university in late 1989. He arrives into a totalitarian communist state led by the brainless Nicolae Ceaucescu and his sinister ‘Securitate’. In 100 days time the Ceaucescus will be dead and Romanians will be caught up in a bloody revolution. This novel tells the story of the months leading up to that day. Having been to Romania several times I found so much I could identify with in this novel about the people and their wit, warmth and cynicism! - Andrew
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Neverwhere
(Paperback)
Neil Gaiman
You’d think helping a clearly distressed, injured girl out of a cold night, there’d be better thanks than suddenly becoming invisible to your colleagues and losing your flat to some more people who can’t seem to see you. Unfortunately for Richard, this girl is Door, from London Below, and on the run from some truly fantastical characters. So in order to get his life back, he will have to work on some serious suspension of disbelief. Unlike the reader, because Neil Gaiman’s softly quirky and yet darkly edgy voice makes all of it sound like everyday occurrences to us. Of course there’s a Floating Market in Harrods! You’ll never take the tube quite the same way again. - Julia
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Bad Monkeys
(Paperback)
Matt Ruff
The set-up is basic: Jane is an operative for the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, aka Bad Monkeys. Or is she? Surreality ensues. They’re not half lying about what it says on the back: The Silence of the Lambs meets The Matrix just about hits the nail on the head! A rollercoaster read of the best kind; head-turningly pacy, light of touch, and leaving you wanting just that little bit more without giving you a frustrating ending. If you get a chance to pick up any of Ruff’s other books, do! (Fool on the Hill is actually my favourite, but sadly out of print.) - Julia
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Stormbreaker
(Paperback)
Anthony Horowitz
Orphaned under what turn out to be mysterious circumstances and subsequently having grown up with an uncle who is actually something quite different than the bank supervisor he said he was, 14 year old Alex Rider finds himself drafted into MI6 service—unofficially, naturally. Sounds like the ultimate adventure, right? But soon the missions become more dangerous and the stakes more personal than Alex may be ready for…. I love these books because they are no-frills, straight-up adventure daydreams just like I had when I was bored in class and staring out the window. The action is relentless, and while the stories do all follow a comfortably familiar formula, Alex is such a sympathetic character that you can’t help but feel for him time and again, especially when he starts riling against The Powers That Be (which is saying something coming from someone who doesn’t generally gel with younger teenagers). Plus, there’s always a bad pun near the end about the baddie’s demise and you really can’t argue with that. – Julia
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Gilead
(Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson
A deceptively simple book on the surface, this fictional memoir by the Reverend John Ames. I tend to be a lot more interested in characters than plot, so the fact that nothing much happens doesn't bother me in the slightest, because it's a beautiful, reflective, exploratory piece that gives the reader much food for thought and leaves them with a sense that the world is a pretty grand place, all things considered. It's such a laden word and generally best avoided, but I would actually describe this book as life-affirming. Don't be put off because it may seem religious; I'm not and am rather wary of the possibility - Robinson's philosophical points are universal. - Julia
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The Secret Ministry of Frost
(Paperback)
Nick Lake
A dark adventure, ranging from Ireland to the Artic, with an unusual heroine in Light – half Inuit, half Irish and all albino, The Secret Ministry of Frost is a fantastic debut novel from Nick Lake. Similar to His Dark Materials in the search for a lost father and in the desolate setting, Light’s epic journey into the artic wasteland to confront a force older than mankind, pulls you in right from the very start. The Inuit folklore she thought to be fairy tales merges with reality when Light is drawn into an age-old intrigue between Setna, the ruler of the sea and Frost, king of the cold. The action is relentless and at times brutal, not surprising given that her friends include the Tupilak, half shark, half polar bear, and a Raven God. Frightening (in a good way) and intelligent - all kids’ books should be as good as this. - Rebecca
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
(Hardback)
Ayana Mathis
I have a very short attention span for anything that isn't crime fiction but this may have changed my reading habits. Hattie is the matriarch of a large family. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one character, beginning with Hattie and then following the lives of her childrenand a grandchild from the 1920s to the present day. It is not a novel in the traditional sense, more like a collection of short stories where you catch a small glimpse of each life. It is a beautiful, melancholy and very self assured debut. My only criticism would be that it leaves you wishing you knew more about each character as the time spent with each is very short and they are all equally intriguing. - Rebecca
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World War Z: An Oral History of the...
(Paperback)
Max Brooks
The zombie apocalypse has finally happened; this is its chronicle, comprised of first person accounts from survivors both military and civilian. The only thing requiring suspension of disbelief is not even the existence of zombies, but merely the possibility! What makes this book so utterly fantastic and truly spine-chilling is the matter-of-fact tone of its presentation, leaving you wondering at times why you don’t remember some of the events described. You’ll want to read Brooks’ spookily earnest, frighteningly practical Zombie Survival Guide next, and invest in a machete and some self-defence lessons. - Julia
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Morvern Callar
(Paperback)
Alan Warner
Written in Scots vernacular and almost prose poetry, Morvern Callar (before we even get to the plot) is not for the faint hearted. Morvern, stuck in a small Highland town comes home from work at the local supermarket only to discover the body of her suicidal boyfriend. What makes this novel so compelling is the macabre twist it takes when the reader discovers what she intends to do with his body. Warner has created an unusual and unforgettable anti hero in Morvern. His skill lies in making you sympathise with her in spite of her actions. He creates a sense of time and place, both in the location and in period, that could, realistically, spawn a person filled so full of boredom and frustration that extreme action is their only way of breaking free. Beautiful and dark, try it if you’re after something out of the ordinary.
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Sixty Stories
(Paperback)
Donald Barthelme; David Gates
Donald Barthelme was one of the most innovative and experimental short-story writers of his period, but he also understood people in a way few writers ever do. Stories like 'A Shower of Gold' and 'The Balloon' are very surreal and unusual, but they’re also beautiful statements about how hard it is to live in a world that is often confusing and absurd. He’s not for everyone, but for those who are on his wavelength he’s one of the best writers of the 20th century. - Adam
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Time's Arrow
(Paperback)
Martin Amis
When Tod T Friendly dies, his consciousness escapes his body and begins to re-live his life backwards. He begins life as a doctor in American suburbia, mangling his patients before sending them home fixed, ending relationships before falling in love, and watching his deceased friends and relatives being dug out of the ground are brought (back) to life. As he progresses further backwards, however, a sinister past and his true identity are uncovered: as a doctor in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, Friendly was involved in the genocide at Auschwitz. But is this the way his backwards-moving consciousness will re-live it? - Josh
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The Graveyard Book
(Paperback)
Neil Gaiman; Chris Riddell
Much more than a simple (albeit enormously clever) retelling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book transplanted into a cemetery, The Graveyard Book is the story of a human boy called Nobody Owens, Bod for short, who is taken in and raised by ghosts after his family is killed by the mysterious man Jack. Who is, in fact, still on Bod’s case, so when Bod begins to venture out of the graveyard, the boy’s protectors—among them a werewolf and what sounds suspiciously like a vampire—have their work cut out for them. In essence, this is a book about families and growing up, scary bits included. Darkly witty, gently creepy, and delicately enhanced by some choice Chris Riddell illustrations (or Dave McKean ones if you pick up the adult edition!), the book can almost be read as individual short stories—further proof of just how skilled a writer Neil Gaiman is. - Julia
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Everything Ravaged Everything Burned
(Paperback)
Wells Tower
I love Wells Tower so much that, even though he looks slightly like my old sweaty maths teacher, I would marry him if he asked. This is his first collection of short stories and you shouldn’t buy this as a present for any one but yourself. It’s too good to give away. Sometimes you read something and it says everything you think about the world, but better, and more eloquently than you ever could. - Rebecca
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The Brothers Lionheart
(Paperback)
Astrid Lindgren; Joan Tate; Ilon...
Little Karl Lion is dying; his brother Jonatan tells him of a magical land where people still live in “the campfire and storytelling days”. Which is exactly where they end up when Jonatan dies saving Karl from a fire and Karl finally succumbs to his illness. What follows is a fantasy adventure full of joyous pursuits, but also betrayal, and oppression, and rebellion, and the scariest dragon ever. This book influenced my views of death a long time before I even realised that’s what this one is all about. As is the case with all the best children’s books, it’s not coy or hand-waving about death or any of the other less than pleasant themes it touches on; it’s the characters' reaction to it and what happens after that makes it ultimately comforting. - Julia
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