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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 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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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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Shunt: The Story of James Hunt
(Hardback)
Tom Rubython
First things first. This book is big. Very big. 701 pages to be precise, and that’s not even including the 200-odd pages of career stats. Yet the fact that you are even reading this synopsis suggests an interest in Formula One. So, introducing the 1976 F1 Champion…. This thoroughly researched biography – chronicling everything from Hunt’s humble (albeit well financed) beginnings as a Mini Touring Car driver, through to his truculent days at the commentary box microphone – promises not to disappoint. Even if you are not an F1 fan, you may still be interested in reading about Hunt’s all too prolific addiction to alcohol, cannabis and ‘enjoyment’. If that’s not enough, he once decked a fellow driver on live television… - James
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Northline: A Novel
(Paperback)
Willy Vlautin
Willy Vlautin is sadly under read as an author but better known as the front man of Richmond Fontaine. In both his music and his writing he tells tales of people on the edge - drifters, grifters, losers and lost souls all across small town America. Northline tells of a burned out, pregnant woman on the run from an abusive ex who finds solace in talking to an imaginary Paul Newman. Vlautin’s novels are almost unbearably melancholic with simple stories compellingly told. Although they could be considered bleak he writes with such understanding and warmth, you find yourself uplifted by the both the banality and beauty of the world that he describes. - Rebecca
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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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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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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
(Paperback)
Jonathan Safran Foer
Precocious eight-year-olds who don’t sound like eight-year-olds at all are annoying. And yet here is Oscar, who is exactly that, and you just fall love with him. His search for his father becomes more heart-rending with every revealed twist, until it finally breaks you. In a good way. Foer plays with both narrative and layout conventions and it makes the book one of those you want to hand on down to not only your nearest and dearest, but random strangers. Seldom have I been so engaged and invested in a character’s fate. Oscar’s story and his relationships with those around him are invariably touching and it all stays with you for a long time afterwards. - 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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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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The Woman in the Dunes
(Paperback)
Kobo Abe; David Mitchell
Sand mercilessly rules over a desert village. An unsuspecting entomologist looking for species in the sand is forced to stay with ‘The Woman in the Dunes’, but he will be leaving tomorrow following the storm. Trapped into an existence that involves the relentless shovelling of the sand out from the woman’s home, Niki Jumpei becomes enslaved by the people of the village and lives in the hope he will one day be released. - Stephen
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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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Assassin's Apprentice
(Paperback)
Robin Hobb
This is FitzChivalry's story. Born a royal bastard, hated by most, outcast because of his particular talent, trained to be an assassin. It's a wonderful, rich universe Hobb has created, and a great assortment of characters. I got very attached to Fitz and The Fool, which is mostly why I keep coming back to this. On a side note, I might mention that I could just as well have put Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy in here, which is set in the same universe at the same time a couple of realms over to the left, but feels a bit more glamorous. And has talking ships in it, which sounds a bit odd to begin with, but is actually brilliant. So go read those next. - Julia
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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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The Tin Roof Blowdown
(Paperback)
James Lee Burke
Number ten in the Times all time greatest crime writers, the accolade is not undeserved. Born in Texas and the son of a gas fitter, his life has influenced his work, from land surveying for the oil industry to reporting to working with LA gangs as a social worker. New Orleans detective, Dave Robicheaux could have easily fallen into cliché - an alcoholic with unhappy relationships and a healthy disregard for his superiors - but Burkes writing lifts him above the norm. Brutal at times, but no less sensitive for it, he writes lyrically about the chaos of everyday life. The criminals, the victims, the system - there is no good or evil, only shades of grey in Robicheaux’s sweat soaked and corrupt south. Tin Roof Blowdown, encapsulates everything good about Burkes writing. Set during, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he brings to life the full Hellish and apocalyptic series of events that you can scarcely believe were allowed to happen in the most powerful country on the planet. It is an angry novel and a political cry against moral bankruptcy and tragic negligence. - Rebecca
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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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