Books · Reviews · Writing

Good Reads and Independent Booksellers

Two main reasons for this post: It’s  Independent Booksellers Week in the UK (20th to 27th June 2015) and I’ve only done one book review so far this year.

It’s not that I haven’t been reading. I’ve read more books than usual since January. I’ve just not made time to get the reviews done. Apart that is from my (ahem – modest cough) prize-winning review of JJ Marsh’s Cold Pressed which I posted here.

So now seems like a good moment to flag up the best of the rest of the books-read-so-far in 2015 and to ask that if you’re tempted to buy any of them, you perhaps consider going to your local independent bookshop and making your purchase there. Even if they don’t stock the book they’ll be able to get it in for you. Independent bookshops offer a real booky atmosphere and a personal touch and they need booklovers to use them. (Yes, I’ve included Amazon links but only so you can find out more about the books before you go out and buy them🙂 )

I should also mention that my two local bookshops have just agreed to stock my novels and I appreciate their support very much. Let’s hear it for Tippecanoe and for Aros.

To keep it manageable I’m doing mainly brief reviews. The books are an eclectic mix, fiction of several genres, non-fiction, bestsellers and lesser-knowns, established and debut authors.

And so here they are – my five star reads for 2015 so far:

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Torn by Gilli Allan: A contemporary romance-plus novel – no gush or slush – believable, flawed, three-dimensional characters, vividly drawn setting and not one, but two expertly crafted will-they-won’t-theys. An evening or  bedtime curl-up read. [Accent Press]

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Get the Happiness Habit by Christine Webber: (only available as e-book so not one for the book shop) Self-help book on how to improve your emotional wellbeing. Easy to read, practical down-to-earth advice on how to improve your optimism levels and to recognise daily moments of happiness. Focuses on taking exercise, practising altruism, developing an inquiring mind, building resilience, maintaining a social network – in the real world as well as online, finding soul-feeding moments, for example through mindfulness or meditation or just going for a walk or listening to music, adopting a stoical view of life and taking time to care for ourselves. All sensible and doable. [Bloomsbury Reader]

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Us by David Nicholls: It’s David Nicholls so hey, I was expecting an entertaining read. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a contemporary story of midlife crisis and re-evaluation told in first person by husband and father Douglas. His marriage is failing and his relationship with his teenage son is fraught. The holiday he hopes may set things right doesn’t go to plan. This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, always brilliant story of a guy whose good intentions pave a chaotic path. [Hodder & Stoughton]

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: Contemporary thriller.  The story is told through the eyes of Rachel, Megan and Anna. Rachel is the girl on the train, commuting to work, fantasising about the people she sees from the train window, but then the fantasy becomes a much more challenging reality, a scary, tense and engrossing reality involving all three women. This is a gripping read – a definite page turner. great twists and storytelling. [Doubleday-Transworld]

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: I quickly followed up reading this book by reading its sequel The Rosie Effect. Both are great. Narrated by main character Professor Don Tillman, both books tell of life as experienced by Don, a brilliant geneticist looking for and failing at romantic love.  He also happens to have Asperger’s syndrome. His unique take on human relationships leads him to set up a project to find a wife. Against all odds it succeeds and the two books follow his finding Rosie and later marrying her. Both books are charming, witty, funny, highly original and are just sublime storytelling. [Penguin]

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Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: This book, published twenty years ago, is a writing manual – except it’s not. Oh sure it has lots of good advice for writers about facing the blank page, about getting started, persevering, getting support and getting published, but it’s also about so much more. It’s really a sort of wry look at life in a way – in that a lot of Lamott’s advice can be applied generally and not just ti the act of writing. It’s warm, instructive and wise.

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Killochries by Jim Carruth: This was a first for me. I’ve never read a verse-novella before. Carruth is a prize-winning Scottish poet. He was poet laureate of Glasgow last year. This slim wee volume is stunning – brief and beautiful. It tells a redemptive story of two men, distant relatives, both very different from one another. One an atheist poet, the other a bible quoting, stoical Christian. They are forced by circumstances to live together for a year on the older man’s somewhat bleak farm but as they do so they gain a mutual respect and a renewed perspective on life. [Freight Books]

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In the Shadow of the Hill by Helen Forbes: There’s an Ann Cleeves meets Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson vibe going on here – fans of crime fiction will know what I mean by this.  This book is not just any old crime fiction, it’s Tartan Noir crime fiction, and it’s set in the Hebrides –  so before I even started reading this book it was already ticking important reading boxes for me. This is the author’s first novel and I can’t wait for the next one. It’s starts in Inverness on a slow burn and gradually picks up pace until after several clever, unforeseen twists it reaches its exciting conclusion on the island of Harris. The characters are believable and well fleshed out, especially the main character of DS Joe Galbraith who is both flawed and likeable. I definitely look forward to getting to know him as well as I know Jackson Brodie and John Rebus. [ThunderPoint Publishing]

Bella's Betrothal

Bella’s Betrothal by Anne Stenhouse: (only available as ebook) This is a historical romance and it’s set in Georgian Edinburgh. And with this novel I’d say we’re sort of in Jane Austen meets Bridget Jones territory. But as well as the history and the will-they-won’t-they romance, there’s also a mystery at the heart of this novel. It’s an enchanting story and the author gets the tension level just right. There’s a great cast of characters from Bella’s good friends and her lovely aunt and uncle to her horrid mama and menacing pursuer. Being an Edinburgh native, I loved all the references to places I know and was impressed by the author’s attention to the details of the city’s development as its New Town was being established. Best of all though was Bella herself. Bella is no wimp. She’s resilient and feisty in the face of scandal and suffering and in the face of a real threat to her personal safety. She makes informed choices and she does what’s right even when it puts her at risk.  [MuseitUp Publishing]

So there you have it. What’s your favourite read of 2015 so far? And which independent bookseller do you support? Please do reply below.

 

 

 

 

17 thoughts on “Good Reads and Independent Booksellers

  1. Brilliant to have the support of your local bookshops. I’ve read Us, The Girl on the Train and The Rosie Project and would agree with your 5 star ratings – all very different but all very good reads. Great to see a fellow ThunderPoint writer on your list too.🙂

  2. Well, it seems we have incredibly similar taste in books, Anne. I’m not terribly surprised. I’m drawn to your writing for a reason, and I think that oftentimes our writing is a lovely mish-mash reflection of the many authors we absorb along the way.
    I’ve managed to read 4 from your list, but I’ve marked down the others. And with your thumbs up I’m confident I’ll enjoy them too.
    Cheers!

  3. I am gobsmacked AND utterly thrilled to find TORN on your good reads for 2015 list. Thank you so much, Anne. Shamingly I’ve only so far read The Girl on a Train from the list, but agree with your comments. I’m honoured to find myself alongside authors like Paula Hawkins, David Nicholls et al.

    Gillix

  4. I will return to these when I return to recent books! I read Philip Hoare’ s ‘Leviathan’ (wonderful and very moving) earlier this summer plus Mark Singleton’ s ‘Yoga Body’ (clunky book-of-the-PhD writing but fascinating material for anyone interested in the actual development of yoga, and social science/history). 16 year old had been on history trip to Belgium and I tried to sweet talk him into reading ‘Testament of Youth’ but no dice. So I re-read it and Testament of Experience, myself. Fascinating to re-read at 44 something you originally read at 18 or 20. Then I felt starved of novels but still absorbed by that period so I’m reading my granny’ s old Orange penguins – so far, ‘Scenes from a provincial life’ (funny), ‘Room at the top’ (harrowing) and ‘The darling buds of May’ (not sure yet about this one). I also downloaded the entire Forsyte Saga onto my kindle (9!!!! books).

    Looking at that list I’m interested to see that apart from Vera Brittain it’s all male authors….I don’t have a ‘policy’ about this but I reckon I normally read more books by women than by men.
    Sorry that was a long reply🙂 But I’m loving having enough time to read more again. Let’s hear it for endless rain and minor surgery!

    1. Wow! Thanks for the detailed reply. yes, every cloud has a silver lining and it’s good to get time to read. Your current reading list is interesting. I’ve read some of them, but a long time ago.

  5. You’ve been busy, Anne. I enjoyed ‘Us’ but didn’t think I would. David Nicholls has a great way of conveying disappointment but always hope. He reminds me a little of David Nobbs (RIP). My favourite independent is Webberleys in Stoke – plenty of interesting corners and unusual displays…
    Great list and has given me ideas. Just now I’m reading Michel Faber’s unusual Highlands-set Under the Skin….

    1. Rich, what a nice surprise to see you here🙂 Thanks for visiting and commenting. I haven’t heard of that particular Michael Faber book – must investigate. Yes, I love David Nicholls writing.

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