Star of the North by D B John

Reviewed by Annabel Very few westerners get to visit North Korea, and DB John is one of them – he’s seen the public face of this secretive place from the inside, although he acknowledges that his visit ‘barely scratched the surface’. Now he’s written a thriller about the country and his timing couldn’t be better…

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima

Translated by Geraldine Harcourt Reviewed by Annabel This latest addition to Penguin Classic’s expanding list of new translations in an upmarket paperback format is a beguiling novella following the story of a young mother and her young daughter after she has separated from her husband. It was originally published during the late 1970s in installments…

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Annabel Gaskell Good popular science books don’t come along that often, and when they do, they’re inevitably about four topics it seems: quantum physics, space, genetics or the periodic table.  Hooray for one that’s…

From the Archives: Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn

One of a series of reviews republished from the Shiny Archive of Issue 1 to celebrate our 4th birthday Reviewed by Annabel Gaskell I wish Tracey Thorn was my cousin, sister even. I can say that – for we share not only a maiden name, but a love of David Cassidy, a fascination with Morrissey,…

The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox

Reviewed by Annabel When Knox’s debut Sirens, which I reviewed here, was published in January 2017, it caused ripples. Here was a perfectly formed first novel, a crime thriller with a disgraced detective at its heart set in the nighttime economy of Manchester. I described it as ‘The Wire meets Line of Duty in Manchester’. It remained the…

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Reviewed by Annabel They say that in Tangier, the local hustlers have clocked all the new arrivals within hours – this is what I was told when I visited Tangier in the 1980s. Every day we stepped outside our hotel, we were met by young men eager to show us the city – via their…

The Unbeliever by Oggy Boytchev

Reviewed by Annabel We’re delighted to be the final stop on the short blog tour to celebrate the publication of this book. Oggy (Ognian) Boytchev grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Bulgaria. He developed an interest in spies and spy novels as a child, after hearing propaganda on the radio of a convicted spy’s…

To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Already shortlisted last year for the Baillie Gifford and Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prizes, Mark O’Connell’s book, now available in paperback, has also been shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2018, which will be announced at the end of the month. This prize celebrates, ‘the many ways in which literature can…

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Reviewed by Annabel After the searing, taboo-breaking storyline of O’Neil’s second novel, Asking For It (reviewed here), a young adult story about consent, teenage sex-shaming and the fallout from it, Almost Love, O’Neill’s first adult novel, could seem almost underwhelming in comparison. But this is a slow-burn drama, written for a different audience. There’s not…

Daphne by Will Boast

Reviewed by Annabel The vogue for using ancient myth to inspire contemporary novels continues unabated. Last year, Kamila Shamsie updated the story of Antigone in Home Fire, in which a family is riven by politics. Now living in the US, English author Will Boast uses the myth of Daphne to drive his debut novel.You don’t…

Savages: The Wedding by Sabri Louatah

Translated by Gavin Bowd Reviewed by Annabel This debut novel is the first volume of Louatah’s planned Saint-Étienne quartet named after the French city in which its protagonists reside. Saint-Étienne is south-west of Lyon and capital of the Loire department, right in the middle-east of France. This is perhaps a deliberate choice, for the protagonists…

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Reviewed by Annabel Joanna Cannon’s first novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a huge bestseller; I’ve not read it, but I will after having read her second, Three Things About Elsie. TTWG&S was a mystery with young protagonists who turn detective to find out what happened to a neighbour who has gone missing.…

The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell

Reviewed by Karen Langley Although George Orwell’s name resonates most strongly with us nowadays because of his great novels – in particular Nineteen Eighty Four, which seems to become more relevant every day – it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was a superb essayist. There is even a prize in his name for political writing,…

Edith and Oliver by Michelle Forbes (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Somehow, I managed to miss Belfast author Forbes’s debut, Ghost Moth, set during the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which received excellent reviews. Having now read and very much enjoyed her second novel, I should remedy that and search out a copy. For Edith and Oliver, Forbes has moved back…

Science Fiction: A Literary History edited by Roger Luckhurst

Reviewed by Annabel Once upon a time SF was a subculture haunted by small populations of nerds and geeks. Star Wars (1977) changed that, … SF author Adam Roberts says this in his preface to the British Library’s volume of essays surveying the rich literary history of science fiction. He’s right – in a way…