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.…

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…

Unaccompanied Minor by Alexander Newley

Reviewed by Annabel The children of celebrity couples inevitably have a hard time growing up, especially when their parents split. You need only think of the late Carrie Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as a prime example. Carrie was later canny and secure enough in her writing and performing – and her…

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Reviewed by Annabel While I can’t claim to read anywhere near the volume of old and newly reprinted novels that some of my Shiny colleagues do – perennially falling for the latest novels by the latest literary darlings – I do love browsing in second-hand bookshops and I will always make a beeline for a…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Amor Towles’ debut novel Rules of Civility was one of the best books I read in 2011. Although Towles graduated in English back in the late 1980s, he worked as an investment professional for over twenty years before publishing that first novel, a dazzling portrait of life in Manhattan before WWII in…

Artemis by Andy Weir

Reviewed by Annabel Those who read Weir’s debut novel, The Martian (which Dan reviewed for us here), tended to fall into two camps. As SF novels go, it was funny, cheesy and geeky, and despite having one helluva plot, didn’t take itself too seriously, which made it a Marmite book for many. I was one…

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Reviewed by Annabel I love reading medical memoirs; we’ve featured neurosurgeon Henry Marsh’s two volumes here at Shiny, and heart surgeon Stephen Westaby’s book Fragile Lives was a great read for me earlier this year. These books were written by surgeons who’ve reached the zenith of their careers. The chapters within concentrate on particular operations,…

Ornithology by Nicholas Royle

Reviewed by Annabel Earlier this year, I reviewed the novel An English Guide to Birdwatching by an author named Nicholas Royle, and I interviewed its author too here. Ornithology is not by the same Nicholas Royle – you need to know that. In fact, as the other Nicholas Royle told me, the two authors have…

Pan Books at 70: The SF Edit

Reviewed by Annabel Pan, founded in 1944, published its first mass market paperback in 1947 – Ten Stories by Rudyard Kipling with the famous Pan logo designed by Mervyn Peake and distinctive covers. Now they are 70 years old and Pan have published new editions of twenty of their most celebrated paperbacks with wonderful new…

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Reviewed by Annabel Natasha Pulley’s debut novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (which I reviewed here in 2015), was a wonderful discovery. A period thriller with hints of steampunk fantasy, and a matching beautiful cover design complete with cutout watch dial, it became an instant favourite of the year. Now Bloomsbury have done it again,…

Back to School and Off to College – a Literary Quiz

Compiled by Annabel As we begin the new academic year, what better time to test your knowledge of campus and school novels. We hope you find some old friends among the questions, but there are some trickier ones to test you too. I make no apologies for the short Harry Potter section at the end…

The Pitards by Georges Simenon

Translated by David Bellos Reviewed by Annabel By 1934, Georges Simenon had published the first 19 Maigret books, and he temporarily shelved the series, resuming ten years later. He went travelling around the world but didn’t stop writing, trying out a different form. These standalone books would come to be known as his romans durs…

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Reviewed by Annabel   This certainly is the year for novels about popular music, particularly on vinyl, and also the power of picking just the right song. Of those I’ve come across, there is Magnus Mills’ droll and geeky The Forensic Record Society, Laura Barnett’s soundtrack of a life in Greatest Hits and the first…

The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jocker

Reviewed by Annabel Imagine that you train a computer to read and analyse books, input a mix of hundreds and ask it to predict which books are most likely to be bestsellers, and amongst the results, it gives one book a 100% score. Well in essence, that’s what this book is about and, no, I’m…

The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes

Reviewed by Annabel Natalie Haynes may be most familiar to you as a journalist and broadcaster, popping up on various shows and with her own series Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics on BBC Radio 4, which takes an irreverent look at ancient Greek and Roman life. Her first novel, The Amber Fury, (published…