Questions for Amanda Craig, author of The Lie of the Land

Interview by Annabel Annabel: I loved reading The Lie of the Land, and it had me giggling all the way through. Before I discuss some of the themes, I’d like to ask you about the vein of humour that runs through your novels. Often so close to life, but just a little exaggerated, which makes…

Running Blind by Desmond Bagley

Reviewed by Annabel I’m delighted that the vogue for republishing the best thrillers from the 1960s onwards as exemplified by the books of Lionel Davidson (see Harriet’s reviews here, here and here!) has turned to another star from the past – Desmond Bagley. In our household, I grew up on a diet of action thriller writers…

An English Guide to Birdwatching by Nicholas Royle

Reviewed by Annabel When first offered this book to review – I thought it was finally time to get around to reading one of Nicholas Royle’s novels, I’ve several on the shelves, notably First Novel. Then I opened this book, looked at the flyleaf and that book wasn’t listed. It was only then that I…

Q&A with Nicholas Royle, author of An English Guide to Birdwatching

Interview by Annabel Annabel: Firstly, I must admit, when offered this book for review, I initially mixed you up with the other Nicholas Royle, something you must (both) get a lot. Has either of you ever considered writing under another name to reduce the confusion, or do you (both) like the coincidences generated by it?…

Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh

Reviewed by Annabel ‘Little top-up?’ Ever since Alison Steadman playing Beverly uttered those words when Abigail’s Party aired on TV in 1977, they entered into the vernacular of my family. My mum used the phrase regularly, applying it to second helpings across the board. Now, arguably a grown-up in my 50s, I find myself using…

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Reviewed by Annabel There is something about stories based upon Russian fairy tales that so appeals. Some authors, as Eowyn Ivey did with her divine debut, The Snow Child, have translated them to another time and place. Arden stays in Medieval Russia for her story which contains many elements of the classic Russian fairy tale…

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson

Reviewed by Annabel Here they come. Here they are. Les anglais, the English, les rosbifs. After a rather attention-grabbling opening, in which the ageing Sir Anthony Valentine writes some extremely purple prose about mountains and valleys in his diaries, Henderson’s second novel settles down to tell the story of decades of summer visitors to Valentine’s…

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Reviewed by Annabel I reviewed Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, for Shiny upon its publication (here) – I loved it and was delighted when she won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for first novels, (indeed it was my book of the year too, I loved it that much). Her second novel, therefore,…

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

Translated by John Brownjohn Reviewed by Annabel I’m very glad to have met the irrepressible Auntie Poldi! Our narrator, her beloved nephew, tells us what she is like: a glamorous figure, always ready to make a dramatic entrance. She had put on a bit of weight in recent years, admittedly, and booze and depression had…

Hit Makers by Derek Thompson

Reviewed by Annabel I came to read this book immediately after devouring UK journalist and presenter Tim Harford’s recent Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World, which I found informative and entertaining in equal measure. Hit Makers is structurally similar to Harford’s book with chapters ‘featuring [insert 2 or 3 famous…

Narcissism for Beginners by Marine McDonagh

Reviewed by Annabel Turning twenty-one, not much about me changed, physically speaking. I didn’t grow any taller. I didn’t grow any fatter. Pinch me and you’ll find no additional flesh on these bones. Even if we were the sole survivors of a plane wreck, you wouldn’t eat me for dinner. But nothing stayed the same…

Mother of Darkness by Venetia Welby

Reviewed by Annabel Old Soho ain’t what it used to be. The former centre of London’s seedier side has been largely poshed up, gentrified and made chic for new money – ‘suited and booted’. The days of the clip joints faking champagne and the Kinks’ big hit Lola are long gone. Many who live there…

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

Reviewed by Annabel There are two types of historical fiction. Those which are set during a particular period with imagined protagonists which may feature real people of the time in minor roles or cameos, and those which are fictional retellings of history where the real characters take centre stage. Sarah Dunant has written both. Her…

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

Reviewed by Annabel Jake Arnott’s novels are moving back in time. He started in the 1960s and 1970s with his Long Firm trilogy, then he moved back to WWII followed by the early years of the twentieth century. Now in his 7th book, we jump further back in time into the 18th century. Whenever the…

The Ladybird Expert Books

Reviewed by Annabel Ladybird, now owned by Penguin Random House, have been going from strength to strength recently with their series of satires on modern life for adults, tackling subjects like The Shed, The Meeting, The Sickie, The Mid-Life Crisis and many more – reusing original Ladybird illustrations paired with hilarious new text. No Christmas…

Paradise City by Joe Thomas

Reviewed by Annabel Joe Thomas lived and taught in São Paulo, the most populous city in the Americas and Southern Hemisphere, for ten years. His observations and experience of living in this vibrant city full of extremes have inspired his first novel – and he has written a companion article for Shiny too (click here).…

Sirens by Joseph Knox

Reviewed by Annabel Literary noir, in its general sense of typifying dark, cynical and unpleasant crime novels, (as opposed to the classic hard-boiled style where the protagonist is not a detective), needs constant subdivision these days: Tartan and Emerald noir from Scotland and Ireland. Sirens, falls into an even more specific species – ‘Manc-noir’, set in…