Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie

Review by Peter Reason, 10 October 2019 Kathleen Jamie is primarily known as a poet, but her prose writing is eagerly anticipated and widely acclaimed. Surfacing is the third in a loose trilogy of prose collections that joins Findings (2005) and Sightlines (2012). I am unashamedly a fan. Findings drew nature and landscapes together with…

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

Review by Gill Davies, 10 October 2019 This powerful and engrossing novel continues a series of crime novels in which Attica Locke uses plot and suspense to investigate inequality and American racism in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Previous novels examined the lives and history of black Americans as they struggled to establish communities…

Street Art (Art Essentials) by Simon Armstrong

Review by Liz Dexter, 8 October 2019 The Art Essentials series aims to be engaging, accessible, authoritative, richly illustrated and expertly written and conceived, and with a bookseller and book collector who has watched the rise of street art in the public consciousness to write it and the expert designers at Thames & Hudson to…

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Review by Harriet, 8 October 2019 Ann Patchett believes in goodness, arguably a most unfashionable belief in today’s world. In the bookstore she runs, there’s a sign: ‘What good shall I do this day?’ In an Guardian interview [here] in 2016 she was quoted as saying ‘I have been shown so much kindness in my…

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 3 October 2019 In his indispensable primer What Is History? E. H. Carr underlines the point that ‘History’ has a double meaning: both the events, or facts, of the past, and the record of those events (‘Prehistory’ describes the time before written records were kept). Facts are facts. Writing is a…

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by Ali Hope, 1 October 2019 Although I have pre-ordered new releases a few times before it’s not something I do very often – and never have I felt swept along by the hype of new book like I was this one. If I am honest, I had never thought that The Handmaid’s Tale needed…

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Review by Simon, 1 October 2019 As the cover of Confessions of a Bookseller tells us, Bythell is an international bestseller. A couple of years ago, The Diary of a Bookseller was a surprise hit – or perhaps not a surprise, to those of who love reading about the running of a bookshop from the…

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

Review by Annabel, 24 September 2019 Levy came to the forefront of our attention when her 2011 novel Swimming Home was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, something she’d repeat with her 2016 offering Hot Milk (reviewed here). Neither went on to win the prize, but her reputation as a writer of slim, poetic and…

The Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim

Introduced by Juliane Römhild, with notes by Kate Macdonald Review by Karen Langley, 19 September 2019 Elizabeth von Arnim is probably best known nowadays for her novel The Enchanted April, a warm and delightful story in which a group of women take a holiday in Italy and experience its magic. Her Elizabeth… books, in which…

The Confession by Jessie Burton

Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 19 Sept 2019 Capturing an era with impeccable accuracy is a challenge that anyone writing about the past must face; there will always be that critic who enjoys combing through a novel for the most minor historical slips. Jessie Burton, however, is clearly not afraid of tackling the historical. Her debut,…

Futurekind: Design by and for the People by Robert Phillips

Review by Liz Dexter, 17 September 2019 Robert Phillips is a senior tutor on the Design Products course at the Royal College of Art, as well as being an award-winning product designer in his own right.  He researches open design and citizen science and all this means he’s the ideal person to introduce the world…

Moonlighting: Beethoven and Literary Modernism, by Nathan Waddell

Review by Rob Spence, 17 September 2019 When the newly-elected Brexit party MEPs took their place at the European Parliament in June, they used the opening ceremony as a stunt, turning their backs during the playing of the European Union anthem. That anthem is, as everybody knows, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, by common account a…

The House Opposite by Barbara Noble

Review by Elaine Simpson-Long, 12 Sept 2019 It sounds odd to begin a book review with the statement that I do not like contemporary literature. I never have. And it is not because I am a Grumpy Old Woman – I have felt this way all my life. As a teenager working in the library…

Machines in the Head: Selected Short Writing by Anna Kavan

Review by Karen Langley, 12 Sept 2019 There was quite a resurgence of interest in Anna Kavan’s writing last year with the release of not one, but three, different editions of her classic dystopian novel Ice (which I covered in detail for Shiny New Books). Kavan published over several decades, though the majority of her…

Devotion by Madeline Stevens

Review by Harriet, 10 Sept 2019 ‘A dangerous novel – sharp, glittering and sexy’: so says the quotation on the cover of Madeline Stevens’ debut novel. I’m not sure that I would have described it like this, but I did find it immensely readable. Knowing from the blurb that this was the story of a…

Sanctuary by Luca D’Andrea

Translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis and Katherine Gregor Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 5 September 2019 Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em/And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so, ad infinitum. Organised crime is an institution, and like almost all major institutions   – banks, for example – it is…

The Remarkable Life of the Skin by Monty Lyman

Review by Simon Thomas, 5 Sept 2019 The number of science books I’ve read can be numbered on my fingers, and the number of science books I’ve read that weren’t written by Oliver Sacks is nil. Until now! Full disclosure, Monty Lyman is a friend of mine – and that was why I picked up The Remarkable Life…

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Review by Annabel, 3 September 2019 Those who’ve visited Shiny New Books before may know of my passion for the novels of Becky Chambers, one of the most distinctive new voices in Science Fiction. In her ‘Wayfarers’ series, she has created a unique milieu, which shows a broadly optimistic view of the future. Humankind has…

Beastings by Benjamin Myers (pbk.)

Review by Kim Forrester, 3 September 2019 Stories told in strong, distinctive voices using sparse, pared-back prose don’t come much better than Benjamin Myers’ Beastings, which has just been reissued by Bloomsbury. Originally published in 2014, this simple tale is essentially a chase novel in which a priest enlists the help of a poacher to pursue a…

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (pbk.)

Review by Jane Carter, 29 August 2019 I fell in love with Diane Setterfield’s first book, I was disappointed by her second; but when I saw the title of this third novel I thought that everything would be alright and as soon as I started to read I was quite certain that it would. Imagine…

Shiny Flash Fiction!

We have a little treat for you today. Our Shiny Editor at Large, Simon, occasionally writes pieces of flash fiction, which he has published on his own blog. He kindly agreed for Shiny to share them with our readers too. Here is the first in what we hope will be an occasional series. Oranges by…

Belfast Stories, edited by Paul McVeigh & Lisa Frank

Review by Laura Marriott, 27 August 2019 In Donegall Square, in the centre of Belfast, Lisa is working in the Welcome Centre. Tourists flock in searching for Game of Thrones sites and she spends her days dolling out information about the city and giving tours to VIPs. In a job that involves greeting visitors to…