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…

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…

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…

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…

Flames by Robbie Arnott (pbk)

Review by Susan Osborne, 22 August 2019 Tasmanian writer Robbie Arnott’s Flames is not an easy book to write about. It’s quite some way out of my usual literary territory, steeped as it is in fantasy and folklore. Arnott’s debut begins with the reappearance of Edith McAllister, two days dead. The McAllister women have a…

Anna of Kleve – Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir

Review by Julie Barham, 20 August 2019 It is well known that Henry VIII had six wives – and none more mysterious than the one that he married virtually unseen, and parted from almost immediately. Alison Weir’s wonderful series of biographies of these women, queens, continues with the story of Anna, usually known as Anne…

Scrublands by Chris Hammer (pbk)

Review by Kim Forrester, 20 August 2019 Fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry will love this debut crime novel by Chris Hammer. As well as a similar setting — a drought-stricken country town in Australia —Scrublands is similarly fast paced, full of unexpected twists and turns, and an ending you won’t see coming. But the tale is more complex…

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Review by Harriet, 15 August 2019 Having been blown away by Colson Whitehead’s 2016 prizewinning novel The Underground Railroad, (reviewed here by another of our team), I was delighted to see that this new work was due out this summer. Delighted but also a bit apprehensive – could it possibly measure up to the brilliance…

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan

Translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 15 August 2019 An author hardly tops any lists of most hazardous jobs, but looking at the whirlwind that Perumal Murugan has endured, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so. When One part woman was published in Tamil in 2015, the local Kongu Vellala…

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 13 August 2019 I’m no great fan of fiction written exclusively in the present tense, for all its reputed ‘immediacy’; I generally fancy novels with a past. But that’s not to say it can never work. I more than once laid aside The Chain to do something else, only to be…

The Perfect Wife by J P Delaney

Review by Annabel, 8 August 2019 I recently read J P Delaney’s first psychological thriller, The Girl Before, (which Harriet reviewed here) in advance of a crime panel event he was speaking at. The event was excellent and JP was fascinating to listen to talking about his second novel Believe Me, which was inspired by…

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 6 August 2019 If Dr Frankenstein’s creation took the form of a book, Frankissstein is what I imagine it would look like. There’s a transgender doctor harvesting body parts for a rogue researcher, there’s a Welsh sexbot investor, and there’s Mary Shelley making love and writing her way across Europe with…

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff (pbk)

Review by Susan Osborne, 6 August 2019 Sofka Zinovieff’s Putney is a subtle novel which explores the fallout of sexual abuse all wrapped up in an engrossing piece of storytelling, accessible enough to offer an absorbing, intelligent summer read. When young composer Ralph visits the Putney home of a successful novelist keen to see his…

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Translated by Ann Goldstein Review by Gill Davies, 30 July 2019 It is 1975, somewhere in the south of Italy. A thirteen year old girl drags a suitcase and a bag of shoes up the stairs of a tenement building in an unknown town. She is about to meet  – and live with – people…

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

Reviewed by Harriet He wished that he could just once hear his sister play a solo again. Or help his sister pin up the hem on a dress she’d made. Or have a goodnight peck on the cheek from his mother – the most intimacy she could manage. They were not a family who touched.…

The Body Lies by Jo Baker

Reviewed by Gill Davies The prelude to the main events of the novel is a random, terrifying sexual assault on the central character. She is a young writer, with a well-received debut novel, living in south London in a small flat with her husband Mark, a teacher. She is working in a bookshop, trying to…

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster It’s been six years since Elizabeth Gilbert’s last work of fiction, The Signature of All Things (reviewed by Harriet, here), a warm, playful doorstopper telling the eventful life story of Alma Whittaker, a fictional nineteenth-century botanist whose staid existence in her father’s Philadelphia home unexpectedly opens outward through marriage, an adventure…

Tragedy, Farce and the Future: the Red Circle Minis

Reviewed by Karen Langley As I’ve explained in my Bookbuzz feature, the Red Circle Minis are three slim volumes of original writing published by Red Circle Authors. Each book is by a writer who’s either Japanese or living in Japan, but the works are being issued in English initially as an attempt to widen the…

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce Reviewed by Annabel Since I discovered the feelgood novels by French author Antoine Laurain, brought to us in translation by Gallic Books, I’ve seized upon each new release upon publication. Vintage 1954 is his seventh, his first new work since French Rhapsody, which I reviewed for Shiny here,…

The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz

Translated by Roger Allen Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth On the rare occasions that someone uncovers unpublished work by a deceased writer, publishing takes an archeological turn. An unpublished manuscript, like a mummified pharaoh or a Stone Age tool, can prove to be a gift from beyond the grave – for literature lovers and no doubt…

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies The day my review copy of Cari Mora arrived I spent the afternoon strolling on Morecambe’s splendid promenade. The view across the Bay from the Naples of the North is elevating even in dull weather. Hitting Morrisons for a light shop, as you do, I was overwhelmed at the entrance by…

The Cracks in our Armour by Anna Gavalda

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Harriet Way back in the early days of Shiny (issue 5 to be exact) I reviewed Anna Gavalda’s slender novel Billie. As I said in that review, I was first introduced to Gavalda in a French class, where we were reading and translating her celebrated novel Ensemble, C’est Tout,…

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth My first reaction was a desperately deep sigh when I heard that Ian McEwan would be taking on human-like artificial intelligence as the topic for his new novel. AI is standard science fiction fodder, and human-machine relations have been written about, filmed, and otherwise imagined so many times before – from…