(life:) razorblades included by Dan Holloway (Recommended by Rohan Quine)
When writing transgresses in order to find truth in its vision and expression, this is a high aim and a serious endeavour, and its success fulfils valuable functions. This collection contains rich transgressions, which take their place amid a fertile mix of elements including desperation, humour, longing, urgency, obsession, tenderness, alienation, despair and a deep curiosity in living, brought together with a combination of economy yet refusal-to-be-tidy-or-slick. I shall re-read this disparate and lovely box of dark-stained delights/howls/love-bites, whenever the moment’s right for a grand, messy, dark, clean, questing “F you” to this world that does these things to us.
The Light never Lies by Francis Guenette (Recommended by Mari Howard)
Guenette uses her counselling training and experience to weave a compelling story of complex characters into a great entertaining read. Her obvious interest in exploring the various different groupings which can make up a 'family' works through the novel, as does her concern to include a number of Native American/Canadians and to demonstrate that they are not 'all the same'. We readers feel these lives go on into a future like our own, full of unknowns and possibles, for she neither supplies a rosy romantic ending for everyone nor ties up all the ends … leaving space for more follow-ups.
There were a few passages where I felt we were possibly hovering a little close to case history detail style but the strength of character portraits and intriguing nature of the relationships overcomes this.
In all, highly recommended to any reader who enjoys the vast canvas or multitude of facets of the human story, an in-depth story of being and relating, of how forgiveness of ourselves and others usually works to the positive, but not necessarily to dreamland. Realistic, educational, and entertaining.
No More Mulberries, by Mary Smith (Recommended by Catriona Troth)
On the eve of Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 1995, a Scottish midwife is running a clinic in a remote village in Hazara Zat with her Afghan husband. But a web of past relationships, conflicting expectations, and the all-encompassing Afghan concept of honour is placing an unbearable strain on their marriage.
Smith spent ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan and her novel is filled with the sort of detail that can only come from deep personal experience. Whether spreading out mulberries to dry in the sun on a roof weatherproofed with layers of mud, the bone-jarring impact of driving over rutted mountain roads, or the grim realities of working in a clinic with children hovering on the edge of life – Smith draws us into the lives of her characters. But it’s impossible to read this and not be aware that, tough as the life described here is, the shadow of the Taliban, war and occupation lies ahead.
Blue Mercy, by Orna Ross (Recommended by Dr Carol Cooper)
This story had me in its clutches right from the start. It has the same lyrical quality I associate with Orna’s poetry, and it’s a potent mix of mystery and psychology too. Mercy Mulcahy is accused of killing her father, but there’s much more here than the tale of the damaged daughter of a tyrant. That’s all I’ll say, apart from adding that it’s a damn good yarn that begs to be read through the night no matter how tired you are.
Cold Pressed, by JJ Marsh (Recommended by Alison Morton)
JJ Marsh’s mystery unfolds amongst police rivalries, personal tensions
and the closed, festering community of a luxury cruise ship. Don’t let
the luscious Mediterranean skies or the tastes and smells of Greece fool
you - here be murder.
Good intentions, social inhibitions, thwarted wishes are all in Cold Pressed. DI Beatrice Stubbs is neatly paired with newbie Inspector Nikos Stephanakis in a fresh version of the police ‘buddy’ relationship.
JJ Marsh draws her characters deftly in three dimensions; we have all met people like these in our daily lives. And this, of course, is what makes the story so shocking…
The Glass Girl by Sandy Hogarth (Recommended by Amanda Hatter)
I love this beautiful book. The Glass Girl by Sandy Hogarth really captures the soul of sixteen year old Ruth. The story follows her as she flees to Australia, before returning home some seven years later. The writing is gorgeous and the descriptive scenes are breath taking. I was very impressed by the author's skill in weaving together all the secrets, betrayals and life-changing decisions our young protagonist faces and doing it in such a compelling way.
A wonderful debut that deserves to be on the bestseller list - I am delighted to be able to recommend it.