No frog in my throat, ‘min P’tit’

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

frog music
I haven’t read Donoghue’s famous, or even infamous novel Room. I own a copy, but its dark subject matter requires a certain frame of mind to read and we haven’t coincided yet.

I was very keen to read her latest novel Frog Music though, as it’s set in San Francisco in the late 1800s. An exciting city in which to make a living, given that it is the port of entry to the US for many nations and is quite cosmopolitan. However, in 1876 it is in the midst of a stifling heat-wave and a smallpox epidemic too.

So it’s a tough time for three Parisians now living in Chinatown. Former stars of the French circus, Blanche works as an exotic dancer at the House of Mirrors and as a high-class whore on the side; Arthur is her lover, and there’s his friend Ernest. Ernest is supposedly engaged to Madeleine, but spends most of his time at Blanche’s house, which she has bought with her earnings, when he’s not out gambling with Arthur. Arthur used to ‘fly through the air with the greatest of ease’, but he missed Ernest the catcher and fell injuring his back.

One day Blanche is out shopping, when she gets knocked over by a bicycle…

Machine explodes one way and rider another, smashing Blanche to the ground.
She tries to spring up but her right leg won’t bear her. Mouth too dry to spit.
The lanky daredevil jumps up, rubbing one elbow, as lively as a clown. ‘Ça va, Mademoiselle?’ French much the same as Blanche’s own; the voice not a man’s, not a boy’s even. A girl, for all the gray jacket, vest, pants, the jet hair hacked above the sunburned jawline. One of these eccentrics on which the City prides itself – which only aggravates Blanche’s irritation, as if the whole collision was nothing but a gag, and never mind who’s left with merde on her hem.

Blanche’s first meeting with the notorious Jenny Bonnet, a cross-dresser (illegal at that time) didn’t go well, but as Jenny walks the hobbling Blanche home, the girls really hit it off and fast become close friends. Jenny is even more Bohemian than Blanche. She has no fixed abode, and alternates between spending time catching frogs to sell to the restaurants for cuisses de grenouilles, drinking, and riding her penny farthing which it appears she has nicked.

It is clear from the start that Arthur doesn’t like her. Jenny has a habit of speaking her mind, and she wonders why Blanche is happy to work so hard, whoring for all those michetons (clients), and what about Blanche’s baby? It’s the baby, P’tit Arthur, as he is known, that sets it all off. Arthur had farmed out the caterwauling baby so Blanche could go back to work, and when Blanche finds he has been kept in a house that reminds one of those scenes in Romanian orphanages where the toddlers were kept in bed all day, ignored, she liberates him. P’tit Arthur is now nearly a year old and has rickets, and is in a bad way. Blanche has to dig deep to find any maternal instincts. The arrival of Jenny and the baby totally upsets the triangle of Blanche, Arthur and Ernest. There are too many secrets that begin to come out, and one of them will end up dead.

Donoghue has based her story upon real events. Most of the characters including Blanche and Jenny existed, and smallpox was rife that hot summer. There was also an unsolved murder in San Francisco, and although it’s clear from the first page of the novel who lives and who dies, as the book starts in the plot’s present before flashing back, I’m not going to tell you who it was.

What I can tell you is that after 416 pages (including appendices) I was mighty fed up of Blanche though. She may be a lusty sex-machine, but the rest of the time she is such a fusspot. Always cross about something, she fair wore me out, and as she features on every page of the novel I did nearly give up reading it, but I kept on because of Jenny who is a wonderful character and we had far too much Blanche and not enough Jenny for my liking.

As I’ve already said, the novel starts near the end of the story with a murder, and thereafter it flashes backwards and forwards constantly as more of what happened gradually gets revealed. It was confusing at times though whether we were in the past, the time around the murder, or the time after the murder for the entire novel is written in the present tense. Combine that with Blanche’s fussing, and you have tangled layers just like her petticoats, and I found it all just too messy.

Scattered throughout the text are snatches from many popular songs of the period, Blanche in particular is always singing to herself and always shares her tunes with us, many of which are in French of course. In the afterword, after an article by the author on her sources for the characters and the murder is a comprehensive listing of all the songs with their individual histories and translations where necessary – I skipped this bit. After that though is a glossary of the French terms used and I did refer to it occasionally. If you want to learn some French swear words here’s where to go! When you’re British, swearing in French seems exotic, even romantic – but bar one scene, there is little true romance in this novel, it’s mostly bump and grind among the petticoats. (6.5/10)

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Source: Review copy from Amazon Vine. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Pub March 2014 by Picador, hardback 416 pages.

 

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A little Saki goes a long way …

Reginald by Saki

SakiCompleteShortStories

Nearly two years ago now, we chose to read some Saki short stories as summer Book Group reading. In the event, everyone managed to pick different editions with anthologised different Saki stories, and due to holidays etc our discussions were rather truncated.

Tidying up the books around my bedside table this morning, I came across the book I purchased for that month – the Saki Complete Short Stories. My bookmark was at page 40 out of 563 – that’s as far as I got at the time, but it does mark the end of the first group of stories, known simply as ‘Reginald.’

Hector_Hugh_Munro_aka_Saki,_by_E_O_Hoppe,_1913

Saki, doesn’t he look sad (right), wrote his stories at the turn of the century, wittily satirizing Edwardian society. Many of them are very short and few run to more than a handful of pages. According to Wikipedia his pen-name may have come from either that of a cup-bearer in the Rubaiyat of Oman Khayyam, or a particular type of small monkey – both of which are referenced in his works. Hugh Hector Munro, his full name, died in France during WWI, killed by a German sniper’s bullet.

The one thing I found when reading his stories, was that a little Saki goes a long way. Each short story is so full of pithy and witty one-liners, reading more than a couple at a time feels like overdoing it, you can only take so much wit. I realised this again, dipping back into the book this morning. I also left loads of tabs stuck on the pages to mark particular witticisms.

I hope to keep reading on, a couple of stories at a time when the whim takes me, for they are wonderfully arch, and Reginald comes out with some shocking things that made me guffaw out loud. Though I haven’t even got past all the Reginald stories yet to his other man about town Clovis, yet alone the Beasts and Super-beasts set, I thoroughly enjoyed them. I shall now leave you with a selection of quotations from Reginald, but do share your thoughts on Saki too…

Reginald on the [Royal] Academy

“To die before being painted by Sargent is to go to heaven prematurely.”

“To have reached thirty,” said Reginald, “is to have failed in life.”

Reginald’s Choir Treat

“Never,” wrote Reginald to his most darling friend, “be a pioneer. It’s the Early Christian that gets the fattest lion.”

Reginald’s Drama

Reginald closed his eyes with the elaborate weariness of one who has rather nice eyelashes and thinks it useless to conceal the fact.

“… and, anyhow, I’m not responsible for the audience having a happy ending. The play would be quite sufficient strain on one’s energies. I should get a bishop to say it was immoral and beautiful – no dramatist has thought of that before, and every one would come to condemn the bishop, and they would stay on out of nervousness. After all, it requires a great deal of moral courage to leave in a marked manner in the middle of the second act when your carriage isn’t ordered until twelve.”

Reginald’s Christmas Revel

They say (said Reginald) that there’s nothing sadder than victory except defeat. If you’ve ever stayed with dull people during what is alleged to be the festive season, you can probably revise that saying.

Of course there were other people there. There was a Major Somebody who had shot things in Lapland, or somewhere of that sort; I forget what they were, but it wasn’t for want of reminding. We had them cold with every meal almost, and he was continually giving us details of what they measured from tip to tip, as though he thought we were going to make them warm under-things for the winter. I used to listen to him with a rapt attention that I thought rather suited me, and then one day I quite modestly gave the dimensions of an okapi I had shot in the Lincolnshire fensl The Major turned a beautiful Tyrian scarlet (I remember thinking at the time that I should like my bathroom hung in that colour), and I think that at that moment he almost found it in his heart to dislike me.

Reginald’s Rubaiyat

The other day (confided Reginald), when I was killing time in the bathroom and making bad resolutions for the New Year, it occurred to me that I would like to be a poet. […] and then I got to work on a Hymn to the New Year, which struck me as having possibilities. […] Quite the best verse in it went something like this:

“Have you heard the groan of a gravelled grouse,
Or the snarl of a snaffled snail
(Husband or mother, like me, or spouse),
Have you lain a-creep in the darkened house
Where the wounded wombats wail?”

Enough!  I can’t take any more!

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Complete Short Storiesby Saki (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Complete Saki: 144 Collected Novels and Short Stories – for Kindle – just £0.99!

A nasty piece of work is Oliver…

Apologies for not getting any posts up for a few days – it’s been a bit hectic – what with a first aid training course, back to school and all that entails, plus of course a wonderful quick trip down to London on Wednesday to have tea at the Wolseley Restaurant on Piccadilly with my three co-editors of Shiny New Books.  Can you believe it’s the first time the four of us have been together in the same place.

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In case you haven’t seen the proof – here it is (from L>R: Harriet, me, Victoria and Simon).  I’d also recommend the Wolseley as a posh but affordable place to go in the West End – a cream tea is £10.75+service, but you do need to book.  Originally a (Wolseley) car showroom, the restaurant is in the French grand café style, bustling with attentive waiters.

If you still haven’t signed up for the Shiny New Books newsletter, click on the logo to your right and send us your email address to get all the updates. New reviews are coming soon…

But back to my blog now. Despite being so busy, I have been reading quite a lot, and thus have a stack of books waiting to be written about.  Here’s one of them…

 

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

unravelling oliver

 I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.

I’d be willing to wager that almost every review of this novel will contain this quote. You can’t not include it really. It immediately sets the scene and introduces us to the monster of a man that is Oliver Ryan, and his long-suffering wife Alice. We don’t know why he did it, he doesn’t tell us, but it’s clear from the start that he’s a right bastard – and what’s more, he knows it.

Oliver Ryan is the successful author of a series of children’s books, written under the pseudonym Vincent Dax. Alice is an illustrator and they were paired by his publisher to work together and it went from there. They’ve been together for years now, childless, ‘When we got engaged, I made it very clear that children were not on the Agenda.’ Oliver describes Alice as ‘habitually obedient with just an occasional rebellion.’ You sense that she’d not the type of woman he’d usually go for, yet he does seem to care deeply for her in a way. So, why did he hit her then?

The author teases out Oliver’s past by getting those who know him best to tell of their experiences, amongst them are Alice’s former boyfriend Barney, Oliver’s only real teenaged pal (until it all goes wrong) Michael, his neighbour Moya with whom he’s been having an affair out of sheer laziness for ages and most notably perhaps – Véronique who now owns the French chateau where Oliver, Michael and Michael’s sister Laura worked one summer in the vineyards.

Their tales are interspersed with Oliver’s memories, mostly from his school days which sounded very grim. Oliver never knew his mother, and when his father remarried, he was sent away to the boarding school just up the road – so close he could watch his new half-brother growing up through binoculars from a high window.  He languishes there, ignored, not even going home during the holidays, effectively abandoned except for an annual duty visit from his father.  He tries hard to get his father’s attention, but it ain’t gonna happen – for his father has secrets too.

His father is the key that makes Oliver become what he is – a classic case of lack of nurture overcoming nature. Oliver becomes determined to show him that he doesn’t need him. He is handsome, charismatic and clever, but he takes risks and short cuts to further his ends and this will be his undoing.  The way he tramples on his friends and acquaintances and the consequences of his actions are truly shocking, as is his own family history when it is revealed.

When this unsolicited book arrived recently, I wasn’t sure whether I’d read it or not. I’m rather glad that I inspected it further though for it was a gripping read.  Debut author Liz Nugent has delivered a compelling and concise novel, something many first-time published novelists don’t manage. Each of the characters comes alive in their chapters, the only person we don’t hear from is Alice herself which when I thought about it was surprising at the time of reading, but upon reflection unnecessary to drive the narrative.

Nugent is Irish, and the atmosphere she has created in Unravelling Oliver reminds me of another novel of obsession by an Irish author, that I read a few years ago. That was The Illusionist by veteran author Jennifer Johnston (reviewed here, in which a relationship falls apart and the man within revealed have a rather different character.  That I can compare the two shows that Liz Nugent is an author to watch out for. (8.5/10)

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Source: Publisher – Thank you! To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Pub March 6th, 2014 by Penguin Ireland, Trade paperback, 231 pages.
The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston, paperback.

School’s out, summer’s in, time for Panic…

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddScene – a small town in middle America, school’s out for summer. For those who’ve graduated high school, finding a full-time job will be a priority unless you’re one of the lucky few who are off to college. The town of Carp is small and poor – no-one has any money.  But there is one way out… to win ‘Panic’ – the annual top secret knock-out challenge for high school grads, with a pot this year of $67k for the last one standing at the end of the summer.

Lauren Oliver’s new thriller for older teens and up explores the lives of this year’s players – they all have their reasons for wanting the money.  The first challenge is to announce you’re in by jumping from the rocks into the lake at the quarry. Heather only decides at the last minute after she sees her supposed boyfriend snogging another girl.

 “Announce yourself!” Diggin boomed out.
Below Heather, the water, black as oil, was still churning with bodies. She wanted to shout down – move, move, I’m going to hit you – but she couldn’t speak. She could hardly breathe. Her lungs felt like they were being pressed between two stones.
And suddenly she couldn’t think of anything but Chris Heinz, who five years ago drank a fifth of vodka before doing the jump, and lost his footing. The sound his head made as it cracked against the rock was delicate, almost like an egg breaking She remembered the way everyone ran through the woods; the image of his body, broken and limp, lying half-submerged in the water.
“Say your name!” Diggin prompted again, and the crowd picked up the chant: Name, name, name.
She opened her mouth. “Heather,” she croaked out. “Heather Nill.” Her voice broke, got whipped back by the wind.
The chant was still going: Name, name, name, name. Then: Jump, jump, jump, jump.
Her insides were white; filled with snow. Her mouth tasted a little like puke. She took a deep breath. She closed her eyes.
She jumped.

This is the start of a summer that will test Heather, her best friends Nat and Bishop, and outsider Dodge to the limit.  The challenges in Panic are top secret, and announced by coded signs and text messages.  Heather and Nat initially decide to make a pact to share the winnings – half of $67k would be life-changing for either of them – but the pact will put more pressure on the pair rather than lessen it.  Bishop, the girls’ best friend is very quiet about the whole thing, he’s not taking part, just supporting.  Dodge is the surprise element. He’s out for revenge against Ray Hanrahan, whose older brother Luke caused his older sister to be badly injured and crippled in her year.  His best way forward is to side with Heather and Nat for now until the numbers reduce, but he expects Hanrahan to play dirty…

The challenges are all really dangerous – from walking a high-up plank between two water towers, to stealing something from a trigger-happy red-neck’s house amongst them.  The players tend to pull out rather than get taken out, but nasty things do happen.  When it gets down to the last few – anyone who’s seen the films American Graffiti or Rebel Without a Cause can guess what form the final challenge will take – however, who will be doing it?  The police of course, are always one step behind. They know it takes place every year, but the code of secrecy between the players and their friends is solid, the police will only be able to react when something happens.

Despite the severity of the series of challenges they have to go through, there was never quite enough danger for me – but then I am probably more used to the even more full-on goriness of adult thrillers – you have to remember the primary audience for this one. The stakes were high but The Hunger Games it ain’t, thankfully you don’t have to die. Most of the players retire through sheer terror one way or another but this for me downplayed the gladiatorial nature of the game.

The story alternates between Heather and Dodge who have contrasting motivations for playing.  Heather just wants to for her and little sister Lily to be able to escape the trailer park and her slutty mother.  Oliver does succeed in making you care for Heather, but she lacks back-story and is not a complex character, whereas Dodge is more interesting psychologically, although less likeable for it. The tension between Heather and Bishop, the best friends who are obviously made for each other, could have been built up more too. There’s no doubting Heather’s courage and determination once set on her path.

This novel doesn’t dwell on the past – we get few snippets about previous years’ games which again, could have added some more depth and more tension as you imagine what the next challenges could be this year.  It was certainly page-turning in fits and starts, and had its little twists and turns, yet was pretty transparent and predictable. It felt real enough though, bored penniless teenagers looking for thrills – don’t get any ideas! …

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Source: Amazon Vine review copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Panicby Lauren Oliver. Pub March 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, hardback 408 pages.

 

Happy Easter

As my daughter is spending the rest of Easter with her father, we did our Easter Eggs on Good Friday. I hid loads of little ones all around the house in places that the cats couldn’t get to, and that kept her occupied for ages finding them – with additional cryptic clues from me for those last few difficult ones – we do this every year, and the challenge is to think of some new places!  Juliet also did a little treasure hunt with riddles for me, with some Malteaster bunnies and mini-eggs at the end of it – Yum, yum.
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Happy Easter everyone.

Annabel Elsewhere … again …

This post refers to my last new fiction reviews for Shiny New Books’s debut issue.  If you haven’t done so already, do pop over to the website, (and sign-up for the newsletter).  Thank you, and feel free to leave comments there or here.

THE-MADNESS

The Madness by Alison Rattle

This is a cracking YA novel set during Victorian times about a doomed between the classes romance.  Loads of authentic period detail about the Victorian seaside (that’s Clevedon pier on the cover) and bathing couple with a well-written main character made it a fantastic read with echoes for me of Andersen’s Little Mermaid. (8.5/10)

and …

one-plus-one-186x300The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Commercial women’s fiction as they tend to call it these days rather than chick-lit, is something I rarely read, yet – when I pick a good ‘un, I can’t get enough of it. I devoured this novel in one sitting, staying up in bed until after 2am to finish it.  The complications of modern family life with extended and split families living on the poverty line made this totally compulsive. (8/10)

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Source: Publishers – Thank you!  To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Madness by Alison Rattle, Hot Key Books, March 2014, paperback original 208 pages.
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, pub Feb 2014, Penguin hardback, 528 pages.

My Les Mis-full day – not glum at all

Les Misérables – On Film and Stage

Over the years, the one musical that didn’t appeal to me was Les Misérables. In fact, I turned down free tickets back in the early 1990s, such was my lack of enthusiasm for it – the very thought of having to sit through it made me feel glum.

But, dear readers, I am cured!  Vivent Les Misérables!

My daughter, for reasons I’ll come to later, was desperate to see it.  I said I’ll book for the summer. ‘No, can’t it be Easter?’ she asked.  ‘I’ll see what’s available.’ I replied, and found us tickets for yesterday evening – good seats at a price, but as an irregular theatre-goer these days, I’m willing to pay out a bit for a good view, (I chose the 2nd priced stalls at £67.50 each!!!).

les mis movie posterHowever, as my daughter likes to understand what’s going on before seeing shows, (something that spoiled seeing War Horse for her with her old school – she hadn’t read the book, and they didn’t explain the play at all) we watched the DVD at the weekend as Les Mis is a complicated story, (I benefitted from that too).

I loved it – especially Hugh Jackman of course, who has a great pedigree in musicals (my late mum saw him in Oklahoma and fell for him). Even Russell Crowe wasn’t so bad, and was suitably brooding, and Hathaway we know can sing and was so brave getting her real hair cut off – and her collarbones made her look skeletal as the dying Fantine. The naturalistic singing, which was live rather than dubbed as I understand, made it seem so much more … miserable.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helen Bonham Carter (SBC and HBC!) were great comic relief as the money-grabbing Thénardiers. I cried like a baby at the end.  I went through the story with my daughter and we were prepared for our trip down to London.

20140415_192219_resizedWe had a good afternoon shopping in Covent Garden, then a burger and shake at Ed’s Diner in Soho before the theatre.  Our seats were great (no need to pay £20 more for that prime central block).  Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue was smaller than I expected, but very plush.

On time, the orchestra struck up and we were transported to 19thC France. The staging was wonderful – using a surprisingly quiet revolving stage and clever lighting which allowed both props and actors to keep the action always moving.  Originally staged by the RSC at the Barbican, you expect the slickness and clever use of backdrops and props. An American party sitting behind me, although they loved the traditional theatre, had been expecting something on a bigger scale ‘like back in Boston’ (yawn!).

My daughter (left) gets Carrie's (middle) autograph

My daughter (left) gets Carrie’s (middle) autograph

None of the cast (except one) were familiar to me, but they were touts merveilleux! I  did have a sniffle when Eponine died, and could see lots of hankies being dabbed to eyes then and at the end.

Eponine was the reason for going at Easter, she was played by Carrie Hope Fletcher (sister of McFly’s Tom) and my daughter follows her on the web. So afterwards, we quickly went round to the stage door and found ourselves in a small cluster of waiting fans and she kindly signed our programme which made my daughter’s day.

Les Mis has now trumped both Oliver! and Matilda as her favourite musical and film. My favourite will always be the original Jesus Christ Superstar, but Les Mis will now vie with Oliver! for my second spot.

Victor Hugo’s story is epic in its scope, I started reading it around two years ago, and ought to resume – I got as far as Jean Valjean being given the silver, i.e. not very far, and paused. Seeing the musical twice has renewed my enthusiasm for it.

Musically, Les Mis is sung-through; there is no dialogue at all, and the score relies on recitative to link the main scenes. I was fascinated by the way there are really only about eight (guessing here) musical themes which get mixed up and reappear throughout the show, most obviously the Thénardiers’ comic song, and Javert’s brooding one, but they all blend together and never appear repetitive at all. This made it feel less of a musical, more an opera.  I loved it.

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Here’s links to Les Mis at Amazon UK, in case you’re interested:
Les Misérables [DVD] [2012] starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway etc
Les Miserables 25th Anniversary [DVD] the concert at the RAH with Alfie Boe etc.

Getting back to Banks…

The Quarry by Iain Banks

 

SNB logo tinyI was saddened at Iain Banks’s untimely death last year, and although I added his last novel The Quarry to my collection, I couldn’t read it straight away. Nine months later, it was an opportune time to read it – coinciding nicely with the paperback issue and the launch of Shiny New Books.

QuarrySo, you can read my review here.  It’s not his best novel but it is made all the more poignant in the fact that at its heart is a man dying of cancer and Banks himself didn’t know he was in the same predicament when he started writing it.
I shall be linking my review to my Banksread tab at the top of the page. I also hope that having read The Quarry will kickstart my (re)reading project.

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon, please click below:
The Quarryby Iain Banks. Pub 2013. Abacus paperback 384 pages.

Inspired by David Garnett

Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall

mrs foxIt is not often that a short story will get published as a standalone book – but just occasionally they do. Sarah Fox, (author of How to Paint a Dead Man – my review here) won the BBC National Short Story Award 2013 with Mrs Fox, and Faber have published it separately.  At a scant 37 pages, a fiver is a lot to pay for even an admittedly nice edition of a short story – but, it is a rather wonderful one.  (The Kindle edition is less at £1.71).

It’s about a professional couple.  He loves her more than she loves him, yet she stays, until one day she becomes ill, and then a couple of days later transforms into a fox. He takes her home and becomes an emotional wreck – what can he do? …

But wait – I hear (some of) you saying. We’ve read that before!

Yes, indeed you have – you’re thinking of Lady Into Fox by David Garnett (my review here) – a novella from 1922.  In fact Hall’s story was inspired by Garnett’s, and is a contemporary reworking of it.  Hall is renowned for her slightly detached protagonists and for the depth of nature and landscape in her writing and that is all present here.  Like Garnett’s story, Hall’s one too shows that anthropomorphism is a mere fantasy, but that man and animal can form different bonds.

I’m glad this caught my eye. I really enjoyed it, finding the contemporary reworking more to my taste than the original. (9/10)

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Source: Own copy. To explore further at Amazon UK, please click below:
Mrs Fox by Sarah Hall, Faber paperback 2014.
The BBC National Short Story Award 2013, intro by Mariella Frostrup – contains all 5 shortlisted stories.
Lady Into Foxby David Garnett, other editions available.

Annabel elsewhere – Jill Dawson & Val McDermid

Today I’m going to share links to two more of my reviews over at Shiny New Books. We’re still sending out the first newsletter to new subscribers, so click on the logo to your right and it’ll take you there. We also have a giveaway and an ‘Ideal Library’ competition running – details in the newsletter and on the SNBks front page.

The Tell Tale Heart - UK hardback coverThe first book I’d like to highlight is Jill Dawson’s wonderful new novel The Tell-Tale Heart – My Shiny New Books review.  Dawson is an author whose novels I always enjoy, (my blog review of her previous novel Lucky Bunny is here).

The Tell-Tale Heart is the story of a university professor and professional reprobate that needs a heart transplant, and his teenaged donor. This book is by an author writing at the height of her powers.  Full of hearty references, humour and sadness, and I loved it.

You can also read the SNBks interview with Jill Dawson here.

northangerThen we have something completely different…

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second novel in a series of modern retellings of the works of Austen – My Shiny New Books review.

You never have paired Austen and McDermid together, but she has done it proud, producing a frothy teenage novel for the Twilight generation that keeps all the essential plot elements in, but works perfectly in the world of dating and texting, txtg.

Please feel free to comment on either of these novels here or on Shiny New Books.

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Source: Publishers – thank you. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The Tell-tale Heart by Jill Dawson, pub Feb 2014 by Sceptre, Hardback 256pages.
Northanger Abbey (Austen Project 2) by Val McDermid, pub Mar 2014 by The Borough Press, Hardback 352 pages.