What we’re reading: 20th May, 2014

Our booksellers share some of their favourite books of the moment…

Glow by Ned Beauman

Glow by Ned Beauman reviewed by Pete Renton at Nottingham

Reviewed by Pete Renton at Nottingham

Ned Beauman’s first two novels Boxer, Beetle and The Teleportation Accident were wonderfully wordy and esoteric highlights on the literary calendar. Strange, extremely well written and historically mind-bending, they were the sort of novels you’d find being passed around from friend to friend with an assertive plea to “read this weird book.” The Teleportation Accident cemented the love of critics and booksellers as it was longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker prize, and now he’s back and hopefully poised to make an impact on a wider audience with Glow. It’s a little more accessible and a little less complicated, but it still emits an oddball glimmer that causes it to stand out.

A chance encounter with a mysterious young woman at a rave sets Raf in search of the origins of the new drug on the scene, Glow, almost by accident dropping him into the middle of a far-reaching conspiracy that stretches all the way to Burma by way of unmarked white vans and hyper intelligent foxes. It’s all very entertaining and well realised, as Raf starts picking up other outsiders and bumbling his way towards enlightenment. These characters are people you can root for, easy to empathise with and in Raf’s case, self deprecating and relatable.

Beauman is wonderfully self-indulgent, littering his paragraphs with dramatic and thoroughly unusual similes that punch through the text like a literary sandworm. He makes the drab and filthy side of London positively shine with vivid and otherworldly descriptions of everyday detritus and greying buildings, like a poetic ode to areas often forgotten about. It’s a constantly amusing and decidedly different novel that goes wherever it wants to, and drags you along for the ride.

Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn

Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn reviewed by Tom Mandall at Leeds

Reviewed by Tom Mandall at Leeds

Lost for Words is a wonderfully entertaining peek behind the shine and polish of press conferences and group photos that make up a major literary prize. The book takes in judges, wannabes and unlikely contenders, with set-piece shenanigans in judges’ meetings and the ceremony itself.

It manages to be slyly, cruelly funny whilst also questioning the function and purpose of literary prizes. It is true that it could be more savage and take the criticisms of these prizes further, or that it could probe deeper into the question of how we are to discover, value and celebrate great literature (whatever that may be), but keeping the satirical and philosophical elements running together was something I really enjoyed.

Some will be quick to cry sour grapes and find real-life counterparts for fictional judges, but to do so would be to deny the deliciously enjoyable comedy and food for thought St. Aubyn serves up.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson reviewed by Ellen Marshall at Ealing

Reviewed by Ellen Marshall at Ealing

I have meant to read Eva Ibbotson for ages. I’ve finally got round to her and have fallen completely in love.

Journey to the River Sea is about a girl who goes to the Amazon in the hope of finding a new life and a family. The writing is fantastically witty and you can exactly picture the characters and locations.

I would recommend this to anyone, but make sure you set aside some proper time to read it, because once you start you won’t want to stop until you reach the end!

This is Dali by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae

This is Dali reviewed by Emma Prince at Southampton West Quay

Reviewed by Emma Prince at Southampton West Quay

A concise and palatable introduction to the madness, narcissism and surreal talent of this iconic, celebrity artist. Ingram balances text and imagery wonderfully, never making it too word heavy, this achievement means that this is an incredibly accessible read for just about anyone.

This is Dali is a great starting point for those who are new to this artist’s peculiar history and it doubles as a lovely addition to any enthusiast’s collection. I absolutely adored it, and the edition itself is beautiful and robust, I might just have to treat myself to the others in this series of brief artist biographies

A Railway ABC by Jack Townend

A Railway ABC by Jack Townend reviewed by Stevie Connor at Aberdeen Unionbridge

Reviewed by Stevie Connor at Aberdeen Unionbridge

This is a lovely book, with beautiful illustrations. A charming story for younger readers using various features of the railway to make a nice ABC for children.

And it rhymes, which is always nice!

Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka reviewed by Lance Christopher at Uxbridge

Reviewed by Lance Christopher at Uxbridge

This is a thrilling book, with some excellent Science Fiction ideas and explanations that are almost plausible. It tackles many issues we all deal with and then fires lots of guns at them.

This is a very modern sci-fi classic that takes tropes from Science Fiction that we’ve all seen before, and then mixes them up in an interesting new way.

In the movie version, made recently, Tom Cruise is the guy getting killed again and again… which some people may say is no bad thing, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

William and the Missing Masterpiece by Helen Hancocks

William and the Missing Masterpiece by Helen Hancocks reviewed by Leilah Skelton at Doncaster

Reviewed by Leilah Skelton at Doncaster

FUN to read and stuffed with more cheese puns than a stuffed crust triple cheese pizza, this is a story of cat and mouse – and cheese…

Can William, international cat of mystery, piece together all of the clues in order to catch the art thief? His investigations will take him on an action-packed adventure around Paris, and we’re invited along too!

This is a wonderfully engaging story, with beautifully bold illustrations. Not an inch of space is wasted. Each page is a visual feast.

There are lots of clever re-workings of famous artworks and a couple of penguin cameos, if you look Caerphilly! (Nope. Not sorry!)

Fans of Helen Hancocks’ will not be disappointed – her gift for wit and humour shine though on this latest adventure. And on that note…

Penguin in Peril might have been Gouda, but William & the Missing Masterpiece is Feta!

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes reviewed by Pamela Koehne Drube at Cardiff

Reviewed by Pamela Koehne Drube at Cardiff

Once in a while a book comes along that takes you on a journey. It sweeps you out to sea, chews you up, spits you out and all of a sudden you emerge five days later, still in your pyjamas and wondering when the food in fridge went off. I have read books that I’ve enjoyed lately, but nothing so truly emersive and enjoyable as I Am Pilgrim.

Pilgrim is a man of many names and identities. He belongs to the secret world, where politics reign supreme and national security is paramount. When a grizzly murder is discovered in a dingy New York hotel Pilgrim sees it as a textbook case. He should know, he wrote the book. From here the plot unfolds, leading Pilgrim from the streets of Paris, through the Hindu Kush, all the way to Turkey, with many twists and turns, and some unexpected revelations.

The pace of the narrative is absolutely perfect. It flows smoothly, and even at such a length (over 700 pages long!) none of the information seems superfluous or unnecessary. That is not to say the book is perfect; it does suffer from some annoying habits in writing like a large number of “if only I’d payed more attention to”s or “this information would prove valuable later on”‘s, but apart from that the writing style was refined, concise and really kept me engaged.

Will I Am Pilgrim win any literature prizes? Probably not. But it was the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a very long time, and I really can’t recommend it enough.

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes reviewed by Catriona Morrison at Piccadilly

Reviewed by Catriona Morrison at Piccadilly

A host of mismatched characters in a town that seems to be full of secrets and magic. It reminded me a lot of Kelley Armstrong’s Omens, and probably a good few others besides, but it’s Fiji, Bobo, Lemuel and Olivia that steal the show for me and give the book finding special. They’re likeable, memorable, enigmatic characters that anyone could enjoy reading about. Manfred was pretty inconsequential, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he isn’t what brings the book to life – it’s an ensemble piece.

What do you think?