What we’re reading: 13th June, 2014

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

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart reviewed by Pete Renton at Nottingham

Reviewed by Pete Renton at Nottingham

Donna Tartt does not rush things. Her third book, surfacing after an eleven year wait, is an expansive novel filled with impeccably placed detail and a slow and measured pace that gives the characters room to breathe and come to life.

Tartt has a stunning way of describing things and pulling you in, in particular the icy and numb post-blast world of the gallery, the drifting and stretching experiments with substances in Vegas and an almost Trainspotting-esque account of withdrawal and emotional pain as Theo attempts to sort himself out. The twin fates of the goldfinch and Theo are beautifully linked, as the Goldfinch itself escaped the explosion that killed its painter. Nothing is rushed, no thought is brushed under the carpet. Because of its length, you have time to really get inside Theo’s head and come to understand his fears, dreams and past. People should not be put off by its intimidating size – this is a rich world you will want to stay in for as long as possible, and at no point does it feel like it’s dragging. It’s a remarkable slab that does that very rare thing – it makes you feel like another person for a short while. Utterly stunning and thoroughly engaging.

Don’t Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli

Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli reviewed by Becky at Bedford

Reviewed by Becky at Bedford

The blurb on the front of Don’t Point That Thing at Me compares the book to a combination of PG Wodehouse and Ian Fleming, a comparison that I would say is quite fair; however I would like to throw Tom Sharpe into the mix, simply because the mapcap and cheeky storyline brings to mind some of the escapades of characters like Wilt.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this one, it made a long train journey fly by, and was amusing, disgusting and deeply unpleasant in a very British way all at the same time. Where else could you find a down-at-heel degenerate minor aristocrat stealing major artworks, drinking fine port with his manservant and getting one over on an incompetent and vindictive member of Special Branch?

I would certainly recommend this to anyone wanting a book full of biting wit, and a good dollop of adventure, and urge you to imagine Roger Moore as Charlie Mortdecai as you read…

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald reviewed by Kate at Uxbridge

Reviewed by Kate at Uxbridge

The Apple Tart of Hope is such a wonderful read: I devoured the book in one sitting! Predominantly a story about friendship and hope, it tackles some tough issues – suicide, bullying and depression – but does so in an intelligent manner, while still maintaining a positive, hopeful tone. Overall, it’s an undeniably heart-warming story which will stay with you for a long time afterwards. (It also left me with an overwhelming urge to make apple tarts, but I’ll leave that to Oscar!).

If you enjoy this, do check out Sarah Moore Fitzgerald’s previous novel, Back to Blackbrick.

Sand by Hugh Howey

Sand by Hugh Howey reviewed by Jo at Meadowhall Arcade

Reviewed by Jo at Meadowhall Arcade

I’m a huge fan of Hugh Howey’s Wool trilogy and I was pleased to see that Sand is a very different take on a familiar dystopian theme.

Our protagonists live in the harsh dunes of an unforgiving world of sand in which the privileged are divided from the poor by the quality of the salvage that has been retrieved from the buried ruins of our contemporary civilisation, the remnants of sandscrapers that they inhabit and a big wall!
As usual the characters are well drawn and engaging and we have a strong female lead in Vic, the sand diver who can dive deeper than should be possible.

Visually this had the feel of Mad Max to me but this is it’s own original story and hopefully the start of new adventures set in this intriguing dark future.

Thief’s Magic – Millennium’s Rule Book 1 by Trudi Canavan

Thief's Magic - Millennium's Rule Book 1 by Trudi Canavan reviewed by Janette Fraser at Wakefield

Reviewed by Janette Fraser at Wakefield

I’m a big Trudi Canavan fan and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest offering. Split between two very different characters on worlds with opposing attitudes to magic and its use, Thief’s Magic deftly unites the two ideas behind the magic both these characters hold dear.

The parallels with our own world, its cultures and history are apparent, even though reflected through magic, making this a story I could easily identify with. Canavan has some interesting ideas and I’ll now be waiting to find out what will happen next to both Tyen and Rielle, and some of the smaller characters that I can imagine will reappear later in the series.

Thoroughly enjoyable whether you’ve read Trudi Canavan before or not.

Groucho and Me: The Autobiography by Groucho Marx

Groucho and Me: The Autobiography by Groucho Marx reviewed by Dan Lewis

Reviewed by Dan Lewis

Written with wit, intelligence and an incredible sense of time and place, Groucho and Me is the perfect autobiography. At its heart it’s got a rags to riches story as our hero, Julius Henry, later Groucho, Marx rises from the streets of the Upper East Side to the mansions of Hollywood – prodded by his ambitious, omnipresent, and apparently omnipotent, mother Minnie.

But it’s much more than that. It’s also an incredibly insightful history of the entertainment industry as Groucho witnesses the death throes of vaudeville (as part of The Four Nightingales), the rise of cinema (with the Marx Brothers), and ultimately the pervasive influence of television, as the host of the enormously popular You Bet Your Life. The experience led him to one conclusion – “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Most importantly though, this is one of the funniest books ever written – packed not only with cutting one-liners and surreal silliness but also with personal and professional anecdotes which will have you craving more. And, luckily enough, there’s a second volume – Memoirs of a Mangy Lover.

What do you think?