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Review: The Patriots – Sana Krasikov

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The Patriots – Sana Krasikov
Release Date: 02/03/2017
Publisher: Granta Books (UK) (Review Copy Provided)
Pages: pp. 560 RRP: £12.99 (Hardcover)
Kindle edition available here (£8.54)

For your debut novel to cover such complex topics as identity, loyalty and the manipulation of truth, all intertwined in the complex historical relationship between the US and the Soviet Union, is a bold choice indeed. To cover theses topics, convey such a rich, evocative portrait of Moscow through the ages, and to lend a genuine sense of danger in a narrative marks Sana Krasikov’s debut novel, The Patriots, as one to take your time reading.

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Review: White Tears – Hari Kunzru

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White Tears – Hari Kunzru
Release Date: 06/04/2017
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (UK) (Review Copy Provided)
Pages: pp. 288 RRP: £14.99 (Hardcover)
Kindle edition available for preorder here (£8.99)

When two young record producers, Seth and Carter, covertly record a hooded black man in a public square as part of an elaborate hoax, we’re led on an incredible narrative that slowly shifts into a paranormal revenge fantasy intertwined with the history of racism and cultural appropriation in America – a narrative handled deftly by Hari Kunzru.

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Review: Skintown – Ciarán McMenamin

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Skintown – Ciarán McMenamin
Release Date: 06/04/2017
Publisher: Doubleday (Review Copy Provided)
Pages: pp. 288 RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available for preorder here (£9.49)

After I finished reading Skintown, I got the feeling that there are probably going to be a lot of lazy comparisons to Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (not least because of the recent release of Danny Boyle’s sequel to the film adaptation) when the novel is released in a few months. Some people might see the combination of drugs and ‘not English city’ and draw their flawed conclusion. Those people are missing out on a hilarious, energetic work that drags you along on one hell of a trip.

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Review: Black Wave – Michelle Tea

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Black Wave – Michelle Tea
Release Date: 09/02/2017 (UK)
Publisher: And Other Stories (UK)
Pages: pp. 320 RRP: £10.00 (paperback)
Kindle edition available here (£4.74)

When I first heard about Michelle Tea’s Black Wave, I seriously considered importing a copy from the US – I was therefore overjoyed when And Other Stories announced they were releasing it in the UK. It was well worth the wait.

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Review: Moonglow – Michael Chabon

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Moonglow – Michael Chabon
Release Date: 26/01/2017
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: pp. 448 RRP: £18.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£9.99)

It’s not often that I read a memoir that seeks to play with the boundary between fact and fiction. Most simply present reality with a bit more flavour – Michael Chabon’s Moonglow goes further, and is a welcome return to form.

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Review: Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Release Date: 05/01/2017
Publisher: Viking (UK)
Pages: pp. 320 RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£9.99)

Not since I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved have I been knocked down by a book, let alone a debut novel. Before I begin, I can safely say that Ghanian-American author Yaa Gyasi’s debut has deserved every bit of hype it got in the run up to release day, and it’s already a strong contender for one of my favourite releases of the year, even at this early stage.

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Recommended Reading: January 2017

After a bit of time off due to a combination of workload and the plague, I’m back with a few more recommendations.

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Difficult Women – Roxane Gay
Release Date: 03/01/2017
Publisher: Corsair
Pages: pp. 272 RRP: £13.99 (Paperback)
Kindle edition available here (£7.99)

I won’t hide it – I’m a fan of Roxane Gay’s work. Ever since I was directed to read Bad Feminist, I’ve always made time to read her work (including her amazing run on Marvel’s World of Wakanda series, alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther series) . So when it was announced that a collection of her short stories was going to be released, I picked up a copy as soon as it came out.

Continue reading “Recommended Reading: January 2017”

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If you liked… A Natural History of Hell

I was recently recommended an interesting collection of short stories by Jeffrey Ford, A Natural History of Hell.  I’ve also been asked about short story collections over the winter break, so I thought I’d recommend a few.

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A Natural History of Hell – Jeffrey Ford
Release Date: 19/07/2016
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Pages: 256pp RRP: £13.02 (Paperback)

With a title like A Natural History of Hell, it was going to be hard to ignore this book. And I’m glad that I didn’t. This is a collection that can at times prove to be genuinely unsettling, with Ford taking the reader to some sinister places.

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Review: The Terranauts – T.C. Boyle

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The Terranauts – T.C. Boyle
Release Date: 20/10/2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (UK)
Pages: 508pp RRP: £18.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£11.39)

I can remember when I was first introduced to T.C. Boyle’s work. A friend of mine stopped me from reading Jack Kerouac’s ‘The Road’, and handed me a copy of ‘The Tortilla Curtain’, saying ‘Read this instead: it’s more contemporary, you won’t have to suffer beatniks, and you won’t be reading a book because Bob Dylan said it was good.’

Biospheres were a strange quirk in popular science in the early 1990s. Primarily an effort to study closed ecological systems, their viability to support human life, as well as to analyse the interactions between life systems, they fell out of favour not too long after their initial experimental phase. The Terranauts takes one such experiment, Biosphere II in Arizona, as its source material.

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Review: I Hate The Internet – Jarett Kobek

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I Hate The Internet – Jarett Kobek
Release Date: 03/11/16
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Pages: 290pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£6.64)

It’s hard for me to resist a novel that claims to skewer such topics as Silicon Valley, the writing and philosophy of Ayn Rand, the influence of Science Fiction writers, the practices of the comic book industry, ‘elaborately named hippies practicing cruelty on goats’, and death threats on social media. I Hate the Internet does this, and more. It’s also the only novel I’ve ever read that came with a trigger warning in the preface.

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Review: A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers

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A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers
Release Date: 20/10/2016
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 364pp RRP: £14.99 (Hardcover)
Kindle edition available here (£9.99)

I thoroughly enjoyed A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Becky Chambers invited her readers into a universe that whilst it had a somewhat utopian undercurrent, felt fun to explore through the journey she took her characters on. When A Closed and Common Orbit was announced, I was curious to see where she would go from there. It’s safe to say that the newly christened ‘Wayfarers’ series is growing into something great.

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Review: Iraq +100 – Hassan Blasim (Editor)

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Iraq +100 – Hassan Blasim (Editor)
Release Date: 17/11/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Comma Press
Pages: 224pp RRP: £9.99 (Paperback)

It’s safe to say that traditionally there have been quite a few readers of science fiction and fantasy who haven’t explored too far beyond the traditional scenes in the West (you’d be amazed how many people haven’t read anything by the likes of Nnedi Okorafor or Cixin Liu), which is a real shame, given the rich bodies of work from some incredibly talented authors just waiting to be read. Fortunately in recent years, this trend has begun to slowly reverse as readers become ever bolder and word of mouth online alerts them to new works they otherwise might have ignored. Iraq +100 is a key milestone in this shift.

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Review: The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

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The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Release Date: 06/10/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Fleet (Little Brown Book Group)
Pages: 320pp RRP: £14.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£7.99)

Colson Whitehead has been woefully understocked in many British bookshops for some time, despite a career filled with great novels and essays, numerous awards (including receiving the MacArthur Fellowship in 2002), teaching at major American universities, and writing for the New York Times Magazine. Fortunately, it now seems that with the release of The Underground Railroad, Whitehead’s audience should soon grow yet further.

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Review: Infinite Ground – Martin MacInnes

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Infinite Ground – Martin MacInnes
Release Date: 04/08/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 272pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£6.02)

When Carlos goes missing halfway through a family meal in the midst of a sweltering South American summer, a semi-retired inspector is called in for what should be a routine missing persons case. What unfolds is a strange, sinister journey which poses questions about identity and the nature of reality itself.

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Recommended Reading (September 2016)

I’ve been toying with some new ideas for different types of content (watch this space), and have been meaning to try to put out some more reviews, but have been a bit busy. Here’s another small collection of other books I’ve been reading recently (and should have read a while back!).

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Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was – Sjón
Release Date: 02/06/16 (UK)
Publisher (UK): Sceptre
Pages: 160pp RRP: £14.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£9.99)

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, or as he’s better known by his pen name of ‘Sjón’, has been a key figure in the Icelandic literary scene for decades. In the story of the ‘boy who never was’, Sjón examines the relationship between fantasy and reality, and how one bleeds into the other.

Continue reading “Recommended Reading (September 2016)”

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Review: Vampire in Love – Enrique Vila-Matas

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Vampire in Love – Enrique Vila-Matas (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa)
Release Date: 03/11/2016 (UK)
Publisher: And Other Stories (Review Copy Provided)
Pages: 298pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)

And Other Stories are rapidly becoming one of my favourite publishers. They originally caught my attention with the release of Yuri Herera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World, and now they’ve released a fantastic short story collection from one of Spain’s literary greats, Enrique Vila-Matas.

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Review: The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride

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The Lesser Bohemians – Margaret Wappler
Release Date: 01/09/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 320pp RRP: £16.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£6.99)

After winning the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, there was always going to be the question of how Eimear McBride’s next novel would hold up by comparison. Having just finished reading it, I can say it’s not quite there, but that’s still a good thing.

Continue reading “Review: The Lesser Bohemians – Eimear McBride”

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Review: Neon Green – Margaret Wappler

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Neon Green – Margaret Wappler
Release Date: 12/07/2016 (USA)
Publisher: Unnamed Press
Pages: 246pp RRP: £12.99 (Paperback)
Kindle edition available here (£11.80)

In an alternative 1994, a flying saucer landing in the backyard of a suburban Illinois household isn’t an extraordinary event. This may be at the dawn of the Internet, and Kurt Cobain may have recently passed, but for Ernest Allen, his wife Cynthia, and children Gabe and Alison, it is at best a curious novelty. The flying saucer, however, will prove to be a curious parallel to something far more personal and devastating.

Continue reading “Review: Neon Green – Margaret Wappler”

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Review: Feeding Time – Adam Biles

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Feeding Time – Adam Biles
Release Date: 18/08/2016
Publisher: Galley Beggar Press (Review copy supplied)
Pages: 300pp RRP: £12.99 (Limited Edition) £8.99 (Paperback)

A revolutionary uprising in a retirement home makes for an interesting concept for a novel. Adam Biles’s debut, Feeding Time, adds biting wit and sharp prose in to the mix to make a great page turner of a book.

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Review: The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami

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The Nakano Thrift Store – Hiromi Kawakami (Translated by Allison Markin Powell)
Release Date: 04/08/2016
Publisher: Portobello Books
Pages: 260pp RRP: £12.99 (Paperback)
Kindle version available here (£8.54)

The use of a thrift store as the backdrop for a look at the eccentricity of love and relationships is certainly not something you’d usually expect. Hiromi Kawakami uses this setting to craft a light read with a surprising amount of depth, and infuses it with a sense of charm that stays with the reader long after finishing the book.

Continue reading “Review: The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hiromi Kawakami”

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If you liked… The Loney

A friend recently asked me for some personal recommendations after she finished reading Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney. This got me thinking about starting a series of recommendation pages as part of an effort to bring new content to this website (asides from reviews). If you’ve just finished reading a new release (or possibly an old classic), and you’re looking to read something similar, let me know here and I’ll try to find some titles to recommend for you. Let’s start with The Loney.

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The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley
Release Date: 07/04/2016 (Paperback UK)
Publisher: John Murray General Publishing Division
Pages: 368pp RRP: £7.99 (Paperback)
Ebook version available here (£4.99)

Following the devoutly religious family of brothers Hanny and Tonto as they go on an annual pilgrimage to a remote shrine in an effort to cure Hanny’s mutism, The Loney is a strong example of effective Gothic horror. It manages to balance the supernatural with the simply strange, and shows that Hurley has an ear for the absurd when it comes to conversation. Whilst it does suffer from some minor issues of pacing and focus, Hurley’s debut leaves you wanting to see what else he can conjure forth.

In terms of similar books to recommend, two in particular spring to mind.

Continue reading “If you liked… The Loney”

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Review: Multiple Choice – Alejandro Zambra

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Multiple Choice – Alejandro Zambra
Release Date: 19/07/2016 (US) 06/10/2016 (UK)
Publisher: Penguin Books (US) Granta Books (UK)
Pages: pp 128 RRP: £11.32 (US Paperback) £12.99 (UK Hardback)
Kindle edition available for preorder here (£8.54)

I’ve seen some interesting uses of formats over the years, but I’ve never quite seen anything like this. Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice uses a standardised test format to challenge our perceptions of storytelling and how we create meaning.

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Review: You Are Having a Good Time – Amie Barrodale

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You Are Having a Good Time – Amie Barrodale
Release Date: 05/07/2016
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: pp 208 RRP: £11.99 (Paperback)

There’s something to be said about the impact that distorting familiar situations and concepts to create something new can have. Amie Barrodale’s You Are Having a Good Time takes this tool and uses it with surprising effectiveness to explore communication skills and our failure to improve them over time, especially through the medium of modern technology, even if it does reach some confusing conclusions.

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Review: Problems – Jade Sharma

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Problems – Jade Sharma
Release Date: 12/07/2016
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Pages: pp 180 RRP: £11.99 (Paperback)
Kindle version available here (£6.02)

Heroin addiction is a topic that has been covered in graphic detail many times before. Whether in the works of Burroughs or Welsh, it’s been the focus of some bold literature over the years, with one key glaring issue: the protagonists are almost always white. Jade Sharma’s debut novel, Problems, takes a look at heroin addiction from the perspective of a young Indian woman with a dark sense of humour and severe body image issues, offering a unique perspective that offers some interesting insight on this subject matter.

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Review: Vaseline Buddha – Jung Young Moon

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Vaseline Buddha – Jung Young Moon (Translated by Yewon Jung)
Release Date: 05/07/2016
Publisher (US): Deep Vellum Publishing
Pages: pp 226 RRP: £11.30 (Paperback)
EPub version available here (£9.59)

Novels that use techniques like stream of consciousness writing almost always turn out strange. Strange but memorable, and quite often deeply profound (look at Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing). Jung Young Moon’s Vaseline Buddha is easily one of the strangest novels I’ve ever read, and I’m including the works of Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison in that list.

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Review: The Girls – Emma Cline

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The Girls – Emma Cline
Release Date: 16/06/2016
Publisher (UK): Chatto & Windus
Pages: 368pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle version available here (£7.99)

I’m always a little cautious when a new release is receiving a lot of hype (especially when it also involves authors with huge book deals) – I’ve been burned before, and have adopted a default state of cautious optimism over the last few years. When Emma Cline’s debut novel, The Girls, came into view, I was intrigued by the idea of a novel influenced by the acts of the Manson Family. To see that Cline has taken her fascination with cults and crafted a novel like this, means that the hype is just about deserved.

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Review: Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman

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Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman
Release Date: 05/05/2016
Publisher (UK): Little, Brown
Pages: 368pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Kindle version available here (£6.99)

Sometimes it can be easy to summarise a novel in a brief sentence for a friend. You don’t often get the chance to describe something as ‘being like a sinister version of Mean Girls with a grunge soundtrack, and just a touch of Heathers‘ though. Set in the small Pennsylvanian town of Battle Creek during the height of grunge music and the Satanic panic, Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire is an interesting depiction of destructive friendships and the dark places they can take a person to.

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Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

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The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
Release Date: 27/05/2016
Publisher (UK): Serpent’s Tail
Pages: 432pp RRP: £14.99 (Hardback)
Kindle version available here (£6.99)

It’s been pretty difficult to avoid The Essex Serpent over the last few months. From whisperings of potential award nominations to even bookshop murals of the fantastic cover jacket, Sarah Perry’s second novel seems to be making quite the impact. Her debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood (2014), demonstrated her passion for Gothic literature (stemming from her PhD on the Gothic elements in the works of Iris Murdoch), a delicate and evocative writing style, and an ability to create memorable landscapes – all of which are on display here. After finishing it earlier today, I have to say that it’s got what it takes to make the shortlist of quite a few awards in the near future.

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Review: My Name is Leon – Kit de Waal

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My Name is Leon – Kit De Waal
Release Date: 02/06/2016
Publisher (UK): Penguin Books
Pages: 272pp RRP: £12.99 (Hardback)
Epub version available here (£7.99)

If I have to say one thing about Kit de Waal’s debut novel, it’s this: read it, read it now. This story, told from the perspective of nine-year-old Leon, is a beautifully crafted piece about love, developing a sense of identity, and the intimate impacts of the child fostering system in the early 1980s.

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Review: Zero K – Don Delillo

 

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Zero K – Don Delillo
Release Date: 19/05/2016
Publisher (UK): Picador
Pages: 288pp RRP: £16.99 (Hardback)
Epub edition available here (£8.79)

Zero K is a book wholly focused on the end. Don Delillo has come close to this topic in his previous works, but here he has chosen to focus on death, and what the real point of it is. Whilst he may fall short of providing a satisfying answer, he still offers us something to consider.

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Recommended Reading (Early 2016)

Given that I originally planned to get this website up and running earlier in the year, I thought I should share a few personal recommendations for books released over the last few months.

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist – Sunil Yapa
Release Date: 04/02/2016
Publisher (UK): Little Brown Book Group
Pages: 320pp RRP: £14.99 (Hardback)
Kindle edition available here (£7.99)

When a debut novel opens by dropping the reader into the thick of a major protest – in this case the WTO Protests of 1999 (also known as the Battle of Seattle), and then powers along with a vibrant narrative throughout – it’s hard not to take notice. Sunil Yapa has made some waves with this piece, and I can see why.

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Review: The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan

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Release Date: 14/07/2016 (Paperback)
Publisher (UK): Vintage Publishing
Pages: 288pp RRP: £12.99 (Available for pre-order)
Kindle edition available here (pre-order): £9.49

To see a novel handle the traumatic ripple effect of a terrorist bombing so elegantly is a rare thing. To see a novel interweave issues such as family dynamics, religion, sexuality, class and ethnicity into that narrative so effectively is almost unheard of: a nuanced portrayal of the class of living dead.

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It begins…

Well, this is new.

To start things off, a brief explanation of just who I am. I’m Josh and I’ve been working in publishing as a freelancer for a number of years, and with a number of publishers on an eclectic mix of books – some good, some weird, some downright strange. I’ve been enjoying my work, but I’ve been looking to expand into other projects for some time.

Continue reading “It begins…”