Books, Reviews

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Amy Pascale - Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe – A Biography

15 Jul 20144 stars

A refreshingly candid look at the man behind Buffy and Marvel's Avengers

With his genre-changing series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon shaped the face of television in the 1990s. Nearly 20 years on, having written and directed 2012’s The Avengers, which became the third highest grossing film worldwide, he now plays a…

The Moth: This is a True Story

15 Jul 20144 stars

Non-fiction short story collection featuring contributions from Malcolm Gladwell & Sebastian Junger

Although it freely describes itself as a ‘storytelling sensation’, it’s hard not to indulge New York literary event The Moth its powerful sense of self. Named in honour of the days when stories were for the porch as the sun went down, and not the…

Kerry Hudson - Thirst

11 Jul 20144 stars

A fizzing, breathless love story from a terrifically talented storyteller

It’s been two years since Kerry Hudson’s fantastic debut – the epically named Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma – shook readers and critics from the cushy, Booker-induced, middle-class coma of the preceding years. And her…

Neil DA Stewart - The Glasgow Coma Scale

11 Jul 20143 stars

A confidently-written debut novel depicting a classic odd couple pairing without resorting to cliche

As she makes her way along Sauchiehall Street one afternoon, call centre manager Lynne is astonished to encounter Angus, her old art teacher (and long-time object of her desire), begging for change in a doorway. Despite his protestations, she insists on…

Linda Grant - Upstairs at the Party

27 Jun 20144 stars

Compelling tale of lifelong fascination and obsession

It’s the early 1970s and a glamorous androgynous couple known as Evie / Stevie appear on campus. To students experimenting with radical ideas, the pair symbolise all that lies in the future, until tragedy intervenes. For Adele, Evie becomes a lifelong…

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Allan Brown - Fifty People Who Screwed Up Scotland

20 Jun 20141 star

Dreadfully written high-pitched jeremiad full of factual errors

To criticise this book for being sour, petulant and pusillanimous would be to miss the point. Brown’s shtick is snark and he’s sticking to it. Indeed the whole series to which this high-pitched jeremiad belongs depends upon a certain sixth-form…

Nikesh Shukla: Meatspace

20 Jun 20142 stars

An entertaining critique of digital culture that fails to follow through its central plotline

Meatspace is very much concerned with the internet, and the ways it affects our social lives. Shukla explores this through the character of Kitab, a semi-successful writer who soon finds his online life in tatters after his namesake tracks him down…

Carys Bray - A Song For Issy Bradley

20 Jun 20144 stars

Bay's debut is an intimate examination of grief and the Mormon faith, with a surprisingly funny edge

Deftly juggling five characters' perspectives, Carys Bray's first novel is an intimate portrait of grief and faith – but it's also sharply funny.

D.B.C. Pierre - Breakfast With The Borgias

20 Jun 20143 stars

Compelling tale from the Man Booker Prize winner, despite failing to terrify

Part of a series commissioned to reinvigorate the literary reputation of Hammer, the former home of classic British horror, this is a beautifully written, creepy and funny novella by the Booker -winning author of Vernon God Little</a

Black Francis, Josh Frank & Steven Appleby - The Good Inn

17 Jun 20143 stars

Debut graphic novel from Pixies frontman feels thin and unfinished despite charms

The debut work of fiction by Pixies frontman Black Francis is an illustrated novel based on an unfinished soundtrack to an unmade film about the first ever pornographic movie to feature a narrative. Co-written with Pixies biographer Josh Frank, The Good…

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Maggie Shipstead - Astonish Me

20 May 20143 stars

An impressive and compelling glimpse into the demanding world of professional ballet

Maggie Shipstead’s acclaimed debut novel, Seating Arrangements, was a personal highlight of 2013. A taut, deftly plotted satire of wealth and family, it skewered New England society while also creating enough depth and humour to keep the narrative…

Anneliese Mackintosh - Any Other Mouth

16 May 20145 stars

An unnerving debut that sits at the intersection between short story collection, novel and memoir

Jagged pieces of a woman’s life gradually coalesce into a narrative in an unnerving debut that sits at the intersection between short story collection, novel and memoir. With the tantalising promise that 68% of the story she tells us is true, Mackintosh…

Rally & Broad: The Ampersand Edition

16 May 20144 stars

Ryan van Winkle, Ruth Mills and Lach take part in the spoken word cabaret's collaboration special

'Tonight is all about collaboration,' says Jenny Lindsay, one half of the evening's hosts Rally & Broad. Their regular cabarets of words, music and lyrical delights creates a string of unique events through the collision of a variety of people. The…

Emma Healey - Elizabeth is Missing

16 May 20144 stars

A warm, funny and sometimes truly chilling tale of dementia from a promising storyteller

82-year-old Maud has dementia – and it's progressing fast. So when her friend Elizabeth goes missing, she does everything she can to remember that she has to find her. But in searching for Elizabeth, she uncovers buried memories from her girlhood…

Joseph O'Connor - The Thrill of it All

16 May 20144 stars

Tales of teenage dreams, friendship and a real love of music

It's intriguing to read an artist's well-documented life from their point of view, especially one whose career ended in controversy. Joseph O'Connor has created his own reality in Robert Goulding, the underdog of a fictional rock band called the…

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Simon Sylvester - The Visitors

16 May 20144 stars

The Twitter storyteller's debut novel is is as dark, sad and enchanting as any fireside folk tale

Flo sits on the headland of her island home, watching her new neighbours boat their belongings over the water to a rundown islet shack. She can’t quite put her finger on it but there is something strange about the pair of them; of course, what with all…

Barbara Ehrenreich - Living With A Wild God

16 May 20143 stars

A philisophical memoir by one of America's most socially engaged journalists

‘I will never write an autobiography,’ Barbara Ehrenreich claims, in the foreword to a book that comes closer to self-revelation than many more conventional memoirs. One of America's most socially engaged journalists, Ehrenreich's subject here is not so…

Danny Wallace – Who is Tom Ditto?

29 Apr 20144 stars

The writer and broadcaster’s second novel fits with his previous form in social experimentation

Writer, broadcaster and comedy accomplice Danny Wallace has undertaken various social experiments in the past: he’s started his own cult, attempted to found a country from his flat and tried saying ‘yes’ to everything for a year. His second work of…

Irvine Welsh - The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins

29 Apr 20144 stars

Female narrators dazzle in hugely entertaining read that throws some punches at modern America

For his ninth novel, Irvine Welsh has swapped grey and gritty Scotland for blue Floridian skies, but not even the Miami sunshine can diminish his darkly twisted view of the world. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins tells the story of personal trainer Lucy…

Ned Beauman - Glow

29 Apr 20144 stars

An addictive modern conspiracy thriller about a new mind-altering substance

Ned Beauman's third novel begins with a rave in a launderette where Raf is introduced to a new drug called Glow. Everyone wants Glow, including Cherish, a beautiful Burmese woman who Raf all too briefly meets. The next day Raf discovers that his best…

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Emma Jane Unsworth - Animals

29 Apr 20144 stars

A gripping, raucous read from one of Britain’s most promising young writers

In Emma Jane Unsworth’s gloriously debauched and wonderfully touching second novel, semi-reformed party girl Laura is torn between a bacchanalian existence with Holly Golightly-on-speed best friend Tyler and her upcoming marriage to boringly stable…

Niall Campbell - Moontide

29 Apr 20144 stars

A western isles poetry collection with a deft, unobtrusive sense of irony

On a first read, Niall Campbell's debut collection might seem a simple enough affair of poems about the earthy, unassuming artefacts of life on the western islands. But Moontide is at its best when these details have their metaphorical strength deflated…

Liam Murray Bell - The Busker

29 Apr 20143 stars

Enjoyable enough tale of well-observed characters and locations, despite unsympathetic protagonist

The Busker follows singer-songwriter Rab Dillon from his origins in Glasgow, through his attempts to crack the music industry in London to eventual homelessness in Brighton. This isn’t a spoiler: we first meet Rab on the streets, scrounging for food and…

John Burnside - I Put a Spell on You

22 Apr 20144 stars

The writer's latest is a semi-memoir that partially explores the theory behind the practice

Probably by commercial necessity John Burnside’s I Put a Spell on You is being promoted as a memoir, the missing link between his earlier volumes A Lie About My Father and Waking Up in Toytown, but it is a far stranger and more haunting book than those…

BJ Novak - One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

22 Apr 20144 stars

An impressive debut collection from the writer/producer/star of America's The Office

It's tempting to approach One More Thing as an attempt to cash in on BJ Novak's celebrity status. After all, how many writers get their own photograph on the cover of their debut book – a short story collection, no less. Novak, best known as Ryan from…