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Letters of Note - Edited by Shaun Usher

6 Nov 20134 stars

Hard-hitting anthology in form of beautifully constructed book

Over the past three years Shaun Usher’s Letters of Note website has become a treasure trove of celebrated correspondence, the finest examples of which have been selected for inclusion in this stunning volume.

Nicola White - In the Rosary Garden

25 Oct 20134 stars

The winner of the Dundee International Book Prize 2013 is a taut and simplistic crime thriller

In her debut novel, In The Rosary Garden, Nicola White breaks from the typical expectations that a crime thriller be 'plot driven'. Instead, her characters are the driving force behind her book, in which families fight to keep their grisly secrets…

Russell Banks - A Permanent Member of the Family

18 Nov 20133 stars

Banks' latest short stories collection features some clear and bracingly honest writing

In this collection, Russell Banks preserves his reputation of concentrating on the more depressing aspects of life. This time around, his focus is on what it means to be a member of a family, with each of his characters coming to terms with the fact…

Helen Fielding - Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

28 Oct 20133 stars

The third Bridget instalment retains the warmth and wit of its predecessors

Hours taken to read book: seven. Amount of promotional chocolate bars consumed before even starting to read book: one. Number of times I LOLed: 17. Number of times I got emotionally over-involved and sobbed: three. Number of friends who furtively asked…

Interview: John Cooper Clarke on how poetry and music work

31 Oct 2013

The punk poet on Arctic Monkeys, the return of spoken word and when not to combine poetry and music

My introduction to John Cooper Clarke came via Neil Innes, who performed his haiku: 'Expressing yourself / in seventeen syllables / is very diffic-' at a show back in 2004. Parallels can be drawn between the two men. Physically, sure, Innes is the…

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Interview: Mark Kermode, author of Hatchet Job, on the current state of film criticism

25 Oct 2013

The film critic believes 'informed opinion is important', but ‘quality journalism is not for free'

As the nation's most recognisable movie reviewer, Mark Kermode is a pretty busy guy. Recently named as The Observer’s chief film critic, he balances writing with his duties as one half of Radio 5 Live’s flagship review show, simultaneously contributing…

National Novel Writing Month 2014 - Former NaNoWriMo participants share their experiences

19 Nov 2013

Aspiring writers worldwide attempt to write a 50,000 word book in a month

Aspiring writers across the world will attempt to write a 50,000 word book in a month. David Pollock speaks to former participants about this endurance test

Jean-Yves Ferri (writer), Didier Conrad (illustrator), Matthew Fitt (Scots translator) - Asterix and the Pechts

15 Nov 20133 stars

The Scots translation of the diminutive Gaul's latest adventure has a sense of cheeky fun and energy

There is a noticeable drop in quality in the Asterix adventures released since the death of original writer Rene Goscinny, and Asterix and the Picts, at least in its English translation, is one of the most disappointing to date: a dreary, laugh-free…

Book Week Scotland 2013 is a week-long celebration of reading

7 Nov 2013

Launch events featuring authors Sally Magnusson and Jack Webster

The book, we hear, is in crisis, under constant bombardment from electronic rivals, shrinking attention spans and general dumbing down. Yet last year more than 20,000 people attended an event during the inaugural Book Week Scotland, launched to…

Morrissey - Autobiography

6 Nov 20132 stars

457-page monster mixes poetic and hilarious turns of phrase with foaming-mouthed diatribe

Occasionally magnificent, mostly maddening: but then what did you expect? Having stirred an oh-so-Morrissey storm-in-a-teacup before it was even published (arrogantly as a Penguin Classic no less), Autobiography lands with a dull 457-page thump of…

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JJ Abrams & Doug Dorst - s.

6 Nov 20134 stars

A multi-part thing of beauty despite disappointing narrative

s. is one of the most beautifully produced books published this year: presented as a fake library book, complete with marginalia and stuffed full of postcards, notes and photocopied telegrams. It's a difficult book to sum up, as it's a…

Charlie Hill - Books

6 Nov 20133 stars

Literary satire is an entertaining, pacy read

They say bad art can rot the brain, and in his second novel Charlie Hill takes this idea literally, introducing us to the monstrously middle-of-the-road Gary Sayles, an author whose writing is so mediocre it is causing the electrical signals that pass…

Ann Patchett - This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

6 Nov 20135 stars

Elegantly crafted pieces making for a direct, thoughtful and uncynical love story

From almost any other author, that title would be the heavily ironic cap on a tale of marital strife and family dysfunction. Yet Ann Patchett is blissfully, intelligently uncynical: the title essay in this memoir collection does, indeed, tell of her…

Top 5: Best scary books for winter and Christmas 2013

6 Nov 2013

Eerie and terrifying books from Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, Charles Palliser and Dan Simmons

The Rabbit Back Literature Society – Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. Young teacher Ella is the newest member of the exclusive writing group of Rabbit Back, run by famous children’s author Laura White. But why are the words in Ella’s library books rearranging…

Feminist Times - Charlotte Raven

6 Nov 20133 stars

Charlotte Raven's crowdfunded online magazine asks the right questions

This new crowdfunded online magazine – with a print edition for financial supporters – represents an ambitious venture by its founder and editor Charlotte Raven. It was launched in October, motivated by the questions ‘where have all the interesting…

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Flash Fiction: Falling #121 by Ryan Van Winkle

6 Nov 2013

Poem from Edinburgh-based writer

Winter and I cannot remember a single breakfast. All the problems have become snow: not the drinking nor the distance, it is the snow. It has been falling for months, gets ploughed to the side of the road, envelops the short Christmas days…

Vic Galloway - Songs in the Key of Fife

4 Nov 20133 stars

BBC DJ's personal biography of area of Scotland home to thriving music scene

Comedy buffs have long been fascinated by the fact the tiny village of Navan has managed to produce magnificent stand-up talents such as Dylan Moran, Tommy Tiernan and Pierce Brosnan (if you haven’t yet seen his performance in Stephen King’s Bag of…

Scottish Book of the Year Award announced at Lennoxlove Book Festival 2013

4 Nov 2013

High-profile literary line-up rounds off Year of Natural Scotland programme of events

The Lennoxlove Book Festival hosted a number of famous authors in the picturesque grounds of Lennoxlove House over this past weekend, with the likes of Kate Mosse, Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Paxman all making their way to East Lothian to talk about…

Interview: Nicola White, winner of the 2013 Dundee International Book Prize

28 Oct 2013

The author discusses her prize-winning novel, In The Rosary Garden

Tell us a bit about In The Rosary Garden. It’s a mystery set in Ireland in the 80s – a particularly tough time for young women. It was also the same time I left Ireland, so it’s a time that I remember it best. It’s about a young girl called Ali…

Ken Kalfus - Equilateral

28 Oct 20134 stars

A clever, witty and complex story of obsession and ambition

It is the turn of the twentieth century and esteemed astronomer Sanford Thayer is excavating an immense equilateral triangle in the middle of the Egyptian desert in order to communicate with Mars. Thousands of men have been drafted from local villages…

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Suzanne Berne - The Dogs of Littlefield

25 Oct 20132 stars

This look at the dark underbelly of American suburbia lacks nuance and punch

In her latest novel, Orange Prize winner Suzanne Berne (A Crime In The Neighbourhood) tackles the well-trodden territory of the darkness that lies beneath the surface of American suburbia. Told from the perspective of various residents, the veneer of…

Interview: David Vann, author of Goat Mountain

21 Oct 2013

The novel, written in Cormac McCarthy-esque prose, tells of a tragedy on a hunting trip

American writer David Vann’s new novel Goat Mountain is a stunning piece of writing. In sparse, intense prose reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, Vann revisits the titular scene of his childhood hunting days, fictionalising a father-son deer hunt from his…

Interview: Libby McGugan, author of sci-fi novel The Eidolon

21 Oct 2013

The novel 'explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline'

How would you describe The Eidolon? A science fiction thriller that explores the nature of reality through an edge-of-the-seat storyline featuring dark matter, the CERN laboratory, and the boundary between the living and the dead. That’s my publisher’s…

Lesley McDowell - Unfashioned Creatures

18 Oct 20134 stars

A historical/psychological novel with links to the Victorian gothic tradition of Mary Shelley

In 1823, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a popular bestseller – but her (real-life) childhood friend Isabella Baxter Booth feels she’s facing an actual monster: her violent husband. Mary wrote about a mysterious encounter between them in London; this…

John Grindrod - Concretopia

18 Oct 20133 stars

An enthusiastic but not entirely convincing counter-argument to the popular Crap Towns books

The recently revived Crap Towns books sneer at ugly modern architecture, but John Grindrod comes not to bury the postwar rebuilding of Britain but to praise it. For while tower blocks, prefabs and new towns have been unpopular with many traditionalists…