Books, Reviews

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Toni Morrison – God Help The Child

16 Apr 20153 stars

Morrison's latest novel takes an unflinching look at the long term effects of child abuse

Toni Morrison's latest novel explores the damage adults inflict upon children and the lasting effect it has on their lives. Most of the dramatic events in the book have taken place years previously and we are only witness to the aftermath, calmly…

Stuart David – In The All-Night Café

7 Apr 20154 stars

Belle & Sebastian co-founder takes a trip down memory lane

‘Stuart, this is Stuart.’ Those were the words, remembers the first Stuart (David), of the moment he was introduced to the other Stuart (Murdoch) in the kitchen of a friend’s flat in Glasgow – and a new chapter in the city’s musical history was…

Irvine Welsh – A Decent Ride

3 Apr 20153 stars

Glue’s ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson returns as a Lothario of epic proportions

In 'Juice' Terry Lawson, one of Welsh's most popular creations since his first appearance in Glue back in 2001, the author has crafted a comic book antihero, a character so absurd that all you can do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Enjoyable it is…

Tim Clare – The Honours

26 Mar 20154 stars

Performance poet’s debut is one of the most exciting fantasy novels of recent years

In his debut novel, poet Tim Clare has succeeded in creating a world that is at once fantastical and absorbingly real. Initially, the story seems to follow a familiar spy thriller trajectory: 13-year-old heroine Delphine is displaced when her family…

Jane Alexander – The Last Treasure Hunt

17 Mar 20153 stars

This debut novel is a pleasant look at a Scottish barman’s journey to celebrity status

Scottish author Jane Alexander's debut novel follows Cam, a blokey Gen-X barman who, after reconnecting with childhood friend-turned-Hollywood star Eve, finds himself at the centre of celebrity. Early on, The Last Treasure Hunt is more Hello! than…

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Chrononauts – Mark Millar and Sean Murphy

26 Feb 20154 stars

Time travelling action adventure from writer Mark Millar and artist Sean Murphy

Scottish writer Mark Millar is famed for his edgy action comics. Sharp, satirical and often packed with the old ultra-violence. Through his creator-owned Millarworld imprint, he's launched a plethora of new characters and realities. His work ethic is…

Mercy Seat – Wayne Price

17 Feb 20154 stars

This gripping debut novel is a bleak meditation on family with tension on every page

This debut novel from one of the most exhilarating short story writers to recently emerge is a bleak and gripping meditation on family, love and lust in a Welsh coastal town. A desire to forget his childhood leads Luke to relocate to work on a farm…

Blast Radius – RL McKinney

16 Feb 20152 stars

Pedestrian tale of a soldier returning from combat fails to stand out from the crowd

The subject of war looms large in literature. Many great novels have explored the difficulties faced by a soldier returning from combat, the issue addressed by RL McKinney in her debut novel. Though the recognisable premise is sensitively handled, this…

The Chimes – Anna Smaill

9 Feb 20154 stars

Distinctive debut novel by poet and musician Smaill is full of rhythm, energy and melody

The Chimes is set in a world controlled by a vast instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. Believing in a time before The Chimes is ‘blasphony’, but there are still a few who hold the power to remember. Enter Simon, who has been…

Alasdair Gray: A Life in Progress

6 Feb 20154 stars

Warm and affectionate soundtrack to a documentary about the Glasgow writer and artist

Larbert, Falkirk is home to De-Fence, the electronic offshoot of King Creosote's Fence Records empire, as helmed by sticksman OnTheFly (aka Gavin Brown), and amplified by a stellar back catalogue which counts rare vinyl releases from Malcolm Middleton…

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Dead Girl Walking – Chris Brookmyre

3 Feb 20154 stars

Jack Parlabane is back in this fast-paced offering from the Tartan Noir author

Fans of two of the Tartan Noir genre’s most successful authors will be pleased to know that Ian Rankin’s Rebus isn’t the only semi-retired character who has been brought back into full use of late. Although Chris Brookmyre has used a broader collection…

Etta and Otto and Russell and James – Emma Hooper

3 Feb 20153 stars

An endearing, if overly-familiar, debut novel featuring some loveable characters

Parts of Emma Hooper’s debut read like Wes Anderson adapting a Cormac McCarthy novel. She captures the dusty, empty fields of Saskatchewan with the similar staccato rhythm of the All the Pretty Horses author, while imbuing this sweet story – in which 82…

The Possibilities – Kaui Hart Hemmings

12 Jan 20153 stars

The author of The Descendants returns with a second novel about grief

Bereavement is a recurrent theme in Kaui Hart Hemmings' work. Her debut novel The Descendants profiles a family as they deal with the loss of a mother and wife, while this latest offering explores the life of Sarah St. John after her son Cully is killed.

Ben Lerner – 10:04

23 Dec 20145 stars

‘Like a poem, is neither fiction nor nonfiction, but a flickering between them’

For an avant-garde poet, Ben Lerner’s first novel Leaving the Atocha Station was a surprise commercial success. Self-referential, mordantly funny, it followed a young American poet on a fellowship in Spain, and was animated less by conventional plot…

John Lees and Iain Laurie – And Then Emily Was Gone

16 Dec 20144 stars

Smart plotting, fresh and genuinely creepy, Lees and Laurie have created a distinctive calling card

‘There’s a world of the screaming impossible all around us, something so far beyond our comprehension that most of us just block it out,’ reveals disfigured village sage Mental Jimmy midway through the tale, adding spine-crawling credence to our…

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Philip Teir – The Winter War

12 Dec 20143 stars

Despondent portrait of a divorce, with excellent comic moments

Translated from the original Swedish by Tiina Nunnally, this family drama opens with an acknowledgement of divorce before jumping back to explore the causes. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of four Helsinki family members: fiftysomething…

Iain Macwhirter – Disunited Kingdom

8 Dec 20144 stars

An authoritative and peerless sequel to Road to Referendum

While the space between deadlines for Iain Macwhirter finishing and publishing his post-indyref book was clearly a tight one, it still missed the event which perhaps encapsulated his central point most perfectly. With newspapers continuing to struggle…

Porochista Khakpour – The Last Illusion

4 Dec 20143 stars

Take two potentially life-changin­­g events (Y2K and 9/11), throw in an old Persian myth and a delusional illusionist, then add an undertone of behavioural psychology and there, in a nutshell, is The Last Illusion...

Amanda Palmer – The Art of Asking

11 Nov 20144 stars

A brilliantly frank portrayal of the life and art of the self-proclaimed rockstar

There are many things that Amanda Palmer is not afraid to ask for. Wedding gowns, advice on angry red thigh spots and pianos are all just a tweet away for the self-identified rock star; but when she asked for money to help fund her new record, she…

Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie & Tiernen Trevallion – Robbie Burns: Witch Hunter

10 Nov 20144 stars

Black humour, smart character work and inventive violence ensure superb graphic novel

A fictional account of Robert Burns’ descent into mortal combat with the supernatural which begins with him being beaten to a drunk and trouserless pulp by a man whose daughter he’s deflowered probably won’t find itself on the national curriculum any…

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Philip Kerr – January Window

10 Nov 20142 stars

Murkiest aspects of Premier League football explored in narrative testing bounds of believeability

Edinburgh born-and-raised crime author Philip Kerr has certainly cottoned on to a worthy and unexplored setting for the genre, amidst the backdrop of English Premier League football. A self-confessed Arsenal fan, he’s taken the murkiest aspects of the…

Amy Mason – The Other Ida

7 Nov 20144 stars

Her mother's funeral is the tipping point for Ida Irons. Fast approaching 30, reckless with alcohol and decisions, she has spent her life living in the shadow of her mother – the secretive writer Bridie Adair – and an infamous play which she was named…

William Gibson – The Peripheral

7 Nov 20143 stars

'New novel, as impressive, ambitious and layered as it is, might leave you feeling a little lukewarm

Given how swiftly the world and its technological tools keep changing, it might seem foolhardy to attempt any kind of speculative fiction. But if anyone is going to make a decent fist of this with a crystal ball, it was always going to be the author of…

Favel Parrett – When The Night Comes

6 Nov 20144 stars

Beautifully poignant split narrative following a family's tie to the sea

The split narrative of Favel Parrett's second novel follows the stories of Bo, a chef on board the polar vessel Nella Dan, and Isla, the daughter of the woman with whom he stays in Hobart when the ship docks. Through this simple relationship she…

Jesse Fink – The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC

21 Oct 20144 stars

'One of the few genuinely good books about a hard rock band'

From 1974 to 1980, AC/DC were sly, funny and feral. But when frontman and self-described author of 'toilet poetry' Bon Scott died, and was replaced by the diligent but charisma-impaired Brian Johnson, the band began the slow process of rigidification…