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The best independent bookshops in Scotland

21 Feb 2014

Bookshops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and The Borders

Forget those faceless online stores and get yourself out to Scotland’s finest independent booksellers. With their gorgeous surroundings, carefully selected titles and expert knowledge, you’ll never want to shop online again.

James Scott - The Kept

12 Feb 20142 stars

Odd rhythms, unconvincing character arcs and clumsy prose let down a good 19th century revenge drama

It starts in the aftermath of a mass-murder. Midwife Elspeth returns to her homestead to find her family gunned down in cold blood, and her adopted son Caleb the lone, traumatised survivor. The remainder of the story follows their journey as they embark…

David Belton - When the Hills Ask For Your Blood

5 Feb 20143 stars

A lyrical mix of fiction and non fiction regarding the Rwandan genocide, from BBC journalist Belton

A lyrical mix of fiction and non fiction that not only depicts the horrors of a recent history but delves into the very heart of human behaviour, When the Hills Ask for Your Blood is BBC journalist David Belton’s quest to expose and revisit the terror…

Best books about first love

27 Jan 2014

Featuring Bernhard Schlink, Ian McEwan, Patti Smith, Rainbow Rowell and Sarah Waters

Whether you're single or shacked-up this Valentine’s Day, take a moment to reminisce about some literary romances – both the good and the bad. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell. Teenage misfits Eleanor and Park discover that they fit one another just…

Ben Marcus - Leaving the Sea

21 Feb 20144 stars

Absorbing short story collection marks out author as eclectic and valuable talent

2012’s critically acclaimed The Flame Alphabet may have established Ben Marcus as a novel writer of note, but this new short story collection reminds us that he’s still one of the most innovative writers of the concise form around. Leaving the Sea (his…

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Helen Oyeyemi - Boy, Snow, Bird

21 Feb 20145 stars

Powerful intertwining of fairytale and reality is a bewitching book of beautiful and precise

Named as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists in 2013, Helen Oyeyemi confidently justifies that accolade with her fifth novel, a powerful intertwining of fairytale and reality. Like all the best fairytales, its deceptively simple surface slowly…

Joanne Harris - The Gospel of Loki

21 Feb 20143 stars

Modern retelling of Norse tales from everyone’s favourite trickster

Between comic books and blockbuster success, it’s easy to forget when the Asgardian subset of the Avengers existed without that Hollywood polish. But The Gospel of Loki revisits those Norse tales and verses of old, opting for a modern retelling through…

Kenneth Calhoun - Black Moon

21 Feb 20143 stars

Thoughtful, literary survival tale is a zombie story in all but name

‘Gradually, then suddenly’, according to Ernest Hemingway, is how a man goes broke – and it’s also how society falls apart when insomnia claims the world. Anyone who can still sleep is in danger, as insomniacs are driven into a rage at the sight of…

Stanza 2014 poetry festival programme includes Jacob Polley and Carly Brown

21 Feb 2014

Scotland’s most renowned poetry festival takes place in St Andrews

This year will see over 40 festivals celebrating literature, storytelling and poetry across Scotland. Speaking of poetry, the most renowned is StAnza, the annual international festival that takes over St Andrews each chilly March. After the closure of…

Interview: Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else's Skin

19 Feb 2014

'I wanted to write about a crime with many witnesses, but unreliable ones'

What inspired Someone Else’s Skin? I wanted to write about a crime with many witnesses, but unreliable ones; the idea that we don’t always know what we’re seeing. For years I’ve been haunted by a wartime propaganda photograph of my family, in which…

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Philip Roscoe - I Spend Therefore I Am: the True Cost of Economics

18 Feb 20143 stars

An easy to grasp analysis of how economics has infiltrated every aspect of modern living

A straightforward, easy to grasp analysis, Philip Roscoe's politically charged denunciation of economics' primacy in the modern world highlights the dire consequences of applying a market mentality to such areas as car safety, organ donorship…

Robert Crawford - Bannockburns

18 Feb 20144 stars

A successful (if partisan) attempt to put the Scottish independence debate in an historical context

Seven hundred years after Bannockburn, with Scotland's independence referendum fast approaching, Robert Crawford has in Bannockburns produced a comprehensive account of Scottish Independence from 1314 to the present day. He begins with an exploration of…

Deborah Levy - The Unloved

11 Feb 20144 stars

Levy's pivotal and subversive murder mystery is re-issued for a new generation

First published in 1994 and recently re-issued for a new generation of readers, The Unloved remains a pivotal novel in Deborah Levy’s career. The strange brilliance of her imagination permeates the narrative, maintaining the emotional experimentation of…

Frei Betto - Hotel Brasil

11 Feb 20143 stars

An occasionally laboured crime novel that will reward determined readers

Fear and paranoia thrive in the hearts of guests at a dilapidated Rio de Janeiro hotel where the brutal murder of a resident, whose body has been decapitated and mutilated, is yet to be solved by the corrupt local police force. As the twisting plot…

Simon Beckett - Stone Bruises

5 Feb 20143 stars

An atmospheric and immersive tale about a fleeing Brit's misadventures in rural France

Attempting to escape from unknown assailants for reasons initially unexplained, Sean flees from his native London to rural France. He is then forced to seek refuge on a desolate farm run by a brutish farmer and his two daughters, following an accident…

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Louise Levene - The Following Girls

4 Feb 20143 stars

A high school novel full of 1970s period detail but lacking in character

Sixteen year old Amanda Baker finds school unremittingly tedious. Her only solace is her gang, The Mandies, who live off a diet of cigarettes, gossip and practical jokes. That is, until Amanda is chosen to be the confidante of golden girl with a dirty…

Tim Walker - Completion

30 Jan 20144 stars

A warm and invigorating debut novel detailing the lives of a broken family and their shared home

Completion essentially tells four stories, flitting between the lives of divorced couple Jerry and Pen Manville and their two grown children, Conrad and Isobel. Tying this broken unit together is the old family home on Highbury Hill, the setting for…

Flash Fiction: Earth by Helen Sedgwick

29 Jan 2014

Poem from poet editor-in-chief at Cargo Publishing

They made the hut when they were still kids; neither of them wants to mention how it’s too small now. They crawl inside and sit on the sleeping bags that have been zipped together to make a padded floor mat. They end up with their feet sticking out of…

Peter Swanson - The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

29 Jan 20143 stars

A cinematic American noir that's often visceral and compelling, but feels like a lead-up to a sequel

Its title may feel like an opportunistic echo of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but Peter Swanson's debut novel is much more American noir than Scandi thriller. There are flecks of LA Confidential in its sensuousness, and shades of Vertigo in its…

Nina de la Mer - Layla

28 Jan 20143 stars

An authentic work of modern feminism that explores London’s lap dancing culture

As a teenage mother parted from her infant son, Hayleigh has moved to London and become Layla, a lap dancer whose world is quickly consuming her. With her second novel Brighton-based Scottish author Nina de la Mer has delivered an authentic work of…

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Eliza Granville - Gretel and the Dark

27 Jan 20145 stars

Atmospheric historical novel likely to be one of the best books of 2014

Gretel and the Dark is an atmospheric and beautifully written historical novel told in two linked narratives. In 1890s Vienna, psychoanalyst Josef Breuer is treating a mysterious patient: found by a lunatic asylum, skeletally thin and with her head…

Interview: Author Chloe Hooper on novel The Engagement

27 Jan 2014

Erotic psychological thriller addressing clichéd view of prostitution

Do you see your new book, The Engagement, as an erotic novel? I actually see it as an anti-erotic novel. It explores the way seemingly harmless fantasies can turn dangerous. The main character, Liese, has been getting off on an idea of prostitution as a…

Marina Mander - The First True Lie

27 Jan 20144 stars

British debut is heartbreaking story leavened with humour and a quirky worldview

The First True Lie is Marina Mander’s British debut, translated from the Italian by Stephen Twilley, and we’re fortunate that such a stunning gem of a novel has reached our shores. Imagine you’re ‘half-orphan’, then your mother died: what would you do?

Toby Barlow - Babayaga

27 Jan 20144 stars

Deliriously fun ride taking in fantastical exploits

In which Toby Barlow unleashes a juggernaut of a narrative and, amazingly, keeps it in complete control for 400 hugely entertaining pages. The story comprises three intertwining sets of characters in post-war Paris, and involves CIA espionage, a pair of…

The Accelerator

24 Jan 2014

Poetry night that organisers Jem Rolls and Bram E Gieben hope will get up to speed

The Accelerator is a new Edinburgh and Glasgow performance poetry night run by Jem Rolls and Bram E Gieben. ‘We want to be the highest energy night around,’ says Rolls, describing the pair’s vision for the event. ‘We want it to be poetic, theatrical…