Books

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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…

Flash fiction: New writing inspired by the 2014 Scottish independence referendum

22 Jan 2014

Prose and poetry on Scottish independence by Samuel Best, Simon Williams and Harry Giles

Quilt. By Samuel Best. It was autumn when I began to dig at the edges of my garden. I’d been getting headaches for a couple of weeks and thought some peace and quiet might do some good. The doctor told me a lot of people had similar problems and…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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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…

Valentines Day Poetry: verses for every stage of your relationship

24 Jan 2014

Poems for everything from first dates to break-ups, by Tracey S Rosenberg, William Letford and more

Step 1: The First Date 'How to Drink on the First Date' by Tracey S Rosenberg You're different. I can tell. For you I'll say: let's skip the pub entirely. I know this little place off the Links where the only drinks they serve are chocolate.

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From OkCupid to Tinder: will technology be the death of love?

23 Jan 2014

Ewan Morrison asks if dating sites and apps have doomed modern romance

This is a typical date from the not-too-distant future: a young man (K) and a young woman (A) go on a date to a café/bar. They both have smart-pads with them and share clips and messages friends have sent. Their friends are watching the live feed and…

Extract: How We Should Rule Ourselves by Alasdair Gray

22 Jan 2014

Glasgow artist and author has written several political pamphlets on home rule

As Edmund Burke is often said to have remarked, ‘all that has to happen for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’. We believe that we are a sovereign people. If we are unhappy with our present system of government in Britain, all that stops us…

Burns Night 2014 - events round-up

21 Jan 2014

A selection of the suppers, ceilidhs and flings held in honour of the Bard's birthday

In this year of all years, the annual celebration of the Bard of Ayrshire Robert Burns’ life takes on a different tone, surely impressing a sense of national cultural pride upon both sides of the independence debate. If you’re celebrating somewhere…

Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden - Cemetery Girl: Book One

21 Jan 20143 stars

A gothic graphic novel that trips along nicely but is unlikely to satisfy older fantasy/horror fans

A girl wakes in a cemetery without knowing her name or where she comes from. All she knows is that someone is trying to kill her. Too afraid to seek help, she makes a new home in the graveyard and discovers that she can see ghosts – but this becomes the…

Louise Welsh recommends... Scottish Opera's Don Pasquale

21 Jan 2014

Donizetti's comic opera has been updated to the generational battles of the 1960s

Let’s play word association; ‘Comic opera?’ ‘Not funny’. The phrase ‘Comic opera’ conjures images of rude noises on the bassoon and fat ladies falling over. Don Pasquale is an old man who determines to find himself a young wife, so far so Donald McGill…

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Michelle de Kretser - Questions of Travel

21 Jan 20143 stars

An intelligent novel with a sardonic bite that will crush any clichés for the romantic traveller

Questions of Travel does exactly what it says on the tin, provoking observations and philosophical musings upon the who, what and why of travelling. Beginning in the eighties and the ensuing internet boom, the story juxtaposes two characters to convey…

International line-up of poets set to attend 2014 Stanza poetry festival

21 Jan 2014

Carol Ann Duffy, Louis de Bernieres and Paul Muldoon among highlights of St Andrews festival

Dip your toe - or better still, take a swim - into the pool of words that makes up the 2014 Stanza poetry Festival in St Andrews from 5-9 March. This year, as ever, there is a great line-up of international and national poets reading their work…

Alain De Botton - The News: A User’s Manual

13 Jan 20143 stars

Engaging and thoughtful exploration of an often manipulative medium

In this engaging and thoughtful book, the popular philosopher and co-founder of London’s School of Life, Alain de Botton, turns his attention to the news in its various forms. Specifically, he seeks to question the generally accepted positions of…

Sara Maitland - How to be Alone

13 Jan 20143 stars

Outlines first steps to enjoying solitude

‘Loner' has become a dirty word, serving as polite code for loser, weirdo and even potential serial killer (‘I'm not surprised they found all those bones in his back garden, he was always a loner … ’). But at the same time, we revere the solitary…

Celebrate the legacy of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, on Burns Night

7 Jan 2014

Find an event or create your own with our handy guide to Burns Suppers

It’s important, during the winter months, to keep in contact with close friends and loved ones. The cold weather and dark nights are best combatted with a mixture of food, drink and merriment, and while Christmas and Hogmanay go some way to making sure…