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Lots of literary characters have their own secret powers. Book Week costumes can be chosen based on just about any storybook character you like! You can be anyone with a little imagination! We have a huge range of Book Week costumes to buy, so take your time browsing our website here at Costumes. For some book week costume ideas, try some of our blog posts with ideas and images to help you choose from our range: Book Week costume ideas for teachers Book Week costume ideas for kids Top 6 Book Week costume ideas for girls.

Shop by Brand Star Wars Pop! Popular Book Week costume theme and character ideas. Display: 40 per page 80 per page. What is Book Week? When is Book Week ? Need Book Week costume ideas? A fresh new voice in sexy fiction, Kimona Jaye delivers a fun and intoxicating adventure to be read and shared with friends and lovers alike. By clicking 'Sign me up' I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the privacy policy and terms of use. Must redeem within 90 days. See full terms and conditions and this month's choices. Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love. Sign up and get a free eBook!

Trade Paperback. Price may vary by retailer. The older people remember the Great Plague of , an unimaginable horror that decimated Europe, England and the village of Porlock. A mother of lost sons, a religious fanatic, a dwarf ex-jester, a lonely noble woman and others each tell their side of this harrowing story.

Charm and sensitivity run throughout the narrative making this a frighteningly believable story. Medieval Porlock is skilfully evoked and some of the landmarks of the story are still visible today. A moving and disturbing tale of humanity pushed to the edge of society and beyond collapses. Exciting, enthralling, enticing, disturbing and enjoyable, this is a wonderful read. A captivating and subtly beautiful novel, where heart-catching surprises lie in wait.

Alex recalls life on the road at the age of 13, a trip undertaken with Mom, where lessons are learned, and the truth within explored. The writing here is exquisite, the story evolves so simply, gradually revealing the complications that life has to offer. The wonderfully sensitive writing creates blasts of feeling, and woke my awareness as prickles of revelation travelled up my arms from the page. These characters feel so touchingly real, Alex opened my eyes, I smiled, I ached, I wept. A large collection of multi-national, mostly retired couples, invest in a new development of luxury apartments, La Joya, in Andalucia on the Costa del Sol in Spain.

We follow a securely married Irish couple with a demanding family, an American mother of twin girls with a serial-womanising husband and a Spanish control freak with a wife who is attempting to find inner peace. Frequently visiting the complex is a German interior designer and letting agent married to a Spanish property developer and a highly efficient female Spanish community manager who looks after the place. In clean strokes the author paints their portraits in swift, interlocking sections, you get to know them all very quickly.

All appears blissful until the Spanish economy plummets and the Irish euro hits rock bottom. Problems ensue both financially and emotionally with many a twist and surprise thrown at you. This is lively, sensitive and insightful, a big novel with plenty to get your teeth into. March Book of the Month. A tale of lost memories and hidden secrets but will the truth destroy or heal? Lisa Jewell returns with yet another page-turner as she delves into the darker corners of the mind where the memories of our true self exist.

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The memories that we'll do anything to keep hidden. Alice Lake is drawn to a man she spots sitting on the beach. He simply stares out to sea oblivious of the rain, a man who remembers nothing of who he is or where he came from. Alice offers him shelter and the opportunity to attempt to rediscover what or who he is running away from. But something sinister is lurking in his memory and as the past begins to come back to him he wonders if he is running away from a monster or if indeed the monster is actually him.

This gripping read is not only a thrilling mystery but is also about accepting the past and learning to find a way to move on. Jewell keeps you guessing what the connections between threads and subtexts are until they all come gloriously together. A wonderful novel to escape in to. Click here to read an exclusive interview with Lisa Jewell by Mary Hogarth. Three women and two investigators dance through a weaving, magical, almost dreamlike story.

The prologue sent a thrilling chill coursing through me, I was immediately captivated and remained that way for the entire tale. This is most definitely a crime novel, yet it is also a mystery, and a story about love, I almost feel as though it shouldn't be categorised, but enjoyed instead for what it is, a stunning piece of literature. Michel Bussi is an award-winning French novelist, this is the second of his novels to be translated into English. Descriptions are so immediate and evocative I felt as though I was about to step into a Monet painting. The plot kept me on the edge of the frame, just on the edge of understanding as I viewed the scenes in front of me.

As soon as I had finished, I just wanted to start reading again from the beginning. Why I love it is that it is such a clever and compelling read — mystery after mystery is revealed as the story unfolds, and at every turn you meet a new and fascinating character. I immediately wanted to go back and read the whole thing again! Despite the title — The Summer Before the War — which this terrific novel does indeed trace, it also spills into the horrors of the war years and eventually releases us back into some sort of very different peace.

Set mostly in pretty coastal Rye, full of the strictures of Edwardian Society, it is evocative and very moving, highlight the prejudices and injustices of the early 20th Century. Agatha, whose husband is in the Foreign Office, is campaigning for a woman to replace the Latin Master in the local Grammar School. War arrives and the author powerfully highlights the ignorance, stupidity and insensitivity of those in command against the resilience and courage of the ordinary soldiers. It is heartbreaking, beautifully written and well researched.

An excellent read. One of our Books of the Year The first page made me flinch, yet I couldn't, didn't want to stop reading. Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction A surprising, emotional, and courageous novel, one where the words and feelings gradually unwind from the page and take up residence in your mind. Set in Nigeria during the s, this is a story that at first feels like a window into another world, yet one that is somehow recognisable, as feelings are translatable, wherever they may be felt. Yejide desperately wants a child, her entire world collapses when her in-laws insist on her husband Akin marrying a new wife, in order to bear him children.

We see the couple, feel their thoughts, the hurt and sorrow on both sides. I couldn't stop reading, yet the rawness, the pain was in every turn of the page. Unexpected revelations smacked into my awareness, turned my thoughts, captivated me further. Ayobami Adebayo, in her debut novel, writes with a clear and simple intensity. Click here to read Ayobami Adebayo discuss her debut novel Stay with Me. Maxim Jakubowski's March Book of the Month.

Shortly after the Russian revolution, a White Russian count is spared execution because of a subversive poem he wrote defying authority before the fall of the Czar and is, instead, exiled to an attic room in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow, where he once enjoyed a luxurious suite and all the amenities that wealth could provide. Author: Janice Y. A remarkably touching and quite, quite beautiful read. Set in Hong Kong, the prologue is teeming with people making their way to this remarkable city.


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Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to survive heartache in a different and sometimes difficult world. Three distinct lives, at first separate, step closer to each other, then the links between the three women tighten, almost to choking point. Janice Y. Lee writes with an exquisite, startling intensity, she provokes thoughts and feelings into exploring identity, grief and a fluttering of possibilities.

Hong Kong is breathtaking, with the mix of East and West acting as a vibrant backdrop to the intimate story of these women. There is a real depth and energy to the writing, yet the thread of compassion that weaves through the pages ensures a delicate balance. Deceptively clever and utterly compelling, this beautifully written little book will continue to haunt your thoughts long after you've finished it.

Set in Montreal, the world of Bilodo the postman is a simple one, but he regularly sneaks a peek into other peoples worlds by reading their handwritten letters; events take a darker turn as he deviates from voyeur into an obsessive usurper. The author uses Japanese haiku and tanka poetry to allow Bilodo to converse with the woman of his dreams; exquisite clusters of words will snag your attention and demand that you re-read them.

This is essentially a book of love, of what might have been and of what could still come… One of our Books of the Year February eBook of the Month. A rather special read indeed… there are times when you wonder how you've missed sight of, or hearing about a book, and for me this is one of them. This is a treat, a heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, jam-packed full of love treat. Ben shares his story as he literally battles to place his autistic son Jonah, into what he considers is the right school. Jem Lester writes with experience, yet he adds bittersweet, aching emotion, biting wit, and a lightness of touch that manages to skim joyfully across the pages.

Letters from social services, the school, medical information, and receipts all find their way into the book, often bringing me up short and creating a link to the authenticity of the situation. Occasional photos, letters and little extras crop up through the book, making the journey from beginning to end feel even more intense and physically real. At times I felt as though I was floating directly above Veblen, connected yet apart, and able to pick up on the smallest but most significant details.

Elizabeth McKenzie writes with a beautifully considered yet free hand, with my feelings ranging from amused to curious, frustrated to sympathetic, and I also fell in love with a squirrel. This is a book to keep near at hand, a book to love and to cherish, to savour and to treasure. Absolutely enchanting, and not in a sugary syrupy sweet way, oh no, instead this is earthy and vibrant and real.

Miss Ona Vitkus is years old, she lives on her own, relatively undisturbed, and then the 11 year old boy turns up on her doorstep. The two become unlikely friends, with world records, birds and life histories becoming main topics of conversation. Monica Wood writes with beautiful empathy, she doesn't judge, or even provoke, she sets this gorgeous story in motion and allows you, as the reader along on the journey. Can there ever have been a heroine like Flora Banks? Inspired, she sets off alone to follow him, a heart-stopping journey that takes her deep into the Arctic landscapes of Norway, scribbled messages she writes to herself on her arms her only reassurance or guide.

Flora does find out the truth about the boy and about herself, but she needs all her courage. A unique mix, part coming-of-age, part psychological thriller, with an almost fairy-tale setting, this is a story that readers will want to read more than once, and one they will want to share with friends too. A family drama full of suspense, tension and heartache. Amanda Brooke lights the fuse and then fans the flames, encouraging questions as Nina turns her family inside out in an attempt to find answers and understand what has happened.

This is a story deliberately set to challenge, prod and provoke, yet there is an undeniable sense of compassion and empathy touching the pages. January Debut of the Month. The prologue is short, quirky and full of feeling, it sets the stage perfectly for what is to come. Julia Forster writes with a light, yet spiky and witty touch, however deeper darker tones lie in wait. The descriptive detail is stunning, images danced across my consciousness as I read. The humour slides across the page, there were parts that made me belly laugh out loud and others that caused me to wince, to pause and think.

The Post-Apocalyptic setting is so popular today that it is becoming annoying, so it is great to get a book like this one; not only well written but offering a new angle on the old story. What results is not just a journey through the wilds but a personal struggle with inner darkness and the nature of reality. No zombies, thank goodness, just an honest and plausible thriller obviously written by someone with a brain as hints, threads and twists weave together in a compelling and disturbing tale.

Excellent stuff. Alex is reeling from life. He's left the family home and has never felt further from his wife and son.

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He loves them both dearly but parenthood can put a strain on any relationship and having an autistic son adds even more pressure. Sam, his beautiful yet unreachable son, is a problem that Alex is finding impossible to solve and whilst suffocating under the responsibility he feels towards his family Alex finally hits rock bottom. Until that is Sam discovers Minecraft and so begins an adventure of a father finally finding a way to understand his son and maybe himself too.

It was fresh and honest but with no trace of bitterness. Some moments were so beautifully written they made my heart ache and moved me to tears. He captures so much in so few words and I came to love his characters and felt truly sad when I reached the final sentence. It both has massive commercial potential and is a singularly modern, heartfelt and meaningful piece of writing. A short, emotional and entirely captivating novel based on the real events that surrounded, enclosed and smothered the notorious Mata Hari. She will not accept that the Job Centre has nothing for her and is eventually given a dead-end, short-term job as caretaker in a closing sports centre in a dying town.

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How she wins everyone round and makes a life for herself is poignantly realised. A lovely read. This latest novel from the acclaimed author of the Orange-longlisted The Pink Hotel is an exploration of memories, consequence and the difficulties of living with the past. Cathy is a curator of natural history in Berlin. She is engaged, about to receive an award for her work and beginning to feel that she has finally escaped her past, a past that she keeps locked away within her own museum of curiosities.

Yet on the day she is due to receive her award she receives a gift that tells her that a shadow that haunts her memories has resurfaced to claim back what he feels belongs to him. I was completely swept away with this story. I found the exploration of characters sensitively handled and yet provided enough suspense and contained a level of sinister tension that had me guessing just what each one may be capable of.

This is exquisite, beautifully written prose and the use of the museum as a theme throughout with setting, a means of storytelling and metaphor, is quite brilliantly executed. It is personal, it is universal and it is something that lives within each of us and the memories we hold. Flora Mackie leads a remarkable life. Jane Wood, Publisher, Quercus.

Author: M. Isolated at the tip of Australia as a lighthouse keeper, emotionally traumatised World War I veteran Tom fears for his wife's sanity after her third miscarriage. Then a boat turns up carrying a dead man and a newborn baby. They bring the baby girl up as their own. The repercussions of this on the girl's biological family, and eventually Tom's guilt, are movingly portrayed.

This covers vast themes, moral dilemmas and heartbreaking decisions. A doom-laden tale which really does make you question the rules as along the way someone has to get very hurt indeed Powerful stuff and highly recommended. What a brilliant and memorable debut. Superb characters, heart-rending plot and, set on an island miles from Australia, a uniquely beautiful setting. After the horrors of WW1 Tom finds first solace as a lighthouse keeper and joy as he shares the experience with his young wife. Then one morning a decision they take, seemingly for the best, has devastating consequences.

We think this is a perfect book for reading groups. A smart and sassy take on a 21st century mum making her way in the world, trying not to cause too much damage but also hoping that maybe, just maybe she may be able to find the contentment within herself that she so badly craves. Then her day takes an unexpected turn as the past creeps into her present. Suddenly there are questions demanding to be answered. Where is he disappearing to each day? How will she explain to Timby about the sister she never talks about? And what will happen to The Flood Girls? Long since consigned to the back of the closet.

We also experience the crazy thoughts that often flit in and out of her head. Thoughts we can all relate to and the unexplained conclusions we leap to and in turn the consequences they have on our happiness. Today Will Be Different shares the hope that we can learn to be more accepting of who we are and allow ourselves to be happier. Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize Our first-person narrator, Anne Jaccobs, is an extraordinary young woman for her period. This is Georgian London in and she a lady eager to learn. Her well-to-do family have plans for her but year old Anne is an interesting, forceful character.

In a novel rich in period detail we follow this spirited girl through some highly unexpected scenarios which two-thirds of the way through the book turn into a bawdy romp. At times dark, at times humorous, this is an historical novel not to be missed, a debut from the much-loved Blue Peter presenter. Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize He takes it to a Lovell, a banker based on Golden Hill Street, in order to have it cashed. Speculation is duly aroused: what on earth is Smith planning to do with such a quantity of cash? The depiction of place is gratifyingly sensory.

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While the puzzle at the heart of the novel is not revealed until the very last pages, the plentiful and nimbly executed plot twists provide much satisfaction throughout. Part mystery, part homage to eighteenth century literature, this is an exuberant literary delight with all the readability of a page-turner. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that's full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed.

His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist's voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat. October Debut of the Month. Arthur quickly realises that before she met him, his wife had a whole host of experiences, and Arthur knew nothing about them!

Phaedra Patrick writes with a beautifully light touch, yet imbues each page with a meaningful eloquence. Arthur is a joy to get to know, you feel his sadness and bewilderment at his loneliness and loss, then as he steps out on his quest, you witness his cloistered heart and mind unfurling towards the possibilities that life can offer. This is a beautiful little gem of a read and I highly recommend it. Sarah Broadhurst's view Early on we meet Lucy, twenty-four, who needs a heart transplant. She is a plucky girl trying to live a normal life greatly hampered by her sad ill health.

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For eighteen months she has been on the transplant list. Preparing to go on her first holiday ever with just her sister her family watch the television News and a report on a train crash which eventually turns into a motorway crash. Among the victims are three close women friends, all badly injured. We swing back four months and get to know these three, their reliance on each other and their reason for being in that crash.

Interspersed with their lives is their post-accident hospital treatment where surely one will die for Lucy to get her heart. This is a tale exploring many strong issues; fertility, loyalty, betrayal, responsibility, young motherhood, divorce, independence, dementia and much more.

Pretty powerful stuff and excellent for reading groups.


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This witty and twisty tale of an elderly con man intent on a final hurrah when he initially goes on a blind date with a retired, wealthy woman, brings more than smiles to the face. However she is not all she appears to be and as his own past is slowly unveiled in parallel to the con he studiously devotes himself to, increasing layers of lies and domestic intrigue are revealed which often turn the elaborate plot upside down.

With echoes of Patricia Highsmith but without the die-hard cynicism, this is an affectionate and deliberately old fashioned psychological thriller with just the right touch of humour and humanity. Engrossing and with a tightly-engineered plot that holds surprises at every corner and what is there to dislike in a thriller where the main character is in his 80s? Just fabulous. This is one of those wonderfully rare books that sets you in the middle of a familiar location and then prowls down a previously unexplored and unexpected path.

Exquisitely pitch perfect, with clear and self assured writing, the story slides backwards in time, releasing information, raising suspicions and spiralling down into darkness. As I turned the last page, I paused, and felt within, one of those electrifying moments before applause bursts forth.

I want to tell you about this fabulously compelling novel Viking is publishing in January. The response within Penguin has been extraordinary so far — with staff in every department raving about it. His target is Betty, a woman whom he is planning to seduce and then run off with her life savings. Roy is incredibly creepy and Betty is wonderfully admirable, if a little mysterious. The twists and turns of the narrative are endlessly surprising.

I have also, only very occasionally witnessed such an amazing in-house response. It would be terrific if you liked the book as much as we all do. Thanks so much for your time. Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize Traversing continents and generations, this sublime debut explores identity, self-sacrifice and dislocation with elegance and wit. Despite sharing a bed with Odile, Yuki never feels close to her. Odile is wrapped up in forging a modeling career, and then heads to Italy, abandoning Yuki to Lillian and her violent boyfriend.

Abandonment, loneliness, and seeking solace from loneliness are recurring themes. Some years later, when she has a home, a husband who loves her, a baby son, and the talent to be an artist, Yuki remains unsettled, and feels a desperate desire to leave. August Book of the Month. Tense and full of intrigue, this is a novel that sinks into the depths of obsession and discovers a very dangerous game afoot.

The newly opened, glamorous lido calls to Natalie and in one summer her life changes beyond all recognition. The prologue and first chapter declare from the outset that a dramatic event has occurred.


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The story explores the whole of the summer, occasionally touching on the past and then suddenly switching directly to the aftermath. These jarring changes in time create a feeling of foreboding as the timelines slide towards their inevitable collision. Louise Candlish excels in looking at the darker side of relationships, she discovers thoughts and feelings that are recognisable but at the same time feel dangerously untouched.

As decadent and scandalous as New York Society in the roaring twenties, A Certain Age will whisk you back to a time of Jazz, elegance, charm, and murder as only Beatriz Williams can. The world is slowly recovering from the horrors of the Great War. She turns to Rofrano to carry out this small favour and sets in motion a string of events that will change their lives forever. Thrilling and heady, A Certain Age is a delightful novel to escape into. Click here to view the Reading Group Notes for this title.

A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. July Debut of the Month and eBook of the Month. From the author of Possession and The Children's Book comes an extraordinary tale, inspired by the myth of Ragnarok. Intensely autobiographical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's truly great writers. You might also say it's timely in that it is a book about how stories can give us the courage to face our own demise.

So just as Wagner's Ring Cycle was inspired by Norse myth so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling. July Book of the Month. Also very present are the Gods themselves, playing with lives, betting on battles and arguing amongst themselves. It is a well-known tale, moving, frightening, bloody.

This re-telling shows a feminine side, away from the battles but still dependent on their outcome. It is an engrossing world, easy to fall into. As spies, lovers, slaves and prophets these women of Troy show themselves the equal of the more famous men. Even if you know the story well this is still an entrancing read.

A beautifully quirky, yet at the same time completely logical love story well it is logical once you've realised that you too, have fallen in love with an alligator. I believe that John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway would remember their parts in this tale with glee, who wouldn't want to have been introduced to the charming and rather glorious Albert?

I quite simply devoured this enchanting book in one sitting, and I will want to read it again and again. It is easy to think of the Celts as savages and the Romans as the bringers of civilisation when in fact Celtic society was complex and well-structured. Skin captures the flavour of that ancient time beautifully. The people feel a strong connection to nature and magic is everywhere. Within this ordered society Ailia is a misfit. A wonderful narrator full of youthful fire, fear, confusion and joy. Her journey is strange and compelling, for her and the reader, as she is torn between loves and duties in two different worlds.

A thrillingly realised and richly populated novel, imbued with a wealth of historical detail, suffused with the magic of place and plotted with verve. It is difficult to know if this huge, sprawling novel would have quite the same appeal if you had not read the first two but I suspect you could probably dive into this as a complex historical adventure of India and China in the middle of the 19th century when the East India Company had great power.

It mostly revolves round opium. The story jumps from one strand to another for the first half of the book with some truly lovely cameo pieces, a joy. It is also a beautiful novel in its own right, and a compelling conclusion to an epic and sweeping story - the bestselling Ibis trilogy from the author of Booker-shortlisted Sea of Poppies - it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The Ibis Trilogy Sea of Poppies2. River of Smoke3. Flood of Fire. Pencraw Hall, Cornwall, is a beautiful old house, the holiday retreat for the well-off Alton family of four children, twins and then a couple much younger, a hard-working father and a young, gregarious American mother, very liberal.

Wonderful times are had at Pencraw in the late 60s. It is nicknamed Black Rabbit Hall due to the silhouette of numerous rabbits which actually lead to the tragedy that shatters the family. We follow them and in alternating sections, Lorna, thirty years later who is looking for a wedding venue and is inexplicably drawn to the now decaying house and its mysterious occupants.

This is straight down the line pure country house, classic mystery, wonderful stuff. Suspenseful, haunting, startling and full of the unexpected. This isn't exactly a love story, it is rather, a tale about love, in all its different forms. While Cora and Will form the heart of this novel, every member of the surrounding cast is as important as these two, each fitting into a perfectly formed relationship jigsaw.

At times they may not be likeable, they may have their quirks, their differences, yet they are so well formed, it is possible to feel empathy as you question a decision or comment made. The Essex serpent coiled and waiting, exploits fear and mistrust, creating a fascinating setting in which connections flourish and wither.

At times the Victorian setting vanished and the relationships felt very current and modern, while at others the different time period proclaimed the complications and difficulties faced by anyone judged as being different. Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award And then there are those books that you become so close to that you almost feel as though they are a part of you. It is a sumptuously imagined novel of lives playing out against bigger historical moments, and it is the most unusual and moving love story I have ever read. June Book of the Month and eBook of the Month.

Ferney was one of my all time favourite books of the year it was published, It tells of a love through the ages, a tale of reincarnation, passion, longing, history and mystery. This is its sequel. You do not have to have read Ferney first but I would highly recommend that you do so. This is a modern day love story bound up in the memory of past lives.

It brilliantly brings together all the loose threads to a fulfilling conclusion that leaves a shiver down your back. To reunite the characters again, James Long has a school out, an archaeological dig, a busy mother and a mystified teacher all there to join up Ferney and Gally. Long said that "you either bore people with the complexity of the scenario who already know about it, or you baffle them. Abandoned by his long-time girlfriend, travel writer Paul goes to Tuscany to research his next book. Arrangements are made but upon arrival no car is available.

Enter one bulldozer, a wacky scenario which results in some charming pieces. Paul enters village life and that atmosphere is vividly and warmly described. Then long-time girlfriend turns up and life gets complicated. Only McCall Smith has the literary dexterity to pull this off.

May Debut of the Month. Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction A bittersweet, page-turning love story which jumps back and forth in time. It tells of a Japanese couple, Ameterasu and Kenzo, now living in America and the loss of their daughter and grandson after the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The identity of these men is at the centre of this tale. So the past is revealed to us in dramatic bursts and Ameterau tells us of the emotional conflict between her and her daughter: so sad. At the beginning of each chapter there is a Japanese word and an explanation of its meaning and usage, not always relevant but always interesting, hence the title.

A captivating and deeply dark family drama and mystery, set in the midst of a London communal garden square. The story then spins backwards in time, to Clare and her two daughters, Pip and Grace, as they get to know their new neighbours. Focusing on several families, the story weaves among the children and adults as it begins to traverse a slippery and sinister slope.

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Lisa Jewell explores friendship, trust and suspicion. She writes with a familiar light touch, yet a threatening presence hovers over the pages and the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters bubble with intensity. Beautiful adventurous Maisy and loyal, knowing ayah Pushpa tell their own tales, which are inextricably linked to each other. Louise Brown writes with the lightest of touches, yet is able to convey earthy, vibrant tones with an expressive eloquence.

There are occasional moments of heart wrenching savagery, described by a character in such an unaffected, matter of fact way, that the thrust travels all the more intensely. My imagination soaked up this moving tale, the emotion it generated constantly surprising as I found myself transported to an exotically precarious world.

Her mother is a prostitute and alcoholic, and when Maisy is seduced at sixteen by her Indian tutor, her life changes forever, for better and for worse. What sets it apart from me is the incredibly vivid sense of location, from the backstreets of the shared housing in Calcutta to the colonial bungalows beautifully wrapped by their flower-filled gardens — both dwellings are places that provide comfort and yet entrapment, too. The author also delves into some very serious issues simmering beneath the love story that arcs over the novel.

It portrays an alternative story to the usual stories of dusty haired, bored British Colonial wives. It's colourful, rich in detail, probing in subject matter and beautifully researched. A wonderfully unconventional and thought-provoking read, where a mystery waiting to be solved shelters behind a penetrating and wryly emotional family tale. The first paragraph, short as it is, marks itself indelibly in your minds eye, it also encapsulates the detached and challenging personality of Morwenna, the narrator.

As the story ponders the weight of family expectations it also peeks at the tricky complexity that is imagination versus recollection and how often the two blend into a murky uncertainty. Julia Rochester has a fascinating way with words, words to make you stop, think and consider, she captures your thought processes and then hurls them in an unexpected direction. This is an intelligent, discerning and surprising debut novel and deserves to be highly recommended.

She brings the landscape to life just as she does her characters. We all felt we were with them at key points in the book. Winner of the Costa First Novel Award