The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason

Told across two timelines: one in 1976 when Loo and Bee were children living on a farm in Derbyshire with their three other siblings and their father, Joe, and mother, Cathy; the other in the present when Lucy (Loo) is the only child living close enough to visit Cathy, who suffers from dementia and lives in a care home. What connects the two is the farm house they lived in and a paranormal investigation that began when a police officer was called to the house by Cathy back in 1976. After days of knocking on the walls and slammed doors, a hail of marbles was pelted down on the two older girls and with Joe away working, Cathy was scared. All these years later, a new investigation is beginning and Cathy has been contacted by the new team of researchers looking for evidence up at the farm.  Continue reading

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater is not only the winner of the inaugural Nommo Award for Best Novel (Africa’s first award for speculative fiction), but also the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2019, shortlisted for the Kitschie Award for Best Novel 2019 and finalist in the John W. Campbells Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. With all of these accolades you open Rosewater filled with expectations and the novel, the first in the Wormwood trilogy, does not disappoint. I was gripped right from the start.

Centred around Kaaro, a government agent and sensitive – meaning he can read people’s minds using the xensophere, an interconnected series of spores that live in the air and link everything and everyone together. His day job is in bank security, stopping other sensitives from accessing important data that might allow them to steal from the bank. His government work is more complicated, more dangerous and centred around the biodome.  Continue reading

Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy

It’s the summer of 1976 in England. The hottest summer on record. Nif’s little sister, Petra drowned in the bath four months ago and the family take off to a small village on the Welsh border to escape the grief that seems to be sucking the life from their family.

Nif is sixteen and no stranger to looking after Petra’s twin, her little brother Lorry. His speech is slow and he’s just come out of nappies even though he’s four years old. When he falls over on the gravel path outside the cottage in Wales, Nif rubs gravel into his other knee – it’s the Creed, the Creed that makes her do it. Things need to be balanced out. Continue reading

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

I raced through The Grace Year. Think of all the speculative fiction you’ve read about how men control women, particularly in religious communities – Vox, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Farm, The Power – and you’ll understand where The Grace Year is coming from, though it feels a bit like The Hunger Games has had an influence too. If you like this kind of book, you won’t be able to resist The Grace Year.

Tierney is approaching her sixteenth year and is therefore next in her family to be sent away for her grace year. Her community believes that a girl on the cusp of womanhood is filled with magic, the evil witchcraft used by Eve to deceive Adam and curse the human race, and must be banished for a year to release their wayward, dangerous powers into the wilderness before they return.  Continue reading

Our life in the Forest by Marie Darrieussecq

Ok, I admit it, I’m obsessed with Marie Darrieussecq. Hers is the kind of fiction I long for us to write more of and value more highly in England. Regardless of the subject, she is always striving to uncover and express quite what it means to live and breathe as a human. In this novel, she goes further and asks how the surge in population sits not only with human nature but with the planet. Are we able to be social beings on such a grand scale? If we lose touch with the fundamentals of our bestial nature, what do we become? She is also interested in the physical act of writing – how the body is part of the conveyance of narrative – and the primal nature of our desire to record stories in ways that don’t require mass production or electricity i.e. the written word, those early handprints on rock.

In Our Life in the Forest, Marie Darrieusecq contemplates a future in which cloning is used to provide spare organs and body parts for the rich. What does this mean for the clones? Do they have rights? Are they unique individuals despite their genetic replication? Continue reading

The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger

How do you hide from a difficult past when you have a left hand with an extra ring finger and bright red hair? Even if you’re exceedingly clever with a phenomenal talent for drawing? If you’re John Dolan Vincent of The Contortionist’s Handbook, you become a forger.

Initially running from a rough childhood – an abusive father in and out of jail; a school record that mistakes his savant abilities for special needs – the lure of reinvention becomes a habit, especially after the doctors can’t diagnose his headaches and conclude they are psychologically induced. In order to avoid the mental hospital – each headache episode ends in overdose as he takes more and more drugs to control the pain – every headache requires a new identity. Continue reading

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage starts with a newly married couple, Celestial and Roy, enjoying a romantic night in a hotel. A romantic night that begins a new and troubling era in their lives when Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

The novel has three parts and is mostly told from three main first person perspectives, those of Celestial, Roy and Andre, Celestial’s childhood friend who introduced the couple. Interspersed between these first person narratives are letters sent between the characters, for the most part between Celestial and Roy but this structure also allows for letters to and from other characters, such as parents, lawyers etc. Continue reading

Skin by Liam Brown

A deadly virus, spread through human contact, has forced the remaining wealthy few into isolated, decontaminated chambers; phones and computers their only means of communication with others, even their children and partners. Going outside is forbidden without prior authorisation and requires the wearing of a protective suit and mask.

This is the world of Skin, a novel narrated by mother-of-two, marketing executive, Carol. She tells her story in two threads: one which covers the outbreak and survival of the virus; and one in which she examines life in the new isolated world where she can no longer hug her children or feel the sun on her face. A chance sighting of a figure without a protective suit, spotted one day on her neighbourhood watch route, forces Carol to reevaluate the realities of the post-virus world. Skin is a great fun read for the sci-fi enthusiast as you get this double narrative arc of initial survival and then conspiracy. Continue reading

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Ordinary People follows the lives of two couples as they struggle with the difficulties of ordinary, family life.

Melissa and Michael have a new baby and a new house in London. They seem like the perfect couple, but Melissa’s shift to freelance work begins to make her feel trapped in her own home, jealous of the greater freedom her partner, Michael, enjoys.

Damian and Stephanie live in the suburbs, near Stephanie’s parents, with their three children and Damian commutes to London for work. This separation of work and home has built a wedge between Damian and Stephanie that grows when Damian’s father dies, forcing him to reconsider what he is doing with his life.

Damian and Michael are friends from university and this brings the families together, allowing for their experiences of family life to be shared, contrasted and contested. Continue reading