A really fascinating book, which blew our minds! The facts that fungi are closer to animals than plants, that they can solve a maze by the most efficient route, that they can have hundreds of different genders, the revelations come thick and fast. One of those books that entirely changes the way we see the world and often feels closer to philosophy than natural history. Amazing!
The Infinite by Patience Agbabi. Canongate £7.99
The Infinite is the first children’s novel by Nigerian-born poet Patience Agbabi, and it’s a thoroughly entertaining time travel eco-adventure, perfect for ages 9-13.
Elle Bibi Imbele is a ‘Leapling’ – she was born on 29th February of a leap year. Moreover, she possesses ‘The Gift’ – the amazing ability to leap through time! But she is also autistic, is bullied at school, and is struggling to learn control of her ‘gift’. On her 12th birthday, she and other Gifted Leaplings from her special academy perform a jump through time to the Time Squad Centre, Year 2048. In this future world, which is vegan and carbon neutral, the Time Squad are Guardians of Chronology who stop time-criminals from changing the course of eco-history… but it soon becomes clear that all is not well; Leaplings have been disappearing, and the Time Squad Guardians are behaving suspiciously. Elle and her best friend Big Ben become mixed up in an extraordinary adventure, trying to track down missing Leaplings and get to the bottom of a devious plot.
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable and twisty story, enlivened by the engagingly quirky characters of Elle, Big Ben, and Elle’s Nigerian Grandma. Patience Agbabi cleverly incorporates the two heroes’ autistic traits and obsessions into the plotline, which ultimately play a huge part in saving the day!
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. Anderson Press £7.99
Susin Nielsen is rapidly becoming our favourite writer for the hard-to-reach spot between kids’ books and hard-hitting ‘YA’. She writes with humour, empathy, and sensitivity, and creates authentic, relatable yet quirky characters who jump right into your heart!
Felix Knutsson is almost 13. He is a bright kid with a knack for trivia, and he’s crazy about a Canadian TV quiz show called ‘Who, What, Where, When?’ But Felix has a secret: he and his mum, Astrid, are living in a van. As the chill of a Canadian winter descends, the novelty of ‘city camping’ has most definitely worn off and it’s getting harder to hide the secret from his best friends, Winnie and Dylan. Felix is beginning to realise that, although his mum is a great person, she may not be the greatest parent. But if he can get accepted as a contestant on ‘Who, What, Where, When?’ maybe he can be the one to turn their fortunes around?
A hugely enjoyable, gripping story, tackling issues such as the poverty trap and the ‘hidden homeless’ with gentle humour and compassion, and which is ultimately about the redemptive power of human kindness. Ages 11+.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Bloomsbury 8.99
‘Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was? I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.’
Living in their beloved “Dutch House” a lavishly decorated folly of a mansion so named because of the original owners, Danny and his brilliantly acerbic and protective sister Maeve are thrown together when their mother walks out leaving them with their “impenetrable mystery” of a father. The bond is cemented when a “wicked stepmother” arrives and the pair are eventually ousted from the house. Twisting back and forth across five decades the novel paints an intimate, poignant and sometime humorous portrait of a family and its complex relationships, focussing on the two siblings who have found a precarious sanctuary in each other when they are failed by the adults who were supposed to nurture them.
“ The Dutch House brilliantly captures how time undoes all certainties.” The Guardian
Wiston-based author Debbie Howells celebrates the launch of her debut published thriller at The Sussex Produce Café, in association with her publishers Pan Macmillan.
Wine and Canapes will be served. Please contact the bookshop if you wish to reserve a place – just a few left.
Another rip-roaring adventure from Ruth Eastham, the author of the SGS book awards short-listed ‘Arrowhead’, who recently visited Steyning Grammar School and gave a great presentation to Year 7.
The Jaguar Trials is a fast-paced adventure set in the Amazon, following brave Ben as he sets out on an expedition with his archaeologist father to seek the fabled lost city of gold, El Dorado. After their boat is sabotaged and wrecked, Ben and his friend Raffie set out on a quest to find Ben’s father. Soon Ben discovers he bears the ‘Mark of the Jaguar’ and must survive the mysterious ‘Jaguar Trials’ before he can be reunited with his father. Along the way Ben and Raffie encounter a sinister professor, tribal shamans, the ‘unquiet spirits’ of long gone tribes wiped out by the Spanish conquistadors, and a feisty young Amazon Indian girl who helps them as they venture further into the jungle on their terrifying quest.
Perfect summer-holiday reading for your 8-13 year child of either gender!
Owen Sheers is a Welsh author, poet and playwright, and is Professor of Creativity at Swansea University. ‘I Saw a Man’ is his third novel, following his debut ‘Resistance’, which he also adapted into a feature film, and his novella ‘White Ravens’. He has also published several volumes of poetry.
A sensitive and moving character-driven novel of great emotional depth, ‘I Saw a Man’ follows the story of Michael Turner, who, after the loss of his wife, moves to London and develops a close bond with the Nelson family next door. Josh, Samantha and their two young children seem to represent everything Michael fears he may now never have: intimacy, children, stability and a family home.
But something that begins as a casual friendship changes dramatically and leads to tragic consequences. This interestingly constructed novel spans continents, from London and Wales to New York and the Nevada deserts. Drawn from the start into the characters’ disturbing secrets and lies, the reader is kept guessing on many levels about them and what drives them, until the big reveal.
Owen Sheers has written a gripping and classy moral thriller, but much more than that too. It is beautifully written and a great read.
The Bees – Laline Paull– 4th Estate £8.99
As astonishing debut novel, deservedly garnering critical acclaim and award shortlist nominations, from British playwright Laline Paull, who resides in East Sussex.
Flora 717 is born into the lowest ‘kin’ (caste) of her Hive. However her abnormally large size and ability to speak, when the rest of her kin are mute, singles her out for the attention of her Hive’s priestesses. She is permitted to rise through the ranks of the Hive’s hierarchies to become a ‘forager’, even being admitted to serve the exalted Queen, and ultimately becoming both saviour and challenger of her Hive’s fanatically controlled regime.
‘The Bees’ is both a meditation on totalitarian regimes, bringing to mind Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in its portrayal of a female-led society in which only the chosen may breed, and a fascinating insight into the hive mentality and the chemical, pheromone-soaked world of insect society. It is quite incredible how lyrically yet precisely Laline Paull renders the essential ‘bee-ness’ of scent-based communication, and immerses the reader so deeply in what is essentially an alien consciousness.
A timely subject, given the present peril of our bee populations.
Mind-blowingly imaginative, gripping and unique – my first absolute must-read this year!
Book launch at The Steyning Bookshop in association with Pan Macmillan.
Popular Worthing-based writer Pam Weaver will be launching her new novel ‘Blue Moon’, a romantic saga set in 1930’s Worthing.
Wine and Canapes will be served. Please contact us to reserve your free invitation.
Thursday 16th July 7.30 pm.
Bring your little ones along for some MONSTROUS fun with lively children’s writer / illustrator Leigh Hodgkinson, author of lots of great children’s picture books including her latest, ‘The Big Monster Snorey Book’. Leigh will read stories, do LOTS of doodling, and help children make their very own sleepy/wakey moving monster!
Suitable for ages 3 – 8.
Tickets £2 redeemable against a book. Free Refreshments.
We feel absolutely privileged and thrilled to welcome award-winning novelist Louis de Bernieres back to Steyning. Louis is perhaps best known his best-selling novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, and for his wonderful Turkish historical epic ‘Birds without Wings’. Louis is a fascinating speaker who has held down an astonishing array of jobs, and is also an accomplished musician and a gifted poet, so we should be in for a real treat! We will be celebrating the release of Louis’ eighth novel, ‘The Dust that Falls from Dreams’, published by Vintage, which promises to be a sweeping, moving chronicle of war and romance, as the fading Edwardian values of the late 19th century are transformed by the shifts of the First World War. ‘The Dust that Falls from Dreams’ is to be the first in a trilogy loosely based on Louis’ own family history.
Tickets cost £35, and include a copy of Louis’ latest book, and a delicious, seasonal 2 course meal.
We are very happy to present a fascinating evening with Steyning’s very own Guardian journalist, sometime parliamentary candidate, and author of over 20 books on subjects as diverse as time-banking, the middle-classes, Richard the Lionheart, alternative currencies, and allotments! David Boyle’s new book ‘How to be English’, published by Vintage, is an irreverent look at how bell-ringers, Morris men, meat pies, and cardigans contribute to our notions of what it is to be English. In these times of rising nationalism, with SNP and UKIP grabbing voters’ hearts, and a referendum on our membership of the EU imminent, there has never been a more pertinent time to ask ourselves “What does it mean to be English?”
Thursday 23rd July, 7.30 pm, at the bookshop.
We are very excited to introduce the acclaimed novelist Sarah Moss to Steyning. Sarah has written four novels, all published by Granta, and her latest, ‘Signs for Lost Children’ continues the story of Dr Ally Moberley-Cavendish, whom we met in Moss’s previous novel ‘Bodies of Light’, a bookshop book group favourite. Both novels are beautifully written and offer a fascinating insight into the lives of women in the late 19th century, as Ally juggles the rigours of making her way in the male-dominated medical profession with her roles as daughter and wife. This promises to be a really interesting evening, and with delicious home-made canapés on offer plus complimentary wine, the bookshop will be transformed into a literary salon for the night!
Tuesday 7th July at 7.30 pm. In the bookshop!
We are gearing up for a busy second half of June! Please come and celebrate Independent Booksellers Week with us, from 20th to 27th June – we have author visits from children’s illustrator Sam Lloyd and historical crime writer Nicola Upson, and a week-long ‘Tiger Who Came to Tea’ trail, as well as the return of our our ‘Bag a Bargain’ sale table. Please see our events page for more details.
Also, Friday 26th June sees the Awards Ceremony for the inaugural Steyning Grammar School Brilliant Book Awards, which has seen the bookshop, school librarians and English department staff working together, shortlisting a selection of excellent novels. Pupils, staff and parents have been reading and voting on their favourites, and short-listed authors Alan Gibbons, Ruth Eastham and Virginia Bergin have visited the school to whip up excitement. The Awards Ceremony starts at 5pm on Friday 26th, in the Drama Hall at Shooting Field, and is open to pupils, parents, staff, and interested members of the community, please drop into the bookshop for an invitation, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place. Authors Matt Whyman, Tom Moorhouse and Ben Davis will be in attendance.
On June 16th, the Year 3 pupils at Steyning Primary School were thrilled to receive a visit from best-selling children’s author Julia Donaldson, accompanied by her husband Malcolm and his trusty guitar! The children joined Julia and Malcolm in singing action songs, and acting out Julia’s stories – much hilarity ensued when head teacher Chris Luckin had to dress up as ‘Lanky Len’ the robber! We look forward to her visit to Henfield St Peter’s Primary School on June 30th.
May saw some wonderful events. We had a delightful evening at the bookshop with the launch of well-loved local osteopath Geoff Green’s first novel The Sand Hide.
Last year Geoff intrigued us with his true life crime story Paying for the Past and now he has published an interesting tale of marital strife and a subsequent flight to the deserts of Morocco. The theme of a desert adventure (but not the marital strife I hasten to say) was taken in part from Geoff and particularly his wife Carol’s interesting experiences in Morocco. The crowd that crammed into the bookshop was testimony to the high regard in which Geoff is held here, and we wish him well with his writing.
Our next event was the visit from Sussex crime writing favourite Peter James, who was introducing You Are Dead, his new novel in the wildly popular Roy Grace series. We arranged for his talk and signing to take place at Steyning Grammar School Theatre. A new Peter James novel is always an exciting event and he has been a wonderful supporter of independent bookshops over the years.
The audience of over 200 were treated to a most entertaining talk by Peter and heard about his sometimes hilarious early years working as a film producer and writer in Hollywood and his more recent life as a best-selling crime writer. A fantastic evening and as everyone had a copy of You Are Dead with their ticket and the chance to chat with Peter if they had their book signed, we hope that they went home very pleased.
Earlier in May, writer Helen Peters, who wrote bookshop favourite The Secret Hen House Theatre and its recent sequel The Farm Beneath the Water, spoke to a very appreciative group of children at Windlesham House School and Steyning Primary School pupils showed their usual great enthusiasm too when Helen went there later in the day to talk to them as well about her books. Helen, who is an English teacher with two children, grew up on a farm near Ringmer and has based her stories on those experiences.
The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
Hot Key Books £7.99
Another story that adds to the dramatic tension by starting at the end. This book was originally ordered by us for a customer who wanted to check whether it was suitable for her 10 year old daughter, who had loved the very enjoyable Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, also by this author. It wasn’t, but it is a wonderful read for teenagers from age 13 or 14. Set near Cairns, the novel follows the progress of 15 year old Rose Lovell who lives a wandering and dislocated life travelling with her father, an artist with a drink problem. Turning up at the aptly named Paradise Bay with their ramshackle caravan as her father goes through a rare dry period, she is reluctantly drawn into friendship with relentlessly and volubly friendly school beauty Pearl. Rose even finds herself joining in with the annual search for the most beautiful dress to wear at the Harvest Parade and encounters an odd and story-filled old woman who helps her sew a magical and stunning midnight blue dress. The novel is lyrical in its superb evocation of the natural world and the mysteries of love, and humorous in its treatment of sardonic young Rose, but there is also a dark undercurrent indicated from the start, so be warned, handkerchiefs at the ready!
Also a warning for parents. It does contain a little bad language, but not an inordinate amount and it does not detract from the general beauty of the writing.
Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser. One World Publications £8.99
A terrifying and timely examination of antibiotic resistance and what can be done to halt it. In 2014 the World Health Organization issued the grim warning that we are on the cusp of a ‘post-antibiotic era’, and Martin Blaser guides us through the science behind this modern crisis. Crisply argued, accessible and beautifully written, his arguments focus not on antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’, but on the damage being done to the teeming ecosystems within each one of us, and he calmly sets out a sensible plan for reclaiming our microbial balance. Essential reading for doctors, scientists and laymen alike.
Flood of Fire
John Murray £20
It is 1839, and in British India, there are fortunes to be made by exporting Indian opium to China. But tensions are mounting as the Chinese Emperor realises the damage that the drug is doing to the population. With hostilities mounting, the colonial government declares war, and British ships start sailing east from Bengal into the middle of the first Opium War. The Hind is one of the vessels requisitioned, and aboard are a motley group of travellers. Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company, leading his men, Zachary Reid, a young American sailor in search of wealth and his lost love and Shireen Modi, a widow risking her reputation to travel to China alone to find the truth about her husband’s death and recover his possessions. On the voyage, connections are come to light, and the travellers’ pasts are revealed to be as tangled together as their futures.
This is the third of Amitav Ghosh’s Booker nominated Ibis trilogy set in India and China before and during the Opium Wars, and it is as enthralling and all-consuming as the first two novels.
At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison pub Bloomsbury £16.99
This story begins at the end with a scene showing a long straight road running through the fields to a little village called Lodeshill. On the road two cars lie wrecked – one wheel, upturned, still spins.
A couple have recently moved to Lodeshill from London, their marriage in difficulties. A young lad who has lived in the village all his life dreams of leaving it behind and a vagrant farm worker in flight from a bail hostel arrives on foot in the village. Their lives become intertwined. All four of them are trying to find ways to belong in the modern countryside.
Throughout the book Melissa Harrison accurately and charmingly describes the natural world and our need to belong. The suspense increases towards the end of the story as you become concerned about each of the characters you have met. Each time somebody gets into a car you wonder if they are the victims of the tragic car crash described at the beginning of the book. This is an unsentimental story of loss and love. Gill.
Breakfast – Morning, Noon & Night by Fern Green. Hardie Grant £18.99
We are spoilt for choice with new cookery books this month, with delicious looking Asian and Thai recipe books just in, but this one has to take the crumpet!
Breakfast, that sorely neglected meal, is the focus of this beautifully-presented and mouth-watering recipe book. With sections dedicated to ‘on toast’, ‘hungover’, ‘indulgent’, ‘baked’ and ‘for a crowd’ and featuring adventurous recipes like ‘smoked trout, ricotta and new potato rolled omelette’, sweet treats like ‘spiced Granny Smith fritters’ and global imports such as ‘Moroccan Eggs’ the owner of this wonderful book will have no excuse to reach for the cereal ever again!
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
Rachel Caine is returning to home to Cumbria from her job monitoring wolves in Idaho for the first time in six years. The Earl of Annerdale, rich and eccentric, is determined to have the country’s best wolf expert working on his pet project. And her mother is dying. The Earl offers her a job overseeing the reintroduction of grey wolves to his estate but she initially refuses. Her resistance is soon overcome, however, and Rachel soon finds herself back in the landscape of her childhood, trying to negotiate the oddities of, and protests against, the wolf project and her own uneasy relationship with her brother and the shade of her mother.
It is a tale of returning and of borders. The wolves return to their ancestral home and to their place in our imaginations. In returning to the landscape of her childhood, Rachel is able to begin to rebuild her connection to her brother, and to start to make sense of her relationship with her mother. Borders are everywhere, from the wolf border of the title, to the border between England and Scotland at a time of upheaval, and as in all Hall’s work, the thin, sometimes permeable line between human, animal and landscape.
For fans of Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Jamie.
Our next event is ‘An Afternoon with Nicola Upson’ on Saturday 27th June at 2pm.
Help us celebrate Independent Booksellers Week in style and join historical crime novelist Nicola Upson for tea and home-made cake in the bookshop garden marquee.
Nicola will speak about her acclaimed series of novels, published by Faber, featuring the real-life ‘Golden Age’ detective novelist Josephine Tey.
Praise for the Josephine Tey books:
‘A distinguished series’ P. D James.
Daily Telegraph ‘Any crime aficianado…should make room for Nicola Upson’s novels.’
Tickets £6 to include tea, cake and a voucher towards a book. Advance booking recommended.
Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She was the winner of an Escalator/Arts Council England award in 2006 for her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, the first in a series of books to feature Golden Age detective writer, Josephine Tey. In 2008, the novel was published by Faber to wide critical acclaim, and praised by PD James as marking ‘the arrival of a new and assured talent’.
An Expert in Murder was dramatised by BBC Scotland for Woman’s Hour, and has been followed by three more novels: Angel With Two Faces; Two for Sorrow; and most recently Fear in the Sunlight (2012), described by The Financial Times as ‘a smart, playful pleasure in an increasingly adventurous series’. The fifth ‘Josephine Tey’ novel, The Death of Lucy Kyte, will be published by Faber in August 2013.
Nicola is the author of a number of non-fiction books, including Mythologies: the Sculpture of Helaine Blumenfeld (Overlook Press). She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, with five years as crime fiction critic for the New Statesman, and is a regular contributor to BBC radio. She lives with her partner in Cambridge and Cornwall, and is currently writing the sixth book in the Josephine Tey series, and researching a standalone novel.
Patrick Barkham is a nature writer and Guardian journalist, and is the author of two previous critically acclaimed books, ‘The Butterfly Isles’ and ‘Badgerlands’. ‘Coastlines’ traces the story of the most beautiful areas of the British coast, preserved for us by the National Trust, and the struggle to protect this natural heritage from human destruction and tidal erosion.
Patrick proves a most engaging and knowledgeable companion, as he walks 742 miles of beaches and coastal paths, and reflects on what it means for us to live in a country which is ‘more edge than middle’. Mixing chatty personal recollections and fascinating historical nuggets with evocative, lyrical passages on natural history and geology, ‘Coastlines’ is an enjoyably eloquent read, and I cannot wait to hear more coastal tales when Patrick appears at our Sussex Produce Company Author Supper in Steyning on April 15th. Gudrun