China Room

China Room

Mehar and her new sisters-in-law are married to three brothers, but as the men come to them in darkness and their days are veiled, they don’t know which sister has which husband. In their small, claustrophobic world, filled with sweeping and pounding and kneading and baking, a mistake and a deception ignite a passion that has far reaching consequences. 60 years later, Mehar’s great grandson, escaping demons of his own, seeks sanctuary on the family’s old farm.
Spare and atmospheric, a haunting tale of forbidden love.

Sentient

Sentient

Ask a child to name their senses, and they will probably come up with the same five as you. Smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch were first described as the five senses by Aristotle over two thousand years ago. However, with the advent of modern neuroscience, these senses have been joined by the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth senses, and many more. Jackie Higgins takes us on a fascinating journey around the ways in which we perceive the world, using the extraordinary perceptive powers of animals as our guide. From the incredible colour vision of the mantis shrimp to the extraordinarily sensitive nose of the star-nosed mole, and the ability of the barn owl to locate prey in darkness, and the cheetah’s sense of balance, to a spider’s body clock, these incredible animal studies illuminate our own sentience.

Humankind

Humankind

Essential reading for anyone feeling full of despair in these difficult times, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s fresh take on human nature is heartening and optimistic.   

From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, in religion, fiction, science, psychology and sociology, we have been taught that human beings are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. In ‘Humankind’, Rutger Bregman makes a revolutionary new argument: People are essentially GOOD, and their actions naturally tend towards kindness and altruism.  

Chapter by chapter, going back through 200,000 years of human history, Bregman re-evaluates and re-examines some of the most famously pessimistic events and case-studies; from the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram’s Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiments, he finds persuasive new evidence for humanity’s essential decency. If we begin to believe in fundamental human kindness and altruism, we may be able to achieve true change in society.  

For fans of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari 

Crowfall

Crowfall

An exciting new standalone fantasy adventure from the inventive imagination of Vashti Hardy, author of ‘Brightstorm’ and Wildspark’ and one of our FAVOURITE local authors, who is just going from strength to strength!

Orin Crowfall lives on the island of Ironhold, an orderly island committed to industry, with a strict hierarchical structure, where everyone knows their place. Ironholders pride themselves in their taming and harnessing of nature, reflected in their motto “industry brings prosperity”. Sensitive Orin is employed as a server to the elite Engineers, the rulers of Ironhold, but his first love is nature – he has a talent for nurturing plants, and he has made an incredible discovery – at the very heart of Ironhold is a living, natural being – the Eard – which nourishes and provides for the Island. When Orin uncovers a dark secret about the Engineers relationship with the Eard, both his life and the future of Ironhold are in grave danger, and he must flee for his life!

Orin and his animatronic robot friend Cody escape Ironhold on a small boat, but are pursued by a terrifying sea monster and buffeted by tremendous storms until they find themselves washed up on the shores of an incredible new island world …The island of Natura seems like a paradise, but who can Orin trust, and how will he return to Ironhold and save his family before everything is destroyed?

A really enjoyable story, full of excitement, with plucky, lovable characters, and Vashti Hardy’s characteristic gift for incredible world-building, ‘Crowfall’ is also a powerful environmental fable with a thought-provoking message about ecological balance.

Summerwater

Summerwater

Sarah Moss is a writer of rare accomplishment whose mastery of the messy complexities of the interior monologue is pitch-perfect. ‘Summerwater’ is an intense, beautifully-written, and devastating story, set over a 24-hour period in a faded Scottish cabin park.  

As the rain hammers down outside, in short vignettes we are introduced to the inhabitants of the holiday cabins; a woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a teenage boy chances the dark waters of the loch in his kayak; a retired couple head out despite the downpour, driving too fast on the familiar bends…. Nobody has any phone signal, and the world feels very far away, leading to a claustrophobic sense of dread… we know something bad is going to happen, but to whom.. and when?  

There are tender moments – Moss is an astute observer of family life and domestic tensions, there is acerbic humour, there are moments of limpid beauty in her observations of nature, and bubbling throughout, the tensions between this group of strangers simmer and then boil over…. No more spoilers – you HAVE TO read it!  

The Secret Detectives

The Secret Detectives

When Isobel Petty is orphaned, she finds herself being taken away from her home in India and sent to live with a distant uncle in England. On board the S.S. Marianna, she witnesses a shocking act – somebody being thrown overboard in the middle in the night. But when the ship’s captain insists that nobody is missing, Isobel and her two new reluctant friends must solve two mysteries – the identities of both the murderer and the victim – before they reach England and the culprit has the chance to escape.  

Isobel is a brilliantly created unlikeable heroine, victim of a childhood both indulged and ignored, who gradually has her sharp corners knocked off by the two long suffering friends she has met on the voyage, and by the life lessons that she learns along the way. Inspired by The Secret Garden and the golden age of crime writing, The Secret Detectives is perfect for fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Rundell. For children aged 9 upwards who like historical fiction and a good long read with plenty of mystery and humour. 

V for Victory

V for Victory

A real gem! Lissa Evan is a supremely gifted writer – astute, funny and warm – for both children and adults. We loved her comedic novel, ‘Crooked Heart’, which introduced Vee, a suburban con-woman, and ultrabright orphan Noel as they joined forces in the unlikely setting of Hampstead village during the second World War. Following on, ‘Old Baggage’ told the tale of Noel’s Suffragist godmother Mattie, and now we are back with Vee and Noel towards the end of the war when, unsurprisingly, their lives become even more complicated….

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

How I Saved the World in a Week

How I Saved the World in a Week

A nail-bitingly thrilling survival drama for readers of 8-12 years by the author of ‘The Boy in the Tower’.

Rule Number 1: Always be Prepared…. Billy’s mum isn’t like the other mums. She’s a scientist, for starters, and takes Billy out of school to train him in the Rules of Survival. But after her obsession goes too far, Billy is sent to Bristol, to live with a dad he barely knows.

Billy settles in well and even makes his first ever friends, but his new, life is rudely interrupted by a strange and terrifying phenomenon … is it a virus? An alien shape-shifting life form? People are turning into strange, scary grey creatures and chaos is breaking out. Billy, his dad, and his new friends have to flee the city. Billy realises that THIS is what his mum was preparing him for. Can Billy reach his mum’s ‘Safe Haven’ in time, and will she even be there? Can he reunite his family … and where are his friends?

Exciting, powerful and emotional; a perfect book for fans of Ross Welford.

Adam 2

Adam 2

One of the best middle-grade fiction novels I have read this year! An exciting science fiction thriller for ages 9+.

In a bleak future world, torn apart by a civil war between humans and advanced A.I robots, some scavenging children come across a cute little robot, locked in a basement. Adam 2 has been locked away for 200 years, and knows nothing of the war between robots and humankind. He has been programmed to faithfully serve humans, and quickly bonds with the children. Soon, by virtue of his human-style loyalty, he is accepted into the human camp.

Adam’s unique position – trusted by the humans, yet essentially an A.I, earns him friends & enemies in both camps, and it becomes clear that he holds the key to the war, and the power to end it – to destroy one side and save the other. But which side is right? Adam must decide who – and what – he really is.

A really thrilling story, full of thought-provoking issues, and Adam 2 is a truly unforgettable and adorable character. Will appeal to fans of Philip Reeve.

When we Got Lost in Dreamland

When we Got Lost in Dreamland

A moving and exciting story of brotherhood, friendship & the power of dreams!

Imagine having the ability to step inside your dreams, to consciously control the action and the setting, and even meet your friends there! When 11-year-old Malky accidentally steals a strange device, the ‘Dreaminator’, he and his younger brother Seb begin sharing wild dream adventures…. But the device is unstable, and soon things take a nightmarish turn, with Seb lying in a coma, trapped in his dream, and Malky awake and unable to reach him. With the help of his friend Tenzin, her mystical Tibetan grandma, and a dying old man, Malky must face his darkest unconscious fears and take a leap into the void.

This is an absolutely BRILLIANT rollercoaster adventure, fast-paced, funny, inventive and heartfelt. Ross Welford’s cast of quirky and lovable characters and warm humour manage to make an unbelievable story completely plausible. I have adored ALL Ross Welford’s books, but I think this one just may be my favourite!

For readers aged 8-12 (ish!) Paperback coming soon, apparently. Click HERE to buy on our website

Entangled Life

Entangled Life

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!

Buy from us here! https://www.steyningbookshop.co.uk/books/books-for-adults/non-fiction-for-adults/nature/entangled-life-how-fungi-make-our-worlds-change-our-minds-and-shape-our-futures/

Surfacing

Surfacing

Poet Kathleen Jamie’s latest collection of luminous, clear-eyed essays is a profound meditation on humans’ place in history and within the natural world. From a 500 year old Inuit village being gradually revealed by warming summers in Alaska, to the shifting sand dunes uncovering the minutiae of domestic Neolithic life in Scotland, to a small Tibetan dog in the town of Xiahe and a diagnosis of cancer, worlds shift and reveal themselves as Jamie considers our connections to the past, the nature of memory and forgetting, the tethers that bind us and the ways in which we cut loose. A good counterpoint to Robert Macfarlane’s immersive and occasionally terrifying Underland. Really wonderful!

Review by Alice.

Buy here: https://www.steyningbookshop.co.uk/books/books-for-adults/non-fiction-for-adults/nature/surfacing/

The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Plane

The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Plane

There have been some fabulous natural history books published this year, and this is one of my favourites. Dave Goulson, professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, takes us through the ways in which the average garden can support the myriad of creatures that dwell within it, delving deep into the private lives of hoverflies, ants, ladybirds, worms, and far more. Entrancing, polemical and very entertaining, this is a book for anyone with even the tiniest garden, window box, or passing interest in the natural world.

Review by alice.

Buy here: https://www.steyningbookshop.co.uk/books/books-for-adults/non-fiction-for-adults/home-garden/the-garden-jungle-or-gardening-to-save-the-planet/

The Gospel of the Eels

The Gospel of the Eels

This is a lovely exploration of the complicated natural history of the eel, and of those entangled in its slimy coils, from Aristotle and Freud, to the author and his father. After nearly two and a half thousand years of study, we now know the rough outline of the eels’ lifecycle. It is born as a willow-leaf shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, drifts across the Atlantic to the rivers of Europe, becoming a glass eel, and then a yellow eel, spending decades in murky freshwater, before undergoing its final transformation to a silver eel and travelling four thousand miles back across the Atlantic to breed in its birthplace. However, no-one has ever seen an eel reproduce, or been able to give a complete account of their metamorphoses, or even seen a mature eel in the Sargasso Sea. And no-one really knows why they are disappearing. This is a beautiful and fascinating book, its gentle melancholy coming from the fact that it is in fact an elegy, to Svensson’s father, and their relationship – conducted largely through eel-fishing – and perhaps to the eel itself, whose catastrophic declines may never recover.

Buy here https://www.steyningbookshop.co.uk/books/books-for-adults/non-fiction-for-adults/nature/the-gospel-of-the-eels-a-father-a-son-and-the-worlds-most-enigmatic-fish/

Akin

Akin

From Emma Donoghue, the international bestselling author of Room, comes Akin, a brilliant tale of love, loss and family, enjoyed by our evening book group in August.

A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets.

Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France. This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak hache to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past, both of them come to grasp the risks that people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.

Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room a huge bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.

If Room forced home truths on us, about parenthood, responsibility and love, Akin deals with similar subject matter more subtly, but in the end just as compellingly‘ – Guardian

Pizazz

Pizazz

Sussex-based author and illustrator Sophy Henn is a firm local favourite having wowed local primary schools with her highly entertaining author visits for her previous series, the hilarious Bad Nana books. Her young fans will be delighted that she’s now back with the first in a new series for readers aged 7-10.

‘Pizazz’ is a 9 year old girl who just happens to have … SUPER POWERS!

If you think being born into a family of super-heroes sounds cool, think again! Pizazz has to wear the same flappy-caped outfit EVERY DAY, it’s a PAIN always having to go off to save the world at inconvenient times, sometimes she doesn’t want to ALWAYS be the good guy, and try explaining your WEIRD super-hero family to friends at your new school….! And don’t even ASK about Pizazz’s superpower…
Snappy, fast and funny, with absolutely BRILLIANT illustrations, Pizazz is a highly entertaining read for children aged 7+.

The Island of Sea Women

The Island of Sea Women

A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, set in the fascinating, unforgettable world of the formidable female pearl divers of Jeju, a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother.
As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger. Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village.

The Island of Sea Women is an epic set over many decades, beginning during the period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, through World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, right up to the modern era of cell phones and wetsuits for the women divers.
Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a fascinating upside-down world, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the
children.
No one writes about female friendship… with more insight and depth than Lisa See‘ Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees

Expectation

Expectation

What happened to the women we were supposed to become?

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come.
They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be.
Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life? The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, EXPECTATION is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel.
Profoundly intelligent and humane. Deserves to feature on many a prize shortlist‘ GUARDIAN
99% of women will identify with this, apparently!

The Mystery of Henri Pick

The Mystery of Henri Pick

In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it. The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate. By turns farcical and moving, The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them. Quaint and very French. From the Walter Presents series.

The Infinite

The Infinite

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

No Fixed Address

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+.

Recursion

Recursion

Recursion by Blake Crouch. Pan Macmillan £8.99

‘Recursion’ is the perfect lockdown page-turner!

Blake Crouch may just have invented something totally new – his genre-bending novel ‘Recursion’, is a mash-up of mind-blowing sci-fi and suspenseful thriller, embedded within a deeply emotional love story.

The novel is a fresh take on the core themes Crouch explored in his previous thriller ‘Dark Matter’ – temporal reality, memory, and what it means to be human. The story opens with what appears to be an epidemic of false memory syndrome, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Detective Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith’s paths cross while investigating the phenomenon, and Helena is on the verge of a stunning discovery. They embark on a looping mission through time and alternate realities to confront their enemy and prevent the world being trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos.

A brilliantly inventive, thoughtful, and surprising thriller, which was gulped down in 2 days!

The Dutch House

The Dutch House

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

Deeplight

Deeplight

Just out in March 2020 in paperback, this spell-binding fantasy novel by the supremely talented Frances Hardinge will suck you in and hold you in its grasp you like one of the many-tentacled sea-Gods who inhabit the story.

Frances Hardinge is the Costa-award-winning author of The Lie Tree and Skinful of Shadows. Deeplight, like those novels, is categorised as Children’s or YA fiction, but, like Philip Pullman’s, her books transcend age limits and I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to be transported on an adventure to the darkest ocean depths.

The story is set in the Myriad Isles, a scattering of islands peopled by sea-faring folk, many of whom make their living by scavenging the ocean depths for traces of ‘God-ware’ – powerful, magical fragments of the underwater Gods who once terrorised the isles.

When scavenger boy Hark and his best friend Jalt happen upon one such relic, they realise its’ value, but have no idea of the dark power it will exert… until it is too late, and Hark must face up to the fact that he has compromised not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .

A dark, bewitching tale, which raises big questions about faith, friendship, loyalty, and what it means to be human.