Archive for July, 2022

July 31, 2022

Bestsellers 24th July – 31st July

by Team Riverside

Delia Owens – Where The Crawdads Sing

Taylor Jenkins Reid – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Jessie Burton – The House of Fortune

Sayaka Murata – Life Ceremony

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Mieko Kawakami – All The Lovers In The Night

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Yaa Gyasi – Transcendent Kingdom

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Colleen Hoover – It Ends With Us

Marion Billet – There Are 101 Things To Find In London

July 30, 2022

Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews

by Team Riverside

Sceptre, Hardback, £16.99, Out Now

Milk Teeth is the stunning new novel from Jessica Andrews, the author of the Portico Prizewinning Saltwater. On the surface it might seem like Milk Teeth is a straightforward love story, half the novel is addressed to ‘you’ the object of the narrators’ affections, but this is just one of the strands of story that is braided into this novel. There are also vivid reflections on childhood and the oppressive demands made on young women, to look, talk, and act a certain way. The narrators’ awareness of her class background and her financial precarity haunt the story, food also plays a crucial role, the meals that the central couple eat together are lovingly described in perfect detail. Food is partially used as a metaphor for embracing desire, allowing oneself to have what you want the most without guilt, without starving yourself in penance. In a way the love story is between the narrator and her own self, Milk Teeth asks what does it mean to embrace love, change, to put yourself and your own desires first?

This is a beautifully written feminist read for the Summer. In a time when cool, spare prose is the dominant mode, Milk Teeth is hot, physical and sensory. I highly recommend this in particular for fans of Elena Ferrante and Sally Rooney.

July 17, 2022

Bestsellers 10th – 17th July

by Team Riverside

Pat Barker – The Women of Troy

Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Miranda Cowley Heller – The Paper Palace

Sally Rooney – Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Meg Mason – Sorrow and Bliss

Keith Ridgway – A Shock

Charlotte Higgins – Greek Myths

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Cecily Gayford – Murder By The Seaside

Ruth Ozeki – The Book of Form and Emptiness

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

July 10, 2022

Bestsellers 3rd – 10th July

by Team Riverside

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Sally Rooney – Beautiful World, Where Are You?

Tom Chivers – London Clay

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Adam Hargreaves – Mr Men in London

Kaouther Adimi – A Bookshop in Algiers

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Malcolm Gladwell – Blink

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Lea Ypi – Free

Elif Shafak – The Island of The Missing Trees

Miranda Cowley Heller – The Paper Palace

John Le Carre – Silverview

Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

July 8, 2022

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

by Team Riverside

Jonathon Cape, Hardback, £14.99, out now

Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel is set in the fictional eastern European village of Lapvona, sometime in the Middle Ages. Lapvona is dirty, highly religious and poverty stricken. It is presided over by a Trumpian lord, Villam, who only cares about what joke he can make next. Villam is unwilling or unable to notice when his subjects are starving and thirsty whilst he hoards water in the grounds of his palace. In a departure from Moshfegh’s usual close first-person narration, Lapvona moves through a large cast of characters. Other figures include Marek, a disabled boy who is abused by his religious father, Father Barnabas the corrupt town priest, and Ina, a sometime apothecary and witch.

Moshfegh revisits some of the themes of her early work, the various ways that wealth corrupts, visceral depictions of the body, strange and unlikeable narrators. But the medieval setting is a striking departure from her earlier work and this new direction pays off in spades. Lapvona is a fictional setting but Moshfegh’s detailed portrayal of life for the inhabitants of Lapvona feels extremely vivid. The characters, while unsympathetic, are universally compelling. The gory elements are expertly deployed, as beautifully created as they are horrifying. The content is not for the faint of heart, (there is blood, guts, and even cannibalism) but I highly recommend this fantastically well-written novel, particularly for fans of Moshfegh’s first novella McGlue.

Review by Phoebe

July 4, 2022

The Old Woman with the Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo

by Team Riverside
book cover The Old Woman With the Knife

Paperback, Canongate, £14.99, out now

Who can resist a book with this alarmingly motivational title and a praise quote from the author of Killing Eve?  The Old Woman with the Knife is a pacy assassin story from a prize-winning Korean novelist, and is built around a good mystery.

But it’s also more than that.  The Old Woman with the Knife offers reflections on how older women can become invisible in society, being written off as obsolete and dull. While this can help if you’re trying to murder people for work and get away with it, there is a price to be paid, as our 65-year-old killer Hornclaw finds out.

I had never thought about the difficulty of remaining inconspicuous in a gym as an older female contract killer: “Once, a young woman on the treadmill next to hers held out her business card and said she was a producer for a program that aired at six in the evening and that featured unusual people, and she asked her to come on the show to talk about being an older woman with a killer body”.  

Easy to read, the book works on many levels. It’s one of the best things I’ve read about ageing and exclusion, while retaining snappy lines and a vivid sense of place.  What has Hornclaw given up or gone without to get this life? Is it what she wanted? Can she become part of the things she finds herself outside, including perhaps family life?  Nothing feels laboured or heavily burdened with message or meaning, it just feels very human.

There is a great and memorable dog in this book, Hornclaw’s companion Deadweight.  Hornclaw explains to Deadweight that it will be hard for the dog to be rehomed, if it comes to that: “Not just because you’re a dog.  It’s the same with people.  They think that an old person can’t live the rest of her life with her mind intact, that an old person gets sick easily and spreads disease, and that nobody will take care of the elderly.  That’s what they think about all living things”.

For anyone who loved the films Salt or Haywire this is a must read… but also for fans of crime fiction that has something to say. A great holiday read.

Review by Bethan

July 3, 2022

Needle by Patrice Lawrence

by Team Riverside
book cover of Needle

Paperback, Barrington Stoke, £7.99, out now

Charlene is a 15-year-old Black girl living in foster care.  She loves her younger sister Kandi, who she’s not seen for two years, and she loves knitting.  The craft relaxes her and keeps her grounded as her world changes around her over and over again.  But her foster mum’s adult son torments her by destroying the gift she’s knitting for her sister, and before she knows it she has retaliated with her knitting needle.

Needle is a gripping and revealing young adult novel, by Riverside favourite Patrice Lawrence.  I could absolutely see how Charlene got into the situations in the story, and why she reacted as she did.  While easy to read, with a compelling narrative, Needle raises critical issues around the criminalisation of young people, about childhood trauma, and about serious failings in our care and policing systems. 

Charlene is reflective and realistic on her lack of control over her own life: “Annie [her foster mother] agrees that me and Kandi should see each other, but she says we can’t always control the world.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and work out how to pull it back into a shape that’s good for us.  That’s easier for people like Annie than me.  She doesn’t have folks always shaping her world for her, then expecting her to smile and say it fits”.

The publisher has given three words on the book to describe the content – remorse, foster care, and justice.  They could easily have added policing, bereavement and trauma.  The brilliant cover made me want to read the book, not least the intriguing ‘sorrynotsorry’ motif.  Whether and when to apologise comes to be of critical importance throughout the story.  Perhaps you feel remorse or, conversely, don’t feel you’ve anything to be sorry for but those with power over you are urging you to play the game.

It’s relevant that Needle is dedicated to someone that the author describes as “bringing people together to change this”.  I hope that that this change can happen, and also that some of Lawrence’s readers will find themselves and their experiences here: it is vital that we can find our lives in books sometimes.

Attending the launch for Needle, I found out that it was inspired by Lawrence’s work with the Howard League for Penal Reform.  This would help explain just how believable the sections in the police station are.  On the excellent panel at the launch, several young people who had been in care generously shared their experiences, and all said that they had found the book very relatable.  I first came across the book when it was recommended by Charlie at the excellent Hastings Bookshop.

What stuck with me after reading Needle was the on and off role of so many adults in Charlene’s life.  Some listen, some don’t.  Some seem to understand, but more don’t (or won’t, or can’t).  A few are permanent though limited in what they can do to help, like Charlene’s auntie, or hostile, like Kandi’s dad.  Charlene herself is a constant, remaining funny and incisive throughout, even as she is clearly still a kid: “Sometimes I think my name is really Confidential instead of Charlene, because I hear that word so much.  Everything I say is supposed to be confidential, but somehow everyone still seems to know my business”.  In the end the questions of saying sorry, feeling remorse, playing the game and being true to yourself remain complex for Charlene. Outstanding.

Review by Bethan

July 3, 2022

Bestsellers 26th June – 3rd July

by Team Riverside

Ruth Ozeki – The Book of Form and Emptiness

Bella Mackie – How To Kill Your Family

Eliot Higgins – We Are Bellingcat

Kotaro Isaka – Bullet Train

Cecily Gayford – Murder By The Seaside

Malcolm Gladwell – The Bomber Mafia

Lea Ypi – Free

Elizabeth Day – Magpie

Daniel Kahneman – Noise

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and The Sun

Katherine Rundell – The Explorer

Lauren Groff – Matrix

Maggie Shipstead – Great Circle

Gwendoline Riley – My Phantoms

Agatha Christie – And Then There Were None