Book of the Week, January 24th 2015
East of Innocence by David Thorne.
Book of the Week, 17th January 2015
1215: Magna Carta by Dan Jones
Every one knows about the Magna Carta. About how a bunch of aggrieved barons cornered King John and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Eight hundred years later it is still invoked as the basis of our English constitution and laws. But what exactly did it say and how important has it been through the ages? This book describes the circumstances which led to that famous meeting at Runnymede and explores the lasting relevance of the 'Grand Charter' - which really focussed more on the protection of the English Church and the estates of wealthy barons than the rights of the common man. But tucked away there are clauses guaranteeing the rights of subjects to trial and freedom. There may be no laws on our statute book which come directly from the Magna Carta but its influence is undeniable and lasting. It informed the writing of the US Bill of Rights and even more recently the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Authoritative, easy to read and attractively presented this is the perfect book to mark an important anniversary.
Book of the Week, 10th January 2015
Colchester’s Forgotten Corner’ by Joan Gurney and Alan Skinner
Book of the Week 3rd January 2015
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Book of the Week, 20th December 2014
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
Meet the Artist: Richard Allen
6.00 pm - 8.00 pm
Book of the Week, 29th November 2014
The Wisdom of Trees by Max Adams
Book signing with Fia Danes.
Saturday 22nd November 11.00 am.
Book of the Week, 21st November 2014
The Mammals of Essex by John Dobson and Darren Tansley.
Wednesday 19th November 2014
Meet the Artists: Printastic
Book of the Week, 15th November 2014
'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves' by Karen Joy Fowler.
Book of the Week, 8th November 2014
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
Awful Auntie by David Walliams
Book of the Week, 25th October 2014
Lamentation by C.J. Sansom.
Book of the Week, 18th October 2014
Listen to the Moon by Michael Morpurgo.
Book of the Week 11th October 2014
Books Are My Bag: The Big Bookshop Party
We'll have some special treats for all of our customers on Saturday as we join with bookshops across the counry to celebrate the importance of books and bookshops.
Meet The Artist:Ruth Philo
'Another Shade of Green'
an exhibition of paintings by Ruth Philo
The new exhibition in our gallery area downstairs features paintings from local artist, Ruth Philo, and are drawn from a recent project at the Benham Gallery, Cuckoo Farm collaborating with local grower, Cants Roses. The resulting series of paintings draw on her time in the Cants Rose Field and explores our relationship with flowers and particularly roses.
Saturday 11th September
Meet the Artist
Come and meet Ruth and hear about the work in the shop 4 - 6 pm on Saturday 11th September. Refreshments will be available.
The exhibition continues through to Friday 31 October.
Book of the Week, 4th October 2014
Us by David Nicholls
Five years ago ‘One Day’ was the bestselling book of the year and became an enormously successful film. ‘Us’ is David Nicholls long awaited follow up and features Douglas and Connie, a middle aged couple as they embark on a Grand Tour of Europe, teenage son in tow, in a last ditch attempt to save their failing marriage. Doug is a reserved, cautious misfit, uptight about everything, whilst Connie is a liberal, open, artistic free thinker. Add a subversive, messy 17 year old to the party travelling the capitals of Europe and the comic opportunities multiply - particularly when Doug mistakenly books them all into an Amsterdam sex hotel! The result is a sensitive, wise and very funny exploration of a mature relationship in crisis.
Book of the Week, 27th September 2014
Please Mr Postman by Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson is one of the few current politicians with a genuine working class background and in this memoir he paints a brilliant portrait of working class life in seventies Britain. At 20 Johnson was the father of three, married and living in a council house in Slough having moved from the run down Notting Hill estate so lovingly described in his first book of autobiography, ‘This Boy’. It is a detailed, funny and moving account of a young man, working 60 hour weeks as a postman, whilst dreaming of becoming a pop star. With a growing family he lived without fridge, hoover, or washing machine despite the mountain of nappies to wash. Sunday lunchtime was for beer, bingo and cribbage until industrial unrest led to strikes and his political awakening. His involvement with the postal workers union grew, leading eventually to election to the union’s national executive. An outstanding memoir from a people’s politician.
Book of the Week, 20th September 2014
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
As a young girl, Helen Macdonald was captivated by hawks and with guidance from her father her passion for these awesome birds of prey grew stronger. When her father suddenly died she found herself alone and overcome with grief. Her strategy for filling the void in her life was unusual. She decided to buy and train a young goshawk, the most notoriously difficult bird to handle. This is a strange and beautiful book, part memoir as Helen learns to live through her grief and in part a brilliantly written account of the partnership between a woman and a bird with a reputation for trouble. Heading out into the countryside and watching her hawk fly and soar she finally begins to rise above her depression. It is a book filled with gloriously detailed descriptions and observations of the world of nature and the triumph of optimism over despair.
Book of the Week, 13th September 2014
Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry
Born and raised in Chelmsford, Grayson Perry is the cross dressing Essex boy who first shocked then charmed the art world. This is a personal exploration and guide to how to approach art that cuts through the elitist establishment barriers arguing that art is for everyone to enjoy. And he makes his case with passion and with humour in this book that is full of colourful pictures and visual puns. He ask questions such as what is 'good' or 'bad' art - and does it even matter? And what happens if you place a piece of art in a rubbish dump? Based on the popular Reith lectures given earlier this year this is a book that will entertain and inform, a manifesto for inclusivity and enjoyment of art.
Book of the Week, 6th September 2014
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Adam, a talented and creative seventeen year old boy, lies critically ill in hospital. He and his devoutly religious family refuse the medical treatment that he needs because of their beliefs. The case is referred by the hospital to the courts for a ruling on whether the wishes of the family can be overridden. Experienced and successful family law specialist Fiona Maye is the High Court judge who must make the decision. For Fiona, the case comes at a time when her personal life is in crisis and it is a case that challenges her professional detachment. Ian McEwan masterfully weaves a gripping personal story with an examination of the law and ethics involved when religion and medical science clash. It is an elegantly written novel that speaks to both the heart and the head.
Book of the Week, 30th August 2014
The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow
Jess, an army paramedic, returns from her final tour of duty in Aghanistan to find that adjusting to life civilian life is so much harder than she expected. Suffering from nightmares and flashbacks, her life begins to unravel. She discovers the diaries written by her own great grandmother, Rose, who describes her husband returning from War in 1918. Through these diaries Jess finds that her own experiences and those of her great grandfather, though separated by three generations are remarkable similar. Though the hardware of warfare might change, the traumatising effect on those involved is the same. She reads about the setting up of the first Poppy Factory in the Old Kent Road where her own great grandfather was one of the first disabled ex servicemen to join the workforce. Following two lives in different centuries this is a gripping and moving story that explores how the effects of the horrors of war can be faced.
Saturday 30th August 2014
Meet the Author: Liz Trenow
We are delighted to welcome Colchester author Liz Trenow back to the shop to sign copies of her new novel, 'The Poppy Factory'. Liz will be here from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm on Saturday, 30th August and this will be a great opportunity to meet her and find out about her latest book.
Liz's first two novels, 'The Last Telegram' and 'The Forgotten Seamstress' published over the last couple of years have had a fantastic response from our customers and have constantly been amongst our bestsellers. 'The Poppy Factory is published on August 28th and its wartime setting is really topical with the centenary of the start of the Great War.
Book of the Week, 16th August 2014
Colchester: The Postcard Collection by Jess Jephcott
The first postcards of Colchester appeared around 1902. At half the price of the penny letter post and with same day delivery they quickly became the popular way to keep in touch, a kind of text messaging of the day. This is a wide ranging and carefully chosen selection of postcards that give great insight into how Colchester has changed and developed over time. The lengthy commentaries accompanying the pictures are particularly informative, pointing out the site of cock fighting on North Hill, the lepers squint in St Martin’s Church, and the pub land lord who knocked a hole in the Roman wall in 1843 to give his customers a view of the newly built railway – and thus renamed the pub. These commentaries make this a really valuable addition to books on Colchester history.
Book of the Week, 9th August 2014
The Long Shadow by David Reynolds
Commemorative events across the country are marking the start of the First World War. So much of our thinking tends to focus on the 'tommies' war', the trench experience, the slaughter of a generation of heroic young men and the elegies of the war poets This book aims not to describe the course of the war but its affects on history after the guns fell silent. The world was changed forever and the legacy of that war is still being played out across the world today. It was a war that transformed relationships across the British Empire, it shifted the balance of power in Africa and East Asia and reshaped the Middle East, particularly Palestine and Iraq. It analyses how so many of the decisions and actions taken in the aftermath of the First World War sowed the seeds of conflicts which are still being played out 100 years later.
Book of the Week, 2nd August 2014
The Walkers’ Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs by Tristan Gooley
Did you know that you are a hundred times more likely to be struck by lightning when sheltering beneath an oak tree than an ash? Or how a butterfly can be a clue to how to find the nearest pub? This is a book for everyone who enjoys a walk and is guaranteed to turn the simplest of walks into an eye opening exploration of the natural world. It is packed with an expert tips on what can be learnt from the trees, flowers, birds and animals we come across while walking. And if you get lost and your phone is out of power, don’t worry for you can learn how to navigate using stars and trees - or if you’re in the city just look at the satellite dishes – they all point to the south east. This is the ultimate guide to what the land, sun, moon, stars, trees, plants, animals, sky and clouds can reveal - when you know what to look for.
Thursday 24th July, 6.00 pm.
Meet the Author: Phil Cohen and Artist: Jean McNeil
Phil and Jean are the people behind Graphologies, a new and unusual book from Mica Press.
This is an opportunity to meet Phil and Jean who will be happy to talk about the book and how their collaboration has evolved. There will be a short reading from Graphologies.
Refreshments will be available.
Graphologies is a deliberately hybrid text, the fruit of a partnership over many years between a poet/ethnographer and a painter who have mutually enriched each other’s understanding of the meaning of place.Graphologies takes a line of thought for a walk across poetry and the visual arts, autobiography and fiction, cultural and literary studies, and explores the emotional and narrative hinterlands of the commonplace.
‘In this courageous book, Phil Cohen and Jean McNeil stretch the conventional boundaries of artistic genres to create a truly imaginative and illuminating approach to the idea of place.’
The pictures from the book together with some other paintings by Jean McNeil form the current exhibition in our gallery area downstairs, The exhibition will run through to the end of July.
Book of the Week 12th July 2014
The Darkest Hour by Barbara Erskine.
Lucy Standish is an art historian who takes on a project to write the biography of war artist, Evie Lucas. She becomes intrigued by a long lost painting when she finds the figure of a young man has been painted over. Lucy’s investigations are interwoven with the real story of what happened in 1940 between the talented young artist and Tony, the handsome pilot she had fallen for. Lucy’s research begins to shed light on events that had been covered up for two generations. There are those who are keen that the truth of what really happened during that fateful summer should stay hidden and Lucy finds herself facing increasing danger as she gets closer to uncovering the truth. The story trembles with suspense and the brilliantly depicted background of the Battle of Britain is informed by the experiences of Barbara Erskine’s own father, himself a spitfire pilot.
Book of the Week 5th July 2014
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
This is an outstanding debut novel by a young writer with an enormously promising future. The story is narrated by Maud, an 82 year old woman who is suffering from dementia. She makes cups of tea that she forgets to drink and she continually buys more cans of peaches that she doesn’t need from the little shop at the end of her road. The one thing she is certain of is that her best friend, Elizabeth, is missing and she is frustrated at being treated as nothing but a confused old lady. When no one will take her seriously she sets out to investigate the mystery of Elizabeth’s disappearance herself and in exploring the present begins to unlock secrets from the past. The novel successfully mixes elements of suspense, literary thriller and dark comedy and is an unforgettable story about memory loss.
Friday 4th July, 7.30 pm
Meet the Author: Mark Forsyth
Come and help us celebrate Independent Booksellers Week 2014.
We are pleased and privileged to welcome Mark Forsyth to the shop. Mark Forsyth is the man behind the best selling book, ‘The Etymologicon’, which took the book world by storm a couple of years ago. Self confessed pedant and champion of the glory of words, Mark Forsyth strolls through the English language, telling stories, making connections and banishing hobgoblins.
For Mark it was a Christening present of an Oxford English Dictionary that set the tone for a life immersed in the idiosyncrasies of words, and gave birth to his brilliant trio of books on the English language, ‘The Etymologicon’, ‘The Horologicon’ and ‘The Elements of Eloquence’.
He will be talking about these books and also about his latest publication, ‘The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted’, written specially for Independent Booksellers Week. Bookshops are places that specialise in providing you with something you didn’t know you were looking for – so he may also talk about something that you never knew you were interested in!
This is a free event.
Refreshments will be available.
Saturday 14th June 11.30am - 2.00 pm
Book Launch with Robert Seymour: 'Wig Betrayed'
Come and meet former judge and Essex author, Robert Seymour, writing as Charles Courtley, who will be at the shop for the launch of his new novel, 'Wig Betrayed' - a thrilling legal drama.
• Like a rare glimpse into the tough world of military justice?
• Want to question a former judge on what its like to spend forty years at the criminal bar?
Come and meet Robert and get a signed copy of 'Wig Betrayed'.
“All in all a great page turner of a book that I would heartily recommend.” Tim Kevan, author of Law and Disorder: Confessions of a Pupil Barrister.
Book of the Week 13th June 2014
Colchester Military Corrective Training Centre from 1947
by Carole McEntee-Taylor.
As a garrison town the Army presence has always been a significant part of Colchester’s character. In 1947 the German POW camp at Berechurch became an HM Forces detention centre. This book traces the history of the Centre, which continued to use the old Nissan Huts right through until the Eighties when they were replaced with brick buildings. What makes the book so interesting are the accounts of day to day life by the staff and the detainees themselves. So we hear of the harsh regime of the early years when inmates were forced to clean all the dirty pans from the cookhouse with just a bucket of sand, cold water and rags to the recent more enlightened era when play days for children are arranged for visiting families. The experiences recalled are by turn funny, sad and surprising and we even hear mysterious tales of hauntings and the mysterious ghost of cell block F!
Book of the Week 6th June 2014
‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt
Don’t be put off by the size of Donna Tartt’s award winning novel. It may weigh in at over 800 pages, but each page is shaped and styled to perfection. Young Theo Decker narrowly escapes when an explosion rips through New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Dazed and confused, he picks up a painting as he leaves and tells no one, allowing the authorities to believe it destroyed in the fire. But the bomb kills his mother and with no father on the scene Theo is parcelled off to live with family friends. Tormented by his loss, longing for his mother and treasuring the painting as a link to his past he embarks on an odyssey to discover his place in the world. Ten years in the writing and peopled with an enormous cast of compelling characters this is truly an epic for our times.
Book of the Week 31st May 2014
The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
This is a novel that might win a prize for the most implausible storyline, but it unrolls with such pace and good humour it really doesn’t matter. Nombeko, born in a Soweto shack in the sixties, is sharp, bright and self taught. She leaves behind her cleaning job to work for a nuclear engineer and when a crate containing an atomic bomb is somehow switched with one containing antelope meat the world becomes a more dangerous place. Nombeko has the inside knowledge and before long she is pursued by the world’s most ruthless secret service. Full of eccentric characters and farcical situations this is a freewheeling, feel good novel. You might always know that Nombeko will foil the terrorist plot to blow up the King of Sweden…. but you have to read it to find out how!
Saturday May 31st 10 am - 2 pm
Meet the Artist: Lucy Hook-Child
This is your opportunity to meet the artist behind the exhibition curently showing in our Gallery area. Lucy will be on hand to talk about her work and her inspiration.
Cup of tea and biscuits available!
All About Trees.
an exhibition of prints and paintings based on trees, running from 10th May - 14th June 2014.
All works are for sale and can be collected at the end of the exhibition. Also on display are hand printed and painted greetings cards and small pieces available to buy and take away on the day
Lucy has this to say about her work:
‘My initial inspiration comes from sketches made, photographs taken and objects found during visits to historic and natural ‘wild places’. Organic forms, such as trees and the Moon, usually feature in my prints, paintings and photographs. Working in a variety of media, I aim to express the ’feeling’ of the places I visit in my work.
As a music fan I have created work for album covers for Microbes and Nine Covens and video art visual projections for live music events at Colchester Arts Centre.
I also run Hazel Gallery arts fair events and pop up shops featuring a variety of unique and contemporary work by artists & makers.
When I am not creating artwork and running events you will find me walking through woodland, searching for fossilised sharks teeth at the coast, staring at the Moon or growing my own herbal teas on the allotment.’
Find out more about Lucy and her work here.
Book of the Week 24th May 2014
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.
Officially Pilgrim does not exist. Even the CIA records mark him ‘missing, presumed dead’. But Pilgrim is the code name for an exceptional special agent answerable only to the president. He becomes involved in a crime scene where there are no clues. In a run down Manhattan apartment a woman is found dead, her face destroyed by acid. It appears to be the perfect murder. The murder investigation spirals out to involve a Middle Eastern terrorist group and Pilgrim is on the track of the sinister figure behind the organisation. Halfway across the world in the remote valleys of the Hindu Kush a jihadist doctor is brewing a plot that would shake the world. This is a fantastic but credible high octane thriller that is long enough to lose yourself in for a bank holiday week end.
Book of the Week 17th May 2014
Longbourn by Jo Baker.
Pride and Prejudice is one of the country’s best loved novels. This is a fresh and imaginative take on the goings on in the Bennet household seen through the eyes of the servants. The fine style, the dramas and passions of Elizabeth and her sisters are all dependent upon the rarely mentioned servants who stable the horses, lay the fires each morning and cook clean, scrub till their hands are raw. And, in between the unrelenting drudgery of the daily chores, those below stairs have their own lives to lead and loves to find. Sarah the housemaid, James the mysterious new footman and Mrs Hill the housekeeper take centre stage in this gripping tale which, while paying tribute to Jane Austen’s book, uncovers some of the darker elements of war and the tough life of the servant classes in Regency England.
Book of the Week 10th May 2014
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Just out in paperback, Khaled Hosseini's third novel is a poignant tale of loss, love and hope set against a background of an Afghanistan, torn apart by war and internal division. The book opens in a remote impoverished village with 10 year old Abdullah and hisbeloved little sister, Pari. Their mother has died and their father struggles to raise them with no money and no prospects. Brother and sister become separated when Pali is given for adoption to a wealthy couple in Kabul. She is educated and becomes a mathematician, moving to Paris to bring up her own family until one day, suspecting she is adopted, she returns to Afghanistan in a pilgrimage to discover the truth about her past. The stories of Abdulla and Pali stretch across time and across nations on a long and colourful journey towards reunion.
Saturday April 26th at 4.00 pm
Four Local Authors read from their latest works.
Three Wishes – short texts by Phil Terry
Fat Maggie – short stories by Emma Kittle-Pey
Drowning the Porcupine – poems by Mark Brayley
Clarisse -from a novel by Marianne Francis
Disarming the Porcupine by Mark Brayley
Blurring the boundaries between poetic catharsis, dramatic exploration of character, and challenging the reader, Disarming the Porcupine is a daring collection of poetry, spanning nearly ten years of writing. As a document of the mind of a man in the early twenty-first century, this is not poetry for the faint hearted.
Mark Brayley has an MA in Creative Writing (University of Essex) and lives in Colchester.
Fat Maggie and other Stories by Emma Kittle-Pey
This quirky and subtly witty collection of short stories tackles daily life interaction at home, in the workplace, on holiday or at social events.
The animal-related tales contain an interactive element and readers are invited to suggest their own moral at the end of each story, thus contributing to the dead-pan humour they evoke.
Emma Kittle-Pey has an MA in Creative Writing (University of Essex) and lives in Colchester.
Clarisse by Marianne Francis
A London-born woman’s life changes drastically after her husband dies suddenly and she develops breast cancer. The novel recounts her life in France and move to East Anglia; the people she meets; her reactions to death and illness and her refusal of conventional treatment. The novel ends with her journey of discovery to New Zealand.
Marianne Francis is the pseudonym of Patricia Borlenghi. She lives in Mistley.
Three Wishes by Phil Terry
Between 1970 and 1982, Georges Perec sent his friends small pamphlets with his best wishes for the New Year. These were collections of short texts based on homophonic variations. The three pieces are neither translations of this material (which is, by its very nature, untranslatable), nor entirely original pieces of work, rather a sort of homage to Perec. They have been collected together on the occasion of the New Year 2014, to celebrate the first year of Patricia Borlenghi’s Patrician Press.
Phil Terry heads the LiFTS Department at the University of Essex. He lives in Wivenhoe.
Tuesday 22nd April 3 - 5 pm
Heather Rachel: Meet the Artist
This is an opportunity to meet the artist Heather Rachel whose paintings are currently displayed in our Gallery. 'The Nature of Colour' is a collection of paintings connected by the theme of colour and inspired by nature.
Of the exhibition Heather says: 'I have chosen a selection of my smaller paintings which are based around my reaction to nature and in particular wild landscapes. Each piece was originally inspired by the sight of certain light or a particular texture of the landscape or the shapes and colour combinations of rolling hills and mountains.'
This is an informal event so please come and have a chat with Heather about her work over a cup of tea and a biscuit.
Find out more about Heather Rachel and her painting here
Book of the Week 19th April 2014
Tweet of the Day by Brett Westwood and Stephen Moss.
Throughout the UK, wherever you go, in town or country, there is always birdsong. A year ago Radio 4 began broadcasting the 90 second ‘Tweet of the Day’. Each morning a different bird is highlighted, briefly exploring its character and song or call. Now a book has been published which expands on those snippets with more background and information about the birds covered. You can dip into these pages and learn about the strategy behind the sparrow hawks impressive hunting skills, the staggering recent population increase of the lesser black-backed gull or the spectacular aerial displays of giant starling flocks in the hour before dusk. Elegantly illustrated, this is a wonderful celebration of the beauty and character of Britain’s birds.
Book of the Week 12th April 2014
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Big, bold and beautiful, this is the novel which won the Booker prize last year and has just hit the paperback shelves. Set in the nineteenth century in the Wild West of New Zealand’s gold rush, it is a massive, complex weave of storylines. One stormy night fortune hunter, Walter Moody arrives in town and stumbles into the first hotel he can find. Inside he finds twelve men discussing a series of unsolved crimes involving an opium den, a dead drunk, a ghost ship and a missing fortune. Moody becomes involved in the mystery as the narrative switches through the lives of each character giving multiple views of events that slowly uncover an intriguing puzzle. A literary thriller that should keep you hooked right through its 832 pages!
Book of the Week 5th April 2014
Mr Campion’s Farewell. by Mike Ripley
Margery Allingham was one of the greats in the Golden Age of English crime fiction and her novels featuring detective hero Campion have been regularly dramatised. She lived most of her life in Tolleshunt D’Arcy and so it is only appropriate that another local crime writer, Mike Ripley would be the person to complete a work in progress, found many years after her death.
Lindsay Carfax might seem like an idyllic Suffolk village, ‘an unspoiled beauty spot of Merrie England’ but behind the genteel façade things are darker and more sinister. When Campion arrives to visit his wayward artist niece he is intrigued. There are underground passages and a shadowy secret society; a schoolteacher has gone missing and Campion is involved a mystery that quickly becomes more dangerous than he had imagined.
Book of the Week 29th March 2014
Colchester Memories by Patrick Denney.
Imagine on your first day at work, aged fifteen years old, being asked to attach a new flag to the top of the 90 foot high mast of a sailing barge. Or the doctor arriving by horse and cart on a home visit….and performing the operation to remove your tonsils on the spot. ’Colchester Memories’ describes episodes and incidents in the lives of Colchester people during the early to mid-twentieth century. Transcribed from recorded interviews, the wonderful thing about this book is that it gives you glimpses into the lives of ordinary people from all walks of life. Interspersed with these reminiscences are plenty of photographs making this a unique record of Colchesteer life in times gone by.
Book of the Week 22nd March 2014
Treachery by S J Parris
In Elizabeth’s England of 1585, Francis Drake is preparing to set sail on a mission to take on the Spanish in the New World. But before the fleet sails a sailor is found dead and foul play is suspected. Enter possibly the most unlikely pairing of sleuths you might imagine. Giordano Bruno, monk, philosopher, occultist and mathematician together with Sir Phillip Sidney, court poet and soldier, take on the challenge of finding out who is behind the murder. They uncover a plot with terrible implications and danger stalks the narrow backstreets of Plymouth while behind the scenes Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster, pulls the strings. The colour and character of Elizabethan England is a glorious background to this dark tale.
Book of the Week 15th March 2014
‘The Gospel of Loki’ by Joanne Harris
Joanne Harris, most famous for bestselling novels like as ‘Chocolat’, has always been fascinated by the old tales from Norse mythology. In this book she weaves those tales together to form a single exciting epic cycle seen through the eyes of the trickster God, Loki. There is a varied and dramatic cast of characters; the one-eyed Odin, the mighty Thor and his famous hammer, the beautiful Freyja, Goddess of Desire, and the wolf-demon Fenris. Loki, always the outsider in Asgard, has his own agenda and a notorious reputation for trickery and deception. Trusted by no one and trusting no one in return, he schemes the downfall of the proud Gods even as events unfold towards Ragnorok, the fateful climax when worlds will be torn asunder and all will meet their destiny.
The Lean to Press
A New Exhibition of Artists Books, illustrations and cards
featuring the work of Harwich based artists, Daphne Sandham and Mel King.
On Tuesday 4th March from 2.00 pm untill 5.30 pm there will be an opportunity to meet the artists behind the works displayed.
Book of the Week 8th March 2014
The White Princess by Philippa Greogory
Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth of York united the houses of York and Lancaster and gave rise to the Tudor dynasty. Yet this period is mostly seen as a rather boring interlude between the thrills and spills of the Wars of the Roses and the drama of Henry VIII. This imaginative historical novel breathes life and fire into these less well known names on the family tree. Elizabeth mourns the death of her lover Richard 3rd on the battlefield at Bosworth. She is torn between her duties as Queen to Henry and the hope that her brothers may not have been killed in the Tower and might one day return to reclaim the throne. Within the gaps in our documented history, Philippa Gregory forges a compelling story of intrigue and the corruption of power.
Book of the Week 22nd February 2014
Ratburger by David Walliams
Despite leading such a busy life as an actor and comedian, David Walliams has managed to find time to write a string of bestselling children’s books. The latest has just hit the shelves in paperback edition. Zoe is a little girl who is not very happy. She lives on the 37th floor of a dismal tower block and has no one to play with. When her pet hamster dies unexpectedly Zoe feels all alone in the world. Life seems a little rosier when she befriends a stray rat called Armitage but trouble soon follows. Her new pet attracts the attention of the mean and nasty Burt, who runs a distinctly unsavoury burger bar. This tale has all the Walliams hallmarks. It is lively, wickedly funny and features some truly awful villains. But young Zoe’s world finally brightens as she refuses to give up on her dreams.
Saturday 15th February at 4.00 pm
Meet the Artist: Pete Kennedy
'Word and Spirit'
Our latest exhibition is, perhaps the most unusual to date featuring the work of multi media Maldon based artist and writer, Pete Kennedy. The exhibition is a personal exploration of mankind's spiritual illumination through the ages reflected through wordart, pictures and pottery. On Saturday afternoon 15th February from 4.00pm Pete will be on hand to explain some of the background to this unique display. He will also be reading from a prose poem, 'Six Mystics One Self' a piece written during the evolving of the works in the exhibition. Find out more here. Peter Kennedy Art
Book of the Week 15th February 2014
Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie.
The trend in recent years has been for crime fiction to contain ever more gore and graphic violence. This artful collection of tales featuring a clergyman detective harks back to a more genteel era of murder mysteries. Set in the 1950’s, Sydney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester, is also a part time and somewhat reluctant sleuth who finds himself drawn into a series of intriguing cases. Whether it is the suspected suicide of a Cambridge solicitor, the theft of jewellery at a dinner party or a shocking art forgery, our priest-detective proves skilled in following the clues and exposing the guilty. Sydney Chambers is a great character and these stories are perfect for lovers of the tradition English detective tale.
Book of the Week 8th February 2014
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Ursula Todd is born in 1910 into a comfortable middle class Home Counties family. Sadly, she is born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and, with the local doctor delayed, Ursula dies. But that is just the start of this complex novel because the narrative of Ursula’s life begins again….. and again and again. We follow Ursula’s life through two unfortunate romantic attachments, through her wartime work in a munitions factory and on fire watch. And there are many deaths, or near deaths, but each time narrative picks up the pieces and shuffles them to allow Ursula another chance. Thus the novel explores the consequences of choices made and fleshes out a whole range of possible lives that might follow from a tiny baby’s first breath. An ambitious and entertaining tour de force.
Book of the Week 31st January 2014
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
This is the Costa award winning debut novel now out in paperback. The author works as mental health nurse and has drawn strongly on his own experiences with patients to write this novel. It is, at core, a portrait of a young man, Matthew, as he struggles to make sense of his life, his schizophrenia and the loss of his brother, Simon. The words are Matthew’s own as he stabs at an old typewriter producing sketches of his earlier family life and his observations of the routines of a hospital secure ward. It is written with startling clarity and bittersweet humour as piece by piece he works towards an understanding of the circumstances of his brother’s death. Despite the unsettling theme it is a gripping and remarkably lively read.
Book of the Week 25th January 2014
The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg.
One day 79 year old Martha Andersson decides that she has had enough of the petty rules and regulations that restrict her daily life at the care home. She becomes a bit of a rebel - protesting against early bedtimes and tasteless meals. She then hooks up with her four oldest friends and soon the group known as the League of Pensioners hatch plans to take their rebellion to the world outside. Fuelled by Martha’s stash of cloudberry liqueur and armed only with Zimmer frames and low cunning they break out of the care home and embark upon a life of crime. This light-hearted romp of a crime novel is by turns hilarious and poignant with a feel good factor rating of 10 out of 10.
Book of the Week 18th January 2014
The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow
Colchester author Liz Trenow's first novel, 'The Last Telegram' - has been a constant best seller for us since it was released two years ago. Now comes her second book - another wonderful story full of romance, mystery, intrigue and some unforgettable characters. Caroline Meadows discovers a beautiful old quilt in her mother's attic and sets out on a journey to discover who made it and the meaning of the mysterious message embroidered into its lining.
She uncovers a connection to Maria, an East End seamstress employed to work for the Royal Family before the First World War. Maria, she finds out, has a surprising tale to tell about those years but has since spent half her lifetime in Severalls Hospital. Slowly, Caroline pieces together the clues that point towards the truth of Maria’s remarkable story.
Saturday 18th January 2pm - 4pm
Liz Trenow: Author Visit and Book Signing
Liz Trenow, Colchester’s bestselling novelist, will be at Red Lion Books from 2 – 4 pm on Saturday 18th January, to mark the launch of her second book, ‘The Forgotten Seamstress’, a stunning book set in the Edwardian era about a seamstress working at Buckingham Palace.
It is 1914 and Maria, a shy teenager, is appointed to Buckingham Palace as a seamstress for the royal family.
She is lucky enough to meet the Prince of Wales and is captivated by his glamour and intensity. But theirs is a doomed love affair and soon Maria's life takes a tragic turn. Torn between passion and integrity, she makes a choice that has devastating consequences ...Can a beautiful quilt, discovered many years later reveal the truth behind what happened to Maria?
If you liked Liz’s first book ‘The Last Telegram’, you won’t want to miss this chance to come along and meet the author.
The Forgotten Seamstress is a paperback published by HarperCollins price £7.99.
Book of the Week 11th January 2014
It’s Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller
Ben Miller is best known as one half of TV’s popular comedy due Armstrong and Miller. However before turning to the stage he was a physicist at Cambridge and this book is a witty and informed romp through his favourite bits of science. Miller has a knack of making the most complex areas of contemporary science not just understandable but fascinating. It is wonderfully varied - looking at everything from high energy physics and the Large Hadron Collider to the science of cooking a good Victoria sponge cake. His strategy is to leave out the complicated maths and concentrate on the fascinating facts and eureka moments and in this way he brings alive some of the most important and exciting fields of science.
Book of the Week January 4th 2014
The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
This is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography originally published in the nineties. In his own words it covers his childhood upbringing in a small traditional village right through to the first national, non racial, one-person-one-vote elections in 1994. It is the best way to find out about the greatest statesman of our generation. He explains his developing political awareness within the wider context of South African society and describes the difficulties his commitment caused in his family life and personal friendships. There are long sections on his time in prison where his dedication to education and his resolve to change his country became unshakable. It is an inspiring testimonial to one of the most significant figures of our times.
Our Ten Favourite Books to Read at Christmas.
Sword in the Stone by T H White
'It was Christmas night in the castle of the Forest Sauvage and all around the snow lay ….there was skating on the moat. Hot chestnuts and spice mead, the owls hooted.'
One of my favourite books, the boyhood of King Arthur and a Christmas I've always dreamed of joining.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales. By Dylan Thomas.
'All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street...'
The magic of Christmas memories told with effortless ease and the magic of Dylan Thomas’ wordplay.
War Game by Michael Foremen
'It was Christmas Eve. A single German voice began to sing Silent Night. The British replied with ‘The First Noel’ to applause from the Germans. And so it went on.'
In this story of the trenches and the horrors of war Christmas day dawns and the fighting stops.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
It’s humbug said Scrooge!
Yes it must be the nation's favourite Christmas story. Dickens dreamed up a character who strides off the page and into our imagination in this brilliantly constructed tale,
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
'Christmas Eve… it was the day of hints and glimmerings and promises of special things.'
But dark forces are stirring in this brilliant fantasy novel. Now a modern classic that remember reading by torchlight as a teenager.
'Jo was the first to wake in the grey dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace.'
And under the pillows of Jo and each of her three sisters on that Christmas morning was ....a book!
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.'
There are many Christmas poems but this is probably the best loved and with good reason. Reindeer, St Nick and a sleigh full of toys – it has all the essentials of Christmas.
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
'She stared at the tree. Tinsel had been wrapped around it and on top was the fairy made of…….'
The festive season, Discworld style, and things go rather wrong when Death dons the fat mans robes and plans to do a bit of climbing down chimneys himself. Briliant wit as well as wisdom from the master of humorous fantasy.
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
'about four o'clock on Christmas morning, Peterson ....was left in possession of....... this battered hat and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose.'
A Christmas time puzzle for my hero, supersleuth, Shelock Holmes.
'And she brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.'
The original Christmas story. Think - without it none of these chosen books would ever have been written.
Book of the Week December 21st 2013
1,339 Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd andJohn Mitchinson
This is a chunky sized stocking filler from the team behind TV’s QI quiz. And it does exactly what it says on the cover. Weird, wonderful, or just plain unlikely facts fill every page. As a bookseller and a tennis player my imagination was caught by the fact that children’s author, Enid Blyton used to play tennis in the nude and intrigued by discovering that the first manuscript of ‘Of Mice and Men was chewed up by John Steinbeck’s dog! And I’m fascinated to learn that pigs suffer from anorexia and Wagner always wore pink silk underwear. Whatever your interests there are facts here to surprise, shock and entertain
Book of the Week December 14th 2013
There was an Old Geezer called Caesar by Mick Twister
There once was a limerick writer
Who tried to make history lighter.
He made up some rhymes
About olden times,
They made the past seem so much brighter!
This is a jolly little book, subtitled ‘A History of the World in 100 Limericks’. It takes a brief look at 100 key moments through history from the first cave painters through to modern times. For each event Mick Twister has written a humorous limerick followed by a page of background information. So we find that George Washington grew cannabis (for rope making) and forgot to return two library books while Newton became an MP but his only contribution in Parliament was to complain about a draughty window! So the result is a lively, light hearted and fascinating race through history – the perfect antidote to those long and overly serious historical tomes.
Book of the Week 7th December 2013
Alphabetical by Michael Rosen
Mostly, we take our alphabet for granted. Twenty-six letters. A through to Z. But where did they come from… and how? Michael Rosen devotes a chapter to each letter and delves into the history and origins the wonderfully flexible and eccentric English language. Light hearted in tone but comprehensive in coverage, the book takes in letters lost along the way; code-breaking and crossword solving; puns, jokes and word games. From Viking runes to text messaging and from Beowulf to New York rappers this is a thorough history and a glorious celebration of letters and language.
Wednesday 4th December, 6.30 pm
Martin Newell appearing at Red Lion Books
Yes, the Wild Man of Wivenhoe, the original and now thoroughly reconditioned splendour, is back with his most mature collection of verse 'Wife of '55' - a series of love-letters to England and his childhood. Expect a somewhat anarchic mix of fierce and witty satire with a rich and nicely mellowed lyricism. But as with any Martin Newell gig leave your prejudices at home and be prepared for the unexpected.
Free event - refreshments will be available - they will probably be needed!
Book of the Week 30th November 2013
Secret Ministry of Ag. & Fish by Noreen Riols
When Noreen Riols was called up in 1943 she fully expected to join the WRENS like her friends. But when she said she spoke fluent French she was directed to an anonymous government building in Baker Street. She was recruited into the Special Operations Executive, though if anyone asked she was to say she worked for the Ministry of Ag & Fish. Clandestine trips to France to support the resistance movement followed and Noreen’s world became one of deception and subterfuge; coded messages and secret meetings. This is the fascinating true story of one young woman’s experiences working for the SOE during the last years of the war, by turns humorous and moving as Noreen realises the human cost of the work she was doing.
Book of the Week 23rd November 2013
The Colne by Boat, Bike and Boot by Ken Rickwood
At 42 miles, the Colne is the longest river in Essex. In 2011, Ken Rickman decided to explore its entire length and this impressive book is the result. Starting at its estuary between East Mersea and Brightlingsea he traces our local river right back to its source, an ancient spring in a field beside Ridgewell’s St Lawrence church. The fascination of the book is the details Ken unearths along the way. So we find out about the background to the legend of St Osyth and the founding of the Priory. We discover that, in Victorian times, Wivenhoe had the only dry dock between London and Lowestoft and an experimental mini submarine was built and launched there. Personal observations on the countryside and history make this a rich and rewarding read.
Book of the week 16th November 2013
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
It was 1983 when the first Discworld book was launched upon an unsuspecting world. Now 30 years and 40 books later comes, 'Raising Steam', in which we find that times are changing in the fantastical universe that Pratchett has conjured. Magic is no longer sufficient to keep the Discworld culture and economy on track. and there is great excitement when a young inventor finds a new way to harness the powers of Earth, Air, Fire and Water; the result is the first steam engine. But there are always complications and this time they are dark and about three foot tall, Yes, there is a terrorist movement among the dwarves opposed to the new fangled iron and steam contraptions. This story is a bumper serving of Pratchett's unique mix of wit and wisdom and the plot thunders along featuring many of the characters that the legions of Discworld fans have grown to love.
Book of the Week November 9th
‘A Short Book about Drawing’ by Andrew Marr.
In this book, Andrew Marr, so well known for his TV journalism and as a writer on history and politics, reveals his secret life as an artist. It is an intriguing book that explores the creative impulse and how it can add depth and value to life that these days can seem so automated and computerised. Drawing and painting engages different parts of the brain and can be a liberation from the tyranny of diaries, agendas and emails. Through out this remarkable book are drawings and paintings that show Marr to be a talented artist himself. The illustrations range from pencil sketches of home and family life to vibrantly colourful watercolours and oils often done in snatched breaks during working assignments abroad.
Book of the Week 3rd November 2013
Morrissey - Autobiography
It has hit number one in the book charts. It was controversially published as a black Penguin Classic. It is the fasting selling musical autobiography of all time. Yes, this is all you could ever want to know about Stephen Patrick Morrissey – and possibly a little more. Unlike like most pop star ‘autobiographies’ there has been no ghost writer involved. It is all Morrissey’s words. And there are enormously atmospheric passages describing the Manchester streets where he grew up and insights into the music trade as he became famous with the Smiths. Through these pages we do get to understand the real Morrissey; his obsessions, his moods and his music. And why, as he says, ‘sadness is habit forming’.
Book of the Week 26th October 2013
Under A Broad Sky by Ronald Blythe
This is another collection of Ronald Blythe’s wonderful essays arranged to follow a calendar year of rural life on the Essex Suffolk border. Each piece is a distillation of his experience, observations and reflections and makes the ordinary happenings of a normal day resonate with the richness of his long life. He describes the changing activity of the birds and local wildlife, working in his garden with the companionship of the ever faithful white cat and his travels across the country. Whether it is getting lost in Ipswich or watching a very old bee keeper calling down a swarm of bees from the nave of a church, to everything Ronald Blythe brings a fresh eye and an interesting reflection.
Book of the Week 19th October 2013
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
‘Dark Eden’ is winner of the Arthur C Clarke award for best science fiction novel of 2013. I’ve just read it and found it a most deserving winner.
The action takes place on a planet where a hundred and fifty years previously a spaceship crashed. The planet has no sun and the only sources of light and warmth are the natural phosphorescence of plant and animal life. It is named Eden by the two survivors who start a family. Six generations later all the descendents, numbering a few hundred and prone to genetic disorders, cling to the belief that eventually a spaceship will come and carry them back to earth. The dramatic events unfold when a young man challenges the status quo and with a small band of followers leaves the safety of home to strike out and explore the planet. It is a brilliantly inventive and thought provoking tale.
Book of the Week 12th October 2013
Demon Dentist by David Walliams
Something esciting for the children this week.
When twelve year old Alfie has toothache he has the bad luck to be taken to Mr Erstwhile, undoubtedly the worst dentist in the world. His extraction method is to tie Alfie’s rotten tooth by a string to the waist of his rather plump assistant and order her to jump out of the window! And only then realises he has extracted the wrong tooth!
This is just the beginning. All the children in town who put teeth under their pillow for the tooth fairy awake next morning to find the tooth gone and in its place
not a coin but a dead slug….or something worse. This dentist is not just bad he is positively evil. Not for the faint hearted this story is nicely scary and very funny.
Book of the Week 5th October 2013
Solo by William Boyd
He’s back. Sixty years after James Bond first appeared in Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’, William Boyd has brought him back to life in a new adventure that has all the trade mark Bond trimmings. Set in 1969, Bond’s mission takes him to an oil rich West African state in the throes of a brutal civil war. A war Bond must stop, singlehandedly if needs be. Of course, behind the scenes is a ruthless, multi-millionaire villain with a psychopathic fixer and Bond needs all his skill as well as a gadget or two from ‘M’ to see him through. From Africa the trail takes Bond to America where he goes rogue – or, solo to exact revenge for the evil he has witnessed in Africa. And on the way there is always a enough down time for a little hard drinking and womanising - oh yes Bond is back!
And we have some signed copies availabe (while stocks last)
Book of the Week 27th September 2013
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.
It is over thirty years ago that Jack Nicholson gave us one of his most scarily memorable performances in ‘The Shining’. Now Stephen King has written a follow up featuring Jack’s son Danny, now grown up and fighting his own battle with the bottle. He has also learned to control his psychic powers and has found others with similar abilities, known collectively as ‘shiners’. But on the scene appear a group of sinister evil vampire entities who kill and feed off the spirit essence of the shiners. And so the terror and excitement escalate with battles, chases, gore and ghouls.
This is Stephen King at his horrifying best.
Book of the Week 20th September 2014
Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 by Max Hastings.
2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War and there will be many books released to mark the occasion. One of the first and probably best is ‘Catastrophe’ by Max Hastings. He concentrates his attention on how the conflict came about and on the battles of the first months, analysing how the continent was primed and ready for war well before the infamous assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. What followed was movements of massive armies as they manoeuvred for position and the first battles were some of the bloodiest of the whole war. This is a detailed chronicle of the early campaigns providing both a political overview with accounts from generals and statesmen as well as descriptions of what this terrible war meant for the housewives, peasants and private soldiers involved.
We have a limited number of signed copies available.
Man Booker Shortlist 2013
10 September 2013
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Granta)
The Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate)
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín (Penguin)
When Robert Macfarlane, the chair of this year's Man Booker Prize judges, announced the longlist he called it the most diverse in recent memory. He was right, and the same is still true of the shortlist he and his peers have just selected. The 151 novels they started with represented a tour d'horizon of contemporary fiction, a grand vista that encompassed everything from the epic to the miniaturist. The longlist distilled the numbers but kept the flavour and now the shortlist has intensified it further.
The six books on the list could not be more diverse. There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeki). The oldest author on the list, Jim Crace, is 67, the youngest (indeed the youngest ever shortlistee), Eleanor Catton, is 28. Colm Tóibín has written more than 15 books, The Luminaries is only Catton's second.
Book of the Week 14th September 2013
The Mice in The Churchyard by Kes Gray & Sally Anne Lambert.
The lovely village church at Copford Green is famous for its remarkable medieval murals and now it is the setting for a fantastic children’s picture book. A growing population of mice are overrunning the churchyard and all the cats of the parish join together to in an epic struggle to catch them. But they soon find that the Copford Green mice are not so easy to catch. They try creeping and pouncing and hiding in trees but all their plans are unsuccessful and mice always manage to escape. Even Monty the local mouse catching champion has no luck. This is a charming story told in rhyme, brilliantly illustrated and with a surprise on the last page.
Books of the Week 7th September 2013
‘Colchester: Fortress of the War God’, by Adrian Gascoyne and David Radford
Camulodunon was a capital for British tribal kings in the days before the Roman conquest and Colchester’s claim to be the country’s oldest recorded town is based on the discovery of some coins minted here and dating to the last few years BC. With its long and illustrious past Colchester has an enormous amount of history buried beneath these busy streets and archaeological digs have uncovered a wealth of artefacts and evidence about the town’s history. This book is a major and comprehensive assessment of the knowledge gained about Colchester’s history from these excavations. It has major chapters on Prehistory and Iron Age times, then the Roman occupation and on through the Anglo Saxon and medieval periods to the beginning of the 18th century.
Maps, plans and drawing illustrate the changing times and all is cross referenced to the original documents making this a key reference for everyone with a serious interest in Colchester’s history.
Book of the Week 31st August 2013
No Man’s Nightingale by Ruth Rendell.
Suffolk based detective writer Ruth Rendell might be well into her eighties, but shows no signs of calling a day on her writing career. Her best known creation, Inspector Wexford, is retired - but that doesn’t stop him becoming involved in a murder investigation when Reverend Sarah Hussain is found strangled in the village vicarage. The body is discovered by local gossip, Maxine, who cleans both for the vicarage and for Inspector Wexford. The Reverend Hussain was of mixed race and single mother of a teenage girl making her a controversial appointment to the quiet country parish. Wexford, as unpaid Crime Solutions Advisor to the local police, needs all his experience to work out what part the victim’s murky past has to do with her untimely death.
Book of the Week August 24th
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith.
This is the ninth book in the series set in Edinburgh and featuring Isabel Dalhousie, a 40 year old philosopher with a fascination for unexplained death and mysteries of all sorts. In this tale a wealthy art collector’s favorite painting has been stolen and Isobel is asked to handle ransom negotiations with the thieves. But she soon discovers that the thieves may be closer to the owner than he realises and suddenly the situation becomes really rather complicated. Isabel has to draw upon her philosophical training as well as her sleuthing skills to catch the culprit. This is a lighthearted novel features a charming collection of eccentric characters in a story laced with of humour and moral musings. A perfect read for a sunny summer afternoon.
Book of the Week August 17th
Essex Boys by Karen Bowman
'Essex Boys' is history with a difference. Author, Karen Bowman assembles a range of characters with one thing in common - they all lived in Essex. There are fine sketches of each together with background details of their colourful lives and times. Daniel Defoe, writer of more than 500 books, pamphlets and journals resided in Colchester. Dick Turpin we discover was not quite the folk hero tradition has made him into, but a leader of 'The Essex Gang' a bunch of hardened criminals. Wat Tyler, also from Colchester, was a leader of the peasant's revolt of 1381 which rapidly spread across the country. Amongst the great and not so good also featured are Henry V111, Charles Dickens and even Jack the Ripper, proving that you just cannot pigeon hole the Essex Boy!
Book of the Week August 10th
Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K.Rowling)
This book really hit the headlines when the author, new to the detective genre, was unmasked as being none other than J. K. Rowling, the world's biggest selling writer. So behind all the publicity what is the novel really like?
Well J. K. Rowling can certainly tell a good tale.
Her hero detective, the wonderfully named Cormoran Strike, is an ex-military policeman, disabled in the line of duty. His new temporary secretary arrives for work to find him camping on his office floor, bills piled high and final demands arriving with every post. When he takes on a new client who even pays him cash up-front things begin to look up. But he and his secretary soon find themselves in deep water with a complex, dangerous, and particularly nasty family case. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith has produced a cracking read with great characters in this exciting, cliff-hanging, traditional private eye thriller.
Book of the Week August 3rd
Rice’s Church Primer by Matthew Rice
If you’ve always thought it would be nice to know rather more about our country’s wonderful churches but think Gothic revival is just a 21st century youth fashion then this might be the book for you! Churches come in a baffling range of different styles and to make matters worse, due to rebuilding and extending, one church might often contain a variety of architectural influences. This book is a crib, a shorthand history of church-building, mainly concerned with the naming of parts. It explains the components and features from the major periods of church building. But it is no dry and dusty gazetteer. It is lively and wonderfully illustrated throughout with the author’s own paintings of architectural details giving it great charm and character. Read this and soon you’ll be impressing your friends with your knowledge of beak-heads, nodding ogees and blind arcades!
Book of the Week 27th July 2013
The Royal Nappy by Nicholas Allen
For a change this week’s pick is a children’s picture book. But not any old children’s picture book. The Royal Nappy is a humorous peep at what might happen behind the closed palace doors with a new baby in the family! There are special nappies for every occasion – even a shiny one for sliding down the long polished corridors at Buckingham Palace. Revealed for the first time is the Royal Nappy Changing Song (first sung to Henry 8th when he was a baby). But a crisis looms when the Royal nappies run out just as the President of the United States is about to visit. Great fun for young children and their parents!
Book of the Week 20th July 2013
BROTHERS AT WAR by Sarah Ridley
This is a First World War family history about a Lavenham miller’s four sons during 1914 – 1918.
The oldest son was needed on the farm as feeding the country was a priority for the government. Arthur spent the war farming and in the Territorial army. Maurice went to the front and fought in the trenches as a sniper. His letters give a very real view of life at the front. Washing his clothes in a clear stream. He said it worked very well. He thanks his mother for food parcels, and lice powder. He was wounded at the Somme, losing his leg. His letter to home was very matter of fact. ‘A shell burst right on top of us. Killed 5, wounded the rest. That is how I got wounded.’
Lionel was trained as an officer. He was awarded a military cross after the Battle of Arras.
In 1918 he was captured by the Germans and was held until September 11th 1918.
The youngest boy was still at school.
The book includes many photos of the war, photos of their letters and diaries.
Family history at its best.
Book of the Week 13th July 2013
Perfect by Rachel Joyce
At the centre of Rachel Joyce’s new novel is eleven year old Byron Hemmings, who lives in middle class comfort and attends a smart private school. But when he finds out that 2 seconds are to be added to time to balance clock time to the movement of the earth he is filled with anxiety. What might happen in those two extra seconds and what might the consequences be? On the school run Byron’s mother knocks a little girl off her bicycle and their world changes. The veneer of middle class security and contentment cracks and Byron realises that the world is really a perilous place. It is both a coming of age novel and a gentle, charming comedy of class and manners laced with something darker.
We have some SIGNED COPIES in stock of this title.
Book of the Week 6th July 2013
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
On a beach near her home in Canada a writer, Ruth comes across a bundle of plastic bags containing a Hello Kitty lunchbox. Amongst the papers inside is battered old book wrapped up in a freezer bag. The book is the diary of Nao, an eccentric 16 year old Japanese teenager. It has somehow crossed the ocean and will change the life of the person who finds it. Nao’s diary is a moving, realistic creation exploring mortality, memory and truth. It combines Buddhist wisdom passed down by her fascinating grandmother mixed with her own western influences as she tries to make sense of her troubled life in modern Tokyo. It is a complex, engaging gem a novel.
Book of the Week 29th June 2013
NW by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s latest acclaimed novel which has hit the paperback shelves this month is a dazzling portrait of the changing character of London and Londoners. Focusing on an area around Willesden the novel tracks the lives of four Londoners all brought up on council estates but since moved on, picking up their separate lives again as they move through their thirties, all seeking satisfaction and fulfilment in their own way. And they are all very different – in their politics, in career choice and in ethnicity. When their paths cross again they are forced to confront the truth of what they have become. Sharply observant of people and places, Zadie Smith’s prose crackles with vitality and through these characters with their fears and aspirations she presents a gloriously vibrant, funny and richly varied picture of contemporary life in the capital.
Book of the Week 22nd June 2013
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
As well as being a multi award winning novelist, Neil Gaiman is the man behind the Sandman comics, many children’s books as well as quite a few Dr Who episodes. His first new adult novel since 2005, ‘The Ocean at the End of Time’ hits the shelves this week. It is a simple tale that begins when a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in rural England. He stumbles across an old farmhouse at the end of the lane that brings back memories of his childhood forty years earlier. But his presence stirs more than just his own memories. Dark creatures from beyond this world are reawakened and a primal menace is unleashed. Within this wonderfully scary mix of horror, magic and fantasy is a moving modern fable of love and loss.
Book of the Week 16th June 2013
Stonemouth by Iain Banks.
It was sad to hear of the death of Iain Banks this week. Many years ago now he came to the shop to sign his books. He was a friendly, charming man and a brilliantly original writer.
His latest book has recently been published in paperback and tells the story of twenty something, Stewart Gilmour, returning to his hometown on the Scottish coast, after five years away. Stonemouth is also still home to the girl of his dreams and he hopes that past love might be rekindled. He picks up with old friends and old enemies as the troubles he left behind begin to resurface. There has been a suspicious death and the two local crime families are becoming agitated. With gangster violence escalating Gilmour has to come to terms with his past in order to forge himself a future.
Book of the Week 8th June 2013
The Time by the Sea by Ronald Blythe
Ronald Blythe turned 90 last year but his literary output shows no signs of slowing down!
Just published is a wonderful memoir of his life in Aldeburgh in the 1950’s where, as a totally unknown young man dreaming of becoming a writer, he rented a bungalow for the winter. Within a week he bumped into E M Forster outside the fishmongers and soon became part of the vibrant musical and artistic community of the area. He became friends with Forster and with Imogen Holst and Benjamin Britten who invited him to help work on the Aldeburgh Festival.
Blythe’s recall for the people, places and events of nearly 60 years ago is astounding and his descriptions glow with colour and character. Publication is perfectly timed for the centenary of Britten’s birth.
Book of the Week June 1st 2013
The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
Robert MacFarlane is our favourite nature writer and his most recent book has just been released into paperback. This book is an exploration of the network of ancient tracks, drover’s roads and pilgrim ways that are etched into the countryside. Robert Macfarlane doesn't so much walk across the landscape as immerse himself in it. He is quite likely to shed his boots and walk barefoot where the terrain allows and at the end of a long days walking crawl under a hedge to sleep! And what an eloquent guide he is to these old paths. He forges friendships and learns from those he meets along the way and as he walks he muses on nature and the changing countryside; on history and on the literature that has been inspired by the landscape he describes so beautifully.
Book of the Week May 25th 2013
The Story of Colchester Zoo by S C Kershaw
Fifty years ago on the 2nd June 1963 Colchester’s roads were packed all day long and scores of families were marching down Maldon Road. It was the day that Stanway Hall Zoo Park opened its gates for the first time.
The Zoo was an ambitious project set up by Frank and Helena Farrar and intended to rival Whipsnade. With prices set at just three shillings for a day ticket (equivalent to under £2.00 today) Colchester Zoo, as people soon began to call it, was an immediate success. In those days there were the famous talking macaws that would trade disgusting insults with visitors and a constant stream of new and exciting arrivals from monkeys and sea lions to giraffes and African elephants. In 1970 Colchester Zoo welcomed it’s most famous resident, Simba, still in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest lion in captivity.
The book charts the rise and fall and rise again of Colchester Zoo from its early glory days through the troubled times in the 80’s and on to its reinvention under the Tropeano family who turned it into an internationally recognised centre for conservation and breeding of endangered species
Book of the Week May 18th 2013
Inferno by Dan Brown
Ten years ago Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was breaking all sales records. Released this week is ‘Inferno’ which once again features the code breaking Harvard academic, Robert Langdon, who finds himself caught up in a web of danger and intrigue. In a race against time, Langdon’s skill, knowledge and bravery are tested to the limit as he heads to Florence where he must decipher a series of codes hidden within some of the most famous art of the Renaissance. There are ruthless and mysterious people in pursuit as Langdon and his friend uncover a conspiracy that threatens the world as we know it! We haven’t actually been able to read this yet as it has been so heavily embargoed but it has all the necessary ingredients to be the most popular novel of the year so far.
Book of the Week May 11th 2013
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Finally hitting the paperback shelves this week is ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ - the second episode in Hilary Mantel’s award winning novelisation of the life of Henry VIII’s right hand man, Thomas Cromwell. Life in the Tudor court of Henry VIII was never straightforward with constantly shifting power and the whims of a capricious king whose spies were everywhere. This story picks up when Henry has fallen for plain Jane Seymour and there are rumours circulating of Anne Boleyn’s dalliance with a court musician. Chancellor Thomas Cromwell is Henry’s fixer in chief and has to plot a path that will see his own position secure. It is a tale of dangerous deceit and dark passions. The Tudors have provided us with many larger than life characters and stories and the persecution, trial and death of Anne Boleyn is the ultimate historical thriller.
Book of the Week May 4th 2013
Skios by Michael Frayn
Oliver Fox arrives on a Greek island to spend a naughty weekend with a woman he hardly knows. When she is delayed he finds himself with time to kill and in the arrivals hall he sees a young lady holding up a sign with the name ‘Dr Norman Wilfred’. Oliver is suffering somethingof an identity crisis anyway and when the woman looks expectantly at him he nods and greets her. A few minutes later he steps into her car and into the life of Dr Norman Wilfred who was arriving to give a lecture to a distinguished academic conference. Oliver rides his luck and passes himself off as a great man of science with hilarious results. This is a sublimely witty and intelligent farce from one of Britain's best writers.
Book of the Week April 27th 2013
A Delicate Truth by John le Carre
We have some signed copies available - while stocks last.
A bungled secret mission to capture a high profile jihadist arms trader on the Rock of Gibraltar is the starting point for this thrilling tale of political and financial intrigue. Toby Bell is the Foreign Minister’s Private Secretary and he is kept in the dark about the operation and its disastrous consequences. When he does make enquiries he is met with a wall of silence high level cover ups. Thus this becomes classic le Carre territory with powerful vested commercial interests allied to government officials in a state sponsored conspiracy to hide the truth. Bell faces a moral dilemma as he is forced to choose between his conscience and his career. Rogue CIA spooks, far right evangelist preachers and global financiers all stand in Bells path as the tension winds up and the body count rises. A masterful novel of suspense and intrigue.
Book of the Week 20th April 2013
My Animals and other Family by Clare Balding
Clare Balding’s award winning autobiography is just out in paperback.
The first face she can remember was Candy, her mother’s Boxer and her first horse was a gift from the Queen! Clare Balding was brought up in an extremely well connected horse racing family and from her earliest years was surrounded by a large and spoilt menagerie of dogs and horses. In this book are tales of her early racing days including the time she realised with some concern that her jockey ‘colours’ were see-through! There is a picture of the young Clare aged two perched atop Derby winner Mill Reef and a tale of how she causes upset to Princess Anne by beating her in a race. She includes lively and humorous tales of a family full of characters but always her passion for horses shines through this engaging memoir.
Book of the Week 13th April 2013
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
With the shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke Prize for science fiction announced this week, this is our pick of the featured titles. Nick Harkaway’s ‘Angel Maker’ is a wildly imaginative and entertaining adventure set in a London from a parallel universe!
Joe Spork is a watch and clock repairer and all he really wants is a quiet life. But out of the blue he is asked to repair a very unusual mechanical device. It turns out to be an ultra secret doomsday machine and there are powerful organizations hunting for it. Thus Joe’s life is quiet no longer as he is pitched into dangerously chaotic adventure involving mad monks, psychopathic killers and a scientific genius. His only ally is a ninety year old, female former superspy. Together they have to unsure that the machine doesn’t fall into the wrong hands for the future of conscious life in the Universe is at stake!
Book of the Week 6th April 2013
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Flying high on top of the best seller lists this is a thriller to get your pulse racing and your head spinning.
Nick Dunne comes home on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy has disappeared. Nick soon becomes a suspect in a murder enquiry but there is no body and no explanation for Amy’s disappearance. And when Amy’s diary is found it reveals a very different woman to the one Nick thought he knew so well. Full of unexpected twists the novel explores the psychology and relationship dynamics of a marriage that is never as straightforward as it seems. This is a book that we will keep you guessing till the end.
Book of the Week 30th March 2013
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.
By Jonas Jonasson
Sometimes the best recommendations about what to stock and what to read come from our customers. This book is one of those which so many customers have come back raving about.
It follows the adventures an old man who escapes through the window of an old people’s home just as his 100th birthday party is about to begin. At the nearest bus stop a young man asks him to look after a suitcase while he goes to the toilet. The bus arrives and the old man ‘takes the decision to say yes to life’ and gets on the bus with the suitcase. The suitcase is stuffed full of crisp banknotes. Thus begins the crazy and incredible escapades of the oldest hero in fiction. Our Easter advice is to sit beside a warm fire lose yourself in this funny warm hearted story and you’ll forget about this endless winter.
Book of the Week 15th March 2013
She Rises by Kate Worsley
It is always exciting when a new local author bursts onto the scene. Kate Worsley, from Mistley, is the latest to do so. Her debut novel, ‘She Rises’, is just out from top publisher, Bloomsbury, best known for giving us the Harry Potter books. ‘She Rises’ is set in the eighteenth century and is full of adventure, intrigue, love and the search for identity.
It follows a young dairy maid’s journey from her home farm to the big, bad, bustling world of Harwich society where she enters the service of a haughty and strangely mysterious lady, Rebecca. She is also on a mission to track her older brother, Luke, who was press ganged from a Harwich tavern aged just 15 to serve in the Navy aboard the warship Essex And so brother and sister are pitched into two very different worlds – both more exciting and more dangerous than they could have expected.
This is a really impressive first novel which we predict will pitch Kate Worsley straight into the bestseller charts.
Kate Worsley will be speaking at an Essex Book Festival event in Manningtree Library on Monday 11th March at 7.30pm
Book of the Week 8th March 2013
Gansta Granny by David Walliams.
There have been many comedians and TV celebs who have tried their hand at writing children's books. Rarely have the results been much more than a novelty. David Walliams, though, has proved himself a genuinely talented children's author and Gangsta Granny, his fourth book, now released in paperback is, perhaps, the best yet. Young Ben has to go and stay with his Grandmother. And staying with Granny means endless scrabble games and cabbage soup for tea. Its a bore as well as being considered distinctly uncool with his friends. But then the old lady starts telling him tales about her youth. About how she used to be an international jewel thief and what is more she still harbours plans to steal the Crown Jewels! But things change again when Granny falls ill and she needs Bens help. David Walliams has written a book which is original and uproariously funny but also has a great emotional depth.
Book of the Week 1st March 2013
Valentine Grey by Sandi Toksvig
The multi talented Sandi Toksvig, well known as comedian, radio and TV pundit, and presenter is also a prolific writer and her most recent novel is an ambitious historical adventure. When the young Valentine Grey arrives in late Victorian London from India, she struggles against the restrictions, formalities and prejudices of society. Desperate to break free and to experience more she masquerades as a man, joins the army and so embarks on a journey to South Africa, to the Boer War and to adulthood. It is a sparkling novel that highlights the prejudices against women, against blacks and against gay people. It is both heart breaking and uplifting as Valentine Grey demonstrates the courage and strength of the female spirit.
Sandi Toksvig will be appearing at the University of Essex on Thursday March 7th as part of the month long Essex Book Festival.
Book of the Week February 23rd 2013
Point Man by Mark Townsend.
The point man is the lead soldier of a patrol – the one who walks ahead scanning for danger, the one who is always most exposed. In 2008 Kenny Meighan was the longest serving point man in Afghanistan and this book is an incredibly exciting inside account of action in today’s army; the ambushes, pitched battles, hidden bombs and snipers. But it is also tells the human story of the cost of war. Kenny joined the Royal Anglian regiment aged 16 and when he finally left the army six and a half years later he faced the different horror of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He could not stop the terrors that haunted his dreams. Walking down Colchester High Street, Kenny cannot help seeing it as a war zone, instinctively checking the shoppers for suspicious movements and the rooftops for snipers. It’s a thrilling account of modern combat with moving insights into the human tragedy of war.
Mark Townsend will be at Harwich Library on Wednesday 6th March at 3.00pm to talk about the book as part of the Essex Book Festival programme of author talks.
Book of theWeek 16th February 2013
‘Alfie Gets in First’ by Shirley Hughes
This week’s pick is a children’s book for it is thirty years since Shirley Hughes released the first of the wonderful Alfie books that have entertained children ever since.
Alfie is an ordinary little boy. He lives with his Mum and his Dad and his sister Annie Rose. He has no magic powers, has no amazing adventures with pirates or spaceships. But he gets into just the sort of scrapes that are drama enough for a very small boy. In this first book Alfie manages to shut the front door of the house with his mum and sister outside. He is alone; he doesn’t know how to open the door and is too small to reach the catch. After much upset and excitement, involving neighbours, the milkman and a ladder, the door finally opens and Alfie is reunited with his family. We have many young mothers asking for this book for their children and they tell us how much they loved it when they themselves were little.
Book of the Week 9th February 2013
The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster by Patricia Rennoldson Smith
Over the last week there has been much coverage of the East Coast Floods of sixty years ago and a good many of our customers have been coming into the shop telling us of their own memories of the sudden tidal surge: of scary situations and narrow escapes. This book, ‘The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster’, will be a permanent reminder of the night the ice cold seawater burst through doors and windows and swept down the streets of the low lying coastal areas of Essex.. With no warning and in the middle of the night the lives of so many were to be changed forever. Illustrated with lots of photographs, the awe inspiring and sometimes heart-rending stories of survivors and victims of the 1953 floods are told for the first time.
Book of the Week 1st February 2013
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The most talked about debut novel opf 2012 is now out in paperback.
Out of the blue Harold Fry, retired and living a life of quite suburban normality in Devon, receives a letter from an old friend. It is written from a hospice in Berwick upon Tweed and from it he discovers that his friend is seriously ill with cancer. He sets out to post a letter to her. But he doesn’t stop at the post-box. He carries on walking, heading north suddenly resolving simply to walk to visit her. With no plan and no preparation he embarks upon an 87 day trek the length of the country. And as he walks he meets people, is sometimes given shelter, sometimes food. Others join him. Relationships develop and his perspective on life changes. Harold Fry just keeps on walking. And what started as a walk to Berwick becomes something far more than this.
It is a gentle book, very hard to put down, a story about how something as simple as an unlikely walk can make sense of life
Book of the Week 25th January 2013
Killing Floor by Lee Child
Move over Tom Cruise, the real Jack Reacher is in the books..........
The film Jack Reacher which was released last month and is adapted from the novel One Shot' by Lee Child, whose thrillers have been exciting readers since the first was published 15 years ago.
The hero, ex military policeman, Jack Reacher, is played by Tom Cruise. For many fans of these books there is a big problem with the film - and the problem is Tom Cruise. Presumably cast in the role to bring big name status to the film Tom Cruise is an unconvincing Jack Reacher. In the books, Lee Child's hero is a massive presence, 6 foot 8inches tall, 240 lbs with a 50 inch chest. And Tom Cruise really doesn't measure up,! Lee Child has been top of the list of our favourite thriller writers ever since a publishers advanced reading copy of his first novel landed on the Red Lion Books doormat. For this reason we have picked the first Jack Reacher thriller, 'Killing Floor', as book of the week.
When Reacher drifts into a small southern town he doesn't get much of a welcome. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. So begins a fast paced, action filled narrative with Reacher taking on a conspiracy connecting criminals and police. The body count is high, the action is relentless, the plotting tight. Read 'Killing Floor' and we think you'll agree - the real Jack Reacher lives on the page not on the silver screen!
Book of the Week January 18th 2013
Colchester Book of Days by Simon Webb
New for 2013, 'The Colchester Book of Days' contains quirky, eccentric, amusing and important events and facts from different periods in the history of Britain's oldest recorded town.
For each day throughout the year, author Simon Bell has unearthed some relevant event from the vaults of Colchester’s archives. And the charm of this book is the scope and variety of the historical snippets presented - from medieval times right through to last year. So side by side we find that on June 10th 1530 Thomas Beche was appointed Abbot of St John’s Abbey (he was later sent to the Tower of London after upsetting Henry 8th and finally executed in 1539). On June 11th 1834 the windmill in Old Heath Road was blown down in a storm and on June 12th 2010 an episode of Dr Who was broadcast set entirely in Colchester. The Tardis lands in modern day Colchester then dematerialises leaving the Doctor stranded and having to rent a local bedsit! An important entry for this paper is for January 7th 1831 when the Essex County Standard was launched.
Each day’s entry is fleshed out with background details making this an addictive book that will keep you entertained and informed.
Published by History Press, ‘The Colchester Book of Days’ is hardback price £9.99.
Children's History of Colchester
by Andrew Phillips
Come and see this brilliantly entertaining and informative history of our Britain's oldest recorded town. Every Colchester home should have a copy!