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14 Gripping new books for bedtime reading

BY Farhana Gani

1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

14 Gripping new books for bedtime reading

This month's book picks include a captivating new novel from one of America’s finest writers, a brutally honest prison memoir, a bewitching family saga and some taboo-breaking short stories. Don't miss the opportunity below to win them all!

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout 

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Elizabeth Strout, returns with an unforgettable story about the tender relationship between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recuperating from what should have been a simple operation to remove her appendix. Her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to in years, unexpectedly visits her in hospital.

Lucy is forced to confront every aspect of her life—her impoverished, brutal childhood, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her love for her own daughters and her unsteady marriage.

This powerful book will captivate you with its realistic, gentle but unsentimental dialogue between mother and daughter. But above all, this slim novel is packed with wisdom about the mysteries and misunderstandings of relationships.

Like this? You’ll also love Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Read our review



Jonathan Unleashed

Meg Rosoff

Jonathan Unleashed

You’ll probably know Meg Rosoff as a writer of young adult fiction. How I Live Now catapulted her to fame, won the Guardian Children’s Award and was made into a film. Now, she’s turned her pen to adult fiction and her first offering, Jonathan Unleashed, is a screwball rom-com with shades of Nora Ephron. It fizzes with witty one-liners throughout.

Jonathan is a young man trying to succeed in New York. He finds working in advertising soul-destroying and his relationship with his girlfriend Julie is beyond complicated. Although his canine flatmates Sissy and Dante appear to disapprove of his life choices, he can’t help fretting daily about the wellbeing of these two very clever dogs.

Luckily Jonathan meets Greeley. We all need a Greeley in our life…


Scary Old Sex

Arlene Heyman

Scary Old Sex

In this provocative collection of seven stories, New York psychiatrist Arlene Heyman shows us what really goes on in people's minds, relationships, and beds. 

The cast in Heyman’s fiction debut is deliciously varied and we meet some refreshingly older characters with sexual appetites and anxieties.

A 19-year-old art student becomes obsessed with a married painter in his late sixties. A woman has sex with her second husband whilst dreaming about her sexual past. A high-school boy fantasises about a girl in his class as his father dies of leukaemia in a nearby hospital. A middle-aged woman struggles with the decline of her mother, now living in a care home. A man has to take care of his father’s body, after he dies suddenly in the arms of his mistress.

Raw, tender, funny, truthful and often shocking, Scary Old Sex is a fierce exploration of the chaos and beauty of life, sex and death.



Mothering Sunday

Graham Swift 

Mothering Sunday

Swift won the coveted Booker Prize for his novel Last Orders which was turned into a film starring Michael Caine, Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins. He won the Guardian Fiction Prize with Waterland.

His latest new novel is slim enough to be an exquisite novella about a tragic love story, which focuses on a single day, and a defining moment in a woman’s life.

Jane Fairchild is an orphan and a housemaid who finds herself in limbo on Mother’s Day in 1924. The events of that never-to-be-forgotten day will go on to shape her future.



The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Joanna Cannon

This wonderful debut is a coming-of-age whodunit that takes place during the blistering summer of 1976 – and it will soon be made into a TV drama.

Ten-year-old Grace and her best friend Tilly embark on a missing person investigation after Mrs Creasy from No. 8 goes missing. In their quest, the girls uncover mysteries behind the avenue’s closed doors.

What the girls don’t know is that nine years ago a baby also went missing from the avenue. Nor do they realise that the lies about that fateful day are the same ones Mrs Creasy was beginning to peel back—just before she disappeared.

The girls are loveable and funny and Cannon is a new writer well worth watching out for.


Sweet Girl

Travis Mulhauser 


Another debut! This time a blistering, darkly humorous story about a fearless 16-year-old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to a life and death struggle in a harsh, frozen landscape.

Set in blizzard-blinded Michigan, young Percy James sets off for Shelton Potter’s cabin, deep in the woods, to find her troubled mother, Carletta. But Carletta isn’t there.

Shelton is a mess, grieving over his beloved labrador, and is drugged to oblivion with his girlfriend. Upstairs, Percy finds a baby, alone in the freezing cold, and realises that she will have to do whatever it takes to save the little when she wraps her tiny hand around Percy’s finger.



Behind Closed Doors

B A Paris

Behind Closed Doors

Grace and Jack have the perfect marriage. He’s handsome and wealthy, she’s elegant and oozes charm. And they are never apart.

Some might call them soul mates. Others may question why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she’s never available to meet anyone socially on her own, even though she doesn’t work. And why are there bars on the bedroom window?

This is the new psychological thriller in the domestic noir genre that everyone is raving about.



I Am No-One

Patrick Flanery

I am No One

Ever get that creepy feeling that someone’s watching you? You’re probably right…

American writer Patrick Flanery’s blistering new novel is set in the post-Snowden era of surveillance of ordinary citizens. He explores how a world without privacy is a world without freedom of expression.

Jeremy O’Keefe is a fifty-something professor specialising in German history and political thought at New York University. In a Greenwich Village café, a series of disconcerting events convinces him that he’s being watched. The mystery deepens and the story grips with devastating twists and revelations.

This is a mesmerizing novel about memory, privacy, fear, and what happens when our past catches up with us. It is a provocative page-turner and will leave you constantly looking over your shoulder.



The Book of Speculation

Erika Syler

The Book of Speculation

A young librarian discovers a terrible curse looms large over his family, in this raucous family saga.

Simon Watson receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller. He sees that it has been dedicated to his grandmother. As he turns the yellowed pages they crackle with age. The book tells the story of two doomed lovers, which unnerves him.

Why do so many women in his family drown? And does his sister Enola risk the same fate?

Erika Syler’s debut novel is quirky and wild and a delight to read and share.



Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari

Modern Romance

If you’ve seen the hilarious US series Parks and Recreation you’ll know Ansari. The actor and comedian has turned his gaze to love, sex and relationships and his observations are thoughtful, funny and refreshing.

He genuinely seems to be interested in the subject and explores every aspect of the perils and pleasures of modern romance with a top New York sociologist as his trusted guide.



In the Family Way: Illegitimacy Between the Great War and the Swinging Sixties

Jane Robinson

In the Family way

Only a generation or two ago, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Jane Robinson presents an in-depth examination of a dark chapter in our nation’s social history.

This book reveals the truth behind the sorrowful stories. The long-silent voices from the workhouse, the Magdalene Laundry or the distant mother-and-baby home. Anonymous childhoods are recalled, spent in care or a child migration scheme halfway across the world.

But this is also a book about hope. There are stories about supportive families who welcomed ‘love-children’ home. And, about those who were parted and are now reconciled.



Erwin James


Erwin James committed his first crime of breaking and entering when he was ten. His teenage and early adult years were spent drifting, and his petty crimes turned increasingly violent, culminating in the terrible events for which he was jailed for life.

Over the next twenty years Erwin would go on to receive a BA in History, and become a columnist for the Guardian. Speaking to the very heart of the human condition, this is a book that offers no excuses and shows that no matter how far a person may fall redemption is possible.



Making It Up As I Go Along

Marian Keyes

Making it up as I go along

Also known as The World According to Marian Keyes, this is a bold book bursting with Marian’s hilarious and heartfelt observations on modern live, love and more.

She has words of advice for those fast approaching fifty, how you can be a feminist and love make-up, how to break up with your hairdressers and the tricky business of being a woman in today’s demanding world.

You won't be able to stop laughing at the sheer delightful absurdity that is modern life, because each and every one of us is clearly making it up as we go along!


The 3rd Woman

Jonathan Freedland

The 3rd Woman

Journalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she would be investigating her own sister’s murder.

Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests that Abi was the third victim in a series of killings that’s been hushed up as part of a major conspiracy.

A terrifying yet unputdownable thriller from No. 1 bestselling author and award-winning journalist Jonathan Freedland.



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