• Staff photo 20150110, Historical pub walk in Stockholm Old town

    Staff and friends blog. Contact us if you like to join!

  • Anna Davour

    Anna Davour blog about Science Fiction and other strange flavours of fiction.

  • Helena in London

    Helena – "Seventeen, clumsy and shy, I went to England and found not love nor luck but something far, far better."

Helena on the Edgar Awards!

We at The English Bookshop are very proud to announce that Helena D. of Bokhora and Dark Places fame will start blogging with us occasionally.

On 2 May, this year's Edgar Award winners will be announced during a big banquet in New York City (would have loved to have tickets, incidentally). I have read the seven nominees in the Best Novel category and found some real gems, made several new friends, reunited with old ones, and, in a few cases, been mildly disappointed. All in all, though, the Edgar jury has settled on a solid bunch with nice versatility: we've got some fine historic crime writing, a toxic marriage where nothing - and I mean NOTHING - is what it seems, a blockbuster thriller satire, a heartwrenching privat eye procedural, some gritty New York City noir, and atmospheric Deep South small town drama. Granted, the jury's literary tastes are more directed towards tough crime than its cosier, tea-drinking cousin - but then again, so are mine (although I do love Agatha Christie and old school whodunnits), so you won't hear any complaints from me.

When I embarked on this particular adventure, in all fairness, I did it mainly to see how five of those books could compare to Gillian Flynn's and Dennis Lehane's. ”How”, perhaps, being closer to ”if”, ”if”, being more along the lines of ”if at all”. Now, I still think Gillian Flynn has it in the bag – her main rival being another awesome lady writer I discovered through this reading challenge, but I'll get to that later on – but I have to admit to some serious competition.

The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman Sunset by Al Lamanda Live by Night by Dennis Lehane All I Did Was Shoot My Man by Walter Mosley

Let us start with Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl, then, seeing how I already reviewed it upon its publication in May 2012. Flynn's dark and twisty tale of Amy and Nick, a goodlooking thirtysomething couple with some seriously disturbing secrets, has become a bestselling phenomenon (and rightly so, although The Independent's "thinking woman's Fifty Shades of Grey" headline left me flabbergasted and slightly pissed off - I mean, COME ON! Fifty shades of arbitrary, anyone?). It is utterly absorbing, with positively Patricia Highsmith-esque plotting and a genuinely shocking twist - I nearly fell out of my seat! Flynn's prose is razor sharp and deeply addictive, her characters deeply fucked up the way all the best crime fiction characters are... I'm probably repeating myself here, seeing how I've been known to gush over Flynn on several occastions, but if you want to read more about Gone Girl, feel free to check out my rather fangirly review.

Al Lamanda is a name I had never heard of prior to the Edgar Award reading challenge, but I have to say Sunset was a pleasant surprise, raw, cutthroat and deeply human in its depiction of cop turned burnout John Bekker and his quest for justice and redemption. Twelve years ago, Bekker's wife was brutally raped and killed during a house break-in, the terrible deed made even more devastating by the fact that the couple's five-year-old daughter witnessed it. Since then, with their daughter institutionalised and Bekker spending his time drinking himself into oblivion in a trailer, no progress has been made on the case. The deed was believed to be aimed as a warning towards Bekker, who at the time was assigned to a special task force investigating organised crime. Main mobster Eddie Crist never admitted to the murder of Bekker's wife, but Bekker has always believed that he was somehow involved. Until, that is, Bekker finds himself naked and hungover, handcuffed to a bed in Crist's mansion. Crist has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and with months to live, he wants to solve the case that pushed Bekker into self combustion... and he wants Bekker to do it. This is a nicely paced pageturner with great characterisation and some rather heartwarming moments. Highly recommended. Full review (in Swedish) here:

Moving on to something else entirely, namely a satire on the blockbuster thriller (think Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, etc) where the protagonist, failed literary writer turned miserable creative writing teacher Arthur Pfefferkorn, decides to give recently deceased college buddy, bestselling author William de Vallée, a run for his money but soon finds himself involved in a series of events rivalling those in his dead friend's penny dreadfuls. I can see why Potboiler earned a nomination: Jesse Kellerman (son of Jonathan and Faye Kellerman) has created a fresh and amusing spin on the modern thriller, although a bit too tongue-in-cheek for my liking. Not my cup of tea, ultimately, but hopefully someone else's. Loved the meta blurbs from Stephen King and Lee Child, though, and I would no doubt enjoy it as a movie (no plans that I know of, though), particularly if the producers were to share my vision of old Sideways buddies Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as Pfefferkorn and Bill, respectively. Full review (in Swedish) here:

Walter Mosley is a great writer. This I know first hand, having read and thoroughly enjoyed several of his Easy Rawlings books and – more than anything, because this is truly a remarkable piece of fiction that poses many difficult and important questions about today's society– The Man in My Basement. True to old form, All I Did Was Shoot My Man is an expertly delivered, gritty piece of noir with characters as shady as they are imperfectly sympathetic. If I had read the previous books in the Leonid McGill series, I would no doubt have gobbled this down. As it is, I find myself feeling a bit lost in Leonid's hectic world when so much in his past is alluded to and I have no way of keeping up, or indeed knowing when I am accidentally spoiled. I wouldn't recommend anyone jumping into the very middle of an ongoing series, but if you're into noir, do give Mosley and the delightfully morally ambigious McGill a shot – starting with the first installment in the series, The Long Fall.

Ace Atkins comes highly praised by the likes of Michael Connelly, and I can easily see why. The Lost Ones delivers some seriously good writing, with heaps of Southern atmosphere and a nicely flawed protagonist (yes, I do have a thing for those), former Army ranger turned small town sheriff Quinn Colson. The plot also delivers, although I can't help feeling a bit squeamish about anything involving children and animals (here, we have thirteen empty cribs in a horrifyingly negligent environment, a fatally injured baby and several neglected dogs... yes, that is the sound of Helena's heart breaking!). Still, despite the broken heart and all, this was another pleasant surprise for me, especially in terms of sense of place, and I will make sure to read the first book in the Quinn Colson series, The Ranger, asap. Can't help feeling a bit bad about reading the second installment first, though (see above). Surely I'm not the only one who prefers reading things in correct order? One has to assume, of course, that the Edgar jury is already well acquainted with any previous books in an ongoing series so this isn't really a valid objection.

I have been dying to read The Gods of Gotham, Lyndsay Faye’s take on the 1845 formation of the New York Police Department, for quite a while now. So glad that I finally got around to it, because this is top notch stuff, with impressive historic detail and an atmosphere so vivid that the reader – or at least this reader – soon starts thinking in flash, the 1840’s New York slang so important to the novel that a glossary is included. I am deeply in awe of the sheer ambition of this project, and literally could not put this darkly atmospheric historic thriller down. If Gillian Flynn doesn’t get it – "if" being the operative word – then Faye is a very strong contender for the prize, especially considering that this is only her second novel. Clearly, Lyndsay Faye is one to watch. I love period thrillers, and this is one of the best I’ve read for quite some time. And get this: her debut novel Dust and Shadow, set in Victorian London, deals with Jack the Ripper AND Sherlock Holmes! As a lifelong fan of all things Victoriana, may I please squeal for a bit? Perhaps go a pitch or two higher when mentioning that Lyndsay Faye, like Neil Gaiman, is a member of Sherlockian superstars Baker Street Irregulars;  is in fact so high up in the ranks of all things Sherlockian that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's relatives have approved of Dust and Shadow? Lyndsay Faye, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

But then, of course, you have this other period piece among the nominees, written by a certain Dennis Lehane. Lehane, so highly renowned in the business these days that even those strange people who won’t openly admit to reading crime fiction (who ARE those people, anyway?) can’t stop praising him. Lehane, who with The Given Day, as if Mystic River and Shutter Island weren’t enough, placed himself at the very top of contemporary US fiction, regardless of the genre. I still get all misty-eyed when I think about the baseball scene in The Given Day - and I don’t even like baseball! Lehane can outwrite pretty much everyone, and sure enough, Live by Night is another winner, brimming as it is with atmosphere, spark, and remarkable characters (including Joe Coughlin, younger, considerably less law abiding brother of The Given Day’s Danny Coughlin). You have the speakeasies, the liquor fuelled night time drama, the bad, the gifted, and the damned… Yes, this is undoubtedly another stellar effort from Lehane, but I can’t help but feel that he is acting in a league of his own here. Call it reverse discrimination if you like, but I reckon it would be nice to see someone less senior awarded – and yes, obviously I would be thrilled if the winner turned out to be named Gillian Flynn, seeing how mindboggingly good she is, but I would be very happy to see Lyndsay Faye or Ace Atkins as the 2012 Edgar Award recipient. Needless to say, should the jury decide on Lehane, I would be thrilled as well. Clearly, the Edgar jury knows good books, and if you are interested in the American crime scene at all, you should do yourself a favour and start looking for "Edgar Award nominee" mentions when scouting for new literary acquaintances. I had a lot of fun reading this year’s crop and will make sure to do it again next year. Now, let the best (wo)man win...!

For the love of dinosaurs

Emil V. Nilsson, PhD, is a science popularizer, working at the museum Biotopia in Uppsala. He’s blogging for Swedish science magazine Forskning och framsteg and was a jury member in the Swedish book price Augustpriset in the non-fiction category 2010.

My Beloved Brontosaurus - Brian SwitekMany of us remember a childhood obsession with dinosaurs. Sooner or later, most of us grow out of it – but some never do. Something for which the rest of us should be grateful, because amazing discoveries have been made for the love of dinosaurs. "My Beloved Brontosaurus" follows paleontologist Brian Switek's personal history as a dinosaur geek turned scientist, and paints a thorough picture of how the scientific view of what dinosaurs were – and are – has changed both during his own lifetime and the more than 150 years that have passed since some fossilized bones were baptized as the extinct animal group Dinosauria. It's a story about birds, bones, and feathers that almost ends with death from above. But not quite. No, dinosaurs are still around.

Excellent science writing can be like the Total Perspective Vortex in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – placing your own humble existence in the perspective of the vastness of the known universe. In Brian Switeks book, the reader must grapple with the barely comprehensible lengths of time passed since dinosaurs first walked the land. Just contemplate this fact:  the time passed between the extinction of Tyrannosaurus rex until today is less than half as long as the stretch of time that dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Birds are dinosaurs, and the discovery of fossil feathers completely changed dinosaur science. In the last decade, it has been shown that the "first bird" was in fact likely to have been one kind of dinosaur. If that is hard to comprehend, imagine a large tree. Now imagine you had a chainsaw and cut off all branches but one at breast height. Birds are the leaves on that remaining branch of the last surviving dinosaurs, whereas all other dinosaurs have gone extinct, just like the imaginary branches you cut off. But that's not all – most if not all non-bird dinosaurs also had feathers. This is true for both Tyrannosaurus rex as well as the vicious Velociraptors famous from the movie Jurassic Park – the real animals all had feathers. But they did not use them for flying, they were far too heavy. Instead, the feathers served as insulation, or were a fancy way of showing-off between mates, just as peacocks and ostriches do today.

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature  - Brian Switek

You gotta love geeks like Brian Switek. His first book, Written In Stone, offered a broader view of fossil science – paleontology – but My Beloved Brontosaurus provides much more heart and passion. True, that enthusiasm could have benefitted from more stringent editing – parts of the book are rather repetitions – but the love of his subject simply pours off the page. I would like to thank Brian Switek for sharing his love with us.

Etiquette and Espionage

This is a wonderful Victorian humorous romp - a steampunk Harry Potter with extra lace, bodices and other fashion accessories.  


We at The English Bookshop are very proud to announce that Helena D. of Bokhora and Dark Places fame will start blogging with us occasionally.


With 2013 already well underway, am I correct in thinking it is high
time to focus on some of the most anticipated new books of the year?
Why yes, of course I am! This is in no way a definitive list, seeing
a) how new releases tend to keep popping up throughout the year, b)
how some of the best reads of the year will be dark horses; titles and
authors that somehow have managed to slip under my radar, and c) how
there is something to be said for spontaneity. It is, however,
somewhat consistent with my current literary cravings. So, without
further ado I give you...


Jennifer Haigh - News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories Linwood Barclay - Never Saw It Coming Joyce Carol Oates - Daddy Love

First of all, a book that is already out: Jennifer Haigh's News from
Heaven: The Bakerton Stories. Ever since I accidentally stumbled over
The Condition five years ago, I have considered Haigh one of the most
promising voices of contemporary US fiction, as deeply readable as she
is stylistically elegant and thought-provoking. This short story
collection, set in the coal mining town of Bakerton, is another
must-read for me.

Also out already are Linwood Barclay's Never Saw It Coming, a further
exploration of 2011 Quick Read Clouded Vision (more from Barclay to
look forward to this summer!), and – shocker – a new novel by Joyce
Carol Oates, the very creepy-sounding Daddy Love.


Jodi Picoult -The  Storyteller

There is something eerily soothing about authors so punctual you can
set your watch to their publishing rhythm, isn't there? For instance,
I take great solace in knowing that every February for the last few
years – bleak, dreary, draining February! – have seen the publication
of a new Jodi Picoult novel. This year's Picoult is called The
Storyteller and the plot, at least to me, bears echoes of Stephen
King's excellent novella Apt Pupil. Whenever someone slams Picoult –
which happens on a regular basis, particularly after her and Jennifer
Weiner's public reaction to The New York Times favouring male authors
– I kind of want to punch them. No, she may not be receiving the Nobel
Prize anytime soon, but she does make you think about complex moral
dilemmas and she always, always makes me cry and feel deeply about her
characters. There is undoubtedly something to be said for cathartic
reading, especially when there is that trademark Picoult "what would
YOU do?" aspect of it. Bring on the Kleenex and ethical pondering, 26


Joyce Carol Oates - The Accursed Andrew Pyper - The Demonologist Harlan Coben - Six Years

5 March marks the publication of Joyce Carol Oates new, delightfully

gothic novel The Accursed, which I have been oohing and aahing over
for quite some time now. Granted, the ever prolific Oates has produced
some less than stellar efforts recently, and the sheer effort of
trying to keep up with everything she writes can at times be draining.
This, though, seems worth it.

Already looking mighty fine on my nightstand, but not technically out
until 5 March is Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist. I loved his previous
books, which successfully blended horror and thriller in a bleak,
literary landscape, and this one is blurbed by the likes of Gillian
Flynn, S.J. Watson, and Michael Koryta.

March is also a good month for thriller buffs as the always reliable
pageturner king Harlan Coben has a new standalone, Six Years, out on
19 March. Like many a Coben novel before this one, it deals with
betrayals and mysteries of the past coming back to haunt us.


 S.J. Bolton - Lacey Flint thriller; Like This Forever Douglas Kennedy - Five Days Claire Messud - The Woman Upstairs

Okay, let me just say straight away that April looks like a GREAT
month! First of all, we have a new Lacey Flint thriller from S.J.
Bolton out on 11 April – yay! Like This Forever, it is called, and
there is no doubt in mind that Bolton will scare me senseless once
again. Can't wait.

Having read and enjoyed the literary pageturners of Douglas Kennedy
for well over a decade, I can't help but enjoy the blissful
serendipity of his new novel, Five Days, being published the day after
my birthday (30 April – that's the pub date, not my birthday). Happy
birthday, Helena! (Aww, you shouldn't have, Doug. Although of course,
you really, really should.)

More serendipity: on the very same date, the highly anticipated new
novel by Claire Messud, her first since her magnificent The Emperor's
Children, which was published in 2006, will be out. The protagonist of
The Woman Upstairs has been described as "a feminine counterpoint to
the rantings of Dostoevsky's Underground Man". This is definitely one
of the books I'm most excited about so far this year, seeing how I
rate The Emperor's Children as one of the finest novels I read in the


Bizarrely, I haven't been able to find any particularly fetching new
releases for May. Surely just a matter of time, though.


Curtis Sittenfeld - Sisterland

Another top contender for this year's most anticipated new release
from a fave author is Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland (25 June) and get
this: it's about identical twin sisters!


Julia Heaberlin - Playing Dead

Julia Heaberlin's debut novel Playing Dead was a pleasant surprise for
me last year, so I will most definitely pick up Lie Still, due out 9
July. If you're into dark, literary thrillers of the Gillian Flynn-ish
breed, do give Heaberlin a try.


Is it...? Why yes it is! All Linwood Barclay fiends can look forward to
yet another standalone thriller, the evocatively titled A Tap on the
Window, on 6 August. I've devoured each and every one of his books –
having said that, I thought last year's standalone was particularly
captivating, so I have equally high hopes for this one.


Ever wondered what Danny Torrance, the young clairvoyant boy of
Stephen King's horror classic The Shining, may be up to in that
alternate fictional reality we all fantasize of every now and then? On
24 September, King brings Danny into the 21st century, teaming him up
with a tribe of semi-immortal mind vampires feeding off young people
who, like once Danny, have "the shining". Oh, and there is also a
prescient cat. Doctor Sleep sounds like fun, doesn't it? (Might be
slightly out there, though, but then again the best King books are.)

September also marks the publication of the dead lovely Helen
Fitzgerald's latest novel, The Cry, which she was writing during our
chat at Kulturnatten 2011. I'm anticipating heaps of dark, twisty
brilliance of that wickedly funny, slightly morbid Fitzgerald variety.


We have waited – oh my, how we have waited. Grey hairs have been
discovered in the process, children have been born, empires have
fallen... and now, finally, what we've all been waiting for looks like
it actually will happen. No, I'm not talking about the second coming
of Jesus Christ; this is something far, far better. Last week, it was
revealed that Donna Tartt's third novel, her first since 2002's The
Little Friend, is to be published this October. Set for publication on
22 October, The Goldfinch is the tale of orphan Theo Decker, who as a
young boy miraculously survives an explosion. Roaming the streets of
New York, he becomes fixated with a small, mysteriously captivating
painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. I don't know
about the rest of you, but I already have "THE GOLDFINCH!" written
down in my calendar with indelible ink. 22 October – save the date!

November and December seem so very far away at the moment – not to
mentioned cold, dark, and dreary in a "too close to home" sort of way
– so I will get back to you regarding late 2013 book releases. All in
all, though, I have to say we're looking at a pretty solid year,
sometimes (OMG DONNA TARTT) verging on the spectacular. Let's just
hope that in terms of highly anticipated books, everything really is
as good as it seems. Fingers crossed and all that.

I Capture the Castle

I am a great fan of Dodie Smith's lovely children's book One hundred and one Dalmatians, and have been curious to read something else by her for a long time. This is a completely different novel, but equally good. Cassandra's eccentric father is a writer whose first book took the literary world by storm but he has since failed to write a single word. This tells the story of seventeen-year-old, Cassandra and her extraordinary family of an older sister, an artistic and loving stepmother and the non-writing father, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle English castle in the (possibly) 1930s. Through Cassandra's diary entries we follow her family and neighbours and the changes that take place in their lives. Word for word she captures the castle and all the people passing through it. An absolutely wonderful read, very English and very gripping, in all its strange normality. Heartily recommended!

Mr. Zimmer’s gut feeling

Emil V. Nilsson, PhD, is a science popularizer, working at the museum Biotopia in Uppsala. He’s blogging for Swedish science magazine Forskning och framsteg and was a jury member in the Swedish book price Augustpriset in the non-fiction category 2010.

Carl Zimmer - Microcosm How well do you know yourself? Did you know that your body contains ten times more bacterial cells than its own cells? We are used to having the story of life told to us from a human perspective. The normal way of portraying nature is by telling stories of cheetahs and gazelles, dinosaurs and mammoths, or like in Sweden, stories about moose. This is a book that turns all that upside down.

One the most numerous of the bacterial species within you is Escherichia coli – or E.coli, as it's known to scientists, government officials, and news editors alike. Over the last century it has also been the experimental organism of choice for microbiologists seeking to answer just about any of the great questions within the biological realm, from the core mechanisms of evolution itself to the genetic origin of altruistic behaviour. So, if you want to know more about yourself, learning more about E. coli is a good idea. And there is no better introduction than reading Carl Zimmer's "Microcosm".

If you focus hard enough on a particular phenomenon, it sometimes seems like that phenomenon has been involved in all major historical events. From the E. coli thriving in your own, hopefully healthy, gut to those that spread disease like wildfire through battlefields and cities during World War II and others during the EHEC outbreak in Germany 2011, this is one species of bacteria that keeps drawing attention to itself. It's a survivor. Batter it with antibiotics and it comes back at you with resistance. But in learning to live with E. coli, we can also gain insights into many of life's secrets.

In "Microcosm", E. coli itself drives the narrative. While not offering as original a perspective as Rebecca Skloot's brilliant "The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks", it zips through evolutionary and scientific theory with this single, common and in many ways unremarkable bacterium in focus.

The book should be of interest for a more general audience. It describes some of the central problems in biology in a few paragraphs, and by using the scientific problem as a murder in a detective story, Zimmer portrays E. coli providing clues for the scientists so that ultimately the problem can be solved.

This is not only a book for those who are interested in science, it's also a book for those of you who would like to know more about the bugs in your gut. And if your interest in Carl Zimmer has been piqued, you can always check out some shorter pieces at "The Loom", over at National Geographic's Phenomena blogs. I still haven't seen a single posting there on moose, but several on bacteria and viruses.

Helena's Top 10 Reads of 2012 (in no particular order)

We at The English Bookshop are very proud to announce that Helena D. of Bokhora and Dark Places fame will start blogging with us occasionally.

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

1. Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

Because Cass Neary's return is every bit as triumphant, and gloriously bleak, as I hoped it would be.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Who needs rollercoasters when you have Gillian Flynn? With Gone Girl, Flynn, already aflame with talent (exhibit A and B: her former novels Sharp Objects and Dark Places), emerges as one of the - if not THE -  most radiant literary thriller stars of today. I nearly fell out of my armchair twice while reading it.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

3. Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Any book that makes me refer to My So-Called Life, Tom Perrotta, and Heathers in a review is bound to end up on a top 10 list somewhere. Add cheerleaders, along with pitch black wit and skin-on-bones taut prose, and we're talking top 3.

Field of Darkness and The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

4. Field of Darkness and The Crazy School by Cornelia Read

If you have yet to acquaint yourself with the fierce, smart-mouthed, caffeine-fuelled ex-débutante one woman show that is Cornelia Read's protagonist Madeline Dare - honey, you've been missing out! I'm only just getting started myself, and am very much looking forward to reading the next two instalments (and praying for a fifth book during 2013).

Broken Harbour by Tana French

5. Broken Harbour by Tana French

Not only by far French's finest effort to date (which speaks volumes in itself), but one of the darkest and most poignant takes on the economic crisis I've come across so far.

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

6. Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

Because it reads as a UK Goth version of Gillian Flynn's Dark Places. Loved every page.

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

7. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

As deeply unpleasant as it is beautifully written, Winterson's first true dip into the world of horror is one of the books I'll remember best from 2012.

Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand

8. Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand

Because, really, no decent top 10 list is complete with just one Elizabeth Hand book on it. This ageless urban fantasy on art, loss, and relationships transcending time is another perfect example of why Hand is one of the best writers out there today - in any genre. Go, Rimbaud, and go, Liz!

A Room Full Of Bones by Elly Griffiths

9. A Room Full Of Bones by Elly Griffiths

I am utterly addicted to Griffiths novels featuring forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway, and this year's effort just may be the best one yet. Too bad I've already read next year's (which, incidentally, was every bit as good)...

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Dreamy, atmospheric, and gorgeously written, this is almost too good to be a debut novel. Can't wait to read more!

Also highly recommended:


Would probably end up on the top 10 if I had, you know, read it:
Live By Night by Dennis Lehane (see you in 2013!)

Biggest mystery of 2012 (nope, not a crime novel):
How all those copies of the Fifty Shades books got sold. For an erotic novel, it is shockingly lacking in sex appeal (not to mention minor things such as literary qualities). My inner goddess just threw up in her mouth. Oh my.

Here be great books!

We at The English Bookshop are very proud to announce that Helena D. of Bokhora and Dark Places fame will start blogging with us occasionally.


Helena reads two top-notch literary thrillers from both sides of the pond  (and inevitably ends up buying more books, although she promised she wouldn’t, or at least not until Christmas..).

 Megan Abbotts - Dare Me Trust Your Eyes (Linwood Barclay)   My So-Called Life Megan Abbotts  - The End of Everything

High school, as My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase would tell you, is a battlefield for your heart. For the characters in Megan Abbotts latest novel Dare Me, it is also a battlefield for your kidney, spleen, stomach, kneecaps, arms, legs, and skull. Among other things. Yes, bones break, perfect,  unblemished teenage skin bruises, dreams are crushed and fulfilled, friendships formed and killed... and yes, there will be blood. Cheerleading has never been quite as cutthroat as portrayed here, and for me, whose previous experience with cheerleading boils down to a few dozen Sweet Valley books and two instalments of Bring It On, it is absolutely fascinating. The narrator, Addy, has been inseparable with Beth, captain and queen bee of the cheerleading squad, all through high school. When a new coach arrives, immediately taking charge and stirring things up, the dynamic between Addy and Beth, as well as all the cheerleaders, changes. Increasingly fascinated with their new coach, Addy finds herself drawn into a grown-up, distinctly dangerous world, and cheerleading - or indeed life - will never be the same again.

Part thriller, part pitch-black high school drama, Dare Me is an absolute must for everyone who is into dark, edgy thrillers, Tom Perrotta’s oeuvre, and Heathers. I, personally, adore all of these things, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoyed every single page. Abbott’s style, cut-glass  sharp, is perfect for the story, and I found myself taking note of particularly captivating phrases, such as “her eyes shot through with blood and boredom”. Abbott is clearly a natural when it comes to depicting the complexity (and absurdity) of teenage life, as well as a deeply readable thriller  writer. I will most definitely read up on her back catalogue, starting with her penultimate novel The End of Everything

As soon as I’d finished Dare Me, I picked up Cathi Unsworth’s latest novel Weirdo and was blown away with the realisation of just how many brilliant female literary thriller writers there are out there at the moment. Clearly, these are great times to be Helena, literary thriller reader extraordinaire. You’ve got your Flynn, your Hand, your French, your Bolton, and now, seemingly, your Abbott and your Unsworth. Keep them coming, please! (Yes, I’m looking at you, Jan.)

Weirdo also explores the world of teenage boredom and the combined allure and danger of transgressing into an adult world at too tender an age, although from a different angle. There are no cheerleaders in this story, only outcasts, freaks, Goths and bloody weirdos. For me, never the popular girl at school and clearly more of a Goth than a cheerleader type (I couldn’t do a backflip if my life depended upon it, but I do have everything Nick Cave and Joy Division have ever recorded), these are more comfortable, and relatable, turfs. Weirdo is razor sharp and emotionally intense, a declaration of love to the 80’s Goth scene as well as a pitch-perfect and haunting depiction of small town fear, prejudice, and secrecy. In 1984, the small coastal town - my Morrissey marinated mind immediately starts humming “this is the coastal town that they forgot to bomb” - of Ernemouth was shellshocked by the brutal murder of a teenage boy. Local outcast Corinne Woodrow, later dubbed the Wicked Witch of the East by the tabloids, has spent the last decades locked away in a mental institution after having been convicted of the crime. But did she actually do it? As cop turned private investigator Sean Ward takes on the case, he unearths old memories and secrets kept hidden by a close-knit community. Secrets: dark. Potential danger: yes. Oh yes.

Elizabeth Hand  - Available Dark Generation Loss - Elizabeth Hand

When I first read about Weirdo, I was reminded of the premises of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. Both novels are partially set in the 1980’s, a notorious and violent crime at the dark heart of the story. Furthermore, both deal with fear of unknown subcultures and teenage phenomena, and alienation, poverty, and social injustice run deep in both novels so yes, I would say that there are definite similarities although the plots, settings, characters, and style are different. There  is also a nice punky noir feel to Unsworth’s prose that will, I daresay, appeal to fans of Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary books (Generation Loss, Available Dark). I have, ostensibly, issued myself with a book buying ban for the remainder of 2012 (seriously, my “to read” piles have never been higher, or more life threatening, for that matter) but I will make an exception for Unsworth. The Singer and Bad Penny Blues, come to mama! If I need to reason with myself, or those perilously towering book piles, I’ll just think of it as early Christmas gifts. 

Also recommended

The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh

Louise Welsh has been a huge favourite of mine ever since I read her universally praised debut The Cutting Room, and this is the best one she’s written in years. I’d describe it as queer noir with a distinct Hitchcockian vibe. Great stuff.

Dolly by Susan Hill

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as curling up on the sofa on a rainy November night with a brand new ghost story from Susan Hill. Dolly isn’t as terrifying, or as good, as Hill’s number one ghost story, The Woman in Black, but it is atmospheric and intensely readable in that spooky/cosy M.R. James tradition I love so much. 

The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh   Dolly by Susan Hill

The best buys at Bokmässan - Helena’s definite list!

We at The English Bookshop are very proud to announce that Helena D. of Bokhora and Dark Places fame will start blogging with us occasionally.


The Swedish book blogosphere is going to be a very lonely – or at least singular-minded – place for the upcoming few days, as everyone is headed for the Gothenburg book fair. Everyone, it seems, but me. I could be moping in bed with a pint of Häagendasz and a particularly blood curdling crime novel (I have two words for you: S.J. Bolton!) but instead I thought I'd give all you lucky people who are in fact going some pointers in terms of book shopping. Here's a list of the books you mustn't miss at the book fair. As it happens, all of them will be for sale in the English Bookshop's temporary Gothenburg home!

Trust Your Eyes (Linwood Barclay)

Trust Your Eyes (Linwood Barclay)

Few, if any, fans of Linwood Barclay will be disappointed by his latest effort, where a schizophrenic young man, obsessed with maps, witnesses a murder on a Google Earth style site, in the process untangling an intricate web of lies, violence, and, as the late Steve Irwin would put it, danger, danger, danger. Make sure you keep your wits about you all the way to the very final page - there is a massive twist in the last few paragraphs! Gotta love the Barclay twist. Another winner.

The Daylight Gate (Jeanette Winterson)

The Daylight Gate (Jeanette Winterson)

Tense, pitch-black, unflinchingly brutal and exquisitely written, Winterson's take on the early 17th century witch trials in Lancashire is part pure horror, part historical novel, part unorthodox love story. Brilliance is a given. Read a longer review (in Swedish) at my regular blog Dark Places:

The Mystery of Mercy Close (Marian Keyes)

The Mystery of Mercy Close (Marian Keyes)

Granted, Keyes has been a bit off her game lately, but this brand new release features my favourite of the Walsh sisters, Helen, and has received great early reviews. Here's to hoping...!

Water Witch (Carol Goodman)

Water Witch (Carol Goodman)

Goodman, previously known for her elegant literary thriller, returns with the second instalment of the Fairwick Chronicles. It is urban fantasy at its finest, with heaps of references to literature, academia, and pop culture to boot. Also? The sex is MUCH better than in those tedious Fifty Shades books. If you love the True Blood series as much as you adore old school Gothic novels and a nice academic setting (akaporr in Swedish), do make sure to read the Fairwick Chronicles! The first book in the series is called Incubus.

How To Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran)

How To Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran)

If you have yet to experience the laugh-out-loud genius that is Caitlin Moran - what are you waiting for?!

Finally, two books I haven't read yet but definitely would buy if I were at the book fair: Zadie Smith's NW and Paul Auster's Winter Journal. Say hi to Zadie and Paul for me, will you? (You lucky, lucky people!) My relationship with Auster has been a bit rocky lately (his portrayal of women and female sexuality has been rather barf-worthy in recent novels, I'm afraid - it pains me to say it, but there you go), but the excerpt I read from Winter Journal in Granta was very promising indeed. It also seems to me that Auster is on top of his game when he is writing from an autobiographical point of view (The Invention of Solitude). As for Smith, I think she is getting better with each book, which speaks volumes of her talent.

How To Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran)   How To Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

A heartwarming and endearing book about recent OAP Harold Fry, who one day gets a letter from an old friend saying she's dying of cancer in Berick-upon-Tweed. Struck by this he goes down the road to post a letter, and then just continues to walk, thinking that as long as he's walking to see her, she will not die. He has no proper walking shoes, no maps, no compass, no waterproof clothes, just a will to see Queenie Hennesy again, talk to her, and to save her life. This is the story of Harold Fry, of his wife, and son, of Queenie, who is dying, and of all the people Harold meets along his way from the very south of England up to Berwick. One of the most moving books I've read lately! A tad sentimental (mostly in a good way), but well-written enough to evade the obvious traps. I was crying and smiling and laughing my way through most of it, and when finished, it left me with a wonderfully fullfilling feeling. A lovely book!