The Swish of the Curtain - Pamela Brown


With a sudden burst of nostalgia for this childhood favourite, I ordered the new edition from the library. And, while it's not exactly the epic tale of theatre folk I remembered, it's still a delightful, perceptive and engaging account of a group of overachieving children (mostly aged 13+ but teenagers had not yet been invented). It's even more extraordinary for having been written by a 14 year old, evidently an overachiever herself.

The Music Shop - Rachel Joyce


Unlike Joyce's other books, this is sad but not tragic, and [spoiler] even has a happy, even cheesy, ending, which is unexpected from this author. It's also so slow, with such tedious characters, that I nearly gave up several times. Well-written, of course, but unremarkable.

Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz


Another ingenious, slightly postmodern and very English novel from the prolific Horowitz. It was clever, and pleasing from my point of view to have an editor act as detective, but somehow ultimately unsatisfying.

A Convenient Marriage - Georgette Heyer


More of the same - fine, fun fiction. These modern covers are fabulous.

False Colours - Georgette Heyer


Some amusing characters but ultimately unmemorable.

A Face like Glass - Frances Hardinge


A solid Young Adult fantasy adventure with some imaginative and compelling ideas. It loses its way a little in the middle, and could have done with a more robust copy edit, but generally this seems to be an author to seek out for post-Potter tweens.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman


This is the Current Big Thing so, of course, I really wanted to hate it and, indeed, the narrator is incredibly irritating at first. But she mellows (or, more likely, the author forgets to make her quite as annoying) and I enjoyed the redemptive story despite myself. I also liked Glaswegian setting, a surprisingly rare location for bestselling novels.

When the Floods Came - Clare Morrall


As post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels go, this was a lot of fun. A well-imagined situation, with interesting characters. Best not to think about the coincidences and plot holes too much.

The Word is Murder - Anthony Horowitz


In a slightly postmodern twist on the standard murder mystery, the author casts himself in the bumbling Watson or Hastings role to the inscrutable detective. It works well as a mix of autobiography and fiction, and is cleverly plotted enough to provide enough false leads for a satisfying denouement.

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire - John August


John August has produced one of the best structured podcasts I've heard (and I've heard a lot of podcasts) in 'Launch', about the process of writing and publishing this book. He also has a pleasantly engaging and genuine manner. He's so keen and proactive that he may actually read this (unlikely, I know!) which makes it harder than usual to say that this could have been so much better. More focus on the plot, less unnecessary dialogue, more character development, less nostalgic ropecraft. It was just kind of... vague, more like the first third of a longer novel than the self-contained Book 1 in a trilogy. OK, I'm not the target audience so I'll pass it to my daughter and see what she thinks.

Faro's Daughter - Georgette Heyer


Another lovely Georgette Heyer but, while the Regency world was again well created, this isn't a patch on Regency Buck. So much irrational behaviour, and so few empathetic characters. Although I suppose it's hard to create any empathy for an early 19th century lord.

The Children Act - Ian McEwan


Despite having two copies of 'Atonement', I've never read any Ian McEwan books before. I'm not sure I'll read any more in a hurry as this seemed to have little point as a novel. Yes, it raises some questions about the nature of law and the challenges of upholding it, but so does the A-Level textbook I've just edited, and that has pictures.

Once Upon a Time in the North - Philip Pullman


A mini-tale of the wonderful Lee Scoresby and Hester, presumably to give them a little life before their memorable deaths. This being Pullman, it's exquisitely written and produced, but ultimately a little too much is going on in the background to give it a relevant focus.

The Executioner of St Paul's - Susanna Gregory


I wouldn't normally start reading a series on the twelfth book but this seemed intriguing and accessible when I flicked through it at the library. And it was, from a historical point of view, sending me off to find out more about 1665 London. And it didn't matter that I'd not read the books that came before because the main character had no personality, actually a relief after the soapy Elly Griffiths stories. Rather a confusing array of suspects but unusual and diverting, if ultimately forgettable.