The Battle for Gullywith by Susan Hill (Bloomsbury. £6.99).
A story that is steeped in ancient mysteries and strange mythology, Susan Hill’s wonderful tale is now out in paperback.
A diverse talent, this was Hill’s first children’s book for more than ten years when it came out in hardback and it was proof indeed that young readers had been missing out.
The story opens with ten-year-old Olly and his family moving from the comfort of their London home to a remote wreck of a place in Scotland.
Of course, it is spooky, damp and the very fabric of the building seems to be alive. And what are the strange stones with their ancient markings that appear to move about and appear in unexpected places? What do they signify and what are their powers? The reader feels for Olly, who has moved away from his comforts and friends to this strange and foreboding place, but when he meets his nearest neighbour, a feisty young girl named KK, she takes him on a journey where he learns more about his new home than he would like.
A tantalising mix of supernatural and the more mundane real life keeps the story believable and accessible. So not only do we have the Polish builders, Olly’s earthy parents and his new school pals at Fiddleup, we have magical books appearing, a castle and lake and the mysterious character of Nonny Dreever, who is critical to the development of the story. Hill is an easy writer to read. Her elegant prose flow easily and her ploy to keep chapters short and sweet mean that readers can get to grips with the story in bite-sized chunks, if necessary – or that it can be read aloud to a willing audience.
The story ends on a knife edge, so watch this space for a sequel.
Other recent releases:
* The Housekeeper And The Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Harvill Secker, priced £11.99).
Japanese author Ogawa has written more than 20 works, but The Housekeeper And The Professor is only her second book to be translated into English. It is so beautifully crafted, you’re left wondering why there aren’t more of her stories available here.
The titular lonely maths professor had an accident that left him with an 80-minute short-term memory, so each morning he meets his housekeeper again as if for the first time.
Living in a humble cottage, he spends hours locked in his own thoughts about numbers, while she learns to leave him be and quietly cleans around him.
When the professor discovers the housekeeper has a young son, he insists the boy join them each day. While the professor teaches the housekeeper and her son about his world of numbers, he slowly opens up and the three find a family in each other.
You don’t need to love or even understand maths to enjoy Ogawa’s work. She carefully weaves equations into the housekeeper’s narrative among delicate depictions of the old man and a curious young boy.
* 50 Ways To Find A Lover by Lucy-Anne Holmes (Pan, £6.99).
Sarah Sergeant is bubbly, attractive and loved by her friends; she is also single and spends an indecent amount of time in her pyjamas crying.
Fast approaching 30, her loving friends and family decide to kick-start her love life and encourage her to embark on a hilarious dating adventure to explore 50 different ways to find a man.
Sarah is introduced as a modern Bridget Jones, only she has left the diary behind and is documenting the experience on an internet blog. However, she is not merely a reproduction of the well-known spinster aimed at a new, more technology aware audience.
Despite the similar flaws and insecurities, author Lucy-Anne Holmes has drawn on her own blogging experience to create a refreshing and entertaining character that readers can easily relate to and support in her escapades.
A fast-paced, smart and very funny read, but not suitable for those adverse to strong expletives or embarrassing situations.
* House of Cards: How Wall Street’s gamblers broke capitalism by William D. Cohan (Allen Lane, £25)
Bear Stearns was the fifth largest investment bank in America in March 2008. Before, in a matter of weeks, it was reduced to a crumbling wreck.
Investors lost billions; thousands of employees their jobs, as market confidence in the bank collapsed at a terrifying speed and the credit crunch stranglehold became fatal.
Stearns was eventually forced into a shotgun wedding with another bank after the US Government stepped in to conduct the ceremony.
Cohan’s book tells the terrifying story of this bank’s destruction and charts how the Masters of the Universe saw their personal fortunes collapse.