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Book review: The Martian, by Andy Weir

An extra-terrestrial Robinson Crusoe, Andy Weir’s The Martian is a compelling read.  Mark Watley is left for dead on Mars and his supplies will not keep him alive until his support team, on Earth, return for him. He’s a resourceful fellow and it’s a joy to read his death defying battle for survival. Potato growing has never before been this thrilling.

The Martian, by Andy Weir, is published by Del Ray, £9.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

See our review, written by Gabriel Smith, featured in the Banbury Guardian

The Martian, by Andy Weir

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Book review: Slow Cotswolds, by Caroline Mills

The title says it all: Slow Cotswolds is a methodical, meandering guide through what the author calls “the most beautiful part of the UK.” Caroline Mills is a Cotswolds native, and it shows; you couldn’t ask for a more thorough guide: each town or village gets a brief history, some interesting factoids, a list of local attractions and restaurants, and their contact info. The occasionally wall-to-wall writing could put off the casual reader, but it belies a pleasant and essential guide.

Slow Cotswolds, by Caroline Mills, is published by Bradt Travel Guides, £14.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

Slow Cotswolds, Caroline Mills

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Book review: The Man with his Head in the Clouds, by Richard O. Smith

2014 is, apparently, the year for history-inspired biographies. In The Man with his Head in the Clouds, Richard O. Smith follows the chaotic and brilliant life of James Sadler – pioneer of lighter-than-air flight and mobile steam engines. The book makes you wonder, more than anything, why Sadler is not more of a household name, for his is a life of whimsy, adventure and humour; one that saw the uneducated pastry chef crashing balloons into the Thames and various parts of Yorkshire, sometimes accompanied by a cat, sometimes not.

The author is at once the polar opposite of Sadler and the perfect man to write his story. Smith is a comic writer who contributes to shows such as Radio 4’s The Now Show and Dara O’Briain’s Science Club, and it at first seemed strange that Smith’s story not only competes with Sadler’s, but pulls focus. His attempts to tame his various phobias, from stairs to heights, are surprisingly endearing. Smith aims to complete his trials by attempting a hot air balloon ride that mirrors one of Sadler’s – a neat end to what is otherwise a chaotic and hilarious read.

The Man with his Head in the Clouds, by Richard O. Smith, is published by Signal Books, £14.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

The man with his head in the clouds

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Book review: The Sudden Arrival of Violence, by Malcolm Mackay

If you like your crimes gritty then look no further than Malcolm Mackay’s “The Sudden Arrival of Violence”.  Where better to set a novel about the a hit man trying to escape his past than Glasgow? There’s no dialect problems as the language is clear calm and at times terrifying. Malcolm Mackay’s characters come off the page and inhabit the reader’s life with haunting clarity.

The Sudden Arrival of Violence, by Malcolm Mackay, is published by Mantle, £12.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

sudden arrival of violence

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Book review: The Lie, by Helen Dunmore

We are being deluged with First World War Publications. But  Helen Dunmore’s “ The Lie” stands out as  beautiful and gripping novel.  It’s 1920 and a still young man faces a bleak future, having lost family and friends through the horror of the Great War. He is adrift in the wonderfully captured Cornish landscape and must face the fall of the dice having told one great lie. Dunmore’s prose deserves accolades and hundreds of thousands of readers.

The Lie, by Helen Dunmore, is published by Hutchinson, £14.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

The Lie

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Book review: Prayers for the Stolen, by Jennifer Clement

Jennifer Clement’s “Prayers for the Stolen” is going to be one of the stand out books of 2014. It tells the story of Lady Di , a young Mexican girl who ,like so many, is victim of the brutality of  Mexican Drug Lords’ whims. It is an astonishing book that manages wit and tenderness while describing the harrowing lives of innocent village children. This   Lady Di will become one of the literary characters of the decade.

Prayers for the Stolen, by Jennifer Clement, is published by Hogarth, £12.99. To order a copy, call 01608 641033 or email

Prayers for the Stolen

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Book review: East of Innocence, by David Thorn

Everyone has a picture of an Essex crime novel. But David Thorne’s “East of Innocence” is a fresh take on this famous county. Forget Ross Kemp’s gangs and uncover the real middle class crime of this redbrick, tennis playing London suburb.  “East of Innocence” is the story of a failed lawyer clinging to the crusts of family and friends while battling to do good in a dark place. David Thorne takes you places you may have been to before. But you will never view them in the same way again.

East of Innocence, by David Thorne is published by Corvus, £12.99. To order a copy, call us on 01608 641033 or email

east of innocence

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Book review: On the Trail of Genghis Khan, by Tim Cope

on the trail of Genghis KhanPart historian, part adventurer, Tim Cope has crafted an extraordinary book; in it, the author describes his epic journey from Mongolia to Hungary on horseback, retracing the steps of Genghis khan’s Mongols. 
Along the way, Cope provides a brilliant cross-section of the history behind these wild, boundless places and their inhabitants: people whose nomadic way of life – thousands of years old – was nearly destroyed forever by the Soviets.
With accessible and vivid prose backed up by beautiful photography, On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a personal, relevant and spellbinding book.

Review by Gabriel Smith, Jaffé & Neale.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan is published by Bloomsbury, £20.To order a copy, email us us or call 01608 641033.

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What kind of reader are you?


Readers might share a passion for the wonderful world of books, but everyone has their own reading habit. Here are just a few of our favourites:



The Plodder

Takes a year or more to read a book, getting through a couple of pages at each sitting. Only ever reads in bed.

The Speed Reader

Easily reads a book a day. Skims the boring bits and turns pages so fast, fingers are a blur. Frequently loses track of what’s going on.

The Addict

Reads everything from the Booker prize winner to the back of a cereal packet. Reads whilst walking. Goes to the loo purely for an opportunity to get through another few pages.

The Fickle Reader

Gives up on more books than are finished. Often has three or more books on the go. Reads all genres.

The Loyalist

Finds a favourite author and doggedly works through their entire backlist.

What kind of reader are you?

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Choosing your next read

So you’ve come to the end of a great book, and you’re looking for something to read next. How do you choose? There are so many titles being released every month, it’s hard to know where to start. Here is our advice on where to start:

1. Read more by the same author.

There’s nothing better than discovering a great book by an author you’ve not heard of before, and discovering a huge back catalogue of titles! Even if the book you’ve read isn’t part of a series, most authors stick to the same style of writing, so you know what to expect.

2. Look for something else in the same genre.

Labels can be restrictive, but they’re a useful starting point when you’re looking for something new. Think about the books you already like: are they procedural crime? Thriller? Romance? Biography? Then browse the bookshelves in that section and see what jumps out.

3. Swap with a friend.

Take a gamble and pass your favourite book to a friend, asking for a pot luck read in return. It’s always interesting to see the books others recommend for us, and even if the cover doesn’t take your fancy, you might enjoy it!

4. Ask the internet.

Whether you chat on Twitter or Facebook, or like to read the book reviews in the newspapers, there are thousands of readers on the internet. Ask for suggestions, or lurk in the shadows and see what other people are talking about.

5. Check out the shortlists. And the long ones.

Lists in general are a great place to start when you’re looking for new reads. Check out the Costa Book Awards website, where you can see all previous winners, or the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.  Alternatively, World Book Night titles are chosen with the specific purpose of getting people reading, so they tend to be accessible and exciting.

6. Ask your independent bookseller

A good bookseller isn’t just there to work the till – if that were the case you may as well shop online. The great thing about independent booksellers is that we’ve actually read the books we sell, and we each have our favourites! You can mooch into Jaffé & Neale and waffle to us about the books you’ve liked in the past, the ones that left you cold, and what your reading habits are. As if by magic, we’ll recommend a book we think you’ll love.

We post regular book reviews on our blog, so bookmark the page or subscribe to receive updates via email, and maybe our next recommendation will be right up your street.

How do you choose your books?