Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

We are initially thrown into the murky world of the squalor of Dickensian London complete with outsize characters and even a scruffy young boy, Jaffy, as the star of the story. But before long though we embark on an exciting adventure on the high seas hunting whales and capturing a 'dragon' to be shipped to London. Abruptly though the pace changes as things don't go to plan and in the darkening mood we fear for the life of our hero.

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Whichbook user recommendations

We have just made two novels recommended by Whichbook users live on whichbook.net – proof that we do welcome (and act upon) your suggestions. Marvellous Hairy by Mark A Raynor was recommended by cover illustrator, Max Tundra and H10N1 was suggested by the author, Marsha Cornelius. You can find both these titles by clicking on the Authors tab on the Whichbook homepage and finding each author by surname. If you have a suggestion yourself – please get in touch via the Contact page on the website. Just to remind you - we can only consider novels and poetry for Whichbook.

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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Fasten your seatbelts! This is cool, funny and tragic and you need to keep your wits about you. The rollercoaster lives of Egan's characters whiz forward and back in time and place, taking in African safaris and Neapolitan culture, genocidal generals and the whole US sex, drugs and rock-and-roll scene. Ambitious and surprising.

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Finch by Jeff Vandermeer

Immerse yourself in this Noirest of steampunk if you dare . In a city occupied by a fungal race, many are forced to collaborate. Finch is a reluctant detective who uncovers much more than who killed whom. His world is claustrophobic, dark and oppressive and you need a strong stomach to read on. But the page-turning plot, the vividness of the setting and the beauty of the elliptical writing make it compelling.

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Here’s an interesting concept: Rose has a unique ability – she can taste human emotions by eating cooked food. At first the story seemed a little lacklustre – bit like the cake without the lemon. But everything went up a gear with Rose’s father’s revelation – any negativity on my part was brushed aside and I was hooked. Although if anyone can work out what happened to her brother, please let me know ….

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The Convent by Panos Karnezis

Just what sort of a miracle is the baby found outside a remote Spanish convent? One that allows for a gentle but inexorable examination of belief, passion, ambition, bigotry, kindness and diplomacy and other, all too human, traits. The Convent is a remarkable novel but not, perhaps, for those that would prefer doctrine to remain accepted rather than examined. Would make a great reading group title.

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