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6 Books to Read in 2019

17 January 19 words: Write Lion

These page-turners will give you a cracking start to the year...

A Child Called Happiness
Stephan Collishaw
£3.92, Legend Press
Collishaw has moved from his usual setting of Eastern Europe to Zimbabwe and in doing so has revisited memories to aid the writing of his characters’ past and present. A Child Called Happiness contains two narratives, 115 years apart. In one, we encounter Chief Tafara of the Mazowe village grappling with the arrival of the white man who imposes taxation, leading to abduction and loss of land. In the present, we meet Natalie, a woman from England staying with her aunt and uncle on the same land that once belonged to Tafara. She finds an abandoned child, and this begins a tale of discoveries, ongoing battles, and personal realisations. The interweaving narratives inevitably intersect, bringing people together in the face of conflict. Stephan, whose visit to Zimbabwe aged twenty was a revelation, has told this story with a genuine passion for his characters and their lives. Jade Moore

Onesie
Guy Wilgress Hudson
Wild Boar Books, £5.99
Onesie is the poetry collection from Mansfield-born writer Guy Wilgress Hudson, in which he explains life, love, and the meaning of existence through the lens of a cosy, one-piece pyjama. Wrapped in a noisy Day-Glo pink cover, the collected pieces roll from one psychedelic fresco to the next, never quite slowing down long enough for the gimmick to get old. Complete with explanatory footnotes that provide additional flavour to the poems, and a rambling, semi-conscious introduction, the collection feels less like the collated work of an author and more like a feverish, fast-paced essay written by the giddiest somnambulist tailor to have ever lived. Dream-like, surreal and with a heap of good humour, Onesie makes for a quick, fun read, preferably while snuggled up in a onesie of your own. LP Mills

Create Your Own Happy
Penny Alexander and Becky Goddard-Hill
£6.65, Collins
As any parent will tell you, being a kid is bloody intense. The pressures of school, family life and keeping up with the pre-pubescent Joneses may not sound like much, but they have the potential to cause just as much anxiety and upset as a nine-to-five. To combat this, Create Your Own Happy is packed full of exercises and activities designed to teach bairns the sorts of tricks that they’ll need to maintain an emotionally healthy and mindful life. The activities are fit for most ages, and do a good job of explaining self-care to a younger audience with fluency and charm while avoiding condescension. This kind of book might feel faddy, tapping into the zeitgeist of mental health awareness, but the finished product is a valuable tool in maintaining emotional well-being. Worth picking up for anybody with a nervous little’un. LP Mills

29 Seconds
T.M Logan
£7.99, Zaffre Publishing

T.M. Logan’s second book has all the elements of a popular modern thriller novel, one that could easily be picked up by an A-List director and produced for the big screen. 29 Seconds focuses on a young academic determined to get ahead in the game, despite the sexual advances of her inappropriate boss. After taking up the offer of a dangerous man, the protagonist must come to terms with the ramifications of her deadly decision, no matter how life-changing they may be. Logan doesn’t faff around or overcomplicate things; the simple, single-point-of-view structure makes the story easy to follow, and the short and sweet chapter length is a welcome addition, perfect if you can only squeeze a few minutes reading time or if you’ve got four hours to kill. It’s fast-paced, gripping, and highly entertaining. Emily Thursfield

Postmodern
Richard C. Bower
£7.99, Soulful Group

Styling himself after “Byron, Bukowski, and Kerouac all rolled into one”, Richard C. Bower’s debut collection Postmodern sees the writer exploring his worldly existence through a dreamy lens. Bower’s pieces, which range from his earliest work to more recent poems, feature a style best characterised by its similarity to the Beat-era poets cited in the book’s introduction, with a dark, brooding palette and a romantic, occasionally saccharine tenderness. However, some of the poems seem to be written by an inexperienced hand: there’s a tendency towards long-winded sentences – “a piercing and perpetual stubbornness”, for example – and a reliance on oftentimes hollow-sounding phrases like “fiscal economy/the currency of exchange” that could do with a general sense-check. Having said that, there’s the occasional gem that manages to get the balance between metaphor and abstraction spot-on; Tonight springs to mind, as do Good Night and Mourning. LP Mills

What Buys a King’s Shilling?
Terence Woolley
£3.99, Independent

Leaving his wife and child, Joshua Kerry returns from twenty years’ service in India and finds Nottingham divided by class and civil unrest. Luddites are protesting new machinery, raiding workshops and destroying the frames, and Kerry is divided in his loyalties: his family of framework knitters, and the men in his own regiment who’ve sided with the Luddites. Who will Kerry side with? Who can he trust? Will he be able to return to the peace and safety of his wife and family? Woolley paints a detailed, though somewhat sanitised, picture of regency-era Nottingham, even featuring an aristocrat based loosely on Byron; a nobleman sympathetic to the Luddites. However, the novel firmly follows the stories of the soldiers drafted in to police a Nottingham on the brink of revolution. A lively but long novel, What Buys a King’s Shilling could perhaps have benefited from a more thorough edit. Christy Fearn

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