The Course of Love by Alain de Botton*
Two young professionals meet, fall in love, get married, start a family... and continue with their deeply ingrained habits of sulking, snapping and avoiding the addressing of issues. Following one couple over the course of their relationship, the book investigates the current ideal of Romantic love, explaining why so many of us believe that if we find the right person everything will be easy, we'll never fight and neither of us will ever find anybody else attractive. Whether you think you buy into those ideals or not, there will almost certainly be something in this book which makes you stop and question your own behaviour; it's a quick read which lacks the narrative structure of a novel or the in depth explanations I was expecting, but which I found really thought provoking nonetheless.
Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood*
When well-to-do Brit, Kitty Hayward, finds herself penniless and alone on Coney Island she befriends a group of carnival "freaks". But something is amiss on the island: Kitty's mother has vanished; people are becoming violently ill; and the animals are dying. I was utterly absorbed by this novel which is unsettling, horrifying, touching and entertaining all at once. I don't want to give too much away but I do want to recommend you get your hands on a copy - I loved it.
Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay by William Boyd
This is one of those books which follows a single person from childhood through to the very last days of her life. To be honest, I almost never like those books because: the interesting bits don't get enough attention; I forget too much over the course of the book; and even the most realistic life starts to sound implausible if you write it all down at once. But this is about a female war photographer and was recommended by a friend so I gave it a go. Despite the icky title. And I enjoyed a lot of it. Amory's a strong, determined woman who finds herself in some interesting situations; I was happy enough to read about her. It did feel like the book was meandering along aimlessly a lot of the time, though - I can't say I ever felt riveted.
Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell*
I was really looking forward to this. The synopsis I was given was that a famous writer fakes her own death to get her life back; 53% of the way into the book there was no sign of this happening. Once I had stopped trying to figure out whether Pandy and SondraBeth were really Candace and Sarah Jessica (I still don't know), it became a complete slog. It's rambling, erratically paced and the 40-something central character has all the self-awareness and emotional savvy of a teen magazine problem page. Very disappointing.
Play The Forest School Way by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll*
A collection of games for children to play outdoors, I fully expected this to duplicate the many other "things for kids to do outside" books I've already read. It didn't, though. The ideas were almost all new to me and a lot of them were much braver than standard (some even involve fire); kids could have a whole lot of fun working their way through these suggestions. They are all aimed at slightly older kids than Matilda - pre-school but not toddler - and, importantly, they are almost all aimed at groups of kids rather than individuals, but if you have a four year old and some like-minded friends, this is packed full of things to do.
*Provided by publisher or agent for review