Ros Ephraim

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

Miss Benson’s Beetle is a tour de force. Quite wonderful with such a startlingly great ending.

Lara by Bernadine Evaristo

“Lara” is a powerful semi-autobiographical novel-in-verse based on Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo’s own childhood and family history. The eponymous Lara is a mixed-race girl raised in Woolwich, a white suburb of London, during the 60s and 70s. Her father, Taiwo, is Nigerian, and her mother, Ellen, is white British. They marry in the 1950s, in spite of fierce opposition from Ellen’s family, and quickly produce eight children in ten years. Lara is their fourth child and we follow her journey from restricted childhood to conflicted early adulthood, and then from London to Nigeria to Brazil as she seeks to understand herself and her ancestry. The novel travels back over 150 years, seven generations and three continents of Lara’s ancestry. It is the story of Irish Catholics leaving generations of rural hardship behind and ascending to a rigid middle class in England; of German immigrants escaping poverty and seeking to build a new life in 19th century London; and of proud Yorubas enslaved in Brazil, free in colonial Nigeria and hopeful in post-war London. “Lara” explores the lives of those who leave one country in search of a better life elsewhere, but who end up struggling to be accepted even as they lay the foundations for their children and future generations. This is a new edition of Bernardine Evaristo’s first novel “Lara”, rewritten and expanded by a third since its first publication in 1997.

Island Song by Madeleine Bunting

In 1940, Helene, young, naive, and recently married, waves goodbye to her husband, who has enlisted in the British army. Her home, Guernsey, is soon invaded by the Germans, leaving her exposed to the hardships of occupation. Forty years later, her daughter, Roz, begins a search for the truth about her father, and stumbles into the secret history of her mother’s life. Written with emotional acuity and passionate intensity, Island Song speaks of the moral complexities of war-time allegiances, the psychological toll of living with the enemy and the messy reality of human relationships in a tightly knit community. As Roz discovers, truth is hard to pin down, and so are the rights and wrongs of those struggling to survive in the most difficult of circumstances.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

Magician Ronnie, his assistant Evie, and the interference of others overshadows the successes at an end-of-the-pier theatre in Brighton, 1959 creating an obsession, an understanding and magic.

The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili. It is a novel of the highest order, a masterpiece – as rewarding a read as Anna Karenina.

This is the story of a Georgian family whose wisdom and wealth lies in a secret and dangerous chocolate recipe. The first story/life is Stasia who lives through the end of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Russian communist state. The eight life stories reflect the rise and glitter for some of the communist state, reaching too into the heart of the pograms that continue to this day.

 Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi,

A beautiful, moving story about a small Japanese cafe that offers its visitors the chance to travel back in time, to find an answer to the question: what would you change if you could go back or can they change …?

Who Am I by Lenny Henry

HOW DO YOU BEAT THE BULLIES AND THE BIGOTS? HERE’S HOW. The heart-breaking, inspirational (and very funny) story of the man who overcame so much, and won a very special place in a nation’s heart.

The Offing by Benjamin Myers (now in paperback). Set in the North East of England in the first summer after the Second World. Robert Appleyard stumbles upon Dulcie and her faithful dog Butler in her ramshackle dwelling, then there’s Romy. I was drawn to reading this novel because I know the area fairly well, my father was a miner’s son from Willington a pit village in Co Durham.

The Secret Starling by Judith Eagle

Clara has lived a life of solitude, homeschooled under her mean uncle’s strict regime …. until now! The day that her uncle abandon’s Clara, leaving her with nothing but a wedge of ‘guilt money’ and a half empty, crumblimg manor house ….


Hilary Jones

I’m currently enjoying reading crime novels: I’ve just started The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, having recently finished Cuckoo’s Calling – the first two books in the Cormoran Strike series. I’ve also been reading The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths, (the second book in the Ruth Galloway series: The Crossing Places was an excellent opener). Thoroughly enjoying both of these series. I have also recently read Grown Ups by Marian Keyes – one of my favourite contemporary authors, whose warmth and wit come through in every chapter. I love The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy …. just gorgeous “A wonderful window into the human heart”.


Alun Ephraim (studying for a PhD at Bangor University)

Currently reading The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili

Recently read Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman (translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler), Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin (translated by Lisa C Hayden), and A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul.

Gwen Hunter  I’ve just listened to Not a Diet Book: Lose Fat. Gain Confidence. Transform Your Life By James Smith

The staight talking PT will give you new perspectives not only on diet & exercise but, will give you the kick up the rear to reassess all aspectsof your life. Full of useful, useable information and dispelling the some of the myths in the fitness industry. A great, eye opening listen/read.

Some of Gwen’s favourite reads: Reaper Man, Nightwatch, The Wee Free Men all by Terry Pratchett, The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake, The Scottish World by Billy Kay, Cops and Robbers by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Natasha Savage (currently studying for an MA at Bangor University)

Recently read Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan and The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst  Dairy Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell and The History Of Bees by Maja Lunde. Both amazing. I’ve recently enjoyed re-reading The Dark Tower:The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King and  Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone by JK Rowling.

Our Classics, History, Biography ….

….and a few more of Our Favourite Books

Ros Ephraim  The Dutch House by Ann Patchett,and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, Lori and Max by Catherine O’Flynn, Lanny by Max Porter, The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan, Desiree by Anne Marie Selinko, Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer, Blood Ties by Ben Crane, The Hidden Horticultralists by Fiona Davison, Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, The Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, The Familiars by Stacey Halls, The The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, Something of His Art by Horatio Clare, The Long Take by Robin Robertson, I Am Dynamite by Sue Prideaux, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, The Box of Delights by John Masefield, The Lion, thee Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis, Craeft by Dr Alex Langlands, Winter by Ali Smith, 1947 by Elisabeth Asbrink, Exit West by Mohsin Hami, The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro; winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature, The Life of Rebecca Jones  by Angharad Price,  Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney, Client Earth by James Thornton and Martin Goodman, The Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore, Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, Persuasion by Jane Austen, January Man by Christopher Somerville, Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis Stempel, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

Hilary Jones How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, any of the Merrily Watkins title by Phil Rickman; The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough; On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin

Heather Millar The Night Circus by by Erin Morgenstern, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, How they Met by David Levithan

Natasha Savage  Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Return of The King by JRR Tolkien, Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.


‘Books are the carriers of civilisation. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.’

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)