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Chart Throb.The ultimate pop quest.
Ninety five thousand hopefuls. Three judges. Just one winner.
And that's Calvin Simms, the genius behind the show.
Calvin always wins because Calvin writes the rules. But this year, as he sits smugly in judgement upon the mingers, clingers and blingers whom he has pre-selected in his carefully scripted 'search' for a star, he has no idea that the rules are changing. The 'real' is about to be put back into 'reality' television and Calvin and his fellow judges (the nation's favourite mum and the other bloke) are about to become ex-factors themselves.
Ben Elton, author of Popcorn and Dead Famous returns to blistering comic satire with a savagely hilarious deconstruction of the world of modern television talent shows.
Chart Throb. One winner. A whole bunch of losers.
A Times bestseller
'Wonderful...I was hooked from the first page. It's the real stuff.' - Michael Frayn
'Deeply affecting' - Guardian
'Superb' - Mail on Sunday
'Barney Norris is a rare and precious talent' - Evening Standard
'There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.'
One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, the stories of all five unwind, drawn together by connection and coincidence into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that perfectly represents the joys and tragedies of small town life.
Barney Norris's second novel, Turning for Home, will be published in January 2018.
'The Sparrow is one of my favourite science fiction novels and it destroyed me in the best way when I read it. It is so beautifully written and the construction of the narrative is masterful.'
Emma Newman, acclaimed author of Planetfall
Set in the 21st century - a number of decades from now - The Sparrow is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and talented linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who - in response to a remarkable radio signal from the depths of space - leads a scientific mission to make first contact with an extraterrestrial culture.
In the true tradition of Jesuit adventurers before him, Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, suffering - even death - but nothing can prepare them for the civilisation they encounter. Or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a devastating end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth horrifically maimed, both physically and spiritually, the mission's sole survivor - only to be blamed for the mission's failure and accused of heinous crimes.
Written in clean, effortless prose and peopled with memorable characters who never lose their humanity or humour, The Sparrow is a powerful, haunting fiction - a tragic but ultimately triumphant novel about the nature of faith, of love and what it means to be 'human' and widely considered to be a classic of the genre.
The land running down to the River Dean has been farmed by the Meredith family for generations. Robin Meredith bought the farm from his father, just before he married his wife Caro and now he and his brother Joe work on the land. But now Caro has died, as much as a mystery to the family as she was when she arrived twenty years ago, and the whole family feels her loss acutely, none more so than her adopted daughter Judy.
Into this unhappy family comes Zoe, Judy's London friend, an outsider with an independent spirit and a disturbing directness.Everyone underestimates Zoe's power as a catalyst for change as the realities behind the seeming idyll of a rural community become ever clearer..
For the last 150 years, Berlin has been a city of myth, dreams and possibility. For Erich, it has been home for over two decades. Yet even after two failed marriages and a stuttering career as a artist, he has little to show for it: a pair of dysfunctional children, an agoraphobic girlfriend who believes she is Marlene Dietrich and a worthy but unprofitable café gallery. With the arrival of his younger brother Max, recovering from a suicide attempt, everything changes. Max has always been the golden one for whom success came easily and yet who never cared. Erich's problem is that he always cared too much.
The brothers are at a crossroads, both emotionally and geographically. It is only together that they can claw their way back to life, perhaps through the life and times of Europe's most gilded city . . .
It is 1847, northern England, and Charles Weightman has been given the unenviable task of overseeing the flooding of the Forge Valley and evicting its lingering inhabitants. Weightman is heartily resented by these locals, and he himself is increasingly unconvinced both of the wisdom of his appointment and of the integrity and motives of the company men who posted him there. He finds some solace, however, in his enigmatic neighbour, Mary Latimer. Caring for her mad sister, Mary is also an outsider, and a companionship develops between the two of them which offers them both some comfort and support in their mutual isolation.
As winter closes steadily in and as the waters begin to rise in the Forge Valley, it becomes increasingly evident that the man-made deluge cannot be avoided; not by the locals desperate to save their homes, nor by the reluctant agent of their destruction, Weightman himself.
In a masterful new novel, Edric captures powerful human emotions with grace and precision. The hauntingly resonant backdrop to this story of David and Goliath marks Edric's dramatic return to historical literary fiction.
Sex. Yes. She remembered that.
Wasn't that the thing that happened somewhere between the talking-and-going-out-to-dinner bit and the sobbing-and-eating-too-many-biscuits bit? Still, Bella was sure she could handle some -preferably before her as yet unopened packet of condoms reached their expiry date. She must be practically a virgin again by now, all sealed over like pierced ears if you don't wear earrings for too long.
But the 'L' word? Uh-huh. No way. She never wanted to hear it again. There were things in her past which needed to be put well away, like the 27 boxes of clutter she'd brought from her old flat. And having changed her job, her town, her entire life - the one thing she wasn't about to change was her mind.
It is the not too distant future. The Gulf Stream has ceased and the climate is plunged into turmoil. England has changed.
Civil Servant Quinn is dispatched to conduct an audit on a remote plot of land up North, designated for a brand new model town. But he swiftly realises how inflammatory his presence is when confronted by those on the sharp end of the new reality: Owen, a suicidal farmer whose livestock has been destroyed after a slew of viruses; Winston, a disillusioned journalist with a gallery of photos that show the truth about the site; and Pollard, the local man of God whose faith is up for sale.
But it is Anna, Quinn's sometime girlfriend, in charge of filling the dead cattle pits, who faces the deepest abyss of all. As the heavens open once again, the mountains of toxic soil that surround the site slowly begin to shift, and Quinn will face the ultimate test of his integrity.
When Nathan McCann discovers a newborn baby boy half buried in the woods, he assumes he's found a tiny dead body. But then the baby moves and in one remarkable moment, Nathan's life is changed forever.
The baby is sent to grow up with his grandmother, but Nathan can't forget him and is compelled to pay her a visit. He asks for one simple promise - that one day she will introduce the boy to Nathan and tell him, 'This is the man who found you in the woods.'
Years pass and Nathan assumes that the old lady has not kept her promise, until one day an angry, troubled boy arrives on his doorstep with a suitcase . . .
Beth Sheridan likes her life the way it is. OK, so her job's a little dull and her social life leaves a lot to be desired. But none of that really matters because Beth is in love with Richard. And one day they will be together. Yes, there are a few teeny obstacles, like the fact that Richard has been Beth's boss for eight years and that he is currently living in Portugal with another woman. But these are just minor details because Beth just knows that one day, the scales will fall from Richard's eyes and he will realise that it is Beth that he has always wanted.
Beth's feisty flatmate Vini doesn't harbour any such illusions and decides that Beth needs to give up on Richard and find love elsewhere. Reluctantly Beth agrees to Vini's (at times extreme) plan of action. Following a puppeteers convention, a speed dating event, a chance encounter in a shopping mall and some pretty flirtatious email banter, Beth is suddenly dealing with three new men. There's the lovely down-to-earth Brad, who she just can't quite pin down, and the charming, millionaire Rupert. She's never actually met Rupert but judging from his emails, he seems to just get her. What's more, there's also sleazy Sean from the office who's suddenly seeming not-so-sleazy ...
And just when things couldn't get more complicated, the gorgeous Richard waltzes back into her life. What's a girl to do?
Craig Bartlett-Taylor was always trying to kill himself, but when he took an overdose at the back of Mrs Kenna's classroom, Richie thought he'd finally succeeded: it was a real-life Worst Case Scenario. But then the new kid, Freddy, steps in and saves Craig's life, and for Richie the lure of this mysterious newcomer is irresistible.
Freddy is like nobody Richie has ever met. Dark, sardonic and dangerous, he gives flight to Richie's imagination, introducing him to a way of life he'd never thought possible. But when a night-time prank goes gut-wrenchingly wrong, Richie begins to question Freddy's motives, and all too soon he finds himself committed to a sinister pact, with inescapably tragic consequences. It's true that Freddy saved a life - but could he take one, too?
With great wit and an unflinching eye for the muddle and drama of adolescence, The Suicide Club is a pitch-perfect portrait of teenage disaffection that sets boy against boy, imagination against reason - and, ultimately, life against death.
Carol has always resented her family - her mother, endlessly knitting, her father and his obsession with next door's encroaching garden hedge, and her brother, ever silent and scheming.
So when she is invited to meet the vibrant, bohemian family next door in their messy house full of books and paintings and empty of rules, Carol soon begins a secret double life over the much-hated garden hedge. Here Carol voices her greatest fantasy and tells her first major lie...that she is adopted.
But on her 16th birthday Carol receives the shock of her life when her wish comes true. And as, years later, Carol frenetically narrates her story from a psychiatric unit, we realise how it affected her and those around her in the darkest of ways...
Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives - Jordan's mother - is accused of the crime.
Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.
Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives: a pageturning literary mystery and an enthralling epic of love and faith.
'Disturbing, compelling, beautifully translated' The Times
'Electric, urgent, luminous ... a coming-of-age with a difference' Daily Mail
Eleven-year-old Djata makes sure he is always home on Sundays. It is the day the State Security came to take his father away, and he believes it will be a Sunday when his father finally comes home again.
While he waits, Djata lives out a life of adventure. He plays wargames in flaming wheat fields; hunts for gold in abandoned claymines; watches porn in a backroom at the cinema, and plays chess with an automaton. But lurking beneath his rebel boyhood, pulling at his heartstrings, is the continued absence of his father. When he finally uncovers the real truth, he risks losing his childhood for ever.
With THE WHITE KING, György Dragomán won the prestigious Sándor Márai prize. An urgent, humorous and melancholy picture of a childhood behind the Iron Curtain it introduces a stunning new voice in contemporary fiction.
Germany, spring 1946. The Nuremberg Trials are underway. Three hundred miles north, in the Rehstadt Institute, a British "Assessment and Evaluation" centre, Alex Foster interrogates a succession of lesser war criminals, exploring their pasts and their crimes, and deciding their futures in the soon-to-be-reborn Germany.
But Rehstadt, a town largely untouched by the war, is a place of old hostilities and burnished hatreds; a place still not entirely at peace; a place where the certainties of the past are still weighed favourably against the deprivations of the present and the vague, uncertain promises of the future.
As spring progresses, and as events in the wider world quicken to their own closely observed conclusion, Alex Foster finds himself at the centre of a conflict involving British, American and German interests; and for the first time in his career he also finds himself compromised - forced into subterfuge and deceit as he struggles to weigh personal convictions and loyalties against the greater political and military good...
Godwin Tudor, a young English photographer recently arrived in Athens, is intrigued by the mysterious and maverick British landowner Edgar Brooke, whose vast estate dominates the island of Pyroxenia.
Whilst visiting Brooke's remote home, Godwin is enchanted by the breathtaking landscape and his host's capricious young daughter Lydia. But all is not as it seems as inadvertently Godwin finds himself drawn into the centre of a dangerous political conspiracy. As events spiral out of control, Godwin does his best to play the diplomat in a terrifying international incident but the consequences prove more devastating than he can imagine.
A maelstrom of romance, political intrigue and life-or-death drama, A Dark Enchantment marks the debut of an exciting new storyteller.
When Vavara, a young Polish orphan, arrives at the glittering, dangerous court of the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg, she is schooled in skills ranging from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent - and listen.
Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for the Empress's heir. Set to spy on her, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit liaisons and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court. But Sophie's destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power?
With his widely acclaimed debut, 28-year-old William Kowalski emerged as one of the most exciting and distinctive new American writers in years. In his hew book, Kowalski once again proves himself an extraordinarily gifted writer as he follows his hero Billy Mann on his search for the mother who deserted him as a baby. Now 20 years old, Billy travels atop his beloved motorcycle to the last known address he has for her ot a side street named Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a journey that will teach him many things about family, friends, love - and death.
Filled with wondrous imagery and lyricism, Somewhere South of Here has a lightness of touch that belies how very much it has to say about life's greatest themes of all.
Thirty-somethings Nick and Laura have been married for 10 years and things aren't going well. She senses her biological clock ticking away and wants children while he doesn't. Not because he doesn't like children but because he feels a child would be just one responsibility too many.
Nick's problem is his parents. He's devoted to them of course, but sometimes even he finds his patience wearing a little thin which in turn brings on the guilt. But they are rather a handful. They're conservative, highly eccentric and increasingly infirm. His Mum's so enormously overweight that her heart's now a bit dicky and she is certainly no longer up to looking after Dad by herself. He's got Parkinson's Disease - not the shaking kind, as Mum's always reminding people - but he's unable to do even the simplest task himself and needs constant care and attention.
Nick knows the time has come to take the matter in hand but things need to be handled carefully. And so he and Laura take them to Malta for what they hope will be a happy final family holiday. Nick thinks his only problem is going to be avoiding Laura's amorous advances but this particular island turns out to be a sun-kissed cupboard with more than its fair share of skeletons...
Tackling a taboo subject with sensitivity, understanding, great affection and good humour, What We Did On Our Holiday is a remarkably uplifting, moving and reassuring novel about a time in our lives when it seems roles are reversed and we find ourselves looking after the very people we'd always assumed would be there to look after us.
At fifty the guarantee runs out...
About to hit the big five-oh, obsessed with sex, cocaine-fuelled and gripped by a crippling fear of death, Professor Michael Cole is finding life a bit of a struggle.
It's finding the time to squeeze everything in, really. He's supposedly writing the definitive biography of his literary hero, John Donne, but barely manages three hundred words a week. His insatiable enthusiasm for his prettier female students might be partly to blame, but they are only young once. And the fact that one of his female colleagues has yet to succumb to his charms is, admittedly, a distraction he could well do without. But throw in a fight for promotion, a wife to lie to and two small children to look after and it's no wonder his blood pressure has reached life-threatening heights. He knows the time has come to act his age. The question is how.
Because Michael Cole is very much a creature of habit and, as we all know, old habits die hard. But it's when he's caught in the act of adultery by his grandmother that Cole truly begins to see the writing on the wall. After all, she's been dead for twenty-five years...
Marrying humour, heart and a singular understanding of the human condition, WHILE THE SUN SHINES is an uproariously funny yet hugely affecting novel about growing-old disgracefully and the price we sometimes have to pay...