Book reviews: Bitter Orange proves Claire Fuller is a dazzling storyteller
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is published in hardback by Fig Tree, priced £9.99 (ebook £9.99)
LONELY singleton Frances and glamorous couple Peter and Cara are thrown together at an abandoned country estate in Hampshire, where Peter is to survey the mansion's architectural features and Frances those of the gardens for its absent American owner. In the bewitching atmosphere of Lyntons, little work gets done, however, as the unlikely trio picnic among the ruins, drain a forgotten wine cellar and rifle through the house's hidden treasures. It is clear from the outset that something terrible will happen and Claire Fuller's third novel is full of dark foreboding, though the exact events are deftly concealed until the ending. Like her character Cara, the author is a dazzling storyteller, and the otherworldly charm of the setting is alluringly evoked, but in this tale trouble lies not far below the sheen of a golden exterior.
The Pebbles On The Beach: A Spotter's Guide by Clarence Ellis is published in paperback by Faber & Faber, priced £9.99 (ebook £7.19)
THE perfect companion to long hot summer days by the sea, this updated edition of Clarence Ellis's The Pebbles On The Beach comes along at just the right time. First published in 1954, it now includes a foreword by Robert Macfarlane and a beautifully illustrated guide to identifying the most common pebbles. Ellis himself was an avid pebble collector, and his enthusiasm for the subject is what makes this more than just a dry geology lesson. Along with details on the processes that shape pebbles, there are sections on where to find the best stones – because "mediocrity in pebbles is insufferable" – as well as tips for the more serious collector, including how best to arrange your pebble collection. The book ends with a chapter on the benefits of pebble-hunting, although at that point you won't need convincing that it can make a fascinating hobby for all the family.
The Girl With The Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis is published in paperback by Bloomsbury Children's Books, priced £6.99 (ebook £5.63)
STEPHANIE Burgis has found a winning formula by combining fantasy, girl-power and chocolate – which earned her first instalment, The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart, lots of fans, and has proved just as endearing in her sequel, The Girl With The Dragon Heart. It tells the story of Silke, the witty best friend of dragon-turned-girl Aventurine, who is the star of the first book. After their parents disappeared years ago, Silke and her brother Dieter have been left fending for themselves. Silke's way with words has earned her a job at a renowned chocolate shop – a skill that gets her noticed by the Crown Princess, who enlists her for a dangerous mission to spy on the mysterious royal fairy family from Elfenwald. After a strong start, the plot loses its way a little before returning with a powerful ending that will see Silke become a new favourite heroine among middle-grade readers.