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2021 Preview - Exciting New Books on the Horizon

We're always on the look-out for the best new books to share with you and shout about so December is a busy time for us as we look forward to the brilliant upcoming releases of 2021. Scroll through our preview at your leisure to see what books we're beside ourselves about. 

And oh my, there’s a lot to shout about, including must-read thrillers like Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner, The Castaways by Lucy Clarke and Trust by one of our faves Chris Hammer. There are plenty of new books that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird is speculative fiction at it's best and Bear Head by Adrian Tchaikovsky is an absolute whammy of a read so if sci-fi is your bag, keep an eye out for these fabulous novels.

If feel-good fiction is your thing, then our Reviews Editor Liz Robinson has your back: "If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here" with Keith Stuart's The Frequency of Us which Liz calls a "mesmerising read full of love and hope". And of course we just have to mention Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray: "a huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut".

Perhaps you're looking for something historical? NICK by Michael Farris Smith takes another look at Nick Carraway in times before The Great Gatsby. While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart is a beautiful and compelling debut full of love and hope during and after the Second World War. And let's not forget Last Flight to Stalingrad a recently awarded Star Book which Liz called an "intelligent, intricately plotted, and fabulously readable foray into The Second World War from a German perspective."

Liz cannot stop talking about the recently-read Mrs Death Misses Death that she has said: “It’s so different, so powerful, so fabulous that I’m experiencing reading elation after finishing it”. It's firmly on the rest of the team's to-be-read piles!

Our Content Manager, Charlotte Walker is also very excited to read Beth O'Leary's The Road Trip after reading and loving the CWIP shortlisted debut The Flatshare and her follow up The Switch this year.

As well as the exciting news of releases from authors we know and love, there's also plenty of new authors on their way to us in 2021. Girl A by Abigail Dean is an intensely powerful book that's coming to bookshelves near you in January, and We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan, which our Editorial Expert Joanne Owen called an "eye-opening and heart-wrenching, always elegant and absorbing" emotionally rich read - also on the way in January.

At the top of the list are books we've already read and adored despite them not being published until 2021. Do look out for these as they are all beauties. Further down, we've shared some titles that are firmly on the team's to-be-read pile and we can't wait to dive in to them. Keep your eyes peeled as the months go by for our highly recommended selected titles.

2021 is going to be a storming year for books so keep reading!

We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

Author: Hafsa Zayyan Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

Often eye-opening and heart-wrenching, always elegant and absorbing, Hafsa Zayyan’s We Are All Birds of Uganda is an outstanding debut that crosses continents, cultures and generations. Remarkable in its exploration of identity, family bonds, racism, colourism and the phenomenon of twice migration through characters who’ve moved from South Asia, to East Africa, to Europe, I read Sameer’s story in one sitting, utterly engrossed by his awakening from a state of unrest to finding new purpose as he redefines the nature of success. At 26, Leicester-born Cambridge graduate Sameer is flying high as a lawyer in London, and on track to fast track it to partner when he’s offered a post in Singapore. Life seems sweet, except for fearing what his parents will think of the move, the “filling a quota” remark made by a colleague, and a bullying new boss who excludes him from a social event because “you lot don’t drink”. Then comes news that one of his best friends since childhood has been left in a coma after a vicious attack, and Sameer begins to question everything - who he is, what he’s doing with his life, where he wants to be. Skipping back to 1945, we follow another Asian Ugandan voice via Hasan’s heartfelt letters to his deceased first wife. Through these we see colonialism through Hasan’s eyes. We read how the British “have crept up on us, unwittingly seeped through our skin and into our bones, and settled comfortably inside each of us like veins”, how they excluded Hasan from their Sports Club, and then comes the rise of anti-colonialism, a push for Ugandan independence, hostility towards and legislation against Asian Ugandans: “We are not natives and we are not Europeans.” Back in Sameer’s narrative, wealthy Mr Shah, a family friend, speaks of the betrayal of “being turfed out of the country in which you were born, the only country you’ve ever known, like you’re no one, like you’re nothing.” With his move to Singapore looming, Sameer decides to visit Mr Shah in Uganda to find out more about his family history, with monumental effects. Emotionally rich and deeply resonant, it’s no wonder this gem co-won the inaugural Merky Books New Writers' Prize. The LoveReading LitFest invited Hafsa Zayyan to the festival to talk about We Are All Birds of Uganda. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Hafsa in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone is blown away by this stunning debut. Check out a preview of the event here  

Star Books
While Paris Slept

While Paris Slept

Author: Ruth Druart Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/03/2021

A truly beautiful and powerful debut, it is haunted with exquisite emotion, but that emotion comes with an uplifting feeling of hope. Towards the end of the Second World War two people meet on a platform next to a train bound for Auschwitz, the exchange that takes place between them will have a bearing on their lives forever more. I entered this novel thinking I knew what to expect, I left having experienced an entirely unexpected read. Set in several time frames, While Paris Slept opens a sequence of doors as new aspects of the story emerge and converge. Each chapter is headed by one of the characters. Ruth Druart uses different points of view to great effect, ensuring each chapter took hold of my thoughts and retained my focus. I invested in each of the characters, the empathy on display here left the page and entered my heart. I would describe this as a positively emotional read, yes it features man’s inhumanity to man, but the intimacy of this particular story lies in a different direction. While Paris Slept is an intriguing, compelling story full of love and hope. It enters our LoveReading Star Books and comes with a highly recommended seal of approval. 

Star Books
Bear Head

Bear Head

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

An absolute whammy of a read, and a must for anyone who enjoys a smart, fast-paced, hugely entertaining blast of speculative fiction. When Jimmy agrees to smuggle data in his headspace, he really didn’t expect it to start talking to him. Honey the bioform bear needs to make contact with an entity on Mars, and Jimmy finds himself an unwitting accessory. While you could definitely read this as a standalone, I really do recommend reading Dogs of War, in which Honey also appears, as an introduction to this fabulous bioform world. Arthur C Clarke Award winning Adrian Tchaikovsky has successfully combined weighty, thought-provoking moments, with a Trump-like baddie, full-on action and smirky humour. And oh, how I smirked, Jimmy acts as a beautifully timed foil to the powerfully intense Honey. This is one of those books where you can just throw yourself and abandon yourself to a fabulous story, knowing you will be entertained throughout. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Bear Head comes with a colossal thumbs up from me. 

Star Books
The End of Men

The End of Men

Author: Christina Sweeney-Baird Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories. The LoveReading LitFest invited Christina to the festival to talk about The End of Men.   You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Christina in conversation with  and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here

Star Books
Mrs Death Misses Death

Mrs Death Misses Death

Author: Salena Godden Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/01/2021

February 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Excuse me while I rave about this book, it’s so different, so powerful, so fabulous that I’m experiencing reading elation after finishing it. When Wolf Willeford meets Mrs Death, he becomes her scribe and travels with her to view humanity as it circulates from life to death. A renowned performance poet, this is Salena Godden’s debut novel. In 2018 a BBC Radio 4 documentary was broadcast as it followed the novel as it was written over twelve months. Containing poetry, chants, commentary, recollections, moments in time, and all within the most wonderful story, this is a recognisable yet totally unique take on death. Her words entered my thoughts and made me see, search, examine, they entered my heart and made me feel. Small intimate and intricate moments sit alongside huge stories that are all linked by death. My feelings span from humour to heartbreak, from darkness to light, and all the while the story flows with strength and beauty. There may well be some emotionally difficult paths to explore along the way, and while uncomfortable reading in places this is as much about life, love, and hope as it is death. This is a reading experience I won’t forget and I just had to choose it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month and of course a LoveReading Star Book. Celebrating life and opening up questions on how we view death, Mrs Death Misses Death is a wake-up call of a book that I will be recommending far and wide.

Star Books
The Frequency of Us

The Frequency of Us

Author: Keith Stuart Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/03/2021

If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.  

Star Books
Three's A Crowd

Three's A Crowd

Author: Simon Booker Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/08/2021

A thoroughly modern, wonderfully readable and clever romantic comedy that acts as a perfect pick-me-up. Tom, Dick, and Harry (well actually it’s Tom, Richard, and Harriet but who could resist!) find themselves in the most awkward of situations when they start dating. Estranged father and son Tom and Richard don’t share the same surname and when Harriet decides to date them both, by the time they realise, love has already worked its magic. I was hooked from the very first sentence, an entertaining web is woven as each distinct voice tells their own side of the story. The age range of characters is handled beautifully and there are a few knotty intrigues to unravel along the way. Simon Brooker writes with a truly witty pen, I smiled, laughed, and even exclaimed out loud. There are also sweet notes, canny moments, and a penetrating blast of reality. I genuinely had no idea where this diverting tale was going and I just want to applaud the ending, for me it was perfectly placed. Three’s A Crowd is a romantic comedy with bite, it’s a glorious blend of sweet and sharp, and sits very nicely in our LoveReading Star Books and as a Liz Pick of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Trust

Trust

Author: Chris Hammer Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

A smart, fast-moving, and riveting crime thriller, make sure you set aside plenty of reading time as I didn’t want to put Trust down. Martin races to help girlfriend Mandy after checking his voicemail and hearing her scream before the call cuts off. Trust is the third in the Martin Scarsden series, the first and Chris Hammer’s debut Scrublands won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy New Blood Dagger in 2019. So far, each book has seen a different setting, starting in the Australian interior followed by a small coastal town with Silver, and now we enter Sydney. While a couple of previous characters crop up, Martin and Mandy are the main draw. You could potentially head straight into this and read it successfully as a standalone but for the best experience I really do recommend that you start with Scrublands. I feel as though a lot of unanswered questions from Martin and Mandy’s past are thoroughly and successfully covered here. The author’s background as a journalist can be felt as the corruption of power and privilege is examined in the most punchy way. This is a series you can really get your teeth into, intelligent and challenging, yet as readable as can be, I really do hope there is more to come. Trust is a fabulously suspense filled, powerful and pacy read that we just had to include as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Author: Katherine Faulkner Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

This smart psychological thriller slowly and intricately builds layers of tension into a wealthy, modern family setting. Alone at antenatal class after being let down by her family, Helen finds herself talking to Rachel. Rachel, unsettling, overly enthusiastic and inquisitive, begins to push her way into Helen’s life learning every little family secret. This is Katherine Faulkner’s debut, she is an award-winning journalist and Joint Head of News at The Times. The first few pages opened up ‘afterwards’, setting the tone of the story and ensuring that knowledge stayed with me throughout. Returning to ‘before’, I discovered a labyrinthine of snippets and tidbits of information as I read. They caught at the edge of my awareness, digging, pointing, creating suspense. I hovered on the edge of relationships, viewing rather than immersing myself in particular personalities. This lead to me wondering and questioning, investing in the storyline. On occasion I was confident that I knew what was happening, but I changed my mind several times! Even if you find that you are right, there are still surprises along the way. This book really does serve as a reminder that from the outside everything can appear perfect, but of course the inside can be an entirely different place. Encouraging you to stay alert and pay attention to the smallest of details, Greenwich Park is an intelligent and stimulating slow-burner of a read.

Debut Books of the Month
Everything is Beautiful

Everything is Beautiful

Author: Eleanor Ray Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

A huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut and LoveReading Star Book that warmed my heart and made me smile. Amy Ashton sees beauty in things most people would throw away, her house is now overflowing with the items she has collected and bordering on dangerous. When she discovers a mystery that needs to be unravelled, she begins to confront her past. We meet a withdrawn and lonely Amy in the present, and then a second time frame joins the story, taking us back to 1998. Eleanor Ray releases information from the past with perfect timing, each new moment explaining and allowing access to Amy in the present. As each memory highlights a decision, my thoughts expanded and Amy began to take up residence in my heart. The surrounding characters are gorgeous (in particular Charles and his JCBs), and bring an energy that flows through the pages towards Amy. Radiating empathy and emotion Everything Is Beautiful is just what the world needs to take us forward into 2021. The LoveReading LitFest invited Eleanor Ray to the festival to talk about this wonderful debut Everything is Beautiful.   You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Eleanor in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out all about why you should read this stunning debut.

Star Books
Fragile

Fragile

Author: Sarah Hilary Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/06/2021

Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.

Star Books
Girl A

Girl A

Author: Abigail Dean Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

The book world has been excited about this debut for some time, and for good reason as it is such an intensely powerful and emotional read. Lex Gracie is Girl A, the girl who escaped the House of Horrors, as an adult she now has to confront the past all over again. This is a book that deserves your time, don’t rush, even though it is so good it calls for you to race through. Lex narrates, her clear concise words transferred to my thoughts with piercing clarity. Abigail Dean writes with a devastatingly eloquent pen, she examines the cause and effect of power, abuse, and trauma. When a book alters the patterns of your thoughts, if only for a short time, it deserves to be read, to be felt, even if those feelings are harrowing at times. When I reached the end, I slowed, stopped, and after a few moments returned to the last few chapters to read and again allow the words to enter and become fully absorbed in my heart. I’m not sure if everyone will follow the same fork in the path that I took as I read, and that is what makes this book so special, the reader will make their own decision as to where they step with Lex. A LoveReading Star Book, Girl A is challenging, thought-provoking and above all a beautifully compelling read. 

Star Books
The Castaways

The Castaways

Author: Lucy Clarke Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/03/2021

Oh my word, as I sank into the pages of this brilliantly addictive psychological thriller I actually forgot that I was reviewing and just read for pure pleasure. Sisters Lori and Erin are travelling to a remote part of Fiji for a holiday, after an argument before the final inter-island flight, only one leaves on the small plane, which then goes missing. Lucy Clarke takes psychological thrillers to a whole new level. I adored You Let Me In, and The Castaways now ensures she is a must-read author for me. Set in two time frames, as the story progresses ‘Then’ inches, then hurtles towards ‘Now’. Each change in time frame felt like a hammer blow before I was immediately gathered up in the story again. The most exquisite tension builds and thrums with increasing intensity. The release of information is so clever, almost teasing, and I balanced on a razor sharp wire of awareness. I felt a deep connection with the sisters, their relationship was wonderfully complex yet tangible. If you love intelligent, yet hugely entertaining psychological thrillers, then put this to the top of your list. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, The Castaways really is the most compulsive, enthralling and beautifully written tale, it’s a 2021 sure-fire winner. The LoveReading LitFest invited Lucy Clarke to the festival to talk about The Castaways. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Lucy in conversation with Paul Blezard and watch them talking all about this absolute belter of a psychological thriller. You won't be disappointed!   Check out a preview of the event here    

Star Books
NICK

NICK

Author: Michael Farris Smith Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/02/2021

Who was Nick Carraway before he stepped into the world of The Great Gatsby? Michael Farris Smith sets out to explore these questions in Nick, a darkly absorbing, brilliantly accomplished literary undertaking provoked by the author’s complex relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. With themes of isolation and dislocated identity at its heart, this masterful novel opens in Paris when Nick leaves his lover to return to the horrors of war, ever conscious of death. Imagining his own demise, he wonders, “Who would be there to mourn?... Did anyone truly love him and did he love anyone?” Nick is also constantly consumed by an impulse to escape, juxtaposed with wondering what it is “know your place in the world”. Unable to find his lover when the war is over, and unable to bring himself to return to the family home, he transports himself to Frenchtown, New Orleans, with its drinking dens, whorehouses and vicious vendettas. The world over seems to be filled with folk floundering, people desperate to escape or obliterate their tattered lives, and time and time again Nick’s life entwines with fellow broken, lost souls. This curious magnetism is pertinently expressed by sick bartender Judah when he says, “if there’s one thing the lost are able to recognise it is the others who are just as wounded and wandering.” Ending on a radiant dawn epiphany scene, with Nick on the verge of moving East, this left me longing to re-visit The Great Gatsby, and keen to read the rest of Farris Smith’s novels.

Star Books
The Wolf Den

The Wolf Den

Author: Elodie Harper Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/05/2021

Set in AD 74, Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den tells the enthralling tale of Amara, a prostitute enslaved to Pompeii’s lupanar brothel. Serving a rich feast of historic atmosphere with all the pace of popular drama, fans of spicy historic fiction will be left longing to devour the second course of this trilogy - think TV show Harlots set in ancient Pompeii. Educated doctor’s daughter Amara once lived free, but the poverty that came in the wake of her father’s death led to enslavement to the Wolf Den brothel, where her cell is adorned with a picture of “a woman being taken from behind” and a terracotta lamp “modelled in the shape of a penis” (the real-life lupanar brothel is famed for its erotic frescos). By day, the she-wolves visit the women’s baths and stalk the streets to draw business to the Den. By night, “the brothel passes like a scene from Hades: the endless procession of drunken men, the smoke, the soot, angry shouting,” until Amara lies in her cell, “unable to sleep, suffocated by rage”. When fellow she-wolf Victoria says how lucky they are, Amara’s retort is characteristically sharp: “Here we all are…Four penniless slaves sucking off idiots for bread and olives. What a life.” And a life she refuses to settle for when “the desire to escape takes hold, its roots digging deep under her skin, breaking her apart.” Harper’s style is exhilaratingly direct, with images lingering long in the mind’s eye. You smell the oil lamps and temple incense, taste sticky figs, feel physical blows, and the dialogue packs powerful punch too. It’s a vivacious piece of work, and all underpinned by a woman’s longing for freedom.

Audiobooks of the Month
Victoria Park

Victoria Park

Author: Gemma Reeves Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Our January 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A complete joy of a debut, bright, observational and incredibly intimate, this book has lodged itself in my heart. Take twelve independent yet linked stories over twelve months about people who are connected to a London park community. The focus changes with each month, allowing individual stories to shine, yet they add up to a vibrantly wonderful whole. Gemma Reeves is beautifully eloquent, she has the ability with a few words, to give you admittance to someone’s soul. While she creates penetrating access to each person, there isn’t always a conclusion, instead life carries on, suggesting potential pathways. I fell in love with this powerfully blended infusion of life. The variety of characters, in age, personality, and beliefs crackle with energy. A new character might wander in for a few moments and then star in the next tale. Some connections may be obvious and linger, others lightly touch before moving on. The stories themselves tug at heartstrings and encourage thoughts to roam, the ending is simply divine and brought tears to my eyes. Thought-provoking and emotionally intelligent, Victoria Park slips with glorious ease onto our LoveReading Star Books list and is a Liz Pick of the Month, it really is very special indeed.

Star Books
Last Flight to Stalingrad

Last Flight to Stalingrad

Author: Graham Hurley Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

An intelligent, intricately plotted, and fabulously readable foray into The Second World War from a German perspective. Three men, Werner Nehmann from the Ministry of Propaganda, Georg Messner aide to Generaloberst Richthofen, and Wilhelm Schultz from the Military Intelligence Service, find themselves in the thick of the German attempt to capture Stalingrad. This is the fifth book in Graham Hurley’s Spoils of War series, featuring historical and fictional characters from different countries. Here the focus is Germany and we delve into the minds of such historical figures as Goebbels and Richthofen. It is however, the three fictional characters, in particular Werner, who take centre stage. In the main the story remains at a distance from direct fighting, nonetheless I was left in no doubt as to the reality of conflict. The mysteries of propaganda and intelligence wield their shadowy magic. This an intimate story set on a huge scale, the personal stories of the characters really highlights the struggle of the individual during war. Last Flight to Stalingrad is a dynamic, commanding slice of historical fiction that I highly recommend as one of our LoveReading Star Books.

Star Books
Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

Author: Katie Allen Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

Quirky yet insightful, bright yet wistful, amusing yet emotional… this is one heck of a thought-provoking and stimulating debut. When Rachel is told ‘everything happens for a reason’ after her son Luke is stillborn, she begins to search for proof, certain she is to blame. This is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, instead it straddles several, and actually stands quite rightly on its own two feet. Author Katie Allen is a journalist, and this story is deeply personal and painful to her, she said on twitter that after her baby died one person texted back: “everything happens for a reason”, and she had grappled with that ever since. Grief is a lonely and isolating place to be, yet this novel, while eye-opening, is also inclusive and encouraging. Letting her feelings out in a series of emails, Rachel is incredibly engaging, she took my hand and welcomed me into the pages. I quite honestly had no idea where this book was going to to take me, I didn’t try to guess and remained firmly in the the presence of the words as they entered my thoughts. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book, Everything Happens for a Reason is full of contradictions that fuse into the most surprising, moving, and beautiful novel.  

Star Books
The Coffinmaker's Garden

The Coffinmaker's Garden

Author: Stuart MacBride Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Outrageously good reading entertainment awaits in this punchy, smirky, dark crime thriller set in Scotland. Ex-DI Ash Henderson from the Lateral Investigative and Review Unit finds himself working two cases after human remains are found in a garden that is collapsing into the sea. Ash has previously been central to two of the Oldcastle Novels by Stuart MacBride, do you need to have read the other Ash Henderson thrillers first? I really think you do, as though it is possible to read The Coffinmaker’s Garden as a standalone, you will miss out if you don’t know the back story. I threw all my thoughts and knowledge out of the window as I read and just enjoyed the spunky characters and blood-tingling plot. Spinning between the two investigations kept my armchair-sleuth thoughts from settling too deeply. Instead I rode the wave, fell for the repartee and characters, and found my eyebrows more than once shooting skywards. A round of applause to Stuart MacBride for ensuring a balance between the horror and tragedy of the storyline with the humour that peppers the pages (the inventive insults are hugely diverting). The Coffinmaker’s Garden played out in gloriously vivid colour in my mind, atmospheric and gripping, this is a corker of a read and comes with the LoveReading Star Book stamp of approval.

Star Books
On the Bright Side

On the Bright Side

Author: Nell Carter Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

A simply gorgeous and emotional tale about love and all the different forms it can take. Jack and Clare have the chance to learn that leaving love behind can potentially allow it back into your heart. Just one thing to note, while this is a relationship tale, it comes with an edge so be prepared for some thought-provoking themes. The characters in On The Bright Side make mistakes, find themselves on unexpected paths as thoughts alter and grow, and really put my feelings through the wringer! Jack, Clare, and Grace entered so fully into my heart that I truly cared about them, while certain other characters got so far into my head, that they evoked other strong feelings! I love how Nell Carter writes, she has the ability to encourage feelings to falter, fall, and soar, all while expressing herself with beautiful compassion. She has the ability to encourage feelings to falter, fall, and soar, all while writing with beautiful compassion. Plus she has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of what it is to be human. On the Bright Side is a truly lovely novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend as a Liz Pick of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Favour

The Favour

Author: Laura Vaughan Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/03/2021

This is a book that will keep you wonderfully off balance, it feels as though you are being trusted with an unsettling and dangerous secret. When Ada Howell turns 18 her wealthy godmother presents her with a gift that could allow her access to the world she she craves. The shocking aftermath of a sudden death appears to pave the way for her dreams, but the route she takes comes at a cost. Ada narrates, opening a disquieting window to her world and looking at herself without sentimentality. I felt that any feelings of compassion I had for Ada would have been slapped away and yet they remained. The nostalgic recollections and empathy she does have channel themselves into the house she grew up in and lost. Laura Vaughn has previously written for children and young adults, this is her first novel for adults. She writes with an understated eloquence, slowly allowing the intrigue and tension to build piece by delicate piece. There are a number of characters, each perfectly placed and adding to the feeling of claustrophobia that haunted the pages. I felt a shiver of foreboding as the ending began to slide into place, followed by satisfaction as I closed the last page. A well-written and rewarding read The Favour slips into shadowy thoughts and finds the darkness that dwells there. 

Debut Books of the Month
Savage Road

Savage Road

Author: Chris Hauty Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

With vivid action-packed scenes this is a wonderful adrenaline rush of a political thriller. Russia is blamed when cyber attacks hit at the heart of Washington, D.C. and Hayley Chill is faced with trying to avert World War Three. Yes, you could step in here and read this as a standalone, but my advice is to start with Deep State, which is one of my books of the year from 2020. This is just as readable, just as addictive, and just as fabulous, I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and then continued the moment I woke up. It felt as though there was more of an introduction to this story and as a British reader, once the prologue had finished kicking off, I appreciated the slower pace at the start to get to grips with the political and intelligence community. Having said that, slower doesn’t mean quiet, and it quickly turned into a full on the throttle riotous ride. I loved that Chris Hauty continues with the snapshots of walk-on characters, miniature stories summarising lives to be played out. He has the ability to transfer words into images, full-on scenes that felt as though I was a part of the action. The story has a few well-aimed kicks lying in wait, and even though I was alert and ready, didn’t expect the story to head in the final direction it did. Savage Road continues the Hayley Chill series in fine style, and comes with a whopping thumbs up from me as a Liz Pick of the Month.

Star Books
The Source

The Source

Author: Sarah Sultoon Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

A powerful, intense whammy of a debut that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating to read. Set in two time frames, we see 13 year old schoolgirl Carly as she tries to look after her mother and baby sister, and ten years later, journalist Marie as she investigates sex traffickers and allegations of sex abuse at an army base years before. Author Sarah Sultoon is an award-winning former CNN international news executive, and it shows. Chapter one throws you in the deep end, and I re-read it to fully comprehend what was happening. The subject matter is devastating yet thoughtfully handled even as it makes you flinch. Pacy and provocative I felt as though I was racing to keep up in both timelines. The words were sharp edged little missiles that fired into my thoughts and made them scatter. As information began to piece together, as 1996 hurtled towards 2006, I felt the hope that slipped almost silently through the years. Thought-provoking, tense, and expressive The Source is an utterly compelling debut that I can highly recommend.   

Star Books
The Absolute Book

The Absolute Book

Author: Elizabeth Knox Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Taryn Cornick believes her sister Bea was deliberately run down and killed. She believes it so hard she allows a man called the Muleskinner to exact the justice Bea was denied. An eye for an eye. Which is when Taryn's problems really begin. Because the police suspect Taryn's involvement in the death. Worse, others have their eyes on Taryn - those in a faraway place who know what Taryn's family have been carefully hiding in their vast library. The Absolute Book. They want it - and they want Taryn to help find it. For the lives of those in more than one world depend upon it . . . 

The Road Trip

The Road Trip

Author: Beth O'Leary Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship... Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly... is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan? 

The Smash-Up

The Smash-Up

Author: Ali Benjamin Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/02/2021

A family is upended when their small-town life becomes the latest battlefield in the culture wars in this of-the-moment novel for readers of Meg Wolitzer and Fleishman Is in Trouble. Life for Ethan and Zo used to be simple. Ethan co-founded a lucrative media start-up, and Zo was well on her way to becoming a successful filmmaker. Then they moved to a rural community for a little more tranquility--or so they thought. When newfound political activism transforms Zo into a barely recognizable ball of outrage and #MeToo allegations rock his old firm, Ethan finds himself a misfit in his own life. Enter a houseguest who is young, fun, and not at all concerned with the real world, and Ethan is abruptly forced to question everything: his past, his future, his marriage, and what he values most. Startling, witty, thought-provoking, and wise, Ali Benjamin's exciting debut novel offers the shock of recognition as it deftly illuminates some of the biggest issues of our time. Taking inspiration from a classic Edith Wharton tale about a small-town love triangle, The Smash-Up is a wholly contemporary exploration of how the things we fail to see can fracture a life, a family, a community, and a nation.

No One Is Talking About This

No One Is Talking About This

Author: Patricia Lockwood Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/02/2021

A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet - or what she terms 'the portal'. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: 'Something has gone wrong,' and 'How soon can you get here?' As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary. Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.

The Four Winds

The Four Winds

Author: Kristin Hannah Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/02/2021

From Kristin Hannah, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone, comes an epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America's most defining eras--the Great Depression. Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli--like so many of her neighbors--must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

The Rose Code

The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/03/2021

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything-beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses-but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles beneath her shy exterior. 1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter-the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together... As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Author: Cherie Jones Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

Set in Barbados in 1984, Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House undulates with ocean-pure, ocean-powerful writing. Telling the poignant stories of Bajan women struggling to survive the actions of abusive men who’ve veered violently off track, it’s an exceptional debut that deftly exposes the inequalities of race and gender that simmer beneath the island’s paradisal veneer. As a child, Lala’s grandmother guardian told her the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister who disobeyed her elders and ventured into the tunnels near their home at Baxter’s Beach. As a young woman, Lala braids the hair of white tourists who rent luxury beachfront villas while she cares for her baby and lives with her abusive, petty criminal husband Adan. When Adan bungles a burglary, he unleashes a succession of devastating events that results in two women losing the thing most dear to them. As a result, Adan is compelled to flee to his secret hideaway, and so the tunnels of the cautionary tale take on real-world significance. Demonstrating the deep-rooted extent of patriarchal control and abuse, the narrative slips back in time to tell the stories of Lala’s mother and grandmother. “Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other?” - tellingly this excerpt is applicable to all three generations. The author also explores the tangled relationships between these women, and the complexity of mother-daughter bonds, such as when Lala comments, of herself, “despite your best efforts, you are exactly like your mother”. And yet, at the same time, she misses her mother “more than ever”. Another powerful theme is that of the destructive underbelly of tourism - the fishing villages that “died in the birthing of the big houses, because rich tourists who visit for a few months each year do not wish to suffer the stink of market”, and the men who sell themselves to older white women, such as Tone the gigolo, Lala’s childhood love, who’s much more than he seems. What a novel. What execution. What a writer to watch.

Star Books
Win

Win

Author: Harlan Coben Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/03/2021

From the #1 bestselling author and creator of the hit Netflix series The Stranger comes a riveting new thriller, starring the new hero Windsor Horne Lockwood III - or Win, as he is known to his (few) friends ...  Over twenty years ago, heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family's estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors, and the items stolen from her family were never recovered. Until now. On New York's Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead not only on Patricia's kidnapping but also on another FBI cold case - with the suitcase and painting both pointing them towards one man. Windsor Horne Lockwood III - or Win as his few friends call him - doesn't know how his suitcase and his family's stolen painting ended up in this dead man's apartment. But he's interested - especially when the FBI tell him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism, and that he may still be at large. The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades. But Win has three things the FBI does not:: a personal connection to the case, a large fortune, and his own unique brand of justice ...

Mirrorland

Mirrorland

Author: Carole Johnstone Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Carole Johnstone's Mirrorland is a creepingly compelling psychological thriller of the highest order - a dark, suspenseful debut with haunting atmosphere and pitch-perfect pacing as thirty-something Cat returns to her childhood home after a twelve-year absence when her twin sister El is reported missing at sea. As children, the sisters spent most of their time in Mirrorland, an imaginary world located beneath the pantry stairs. The girls also grew up with their mother telling them they were special identical twins. The egg separated late, “which meant we were more than just two halves of the same whole.” To Cal, this also meant El was “my exact opposite. My reflection. My Mirror Twin.” While the police and El’s husband Ross are certain El is dead, Cal is sure she’s still alive - who else would be leading her on a treasure hunt around Mirrorland? The trail of clues draws Cal back to their childhood with tremendous edge-of-seat tension, back to Clown Café, Princess Tower and Kakadu Jungle, where she and El used to encounter Mouse, the Witch, the Tooth Fairy and Bluebeard. Where they dreamed of meeting their imagined pirate king father in an imagined future. Following this trail forces Cal to peel back - and confront - layers of trauma from the past, to remember that “bad things happened in this house… but that was a lot easier to forget when I was an ocean away from its walls." Chillingly atmospheric, this un-put-down-able page-turner is perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly, with the magic realist elements created by the sisters’ fantasy world giving it extra edge.

Star Books
Malibu Rising

Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

A lifetime holding it together. One party will bring it crashing down. Malibu: August, 1983. It's the day of Nina Riva's annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva. The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud-because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he's been inseparable since birth. Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can't stop thinking about promised she'll be there. And Kit has a couple secrets of her own-including a guest she invited without consulting anyone. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family's generations will all come bubbling to the surface. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

The Art of Dying

The Art of Dying

Author: Ambrose Parry Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Discover a vividly seductive historical crime novel sitting within Victorian Edinburgh. A plan to discredit Dr James Simpson is afoot, while a bid by two of his employees to clear his name encounters a string of unsolved deaths. Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for award-winning author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman. Research for her masters uncovered the material for this series which began with The Way of All Flesh. You could read this as a standalone novel, but I recommend starting at the beginning in order to fully enjoy this reading experience. The mix of fiction and fact is a fascinating one, with the historical background twisting and melding with intense vitality into the most compelling story. The social resistance to new medicine, the struggles of the woman’s movement, and individuals grasping for power confirms that the circles of humanity continue through the ages. The attraction between Will and Sarah adds to the energy rather than detracts, while the unknown voice that appears throughout builds suspense and intrigue before the full impact of the ending hits. The Art of Dying is a vivid, almost visual feast of a story that I can highly recommend.

Books of the Month
The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife

Author: Sarah Gailey Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/02/2021

A dark and suspenseful novel of lies, betrayal, and identity – perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. It was meant to be an evening to honour and celebrate Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning, career-making scientific research – but Evelyn has things on her mind. Things like Nathan, her husband, who has left her for a younger, better, newer woman. A woman who is now pregnant – but shouldn’t be – and is strikingly familiar. Too familiar to be a coincidence. A woman who shouldn’t exist. The Echo Wife is a propulsive new novel from an international rising star about identity, murder, and the choices society forces women to make.

Every Vow You Break

Every Vow You Break

Author: Peter Swanson Format: Hardback Release Date: 18/03/2021

The exceptionally twisty - and twisted - new thriller from the author of Rules for Perfect Murders After a whirlwind, fairytale romance, Abigail Baskin marries freshly-minted Silicon Valley millionaire Bruce Lamb. For their honeymoon, he whisks her away to an exclusive retreat at a friend's resort off the Maine coast on Heart Pond Island. But once there, Abigail's perfect new life threatens to crash down around her as she recognises one of their fellow guests as the good looking, charismatic stranger who weeks earlier had seduced her at her own Bachelorette party...

The Royal Secret

The Royal Secret

Author: Andrew Taylor Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A fabulously pacy, clever, and entertaining historical crime novel packed full of plots and skulduggery. James is asked to investigate a suspicious death while architect Cat finds herself in the middle of a royal secret. This is the fifth book in the highly recommended James Marwood and Cat Lovett series which began so explosively with The Ashes of London. It is such a brilliant set of books that I recommend starting at the beginning even though this could easily be read as a standalone. The intimacy of the story between Cat and James slips so easily into the history and intrigue of King Charles II. I always enjoy following the two stories of the main characters as they gradually merge together. In the third book James held the stage, here Cat takes more of a turn in the spotlight. The sense of time and place just sings, I didn’t question my surroundings, I was there. Andrew Taylor skilfully constructs a number of plot lines which he spins and twists together, the historical note at the end cements this fascinating story in place. The Royal Secret confirms this series as a must-read for any fans of historical crime fiction.

The Wife Who Got a Life

The Wife Who Got a Life

Author: Tracy Bloom Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Light, bright, and tremendously entertaining, The Wife Who Got a Life also tackles some difficult subjects with balance and consideration. After years of putting her family first, Cathy decides to take back control of her life and sets up a list of monthly goals. Over the year I spent with her, I smirked, sniggered, and laughed, oh how I laughed! While Cathy is heading towards menopause, the writing ensures this is a read that everyone could enjoy. Tracy Bloom has a seriously witty pen, and knows exactly when a smile is needed, there were times when the words buffeted my thoughts and then in the next moment hugged me. She has the ability to write about tough times with love and empathy while being sharply aware and ensuring Cathy has an authentic voice. I absolutely adored this novel and would describe it as a wonderfully smart and joyous celebration of life. The Wife Who Got a Life is feel-good writing at its best as it lifts you up while remaining completely aware of the sharp reality of life. A LoveReading Star Book, this is one to pop to the top of your reading pile. The LoveReading LitFest invited Tracy to the festival to talk about the fabulously readable The Wife Who Got A Life. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Tracy in conversation with Julia Wheeler and find out why you won't want to miss this witty and uplifting read. Check out a preview of the event here

Audiobooks of the Month
Execution

Execution

Author: S. J. Parris Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2021

A smart, enthralling historical thriller with real attitude, this LoveReading Star Book is the sixth in the Bruno Giordano series. Bruno is tasked by Sir Francis Walsingham to go under cover after he arrives with information about a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. What a cracking series this is, each book can easily be read as a standalone, but oh, you really would be missing out if you didn’t read them in order, so do start with Heresy if you are a newcomer. S. J. Parris creates delicious intrigue and suspense as Bruno embeds himself in the plot. She takes fact, and welding it to fiction forges a seamless and fascinating tale. I would like to go on record as saying that I adore Bruno, I felt as though he was beside me as he told his story, and I found myself leaning in to hear more. Digging deep into the corners of history, Execution is a pacy, fabulously entertaining story that I can highly recommend.  

Star Books
The Dream Weavers

The Dream Weavers

Author: Barbara Erskine Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

From the bestselling author of Lady of Hay, Barbara Erskine‘s The Dream Weavers is a spellbinding saga that spans centuries through a writer’s eerie connections to Anglo-Saxon King Offa and his indomitable daughter. In 2021, writer Simon has decamped to a cottage on the English-Welsh border to finish his book about King Offa. Unsettled by noises in the cottage - a woman’s distant voice, banging on doors in the dead of night - he enlists the help of modern-day mystic Bea. In 775 AD, Eadburh, the youngest daughter of ambitious, aggressive King Offa has inherited her father’s ruthless streak, along with unusual gifts from her mother, and it’s not long before these two time periods and gripping stories are seamlessly interwoven, not least when Simon’s daughter vanishes in our time. While the action is epic, the stakes high, and the historic episodes powerfully evocative, Erskine has an accessible down-to-earth style, with lots of character backstory and side strands feeding into the main narratives. Thronging with mystery, ghostly visions and centuries of secrets, this comes recommended for readers who like historic fiction with meandering intrigue.

Audiobooks of the Month
Careless

Careless

Author: Kirsty Capes Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/05/2021

Sometimes it's easy to fall between the cracks... At 3.04pm on a hot, sticky day in June, Bess finds out that she's pregnant. She could tell her social worker Henry, but he's useless. She should tell her foster mother, Lisa, but she won't understand. She really ought to tell Boy, but she hasn't spoken to him in weeks. Bess knows more than anyone that love doesn't come without conditions. But this isn't a love story...

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

Author: Julietta Henderson Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Our May 2021 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is one of the most squeezable and loveable books going, yet it comes with sharp and poignant notes as well as a dancing wit and humour. Norman’s best friend and comedy partner dies before they turn 12, in his grief Norman decides he’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, and his mum Sadie is determined to help him. The focus here is on family and the many different forms it can take. Chapters are headed by either Norman or Sadie, each has the most wonderfully distinctive voice. Julietta Henderson has created a cast of beautifully individual characters, they walk off the page, with little snippets of information filling in their spirit and letting you see who they truly are. Norman is a complete joy to get to know, he entered my heart and let me see with fresh eyes. There is an exquisite balance here, between heartache and warmth, piercing and diverting, amusing and engaging. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman proclaims that empathy and kindness are winning combinations and is completely gorgeous in every way. This LoveReading Star Book is an absolute delight of a debut, it will be one of my highlights of the year.

Star Books
The Listening Path

The Listening Path

Author: Julia Cameron Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

A six week Artist's Way Programme from legendary author Julia Cameron From the bestselling author of The Artist's Way comes a new, transformative guide to deeper, more profound listening and creativity. Over six weeks, readers will be given the tools to become better listeners-to their environment, the people around them, and themselves. The reward for learning to truly listen is immense. As we learn to listen, our attention is heightened and we gain healing, insight, clarity. But above all, listening creates connections and ignites a creativity that will resonate through every aspect of our lives. Each week, readers will be challenged to expand their ability to listen in a new way, beginning by listening to their environment and culminating in learning to listen to silence. These weekly practices open up a new world of connection and fulfilment. The Listening Path is a deeply necessary reminder of the power of truly hearing. In a time of unnecessary noise, listening is the artist's way forward.

Threadneedle

Threadneedle

Author: Cari Thomas Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

As the first in what is setting itself up as an epic magic realism series, this captivating debut thrills with a fabulous cast, intriguing plot and fascinating exploration of magic. Anna is just about to turn 16, her Aunt is arranging a ceremony to bind her magic but when Anna meets Effie and Attis she begins to question everything she has known. The main characters are teenagers on the brink of adulthood, due to the content I would say this is balanced between a read for older teens, and adults. Cari Thomas has made the magic in Threadneedle feel age-old and real, and while the teenagers release themselves to the wilds of experimentation, dangerous undercurrents swirl through the book. The characters are vibrant and relatable, even when throwing spells around. Abuse and bullying run as a theme alongside the fantasy element, and are explored with empathy and compassion. As I read, I believed, even though this is a new take on magic, it immediately settled in my thoughts. This is such a beautifully easy yet all-consuming read, I swam in its depths before coming up for air and back to reality. The ending sets itself up nicely for the next in the series. Threadneedle, the first in the Language of Magic is just wonderful, I wish it all the very best as it deserves to fly.

Debut Books of the Month
This is How we are Human

This is How we are Human

Author: Louise Beech Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

A beautifully poignant, thought-provoking and special novel that really does travel to the heart of what it is to be human. 20 year old Sebastian knows exactly what he wants, his hormones are raging and he is desperate for sex however his autism limits his ability to meet girls. When Sebastian’s mother Veronica contacts escort Violetta, the lives of all three change forever. The novel focuses on the three main characters, each is vividly realised and I positively ached for and adored all three. Their individual stories weave through and under and around each other, the short chapters tying them together, creating one whole tale. Louise Beech often crosses genres in her novels, and has explored crime through to relationship stories. Her particular skill, on display in all of her novels, is allowing us to connect and sink in to what it means to be human, she takes us below the surface, below the obvious, and allows us to explore. My emotions sang throughout this novel, I balanced the exquisite tightrope that swings from the pages, stepped out, and fell in love with the words, the feelings they evoked. The title is absolutely perfect, and when I had finished, I just sat pondering its meaning. The Author’s Note at the end shows just how connected Louise is to this story, how she was inspired by her experience of autism as ‘an outsider’ and she also talks about #OwnVoices. This is How we are Human is bold and provocative, thoughtful and warmhearted, and I declare it is completely gorgeous!

Star Books
Last One at the Party

Last One at the Party

Author: Bethany Clift Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

THE END OF EVERYTHING WAS HER BEGINNING It's December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended. The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM ('Six Days Maximum' - the longest you've got before your body destroys itself). But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own. Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth. And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she's completely alone?

Space Hopper

Space Hopper

Author: Helen Fisher Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Slip into this beautifully simple yet profound novel and explore love, relationships, regret and second chances while travelling through time to the 1970’s. Faye’s mother died when she was a child, 30 years later and she is able to return to her mother’s side, will she take the chance? The time-travel aspect feels utterly plausible so I suggest that you suspend thoughts of reality and just let yourself go. It’s just so easy to fall into this novel, debut author Helen Fisher encourages a connection to form as Faye tells her own story. I wanted to reach out, be a voice of reason, yet I remained by Faye’s side as I read her tale, soaking it up until I felt as though it was a part of me. I explored loss and grief, love and hope, and oh how I hoped. Emotional, yet heartwarming, sharply realistic yet joyously magical, Space Hopper really is a gorgeous tale that I can highly recommendand have chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book..

Star Books
Lucky

Lucky

Author: Rachel Edwards Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Weaving between complex social issues, this is a powerful, tense, and striking second novel by Rachel Edwards. When Etta turns to online gambling her entire life begins to crumble, she is willing to do anything to stop her world from imploding. Rachel Edward’s  wonderfully captivating debut Darling was a LoveReading Star Book which concentrated on the new wife and young daughter of a man as they each fought for his love and attention. Lucky is entirely different in plot, yet a strong central character again sits to the fore. Etta can be stubborn (determined), manipulative (smart), she’s also addicted (lost and confused), kind, thoughtful, and loving. I found her frustrating and appealing in equal measures which lead to me forming a complex yet fascinating relationship with her character. Suspense kept me company throughout this novel, at times I almost read between my fingers as I waited to see what Etta would do next. I explored online gambling, migration, identity, race, and relationship traps and pitfalls all on top of a plot that that had me edging along a towering clifftop of tension. Rachel Edwards has created an intriguing and compelling main character, a cracking plot and sub-plot which collide to create the most fabulous ending. Lucky is an intriguing, smart, and thought-provoking novel I can highly recommend.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Two Wrongs

Two Wrongs

Author: Mel McGrath Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

A brand-new psychological thriller from bestselling author Mel McGrath, about the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect her daughter. One girl jumped. And then another followed… In the city of Bristol, young women are dying in mysterious circumstances. The deaths look like suicides – but are they something more sinister? Honor is terrified that her daughter might be next. But as she looks for clues as to what really happened to the girls, she stumbles upon a link to a dark secret in her own past – one that she’s kept from her daughter. Now Honor has the chance to avenge her child for the terrible events of years ago. But how far will she go to protect her daughter and right the wrongs done to her family?

Midnight in Everwood

Midnight in Everwood

Author: M.A. Kuzniar Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

In the darkness of night, magic awaits...   The Nutcracker for adults, perfect for fans of Robert Dinsdale's The Toymakers, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and Stephanie Garber's Caraval   'It was a rainy day that the magic came, and once magic has entered your life, you stay in its glittering clutch forever'   Nottingham, 1906   Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered. At the wishes of her family, she will be obligated to marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But when a mysterious new neighbour, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in her life. Although Drosselmeier's magic is darker than Marietta could have imagined...   When he constructs an elaborate set for her final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself walking through a land of snow-topped fir trees leading to a frozen sugar palace silent with secrets.   In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here...

The Girls Are All So Nice Here

The Girls Are All So Nice Here

Author: Laurie Elizabeth Flynn Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Nice girls can do bad things... When Ambrosia first arrives at prestigious college Wesleyan, she's desperate to fit in. But Amb struggles to navigate the rules of this strange, elite world, filled with privileged 'nice' young women - until she meets the charismatic but troubled Sully, with whom she forms an obsessive friendship. Intoxicated by Sully's charm and determined to impress her, Amb finds herself drawn deep into her new best friend's dangerous manipulations. But if she wants to play Sully at her own game, Amb has no idea just how devastating the consequences will be... Deeply unsettling and compulsive, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a gripping exploration of the brutal lengths girls will go to, to take what they think they are owed.

The Reluctant Heiress

The Reluctant Heiress

Author: Dilly Court Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Another truly lovely and heart-warming romantic saga from the award-winning Dilly Court. When Kate arrives back in London from India in 1858, she determines to help the poor and opens a soup kitchen however rival gangs place her life in danger. Dilly Court opens up a world and allows entry for your reading pleasure as the settings come alive under her pen. Kate is bright, courageous, and determined to do the very best she can. There are several potential matches for Kate, who will you warm to? Romance is also on offer for a number of other characters which creates a delightful will-they-won’t-they atmosphere. Each character adds depth, even if only on the page for a moment. The tension is high with scoundrels and out-and-out villains trying to outwit each other. This novel really does fulfil all the requirements of a romantic saga. The Reluctant Heiress contains wonderful courtship, dastardly deeds, and plenty of family drama, ensuring a riveting read. If you'd like to read more about Dilly Court, do take a look at our LoveReading Loves Channel - Fall in Love with Dilly

Books of the Month
Still Life

Still Life

Author: Sarah Winman Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/06/2021

By the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God was a Rabbit and Tin Man, Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood... and the ghost of E.M. Forster. We just need to know what the heart's capable of, Evelyn. And do you know what it's capable of? I do. Grace and fury. It's 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together. Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn's talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life - and of those who love him - for the next four decades. Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

The Summer Job

The Summer Job

Author: Lizzy Dent Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

'SO much fun' MARIAN KEYES, author of GROWN UPS 'Fresh and funny' BETH O'LEARY, author of THE FLAT SHARE 'Marvellous' JOSIE SILVER, author of ONE DAY IN DECEMBER Have you ever imagined running away from your life? Well Birdy Finch didn't just imagine it. She did it. Which might've been an error. And the life she's run into? Her best friend, Heather's. The only problem is, she hasn't told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems... Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)? And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she's ever actually liked (but who thinks she's someone else) The Summer Job is a fresh, fun, feel-good romcom for fans of The Flatshare and Bridesmaids. WANT TO ESCAPE REAL LIFE FOR A WHILE? RUN AWAY WITH BIRDY FINCH, A MESSY HEROINE WITH A HEART OF GOLD. THE SUMMER JOB IS THE HOTTEST DEBUT TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THIS YEAR. * * * PRE-ORDER NOW * * * -------------------------------------------------------------------- WHAT EVERYONE IS SAYING ABOUT THE SUMMER JOB 'Engaging, heartwarming and SO MUCH FUN. I bloody loved it' MARIAN KEYES 'Fresh, funny and filled with delicious food and wine. It made me long for a summer in Scotland with Birdy and all the team at Loch Dorn' BETH O'LEARY 'What a welcome escape! Loved it, I'm in the queue for more Lizzy' JOSIE SILVER 'Fresh, funny and oh so relatable - the perfect tonic' ABBIE GREAVES 'Fun with a capital F . . . If you've ever felt you're getting left behind in life, or don't have everything worked out quite yet, this is the book for you' SOPHIE COUSENS 'I fell for Birdy on the very first page and inhaled the rest of her story . . . A brilliantly original plot paired with fabulously funny writing - a pure joy to read!' HELLY ACTON 'It's really great - so gossipy, warm and funny' BETH MORREY 'One of the funniest and sexiest books of the year. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again. Do not miss this one!' EMILY HENRY

Audiobooks of the Month
The Prophets

The Prophets

Author: Robert Jones Jr. Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/01/2021

'Rarely is a book this finely wrought, the lives and histories it holds so tenderly felt, and rendered unforgettably true' Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous 'Robert Jones Jr's forthcoming debut The Prophets is magisterial and will change lives' Courttia Newland in The Guardian In this blinding debut, Robert Jones Jr. blends the lyricism of Toni Morrison with the vivid prose of Zora Neale Hurston to characterise the forceful, enduring bond of love, and what happens when brutality threatens the purest form of serenity. The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love - away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs - where they can be alone together. But, Amos - a fellow slave - has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul's gospel, he betrays them. The culminating pages of The Prophets summon a choral voice of those who have suffered in silence, with blistering humanity, as the day of reckoning arrives at the Halifax plantation. Love, in all its permutations, is the discovery at the heart of Robert Jones Jr's breathtaking debut, The Prophets.

The Hit List

The Hit List

Author: Holly Seddon Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Oooh, this is one heck of a feisty, dramatic, and addictive tale! On the anniversary of her husband’s death, Marianne stumbles across the dark web and an assassin’s hit list with her name on it. This is a seemingly simple premise, however an intricate plot, two time frames, and a sturdy cast of characters ensures a powerful read. I entered the dark web alongside Marianne as a complete novice, and found what awaited was utterly chilling. Holly Seddon has the ability to really bring a character to life, the words transfer from the page into feelings, thoughts, and actions. These are people who sit on the edge of right and wrong, which way will they topple? Some realisations sneaked into my head, while others arrived with a sledge hammer. The stakes are high, the tension increases and waits ready to trip you up until the ending hits. Provocative and stimulating, The Hit List is a wonderfully unexpected story that I can highly recommend.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
An Act of Love

An Act of Love

Author: Carol Drinkwater Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A dramatic and enthralling relationship tale that captures emotion and takes you on a journey through the Second World War. When Sara and her parents flee their homeland taking refuge in the French Alps, the full impact of the Nazi oppression edges ever closer. Inspired by her visit to a small museum in the Lower Alps Carol Drinkwater has created the most captivating story of young love, and the courage needed to face the most devastating of times. She has the ability to focus on the things that make us human, to create a link that alters the focus from watching, to actually feeling the events that take place. A balance is created between the intimate moments of relationships and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during the horror of war. This is ultimately as much a story about Sara’s own relationship with, and understanding of herself as it is with the man she falls in love with. The ending came with beautiful words and tears welling up in my eyes, I just had to include this as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. An Act of Love will encourage emotions to dip and soar as it gives hope even in the darkness. The LoveReading LitFest invited Carol to the festival to talk about An Act of Love.   You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Carol in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone should read this book.   Check out a preview of the event here

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/03/2021

From the bestselling and Booker Prize winning author of Never Let me Go and The Remains of the Day, a stunning new novel - his first since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature - that asks, what does it mean to love? A thrilling feat of world-building, a novel of exquisite tenderness and impeccable restraint, Klara and the Sun is a magnificent achievement, and an international literary event.

Later

Later

Author: Stephen King Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/03/2021

SOMETIMES GROWING UP MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine - as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave. LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King's classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

Slough House

Slough House

Author: Mick Herron Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

'Kill us? They've never needed to kill us,' said Lamb. 'I mean, look at us. What would be the point?' A year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead from novichok poisoning, Diana Taverner is on the warpath. What seems a gutless response from the government has pushed the Service's First Desk into mounting her own counter-offensive - but she's had to make a deal with the devil first. And given that the devil in question is arch-manipulator Peter Judd, she could be about to lose control of everything she's fought for. Meanwhile, still reeling from recent losses, the slow horses are worried they've been pushed further into the cold. Slough House has been wiped from Service records, and fatal accidents keep happening. No wonder Jackson Lamb's crew are feeling paranoid. But have they actually been targeted? With a new populist movement taking a grip on London's streets, and the old order ensuring that everything's for sale to the highest bidder, the world's an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass. But the slow horses aren't famed for making wise decisions. 

Daughters of War

Daughters of War

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

The first book in a brand new sweeping historical series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author. Available to pre-order now! France, 1944.     Deep in the river valley of the Dordogne, in an old stone cottage on the edge of a beautiful village, three sisters long for the end of the war.   Helene, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening.   Elise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost.   And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free.   Then, one dark night, the Allies come knocking for help. And Helene knows that she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But bravery comes at a cost, and soon the sisters' lives become even more perilous as they fight for what is right. And secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear...   The first in an epic new series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestseller, Daughters of War is a stunning tale of sisters, secrets and bravery in the darkness of war-torn France...

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