50+ Novels Based on Real Events or People

At what point does real, when tangled with embellishment, become fiction? What is truth when viewed by different people or seen from a different angle? History itself may be scoffed at, or viewed in another way if it had been written by the defeated, repressed, or vanquished. When it comes to truth and reality, and fabrication and fiction, there is often a very thin line between the two. In this collection we feature novels that are based on real events, or contain real people. The novels mentioned here may be ever so loosely based on reality, have a simple flutter-by of a real person, or could be saturated in historical events.

There are a number of ways that an author can write about real events or people, they could have completed painstaking research, or take the germ of an idea from an event and run with it. To decide to write about a real person in a fictional way must be daunting, to place words in the mouth, to create feelings that might not have existed, where do you start? Perhaps the further back in history you go, the easier it is to take over a person, to place them on the page. I do know that it takes real skill, and if, after you've finished reading a novel based on a real event, you find yourself drawn to further research, then I think the author has done a cracking job. And this is what we, the reader, mustn’t forget, these are novels, wonderful creations of fiction from the mind of the author.

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Emily Bullock has taken a small shadow of history, and turned it into the most beautiful yet dark historical novel. Inside the Beautiful Inside is based on the true story of an inmate of Bethlam Royal Hospital between 1800 to 1815. James Norris was restrained, chained to a bar, and confined in isolation for more than ten years. The author takes a look at possibilities and makes them fly.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville is on the 2021 shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. This novel was inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth who arrived in Australia in 1790. The author was initially going to write a non-fiction account, however changed her mind and wrote a glorious novel, of such startling sincerity clarity and eloquence, that it really does give a voice to Elizabeth. 

Editorial Expert Joanne Owen said of Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig: “Powerful, sweeping and elegantly composed, this compelling novels takes in Burma’s history from the 1940’s to the 1960’s and draws on the author’s personal history to remarkable effect". Joanne declared it an: “intensely illuminating, riveting accomplishment”.

Jerome Charyn exquisitely weaves fact and fiction in Cesare: A Novel of War Torn Berlin.  It is a heart-rending yet fascinating historical novel set during a time of clandestine opposition to the Nazis. It contains the real life Chief of the Abwehr, spymaster Wilheim Canaris who was such a contradictory figure. There is a raw, almost brutal quality to this all-consuming storyline.

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'Truth is stranger than fiction' is a much used saying, so you can expect some fabulously compelling novels in this collection, where reality and fiction is  taken by the author and blended into a wonderful tale.

Inside the Beautiful Inside

Inside the Beautiful Inside

Author: Emily Bullock Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/10/2020

Spiralling down into darkness this fascinating and compelling historical novel is based on the true story of an inmate of Bethlam Royal Hospital (Bedlam) between 1800 to 1815. James Norris an American, was restrained, chained to a bar and confined in isolation for more than ten years, here Emily Bullock takes a look at possibilities and makes them fly. James tells his own tale, the words slinking, twisting, disappearing into the fog of his memory and thoughts. Bedlam broods its way through the centre of this story, with other inmates and the keepers affecting the atmosphere. As James visits the past in his mind, his relationship, role as seaman, and even Fletcher Christian, famous for his part in the mutiny on the Bounty all entwine to explain the man James has become. The writing sparked vivid details in my minds eye, and although my heart physically ached at times, there are also moments of hope to be found within the pages. Inside the Beautiful Inside is a rather special book, it opens a door and shines a penetrating light of awareness into the shadows of history. Highly recommended.  

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A Room Made of Leaves

A Room Made of Leaves

Author: Kate Grenville Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for A Room Made of Leaves. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

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The Mercies

The Mercies

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fishermen, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

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Miss Burma

Miss Burma

Author: Charmaine Craig Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/03/2018

Powerful, sweeping and elegantly composed, this compelling novel takes in Burma’s history from the 1940s to the 1960s and draws on the author’s personal history to remarkable effect. When Benny settles in Ragoon, part of the British Empire, he falls for Khin, who belongs to the persecuted Karen minority group, and they go into hiding when WWII erupts. The end of the war heralds fresh dangers when the nationalists take control. Then, when the Karen people – and other ethnic groups - are refused their desire to self-govern, a brutal, long-running civil war breaks out and Benny and Khin’s firstborn child - the first ever Miss Burma beauty queen - is thrust into a world of conflict, uncertainty and contradictions. The historical details are enlightening, yet this expansive, lyrical novel also explores universal themes - identity, desire, patriotism versus self-determinism - that transcend the particulars of time and place. This is an intensely illuminating, riveting accomplishment.  

eBooks of the Month
Saint Mazie

Saint Mazie

Author: Jami Attenberg Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/06/2015

An astonishing, stimulating, and quite quite wonderful novel based on the life of the indomitable Mazie Phillips who lived in New York through some of the most interesting times of the first part of the 20th century. With a fictional mix of diaries, recounting of family history and an unpublished autobiography, this has an almost documentary feel to it; it is quite matter of fact, which cleverly emphasises the emotion and feeling behind the written word. There is a stark rawness to this novel, it feels as though the author has seen a truth, felt a connection to Mazie and born witness to her audacious individuality. In this interesting, clever read, Attenberg takes a fictional peek at the woman behind the celebrity, in all her gutsy, passionate, courageous glory. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Grace is Gone

Grace is Gone

Author: Emily Elgar Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2020

This is a psychological thriller with real attitude, in fact, it might even be described as feisty. Meg and her daughter Grace are a true part of their community, the whole town is in shock when Meg is murdered and Grace discovered to be missing. Grace has been ill for years and may only have days to live without her medication, two local people desperate to save her, begin to investigate. This novel was inspired by the true life story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard in the USA, can I suggest (insist!) that you don’t look it up until you’ve finished the book, I was very patient and I’m so glad that I waited! Each chapter either focuses on investigative journalist Jon, or neighbour Cara, and their individual tales open the storyline into a widescreen panorama. My thoughts sped in one direction and then another as I read, focusing on the small, the intimate, burrowing into the minds of the characters. Emily Elgar tells this intricate tale with assurance, suggesting, introducing, opening information for our reading minds to analyse. Grace is Gone is fascinating and thrilling tale, it becomes all the more haunting when you realise it's based on a true story.

Books of the Month
Cesare: A Novel of War Torn Berlin

Cesare: A Novel of War Torn Berlin

Author: Jerome Charyn Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/11/2020

Exquisitely weaving fact and fiction this heart-rending yet fascinating historical novel is set during a time of clandestine opposition to the Nazis. Chief of the Abwehr, spymaster Wilhelm Canaris, creates an almost mythical figure when he recruits a young man and calls him Cesare. The story centres around  Canaris, Erik (Cesare) and Lisa, the woman who effectively set Erik on his course. Using the real-life Canaris ensured my mind almost played tricks on me, and at times I struggled to remember that this was fiction, as it felt all too real. Jerome Charyn successfully highlights the contradictory nature of Canaris, this is the man who suggested the yellow Star of David in 1935 to identify Jews, but by 1939 and the outbreak of war began attempts to undermine the Nazi regime. There is a raw, almost brutal quality to the all-consuming storyline. Yet this is intoxicatingly readable and the central relationships encouraged me on to the finish. By the end I was mentally shattered, this most certainly isn’t an easy read, but it is enthralling. This novel encouraged me to research the history of Admiral Canaris, to consider the nature of good and evil and how it combines when contained within human nature. Cesare is haunting, traumatic, and yet I wholeheartedly recommend, and include it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.

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A Long Petal of the Sea

A Long Petal of the Sea

Author: Isabel Allende Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Little

Little

Author: Edward Carey Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/05/2019

A truly fascinating and readable story that gathers thoughts, surprises feelings, and encourages hearts to fill. Opening in 1761, we meet Marie who tells of her life as a servant, a seemingly simple start collides with one of the most bizarre and violent times in French history. Edward Carey writes with true eloquence as Marie relives her story with a quiet and gentle resilience. Drawings sit alongside the words, sharing space, further exploring the passageways through her mind. There is true horror to be found, from the small and intimate to the huge and inconceivable, human nature, human needs, human wants spill from the page while we soak up Marie’s life. There is also magic waiting to be discovered, and as the ending approached and a particular realisation was made, I exclaimed out loud. This is a tale that is seeped in fact and is now calling for me to take a little wander into the history books and discover more about this time. Beautifully written, ‘Little’ is a unique novel sharing gruesome shivers and moments of touching heartache to create a perfect reading moment in time. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Books of the Month
Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

Author: Agatha Christie Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/09/2013

Agatha Christie's most famous murder mystery, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

eBooks of the Month
The Women at Hitler's Table

The Women at Hitler's Table

Author: Rosella Postorino Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.

eBooks of the Month
The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

Author: Sue Monk Kidd Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/09/2014

October 2014 Book of the Month. Divided into two first-person, alternating narration, this is strong stuff. One first person, Sarah Grimke, is the daughter of a rich, influential Charleston family in early 19th century Southern America. The second narrative is Handful, one of their slaves. Sarah and her sister become increasing troubled by slavery. Handful suffers cruelty and indignities. Both women’s stories are passionate. The tale is made stronger by being based on a true story. Sarah and her sister were pioneers of the abolition movement. Handful’s story is fictional but based on the history of so many American slaves. It is very moving. Highly recommended.

Books of the Month
Swan Song

Swan Song

Author: Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/06/2019

The clever, seductive, fact and fictional blended story of Truman Capote and the women he placed (and came to rely on) at the very centre of his life. Truman Capote (author of works including novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and non fiction piece In Cold Blood) could call among his friends and confidants the wealthy, famous and social elite. Their secrets were released to the world when he wrote a fictional piece that aired an awful lot of real life dirty laundry. Swan Song darts through the years, backwards and forwards, releasing information, filling in this breathtaking story. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott apparently took ten years to research, and four years to write Swan Song. Capote’s swans are deliciously stimulating, and speak as one, revealing betrayal, scandal and lives full of emotional and physical excess. It is so wonderfully gossipy and fascinating, it’s all too easy to forget this is a novel (even though seeped in fact). Swan Song is a beguiling, fascinating dream of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me. 

Debut Books of the Month
The Revenant

The Revenant

Author: Michael Punke Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/12/2015

Based on a true story, The Revenant is an epic tale of revenge set in the Rocky Mountains and soon to be a major motion picture, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. A remarkable tale of obsession and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution. The film adaptation, starring Leonardo DiCaprio won numerous BAFTA's in Feb 16 and is shortlisted for a number of Oscars too. Click below to view the trailer.

eBooks of the Month
Ike and Kay

Ike and Kay

Author: James MacManus Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/03/2018

A captivating and convincing novel set during the Second World War, based on archived documents and letters, detailing the relationship between married US General Eisenhower and his driver Kay Summersby. In 1942 the two meet, and Eisenhower quickly places Kay at the heart of his team, as rumours spread, they become ever closer. The lines between fact and fiction blurred as I read, the relationship felt substantial, real, and before my eyes I witnessed Kay supporting Eisenhower as he made critical decisions about the war. James MacManus creates an intimate, penetrating story, yet the huge arena of war dominates, highlighting the connection between the two. Clear and precise, everyday life is set before you, and small in-depth details encourage a vivid picture to emerge. Ike and Kay focuses on an intriguing relationship, a relationship that was tolerated, even encouraged in order to get the job done, oh what a fascinating tale it is.

eBooks of the Month
A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2015

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015. Set against the backdrop of 1970s reggae culture, disco, sex and excess comes this remarkable re-imagining of the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century. Michael Wood, Chair of the Man Booker judges, commented: ‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami. ‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’   Click here to see a special hardback edition of this book. Click here to see John Crow's Devil by the same author. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Prisoner's Wife

The Prisoner's Wife

Author: Maggie Brookes Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/04/2020

Set in one of the most harrowing times in history, this powerfully beautiful relationship and friendship story shines a blazing torch on the very best that humanity has to offer. When British prisoner of war Bill, while on work duty from a labour camp in the depths of Czechoslovakia in 1944, meets farmer Izabela, love blossoms. They secretly marry, go on the run and determine that they will never be separated, not even if captured by the German army. Based on a true story it feels as though Maggie Brookes was destined to meet Sidney Reed who told her this tale, and that as a historical documentary researcher and producer for the BBC she was perfectly placed to write this as a novel. The prologue starts with the couple on the run from the German army, Izabela has disguised herself as a man, and by pretending to be mute when finally captured, is taken with Bill to a prisoner of war camp. Setting the scene so thoroughly heightened my emotions as chapter one then took me back to their first meeting. I’ve already read a number of novels and non-fiction books relating to this time, including one of the books Maggie Brookes mentions as further reading. My prior reading and knowing what was to come from the prologue, still in no way prepared me for what Bill and Izabela were to face. This intimate, vivid and compelling account reaches through the nightmare and finds true love and friendship, all of which is written beautifully by the author. The Prisoner’s Wife meets horror head on, so prepare yourself, but it also filled me with hope, and this comes as highly recommended by me.

Audiobooks of the Month
A Reckoning

A Reckoning

Author: Linda Spalding Format: Ebook Release Date: 05/03/2019

Abolitionism; farmer-turned-fugitive; shifting social and political sands - this companion to the author’s award-winning The Purchase is an epically-scaled feat of historical fiction. Virginia, 1855, and farmer John Dickinson’s fate and fortunes are on the downturn as the country shifts towards Civil War. John’s irresponsible brother has lost the family wealth, and now a Canadian outsider, “birdwatching abolitionist” Doctor Ross, is about to seal the dysfunctional family’s future. Ross, whose “desire to free slaves was about justice rather than virtue; he hated the slaver more than he loved the slave,” tells the farm’s slaves of “the glories of a country that is owned by England, where no fugitive law grabs you and sends you back down to bondage.” Ross also promises to “provide a compass and a knife and a map” and safety to those willing to take flight. Then, faced with cripplingly mounting debts and agitated slaves, and feeling “bedeviled by a sense of oncoming doom”, John and family are compelled to flee to the West aboard a wagon, enduring grave perils and personal demons as they journey in search of a new existence. Stylistically bold (no speech marks), meticulously detailed, and driven by a rich cast of characters (I particularly liked the folkloric story of young Martin and his bear companion), this novel calls for careful contemplation, and will reward readers who enjoy thoughtful historical epics.

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
Room

Room

Author: Emma Donoghue Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2011

One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011.   A 2012 World Book Night selection.   Winner of the Galaxy Paperback of the Year Award 2011. This was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize but I believed at the time it would never win for it is far too commercial. It’s about a five-year old boy who was born in captivity and knows nothing beyond the room he and his mother live in. Told in his voice it is an extraordinary achievement, very well thought out, highly intriguing and unexpectedly sad.   Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2011.   Winner of the Orange Youth Panel Prize 2011.   Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 7 April 2011.   Viewers of The TV Book Club have voted Room their favourite Spring read.   Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 16 Jan 2011.   Winner of the Hughes & Hughes Novel of the Year Award 2010.   Shortlisted for the Galaxy International Author of the Year 2010.   Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. Comparison: Unique, like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lovely Bones or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

eBooks of the Month
Liberation

Liberation

Author: Imogen Kealey Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/01/2021

A blistering, gripping, and absolutely fascinating novel. Set aside plenty of quality time as I was consumed, and read it all in one heady, breathtaking go. It’s based on the true story of Nancy Wake, named by the Gestapo as The White Mouse, as she evaded their capture by slipping through check points in France during The Second World War. It is almost impossible to comprehend the wartime life of Nancy, it feels as though all of it is brilliant but astonishing fiction. Darby Kealey and Imogen Robertson have created a living, breathing, headstrong woman and I shook my head in wonder and shock at some of her escapades. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes and at times appears somewhat gung-ho, with no apparent regard for the safety of herself or her team, yet this woman was quite simply incredible. The authors have made changes to timelines and invented some episodes which they fully explain in the Historical Notes. A major film production is underway, and I recommend reading the book just as soon as you can (before the film) as it is fabulous. Nancy Wake has entered my heart, and we just had to choose Liberation as a LoveReading Star Book. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
Small Island

Small Island

Author: Andrea Levy Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/06/2014

A novel about racism, prejudice and injustice in the post war years in London as Jamaicans, escaping economic hardship, move to the Mother Country.  Told from four characters’ points of view, it deserves all the accolades and prizes it has received.  Powerful yet light in touch, humorous yet high in drama, it is a most rewarding and touching read. Won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2004 and on the 25th Jan 2005 the Whitbread 2004 overall. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
Hedy's War

Hedy's War

Author: Jenny Lecoat Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/05/2020

A captivating, heartfelt and rewarding debut based on true events that began in 1940 when Nazi Germany invaded Jersey. As a young Jewish woman Hedwig Bercu had already arrived in Jersey having fled Austria, she soon finds herself relying on the islanders and a certain German lieutenant. There is a vivid simplicity to the tale, so intimate and sincere, that allowed me to see the events playing out in my mind’s eye. I could feel the uncertainty, fear, and conflicting thoughts as relationships grew. I was transported into the darkest of times, where friendship and love manages to shine a much needed light, creating a genuine balance. This may be a novel, it is all too easy to imagine the reality. Author Jenny Lecoat was born in Jersey and her parents were raised under German occupation. Her research is clear to see, and I can still feel the warmth that surrounded me when I read her acknowledgements regarding the work of Dr Carr and the submission of Righteous Among the Nations Status. Hedy’s War is a stimulating, emotional, and engaging novel, and has been chosen as one of our Debuts of the Month.

Debut Books of the Month
Girl Waits with Gun

Girl Waits with Gun

Author: Amy Stewart Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/03/2016

A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. A breezy read that brings turn of the 20th century New York to colourful life, this debut is a potent charmer. Based on the true life legal battle between 6ft tall Constance Kopp, who later went on to become the USA's first female deputy sheriff, and irascible Henry Kauffman, a mill owner with dangerous mafia connections, this is a pleasing tale of female empowerment with a light, humorous touch. When Constance and her two sisters riding in a buggy are hit by Kaufman's transport, she naturally seeks compensation and when it is not forthcoming wages a war of attrition and words on the culprit which is soon complicated by his criminal acquaintances, ensuing in threats, harassment, possible kidnapping and, in due course, the triumph of virtue. Feminist history with a light gossamer touch and a heroine who, one hopes, will make many future successful appearances on the page. Downright elegant and charming.

eBooks of the Month
Stella

Stella

Author: Takis Wurger Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

Ringing with bell-clear writing, remarkable atmosphere and emotional honesty, Takis Würger’s Stella is a hauntingly gripping story of naive young love and duplicity in wartime Berlin. Innocent soul Friedrich grew up in Switzerland, with an alcoholic mother and somewhat eccentric father. In 1942 he takes the inadvisable decision to travel to Berlin to study art, where’s he’s entranced by Kristin, the model in his life drawing class, and a character who’s partly based on a real person. Kristin is bold, intoxicating and brilliantly evoked as a “warm and soft” enigma. “Would you call me Tink? Like Tinkerbell?” she asks of him. Friedrich obliges, of course, for “there was nothing I could refuse this woman,” and she fast becomes a permanent presence in his suite at the Grand Hotel. Their life of drinking and dancing in banned jazz clubs feels worlds away from the war, but as the months pass and the Nazi grip tightens, so the couple’s merrily enclaved existence darkens. Friedrich is disturbed to discover their mutual friend is in the SS, and perplexed by Kristin’s high connections. Then, after vanishing and returning with a shaven head and “dark welts on her neck”, she reveals that she’s Jewish, with more revelations to come. “I don’t know if it’s wrong to betray one human being to save another. I don’t know if it’s right to betray one human being to save another” Friedrich muses, and herein lies the heart of this powerfully melancholic story - fundamental moral questions swell beneath its simply-told surface.

eBooks of the Month
Anyush

Anyush

Author: Martine Madden Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/05/2014

One of our Books of the Year 2014. A compelling, heartrending tale of love, loss and survival intertwined within the factual base of the Armenian genocide. This thought provoking story is set in a period of atrocities that may not be known to many, yet the author has the ability not only to transport you through time, her vivid descriptions engage all of your senses, shaping the land and people around you. You witness the very best and the very worst of people; while throughout a fledgling love fights to exist, to grow, to survive. The Author’s Notes give insight into some of the actual individuals involved, their stories are equally humbling and inspiring. This is a novel for your book shelves, to read again and mull over, to question - can love really conquer all? ~ Liz Robinson   May 2014 Debut of the Month.   A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'Transporting her reader to Turkey in 1917, the opening of Martine Madden’s debut epic novel Anyush captures that moment when a young woman has doors opening to her; the world is spreading at her feet, despite the shadows of war.We, the readers, see the portents gathering, but Anyush, the central character, is young and feisty; she has met Jahan, a Turkish officer and their passion is fresh, exciting and forbidden. And Anyush has her dreams, dreams to take her beyond the boundaries of Turkish village life.The author lets us share in Anyush’s dreams and we are lulled and charmed by a vibrant, colourful wedding scene, where the beautiful Anyush is surrounded by friends, family and admirers; she is swept away in the dancing and the music as her friend starts her married life. But before the wedding ends, the war makes itself known and the dark is rising.The novel takes a deeply disturbing turn as we find ourselves caught up in the realities of the Armenian genocide which formed part of WWI. Not only is Anyush in denial but so, too, are many others who fail to grasp the evil which is unfolding. By the time events and the destiny of the Armenian villagers are clear, Anyush is in danger of losing everything and everyone she cares about.Anyush is a heartwrenching odyssey, told in a deceptively simple style, illuminating a shadowy period of WWI history – it is a story of great human suffering which will stay with the reader long after the book has been closed for the very last time.' - Susan Houlden, editor of Anyush

eBooks of the Month
Mr Wilder and Me

Mr Wilder and Me

Author: Jonathan Coe Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/11/2020

This really is the most gorgeous read, it’s poignant, almost unassuming and gentle, yet capable of capturing and causing emotions to expand and explore. It’s 1977 and Calista joins a film set to act as interpreter for Hollywood director Billy Wilder. As Calista begins to experience the wider world, Wilder is aging and his influence is subsiding. Two tales are on offer here, the coming of age and waning star stories entwine and flow as one. Some Like It Hot, directed by Wilder is one of my all-time favourite films, so I was intrigued by the premise of this blend of fact and fiction. Jonathan Coe delves into the life of this influential and talented director, the acknowledgements and sources establish his research and recognise the specific incidents and quotations from Wilder. While the director is fascinating and absolutely compelling, it is Calista, as she remembers her past and looks to her future who allowed my thoughts to reach out and settle with new awareness. I really wasn’t expecting the last line, and it landed with exquisite delicacy and made me cry. I have quite fallen in love with Mr Wilder and Me, it sits as both a Liz Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book too. 

Star Books
Carrying Albert Home

Carrying Albert Home

Author: Homer Hickam Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/06/2016

One of our Books of the Year 2016. A beautifully quirky, yet at the same time completely logical love story (well it is logical once you've realised that you too, have fallen in love with an alligator). ‘Carrying Albert Home’ is a nine part tale, detailing an odyssey that took place during the 1930’s, interspersed with snappy little introductions to each part of the story by the author. As Homer (the elder) and Elsie his wife, adventure their way down the east coast from West Virgina to Florida, with Albert the alligator and the Rooster, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Homer Hickam (the younger and author) is telling the ‘somewhat true’ story of the early years of his parents marriage, surely this is the most fantastical tale ever told! I believe that John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway would remember their parts in this tale with glee, who wouldn't want to have been introduced to the charming and rather glorious Albert? I quite simply devoured this enchanting book in one sitting, and I will want to read it again and again. One of our Books of the Year 2015. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

This Mortal Boy

This Mortal Boy

Author: Fiona Kidman Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/07/2019

Albert Black, known as Paddy, and later as the “jukebox killer”, was the penultimate person to be hanged in New Zealand at the age of twenty-five. Paddy came to New Zealand from Ireland, a sparky young man seeking a new life in a new land. Then, after killing another young man during a fight, a weighted court case sees him sentenced to death for murder. The events that led to the fatal stabbing are told from the engrossing and varied viewpoints of multiple witnesses, both on the stand and in real time. The lives of the jurors are explored too, their backgrounds, what makes them tick, how they’re biased against, or in favour of, the accused regardless of evidence or fact, from the “He’s an Irishman. Taking our girls,” comment of Wayne the gas fitter, to the sympathetic butcher who points out that “if someone’s not like you, you don’t want to know”. The ethics of the death penalty are explored too. As one juror remarks, “I cannot believe we’ve earned the right to decide who should live and who should die”, as is political history, the social history of Irish migrants forging new lives as ten-quid Poms, and the personal plight of Paddy’s mother back home who starts a petition and writes to the New Zealand High Commissioner and the Queen. As the case progresses (with prejudice against outsiders deftly explored and powerfully prescient), the novel lays bare how some individuals stand firm in their convictions  while others crumble, and how anyone’s convictions might crumble when circumstances collude and collide. A love story unfolds too, which takes an unexpected and deeply poignant turn.   Author Fiona Kidman is a highly-regarded recipient of many literary awards and honours in her native New Zealand and this affecting novel more than showcases her exquisite talent.

A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect Union

Author: Tammye Huf Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/10/2020

Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’”  Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Star Books
Now is the Time

Now is the Time

Author: Melvyn Bragg Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/09/2016

‘Now is the Time’ is a fascinating, substantial, yet surprisingly contained novel given the subject matter. Detailing the people's rebellion of 1381, Melvyn Bragg imagines this time and breathes life into the foundations and advance of the rising. With an unpopular poll tax, corruption rife and the plague decimating swathes of the country,  the uprising still surprises the court of the King. Bragg focuses on the alliances of the main characters, 14 year old Richard II and his mother, the priest John Ball and former soldier Walter Tyler. Find yourself carried along at the front of the rebellion where reason and control is somehow maintained, while the rioting rolling mass of people to the rear, almost become a backdrop rather than being the heart of the story. Personally, I found the relationship between Richard and his mother the most fully realised and therefore intriguing and compelling. It feels as you read, as though this could have been a truth, even the truth… as though you are reading history in the making. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/08/2019

Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Elwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Elwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.”  At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Elwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Elwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Elwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment.  While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Elwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.

eBooks of the Month
The Spy

The Spy

Author: Paulo Coelho Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/09/2017

October 2017 Book of the Month A short, emotional and entirely captivating novel based on the real events that surrounded, enclosed and smothered the notorious Mata Hari. Mata Hari is a name that still evokes and conjures vivid images, this is a story that releases fact and weaves in fiction, until you're left with a concentrated, intense tragedy. The prologue introduces the end, a chillingly evocative photo followed by a news report, this may be a novel, but it doesn't feel like one, instead it feels as though reality is spilling from the pages. Several photos add an intensity to the already striking and memorable tale. By writing in letter form, Paulo Coelho allowed me to touch, to feel, to question, he made me look at Mata Hari as a woman rather than an exotic creature. ‘The Spy’ strips glamour, discards enchantment, yet there still remains an air of mystery about the fascinating Mata Hari, and I’m left with her still in my mind, I’m left wanting to know more. ~ Liz Robinson If you like Paulo Coelho you might also like to read books by Laura Esquivel, Diana Cooperand Louise Erdrich.

eBooks of the Month
The Bead Collector

The Bead Collector

Author: Sefi Atta Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/08/2019

Witty, profound and illuminating, this will surely see its acclaimed author receive many more accolades. Our setting is Lagos, 1976, where a new military regime has been in power for six months. Amidst a politically tense atmosphere - a countercoup is anticipated – Nigerian greetings-card shop owner Remi meets Frances, an American bead collector. The two women strike up a friendship of sorts, sharing views on the likes of motherhood, politics, their cultural and personal differences. Remi’s husband is deeply suspicious of Frances, and suspects she’s a spy, a view Remi thinks is absurd until the bloody coup comes, and she worries she was wrong to trust Frances. This immersive novel serves up many insights into Lagos life and politics, and Remi is a riveting narrator – an intelligent, intriguing woman who carries herself with composure and makes many shrewd observations about the world, from male power (“Perhaps that was why peace was unattainable. The inability of men to define what it meant to win or lose”), to the brutally simplistic approach of British colonialists (“Where were the considerations for intricacies like how our cultures and religions overlapped?”), and American self-preservation (“Everyone knew the United States picked and chose which countries to meddle with”).  I came away feeling enlightened, and entertained by Remi’s wit. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Star Books
Green Island A Novel

Green Island A Novel

Author: Shawna Yang Ryan Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/02/2016

‘Green Island’ is a breathtaking novel, it’s emotional, thought-provoking and absolutely fascinating. Set in Taiwan and the USA between 1947 and 2003, the novel focuses on one family, yet the story is presented on an epic scale. This is a work of fiction, however elements are based on fact, and the tale weaves its way through shocking, brutal times. Shawnee Yang Ryan sets the tale in motion using an unnamed narrator, she is the youngest daughter of the family set in the novel, and as the narrator she adds an intensity and greater connection to the story. There is a perceptive understanding of human nature portrayed in this tale and it all feels so very very real. The writing is expressive, vibrant and able to touch feelings with a raw intensity, yet it can also hold a moment of beauty with delicate empathy. ‘Green Island’ is a novel that encouraged me to look further into this time in Taiwan’s history, it is also, quite simply, a beautifully touching read.

An Unsuitable Woman

An Unsuitable Woman

Author: Kat Gordon Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/05/2019

A darkly glamorous tale of hedonism, shifting social sands and coming-of-age crises - think The Great Gatsby in colonial Kenya. Fourteen-year-old Theo’s first impressions of his new life in East Africa - a world away from England - encapsulates this novel’s intoxicating sense of place: “Across the bay was Zanzibar...a stretch of brilliant white sand dotted with palms and matched by the whitewashed palace and fort at its edge. To the left I could see an Indian banyan tree, alive with vervet monkeys, and behind that, the shaded labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.” And then: “Kenya was the Africa I’d dreamed of”.  Soon after his family’s arrival, with his father appointed new Director of the railway, Theo fatefully meets twenty-something good-timers Freddie (Lord Hamilton) and Sylvie (introduced by Freddie as an “unsuitable woman”). Described by Sylvie as “absurdly handsome”, Theo is drawn into the decadent world of their notorious Happy Valley set. Against a backdrop of fluctuating politics, he finds himself caught in a web of compromising personal conundrums, while younger sister Maud comes to identify more with the colonised population than with her own colonial class.  Steeped in exhilarating atmosphere, coming-of-age conflicts, and historical intrigue, and boasting brilliant characterisation, this is an exquisitely entertaining showstopper of a story, best read while reclining with a comely cocktail to hand.  

The Good People

The Good People

Author: Hannah Kent Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/09/2017

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. Three women are at the heart of this beguiling, elemental novel, in which the dialogue dances, and the force of Irish fairy lore weaves its eerie, all-consuming ways through a superstitious rural community in the early nineteenth century. Nóra’s husband was “a fit man, in the full of healthy” when he dropped down dead at a crossroads reserved for the burial of suicides. Nóra has already lost her daughter this year, and now cares for her grandson Micheál who, inexplicably, has ceased speaking and walking. In the words of Mary, the young girl who comes to work for Nóra, he’s like a “strange scarecrow”, “a baby’s plaything, made from sticks and an old dress”. The locals whisper that he’s a changling, that his mother was carried away by the Good People (the fairies), that he played some part in his grandfather’s untimely passing. Terrified of him, (Nóra’s nights are “shattered with the boy’s screaming”), and at her wits end, she takes the desperate measure of whipping Micheál with nettles, thinking the sting will make him move. It’s then that a neighbour says Nóra must seek advice from Nance of the Fairies. With her wise woman’s knowledge of herbs and spirits, Nance is “a pagan chorus”, “the gatekeeper at the edge of the world”, and has healed many a person in need. Although the new priest “has the word out against her”, healing is what she does, and so Nance agrees to “put the fairy out of [Micheál]”. As further misfortunes are blamed on the child, the three women work to restore him amidst an atmosphere charged with increasing hostility.Inspired by a real-life event, this is an absolutely stunning account of a poor community clinging to superstition and ritual in order to make sense of their isolated world. Chilling, and charged with earthiness, I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘This is a marvelously physical evocation of rural Ireland, which is deeply personal without ever being mawkish.  With a cracking good narrative, Hannah Kent has conjured up an entire world that most of us would never see or know about, and has created three entirely different female characters who resonate long beyond the novel.  The hold of the church and of superstition over the people is both totally believable and plausible.'

eBooks of the Month
On the Come Up

On the Come Up

Author: Angie Thomas Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/02/2019

Under-your-skin powerful novel about a talented young black woman who refuses to be silenced. Bri is a smart hip-hop writer from rough, tough Garden Heights, the same housing project that provided the setting for Thomas’s remarkable debut, The Hate U Give. Her underground rap legend dad was murdered twelve years ago, leading to her (now clean) mom seeking solace in drugs. Bri’s dad’s legacy means she has a hell of a lot of baggage when she performs at a big open mic event. While she chokes the first round after being goaded by her opponent in a scene that will have you desperately urging her on, Bri’s powerful lyrics and performance mark her out as something special. But as her hip-hop reputation is on the rise, so other aspects of her life take a downturn. There’s serious money trouble at home, and at school she’s unjustly suspended, the latter of which leads to her writing the track that further rockets her reputation, “On the Come Up”. But this brings further struggle. There’s the racism of black women being labeled “aggressive” for merely expressing their views. There’s a painful falling out with “tight since womb days” friend Malik. And there’s a cruel conflict between self-preservation (shutting up and putting up to avoid being wrongly locked up, or worse) in a racist society, and the heightened need to speak out precisely because of this situation. Impeccably plotted, with a multiple storylines woven to a pulse-pounding conclusion, this is an astoundingly affecting novel that shines a light on the struggles of young black women, and celebrates freedom of speech and making noise about who you are, as seen through unforgettable Bri, a 100% authentic character whom readers will root for, cry for, yell out loud for, and grin for joy with. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Words in My Hand

The Words in My Hand

Author: Guinevere Glasfurd Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/02/2017

Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017. A gloriously readable and emotional fictional tale based on the relationship between Dutch maid Helena Jans van der Strom and philosopher, mathematician and scientist Rene Descartes, in 17th century Amsterdam. Helena tells her own story, and we have intimate access to her thoughts and feelings as she learns the magic of words, writing and thinking beyond the obvious. It feels as though Guinevere Glasfurd has seen into the heart and soul of Helena, as though this really could be her story. The author also has the gift of shaping the outside world, of painting a vivid picture of life in these times. Sending thoughts skittering down unexpected paths and opening up the world of Descartes,  ‘The Words In My Hand’ is a truly lovely and captivating debut. ~ Liz Robinson Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016. Costa judges comment: “Glasfurd brings the 17th century Netherlands to vivid life in this sensitive, compelling tale of love and loss.”

eBooks of the Month
The Prince of Mirrors

The Prince of Mirrors

Author: Alan Robert Clark Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2019

A fascinating, wonderfully readable fiction and fact merging story based on the life of Prince Albert Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson and future heir to the throne. Prince Albert Victor, known as Eddy, was said to be involved in one particular scandal of his time. His name has also since been mentioned as a candidate for Jack the Ripper, and though widely dismissed, it proves speculation about Prince Albert Victor ran rife. This story focuses on Eddy and his personal tutor Jem Stephen as they took their first steps into adulthood. Alan Robert Clark brings the two men into vivid, relatable life, he handles emotions and actions with great compassion and understanding. As I read, the writing flowed so beautifully I had no idea where fact finished and fiction began. This book left my heart full of emotion, it also left me determined to step into the history books and find out more. ‘The Prince of Mirrors’ is an eye-opening, compelling, and rather intruiging read - and so highly recommended by me. 

Concrete Rose

Concrete Rose

Author: Angie Thomas Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/01/2021

This book is set 17 years before the action in Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give – showing how Star’s father in THUG became the man he is.    Maverick is an average teenage boy in the Garden Heights area – selling drugs to help the budget at home as his father is in prison.  His Mum works two and sometimes three jobs to try to make ends meet – and Maverick knows he needs to graduate High School to stand any chance of becoming the man he wants to be.   That is, until he discovers he is a father, and the baby’s mother can’t cope and hands baby Seven (named after Maverick’s lucky number) to Maverick to care for.     The difficulties of being a single parent, and the strong community who try to rally to Maverick’s aid are wonderfully depicted in this powerful exploration of what it is to be a teen parent.  But, it is never so simple as the community pulling together, Maverick also has to turn away from his gang life, standalone – but then his cousin Dre, who was more like a brother, is killed in a gangland shooting and dies in Maverick’s arms.     This is such a powerful book – totally honest in its appreciation of the difficulties of life, but so filled with humanity you cannot help but root for Maverick, even when you are scared what he might choose to do.  This is one of those books that stay with you – that will change people’s thinking, highlighting as it does some of the social injustices of growing up young and black in today’s world. Read it, then read The Hate u Give – if you haven’t already read it! 

Ravenspur

Ravenspur

Author: Conn Iggulden Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/05/2016

May 2016 Book of the Month. A stunning conclusion to ‘The Wars of the Roses’ series, ‘Ravenspur’ launches Henry Tudor, while around him Kings battle for survival. This series is absolutely fascinating and even more compelling knowing it is based on some of the most bloody and twisted history of our land. Conn Iggulden captures the nuances of political manoeuvring beautifully, and truly breathes life into the men and women of this time. These are not shallow caricatures from history, but distinct, observable people, I felt their intense passion and conviction, I saw them at their best, worst, and everything in-between. As I read, I occasionally found myself returning to the family trees at the beginning, and found them essential in order to understand just how tangled and contorted a battle for supremacy this really was. This series has, quite simply, been breathtakingly glorious from beginning to end.

eBooks of the Month
The Fate of Kings

The Fate of Kings

Author: Mark Stibbe, G. P. Taylor Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/11/2017

An authoritative yet easy to read, absolute romp of a novel set during the turbulence of the French Revolution. This is the first adventure in ‘The Chronicles of Thomas Pryce’, a vicar who studied at Oxford and is trained in the use of the sword and pistol. On hearing that the safety of his wife’s family is compromised, Thomas makes his way to Paris to rescue them. Seamlessly weaving fact and fiction Mark Stibbe and G. P. Taylor have created a world of political intrigue, cunning spies, and perilous endeavours. Historical figures such as William Pitt and Lady Hester Stanhope populate the pages ensuring the period wrapped itself around me, and set me firmly in place. The more I read, the more I wanted to read and I found myself fully immersed in the story. The Fate of Kings is an excellent start to what promises to be a thoroughly entertaining series, long may it reign! ~ Liz Robinson

Books of the Month
Empress Orchid

Empress Orchid

Author: Anchee Min Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/01/2005

Reviewed on Richard and Judy on 15 March 2006. Anchee Min draws a vivid portrait of a flawed yet compelling woman and, through her life, the world of the Chinese court and the sexual and political lives of the royal concubines.To view a reading guide for this title click here

eBooks of the Month
The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/08/2018

In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. 

Audiobooks of the Month
The Unseeing

The Unseeing

Author: Anna Mazzola Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/01/2017

March 2017 Debut of the Month. A detailed, intriguing and highly enjoyable debut historical thriller. James Greenacre is accused of murdering his bride and his mistress, Sarah Gale, is convicted of aiding him in disposing of her body. Public opinion flares up against Sarah and the Home Secretary gets a young lawyer, Edward Fleetwood, to investigate the police evidence. May there have been something amiss? Certainly the facts are puzzling. Sarah's incarceration in Newgate Jail, we are in 1837, is particularly vicious and vividly described. Our young lawyer has a deadline to deliver his evidence and a conscience to battle with. This builds to a terrific and unexpected conclusion. I was totally hooked in the last unputdownable 160 pages. Good stuff. One of our Books of the Year 2016.

eBooks of the Month
Dragonfly Eyes

Dragonfly Eyes

Author: Cao Wenxuan Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Taking in five decades, three generations and the tender love between a girl and her grandmother, Dragonfly Eyes is an exquisitely-written novel set against a backdrop of unrest and change in 1960s Shanghai. With celebrated Chinese author Cao Wenxuan at the helm, readers are taken on an enthralling journey from a Golden Age in 1920s France, to poverty in post-war Shanghai, to rural Cultural Revolution China, in the beguiling company of Ah Mei and her French grandmother, Nainai.

Star Books
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
Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Author: Patti Callahan Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/05/2019

Oh I did enjoy this read, it was totally unexpected and sincerely lovely, as while I adored (and still adore) visiting the Narnia of C.S. Lewis, I had absolutely no idea of the truly fascinating love story that existed between him and Joy Davidman. The author introduces this novel with a note to the reader, inviting you to meet Joy Davidman, to explore her courage, and wonder at the woman who corresponded with Lewis before leaving America to make his world her home. Patti Callahan has obviously spent a huge amount of time in research, and that really comes across, as I read I felt, really felt that I was listening to Joy tell her own story. She is written in such a way that I could hear her, feel her pain, explore her hope, her commitment, she bares her soul and I rather fell in love her and her writing. Religion plays an important part, both of them found Christianity later in life, both were constantly testing and examining their faith, if like me you are a non-believer, please do not turn away, yes it is hugely important, yet approached with the most considered hand by Patti Callahan. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and oh how that resonates here, Becoming Mrs Lewis is a beautiful, engaging, eloquent read and highly recommended.

The Bone Sparrow A Refugee Novel

The Bone Sparrow A Refugee Novel

Author: Zana Fraillon Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/01/2017

Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016  | In a Nutshell: Refugees | Resilience | Friendship  A heartfelt, harrowing insight into life as a Rohingya refugee in an Australian detention centre, told through the unforgettable voice of an unforgettable boy. Subhi is one of the Limbo kids in a permanent Australian detention centre, the first to be born in the camp after his Maá and big sister Queeny fled violent persecution in Burma. While he’s only experienced life within the cruel confines of the camp, Subhi’s rich imagination has conjured a magical, solace-giving world in which the Night Sea from his Maá’s tales brings him treasures from his dad. Stories are Subhi’s lifeline. He needs them “to make my memories” and imagines a blanket of stories, a “gigantic blanket big enough to warm everyone”. A new story treasure transforms Subhi’s world in the form of Jimmie, a local girl who finds her way into the camp. She too knows heartache. She’s lost her mum, who used to tell her special tales and gave her a bone sparrow necklace that “carried the souls of all her family”. When Jimmie enters Subhi’s life, he wonders if she’s his guardian angel, though he hadn't expected an angel to have more holes in her clothes than him. And, on meeting Subhi, Jimmie realises that she’s “never had a friend she wanted to share everything with before”, and so she shares her mum’s stories with him, stories he reads to her since she’s unable to read them herself. Subhi's unique voice will weave its way into your heart and under your skin. His descriptions of life in the centre are hauntingly evocative. You feel, for example, the heat of days that get his “skin creeping” and make everything “jangly and loud and scratchy”. Through Subhi, readers experience how it might feel to have no home or voice, and how friendship can lighten the darkest of circumstances. One hopes, as Subhi’s Maá says, that “someday they see we belong.” Both elegant and raw, this is an important and timely novel that bears witness to the risks people take to make their voice heard, and to the resilience of the human spirit. ~ Joanne Owen Zana Fraillon felt compelled to write her novel The Bone Sparrow because she could not ignore the millions of people who were being forcibly displaced and the millions of children missing out on a childhood. Zana comments, “The Bone Sparrow was written so we remember the people behind the statistics. Those 65 million stories waiting to be told, those 33 million children wondering if their futures will ever be realised. It was written so we can find the courage to stand for humanity, and the wisdom to imagine a different world. It was written so we may all live in hope.” Guardian Children's Fiction Prize Judge SF Said: “Moving and memorable, The Bone Sparrow deserves to be read by all who care about our common humanity.”

eBooks of the Month
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 Ones That Disappeared

The Ones That Disappeared

Author: Zana Fraillon Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/07/2017

A poignant and poetic novel that gives voice to the oft-forgotten children imperiled to trafficking and slavery. Eleven-year-old Esra, storyteller Miran and six-year-old Isa have been enslaved by a gang. They’re locked in a room beneath the house and must tend to The Jungle. “The tattoo on my arm… says I am owned”, Esra explains, but she knows a different truth. She knows that no marks on her skin can say who she really is. “One day, I will be free”, she resolves even as she’s being beaten. There’s a chance to escape, but Miran is too injured to do so. “With our souls tied together, we won’t ever be apart”, he whispers before urging Esra to flee with Isa. While Miran is hospitalised and captured by the police, Esra struggles to keep up her spirits. Then she and Isa form a bond with a “strange” boy named Skeet and together they make a man from the mud of the river. When Riverman takes on a life of his own, he might just lead them to the freedom they’ve been seeking. I adored the author’s previous novel, the hauntingly moving The Bone Sparrow, and this more than confirms her majestic writing skills, and a style that will surely be adored by fans of David Almond. By turns harrowing, heart-wrenching, and magical, this is an incredibly powerful - and incredibly important - novel.

eBooks of the Month
A Question of Time

A Question of Time

Author: James Stejskal Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/01/2021

A thrilling, riveting, and whip-smart novel that feels as though you are being served a slice of Cold War military history. When a CIA asset in East Germany is compromised, a team of unconventional warfare specialists are charged with extracting him. This is the first in the Snake Eater Chronicles by James Stejskal who spent 35 years in the US Army Special Forces and CIA. He is now an author (previously writing non-fiction), military historian, and conflict archaeologist. These stories are based in reality using his real-world experience and the author himself calls it “faction”. This is an absolutely fascinating read, all the cogs within the CIA and Special Forces machine spin into action. The Cold War history of Berlin, different characters, methods and processes are included and explained without upsetting the flow of what is a gripping story. I didn’t question, I quite simply read and believed. A Question of Time is a fabulous start to a series that promises to deliver in spades and it comes with a whopping thumbs up from me.  

Star Books
Swords of Silence

Swords of Silence

Author: Shaun Curry Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/09/2019

A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.  

Books of the Month
Burial Rites

Burial Rites

Author: Hannah Kent Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2014

Shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. An historical dual-narrative tale set in Iceland in 1829 where three, two women and a man, are sentenced for killing two men.  We follow the narrative of the “jealous” woman as she is lodged with a family awaiting execution.  Through her conversations with her priest and the family, who has daughters, whose opinions we also follow, we learn the startling truth.  The atmosphere, the detail, the morals and beliefs of the period and the raw emotions gently unfolding make for a very fine novel indeed.   Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2013.   In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Burial Rites a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'Burial Rites is a mesmerising piece of historical fiction and one of the best début novels I have ever encountered.' - Nicola Foster   Scroll down to read more reviews.

eBooks 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
At First Light

At First Light

Author: Vanessa LaFaye Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/11/2017

A heart-breaking, provocative, and powerful story, with love, murder, and justice sitting at the core. This tale was inspired by real events that occurred from 1919 to 1921 in Key West, Florida. The story starts in 1993 when a 96 year old woman shoots dead a Ku Klux Klan official and will say nothing but admit her guilt. The explanation for the shooting begins in 1919, when a mixed-race relationship crosses boundaries. The prologue fully captured my attention, I fell head first into the tale, and didn’t draw breath until the last page. Vanessa Lafaye has created characters who feel authentically real and very much alive. The descriptive detailing set the time and surroundings vividly and clearly in my mind. As understanding grew, so did the tickle of fear and foreboding for what was to come. ‘At First Light’ is a beautifully written tale, one that prods and provokes and yet encourages hope - highly recommended. Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month

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