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Around the World in 80+ Historical Novels.

The very best historical novels not only bring a vibrant sense of place, they also encourage the reader to further research and explore. With the novels we have chosen here, you step back in time and also set off on an expedition to other countries and continents. Choose just a short sail across the waters to France, or you can travel right round to the other side of the world. From times still alive in some people's memories, through to several thousand years ago, this collection gives you access to Roman centurions, Russian counts, and American abolitionists. It allows you to fully immerse yourself in another time and place, to step foot on one of the world's tallest mountains, into a city plunged in civil war, and off a boat straight into a penal colony.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville is glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. This book was inspired by letters and comments on a pioneer and his wife who left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia. This is a unique and beautiful novel that allows you to read between the lines of history.

Editorial Expert Joanne Owen adored NICK by Michael Farris Smith, she describes it as: “a darkly absorbing, brilliantly accomplished literary undertaking provoked by the author’s complex relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece". From Paris to Frenchtown, New Orleans, this explores who Nick Carraway was before he stepped into the world of The Great Gatsby

Kiran Millwood Hargrave has created the most beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite in The Mercies. A work of fiction inspired by history the story begins in northern Norway on Christmas Eve in 1617 when the lives of forty fishermen were taken in a storm. The descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read.

Debut novel Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood is a fabulously entertaining absolute romp of a murder mystery set in 1940’s New York. A private detective and her assistant are hired to track down the murderer of a wealthy young widow. The first in a new series, this locked-room mystery, wonderfully diverse central characters, and a cracking storyline ensure an absolute dream of a read.

By weaving fact and fiction, Jerome Charyn creates a heart-rending yet fascinating read in Cesare: A Novel of War Torn Berlin. Using real life Chief of the Abwehr, spymaster Wilhelm Canaris meant at times I struggled to remember this was fiction as it felt all too real. There is a raw, almost brutal quality to the all-consuming storyline. This is a haunting, traumatic, yet enthralling read and encouraged me to research the history of Canaris.

There are novels here that will encourage your emotions to fly, to open your thoughts to huge world events, or allow a glimpse of the most intimate of personal stories. From beautiful to brutal, from rip-roaring to exquisitely gentle, there are some simply wonderful stories on this list that we wholeheartedly recommend.

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.

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 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.

Star Books
Fortune Favours the Dead

Fortune Favours the Dead

Author: Stephen Spotswood Format: Hardback Release Date: 12/11/2020

A fabulously entertaining absolute romp of a murder mystery set in 1940’s New York. Famous private detective Lillian Pentecost, and her assistant Willowjean Parker are hired to track down the murderer of a wealthy young widow who was bludgeoned to death with a crystal ball at a seance. This is the debut novel and first in the Pentecost and Parker series from Stephen Spotswood, who is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and theatre educator. He quite obviously knows how to tell one heck of a captivating story, and this sits somewhere between hard-boiled and cosy! The first sentence is a corker, and sets up Willowjean (Will) as the most engaging and one-of-a-kind narrator. This is very much a character-led story, the feeling of the time is created with dialogue, which snaps and crackles with energy. Both Lillian and Will are fascinating characters, with more than a few tricks hidden up their sleeves. With a locked-room mystery, wonderfully diverse central characters, and a cracking storyline, Fortune Favours the Dead is a dream of a read and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. 

Star Books
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.

Star Books
The Devil and the Dark Water

The Devil and the Dark Water

Author: Stuart Turton Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/10/2020

Be prepared for a reading maelstrom to suck you in whole when you open this LoveReading Star Book. Set in 1634 a boat leaves the East Indies with a detective duo on board. Although one is locked up and facing execution, their skills are very much needed when the voyage is beset by a terrible forewarning. Stuart Turton’s debut picked up the Costa First Novel Award Winner for 2018. The Devil and the Dark Water is just as fabulous and will be going straight onto my list of favourite books this year. It is the perfect novel to read as the nights are drawing in, the story built itself into a reality, I was there, bearing witness. Surprises wait in store, strange beings stalk the decks, and several locked room/ship mysteries just beg to be solved. My thoughts were broken open, and exploded one way then the other as I sought answers. All of the characters are fascinating in their own unique way and while I initially thought I was meeting a Holmes and Watson pair, I quickly realised they were very much their own men. The Devil and the Dark Water crosses genres in the most wonderfully entertaining way and sails straight onto my list of Liz Picks of the Month. I’ll be standing and applauding this one!

Star Books
The World That We Knew

The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

This moving, thoughtful, and expressive historical novel walked into my heart with deep empathy, and more than a hint of fantasy. Set during the Second World War, between 1941 and 1944, The World We Knew explores the nature of war, anti-Semitism, and what people can become when faced with the hardest of choices. When Hanni Kohn approaches her rabbi to help save her 12 year old daughter from the Nazi regime, assistance comes from the least likely of places. The first chapter, stark, urgent, and compelling was so intense I almost stopped breathing. As the chapter came to a close I sat for a moment in contemplative silence. I simply adored how Alice Hoffman balances the fantasy element of the novel, it feels as though a truth has been sent free. I disappeared into the words, and took to my heart that survival isn’t just a matter of life or death. One word of advice, you may need to have tissues close to hand, I cried at the beauty of the ending. The World That We Knew is not only one of my picks of the month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Around the World in Eighty Days

Around the World in Eighty Days

Author: Jules Verne Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/06/2018

The novel was written in the 1870’s when newspapers were full of stories about the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in the USA, the opening of the Suez Canal and the ability to cross India by rail. Phileas Fogg having seen this news has a bet with the members of his club that he can travel around the world in 80 daysand sets off with his valet Passepartout from London on a rainy day. A fast moving adventure that is still relevant to today’s traveller. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Author: Tracy Chevalier Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/02/2019

20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household.  At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.

eBooks of the Month
Rembrandt's Mirror

Rembrandt's Mirror

Author: Kim Devereux Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/06/2016

Longlisted for the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. This is such a stimulating, penetrating and truly beautiful novel, Kim Devereux obviously has a deeply emotional connection to Rembrandt’s work and she opens up and breathes life into his extraordinary world. While detailing the three main lovers or loves of his life, it’s the first person narrative of Hendrikje, as she starts to see the world through his eyes, that allows a profound contact with Rembrandt. It is by no means essential for you to have knowledge of this exceptional artist, if you already know of the works that head the chapters then, by the end you will see them with fresh eyes. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, it’s advisable to wait until you've finished the book before completing any research, instead allow the writing to paint the pictures for you. The author sweeps aside a shadowy curtain to allow a vivacious, exhilarating light to flood in and reveal secrets, illicit lust and deception. A piece of fiction Rembrandt’s Mirror may be, but it feels remarkably authentic and is an absolute joy to read. One of our Books of the Year 2015.  A 'Piece of Passion’ from the Publisher... ‘I fell in love with this novel from the very first pages. Rembrandt is a man of dark corners, strange passions and a ruthlessness born from his need to put his art first. Kim Devereux is an extremely sensitive and talented writer, and this novel represents years spent thinking about Rembrandt the artist and the way he painted, but it is also a beautifully and astute portrait of a love affair, between the artist and the girl who became his common-law wife.’ Margaret Stead, Editor of Rembrandt’s Mirror and Publisher Director, Atlantic Books

eBooks of the Month
The Devil Aspect

The Devil Aspect

Author: Craig Russell Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/10/2019

This is an absolute belter of a novel. Awaiting you is a stunning, murderous mix of Eastern European folklore and a serial killer, set during 1935 in rural Czechoslovakia. Psychiatrist Dr Viktor Kosarek takes up a position in Hrad Orlu Asylum for the criminally insane to study the ‘Devil’s Six’, while in Prague, a serial killer is announced. The page and a half prologue sets the novel up brilliantly, the last sentence, so starkly delivered, chilled me to the bone. My mind entered the most vividly real locations, I slipped through the streets of Prague and flinched as I entered the Castle. Craig Russell crosses several genres and balances a number of themes seamlessly, which I just adored. My thoughts pushed and pulled at my emotions as they balanced together on a cliff edge. The Devil Aspect, is a dark, haunting whopper of a story and it set my imagination on fire. So good, it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and just had to be one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.

Star Books
Saint Mazie

Saint Mazie

Author: Jami Attenberg Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/02/2016

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.  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.

eBooks of the Month
When We Fall

When We Fall

Author: Carolyn Kirby Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/07/2021

Carolyn Kirby’s When We Fall tells the gripping, read-in-one-sitting stories of two women who fall for the same man. Sparked by the long-suppressed WW2 Katyn massacre atrocity that saw 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia killed by the Soviet Union, it presents the painful complexities of love and loyalty during terrible times in readably elegant style. England, 1943 and British pilot Vee is set on being given her Wings when she first encounters charismatic Polish RAF pilot Stefan. There’s an immediate frisson between them, and from this first meeting their lives are to be entangled for the rest of their days. Both of them are immensely likeable - Vee for her dogged and down-to-earth determination to succeed in a male dominated field, and Stefan for his amiability and respectfulness.  Meanwhile, in the Polish town of Posen (formerly Poznań), Eva (formerly Ewa before Nazi occupation) has all but given up on her lover returning as she waits tables in her father’s guesthouse while working for the resistance. Matters are complicated when she falls for a handsome German officer, and then her lover - Stefan - returns and asks Eva to take a huge risk for him. He’s asked similar of Vee in England and so, unbeknown to each other, both women become caught up in a costly mission to disclose the horrors Stefan witnessed while in Russian captivity.  Covering events from spring 1943 to late 1945 (with an unexpected addendum from 1963), this is a highly visual, highly sensory novel with relatable, powerful human dilemmas at its heart.    

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
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.  

A Room with a View

A Room with a View

Author: E M Forster Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/07/2019

Captivating, stimulating, and written with the lightest and wittiest of touches. E. M. Forster not only transported me to another place, he also opened my eyes to the times and made me smile. I think I quite possibly discovered my love for Italy having read A Room with a View as a teenager. The characters pop with such vivid intensity, and Italy, well I felt as though Italy was performing just for me. A Room with a View is a beautifully entertaining and lovely romance, with just a little bite. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

The Museum of Broken Promises

The Museum of Broken Promises

Author: Elizabeth Buchan Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/04/2020

A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, it is quite simply, glorious. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Museum of Broken Promises.

Star Books
The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter's Wife

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2015

September 2015 Book of the Month. Chosen as a Richard and Judy Book Club selection Autumn 2015. An exotically intense, vibrant and memorable tale, set in Ceylon from 1925 and covering a period of eleven years. Nineteen year old Gwen discovers an unfamiliar world both physically and emotionally when she leaves England to be with her new husband. Gwen enters a testing arena, conflict comes in many forms and destructive secrets convulse corrosively just out of reach. Dinah Jefferies opens up Ceylon for our viewing, tasting and touching pleasure, she describes this vivid land and customs quite beautifully, while settling the story gently within its midst. The characters are portrayed realistically, mistakes are made and hidden, guilt and suspicion become damaging companions. Written with true eloquence and compassion The Tea Planter’s Wife is a profoundly moving and engaging novel. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/11/2017

One of Our Books of the Year 2017 |    Shortly after the Russian revolution, a White Russian count is spared execution because of a subversive poem he wrote defying authority before the fall of the Czar and is, instead, exiled to an attic room in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow, where he once enjoyed a luxurious suite and all the amenities that wealth could provide. As he adapts to his house arrest, we follow his encounters with the motley denizens, employees and visitors of the hotel and watch how his state of mind changes alongside the Russia outside the walls of the hotel. Both meditative and, at times, truculent, this also forms a parallel history of Russia over the following forty years or so until the death of Stalin and for a narrative isolated inside a closed locale becomes amazingly broad in scope, reflective, expansive and so often terribly moving, albeit with much wit and humour. Unforgettable characters, both fictional and real life, a web of subtle relationships: all human life is here and a triumphant follow-up to Towles' debut novel which had been set in the glitter of New York in the 1930s.  Long but wonderfully rewarding, this will make you laugh, cry and smile, an epic that never even moves outside the hotel's lobby! Loved it. ~ Maxim Jakubowski February 2017 MEGA Book of the Month. The Lovereading view... Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, the gentleman of the title, is not executed with his fellow aristocrats for he had already left Russia at the start of the Revolution and he returns in 1918.  This mystifies the Bolshevik tribunal he stands before in 1922.  He wrote a poem which is deemed a call to arms, but for which side?  So he is placed under house arrest for life.  Conveniently his address for the last four years has been The Hotel Metropol, the best in Moscow.  Now moved to humble rooms in the old servant quarters in the belfry, he nonetheless has the run of the beautiful establishment, the restaurants and bar.  He makes friends with the servants and guests alike and is dubbed by an old student friend who has suffered in the Gulag, “the luckiest man in Russia”.  Intrigue, romance and friendship pepper the years as we follow the Count from 1922 to 1954, a time of huge change as a new Russia is created.  With a nod towards the period in its style and lots of philosophy, I wouldn’t say this was compulsive but it is strangely hypnotic, one is certainly drawn to it although it isn’t an easy read.  It is a comfortable book to be with despite its horrific span in history for imprisoned in his hotel, Rostov is indeed one of the luckiest in Russia. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Click here to read a Q&A with the author about this book.

eBooks of the Month
Thin Air

Thin Air

Author: Michelle Paver Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/10/2017

November 2017 Book of the Month A chilling ghostly tale set in 1935 on Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas. Five men attempt to climb to the summit of the worlds third highest mountain, they take the same path as a failed climb in 1907 and soon find local superstitions and eerie sightings affect their thoughts and nerves. Michelle Paver embeds a sense of complete reality, Dr Stephen Pearce tells the story and it feels as though it could be a documented historic account. Yet as I read, small unnerving suggestions began to affect my reasoning. Thoughts and feelings, trapped and hemmed in by fear, transferred from the pages. Michelle Paver explains at the end of the book that in reality, the actual peak of the mountain remained untouched until 1980, so as not to upset ‘whatever’ lived up there. Was the altitude affecting the climb in the novel, or a more supernatural presence? ‘Thin Air’, set in a world unknown to most, is an unsettling, gripping, and oh so readable tale.   ~ liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Sister Noon

Sister Noon

Author: Karen Joy Fowler Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/05/2015

An enticing and quite beguiling historical tale containing a strange but perfectly balanced blend of quirky fiction and political and social commentary. Set in San Francisco in the late 19th century you will find some of these characters are based on real historical figures, Mrs Pleasant actually existed and oh what a fascinating woman she was! The tale flutters through time and action without apparent links, then the strands join together like a gossamer web to make the story whole. If you’ve read ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ you may be expecting something slightly different to the little gem on offer here; originally published in 2001, it shows how versatile this author is… and her intelligence, wit and wordcraft is still plain to see. The joy of this novel is that it doesn't feel as though you are in the middle of a history lesson, it has a slightly fantastical feel to it, it reaches out and draws you in with a refreshing vitality all of its own. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Author: Owen Chase Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2015

First published in 1821 and the inspiration for 'Moby Dick', this is an absolutely fascinating true story, detailing a subject that will make you wince, grimace and wonder. Owen Chase the author, was the First Mate aboard the Whaleship Essex, a ship that was rammed and sank by a whale, leaving 20 men fighting for their lives. Travelling back in time, in language, in livelihoods; this most definitely makes for an uncomfortable read at times. It’s worth having a map by your side, as the distance travelled by the men of the Essex is quite remarkable. This is a tale of ultimate survival that will no doubt leave you wondering what you would do, if left face to mesmerising face with death.  The film adaptation, starring Chris Hemsworth is released in the UK on Saturday 26 December 2015. Click below to view the trailer. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

eBooks of the Month
The Stolen Bicycle

The Stolen Bicycle

Author: Ming-Yi Wu Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/10/2017

November 2017 Book of the Month A beautifully written, rather special novel, detailing the highly personal journey of a family through turbulent times in Taiwan’s history. A stolen bicycle sits centre stage in this story, in fact the bicycles of Taiwan are hugely important, which sounds rather quirky, but as I read, the more I understood, and it felt… just right. The first few sentences spoke to me, the beauty of the thoughts and the description immediately shone through, by the end of the first chapter though, a chill settled over me. I felt as though I was wandering through a mind of treasured memories, some harsh, upsetting, others light as a breeze. Wu Ming-Yi is an award winning novelist, and I can see why for this is a story that meanders, transporting you through time and place.  He quite literally paints with words. The translation is seamless, I felt connected, yet completely aware of the differences in front of me. ‘The Stolen Bicycle’ is an intimate tale that sweeps through history, it’s a truly fascinating, unusual read that I adored - highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson

Iron and Rust

Iron and Rust

Author: Harry Sidebottom Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/02/2015

AD235, a year in Rome when six emperors each killed off his predecessor along with his family and supporters so claiming power himself.  It was a frightening, uncertain time with threats from outside Rome too.  The story hinges round a senior army officer and begins a new series from a very fine author.  But you have to stay alert for the total chaos and insecurity of the times can become confusing and the names don’t help!  Maximus and Maximinus show father and son but sometimes full names are used, sometimes common names, just to keep you on your toes. ~ Sarah Broadhurst   Click here to see the second book in the Throne of the Caesars series, Blood & Steel.   A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...‘Harry Sidebottom is an extraordinary writer, who, whether in the closed-doors, small-room power-play of imperial politics, or on the grand-scale narrative of epic set-piece battle, underpins his thrilling storytelling with incredible authenticity and historical insight. His Throne of the Caesars promises readers fiction where Patrick O’Brian meets A Song of Ice and Fire.’ - Katie Espiner, Publishing Director, HarperFiction

eBooks of the Month
Paris In The Dark

Paris In The Dark

Author: Robert Olen Butler Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/10/2018

A rip-roaring, thrilling read set in 1915 during the First World War. As well as adventure, there is also real heart and soul waiting to be discovered between the pages. This is the fourth in the ‘Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller’ series, Kit is a war reporter and undercover agent, he is set the task of discovering who is planting horrific bombs in Paris.  While you don’t actually need to have read the first books in the series, I recommend that you do, just for the pure enjoyment factor of reading them in order. Robert Olen Butler won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993, his novels have the ability to touch, connect, and alter thoughts and feelings. Intricate layers of high octane story and eloquent descriptions ensured the small details really set me in time and place. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Robert Olen Butler is a war veteran and news reporter. This felt real, I was on high alert and tenterhooks as I waited for the next heart-stopping moment. ‘Paris in the Dark’ is an enthralling well written, full on adventure of read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

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
The Book of Night Women

The Book of Night Women

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/10/2014

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.

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree

Author: Jo Baker Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/02/2017

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. An enthralling work of literary fiction exploring Samuel Beckett’s life in Occupied France. It’s autumn, 1939 and a young writer has returned to Paris, and to Suzanne, his lover and anchor. “He didn’t have to come back. But here he is”, a “pale and wounded Irish man”, without the necessary papers, but ready to make an impact with his art, ready to do something of worth. Then Paris falls, his friend (James) Joyce departs, and soon “Paris isn’t Paris any more”. Associates are taken, Gestapo presence is ever more pervasive and, at huge risk, he joins the Resistance, while also questioning the value of a writer’s work.Throughout, the writing possesses an effecting sparseness, from the early domestic scenes with the writer’s family, “all shiny buckled shoes and neat cardigans”, to the bleakness of Occupied France (the hunger, the acts of cruelty, the creeping fear and despair). This novel is both a profound portrayal of an artist’s inner life, and of his engagement with the ravaged world outside. It’s also a testament to a spirit of survival, to finding “decency amongst the ruins”. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said: ‘We loved the quiet, lyrical, beauty of this novel and its skilful recreation of Samuel Beckett’s years in France throughout the Second World War. It’s illuminating about Beckett’s individual heroism and humanity. The descriptions of France under occupation are always surprising and moving as he (and Baker) chart the horror, despair, starvation and uncertainty of those years with a writer’s eye. Central to the narrative is Beckett’s love for Suzanne, the young French woman he eventually married. The strain of five years of war, their escape from Paris, their long walk to Roussillon and their repeated separations takes a heavy toll on their relationship. But through all of this their quiet love survives.’

eBooks of the Month
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.

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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.

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
The Vanishing Futurist

The Vanishing Futurist

Author: Charlotte Hobson Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/03/2017

Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. An exuberant, kaleidoscopic debut set in the turbulent times around the 1917 Russian revolution, told through the eyes of an eighty-year-old Englishwoman recalling her youth. It's 1914 and, against the wishes of her family, young Gerty Freely goes to Moscow to work as a governess for the middle class Kobelov family. She experiences the city as a place of “unexpected joyfulness” and remains even after Russia declares war on Germany. When the Kobelovs leave the city, Gerty stays, and the family home becomes the base of the Institute of Revolutionary Transformation, spearheaded by charismatic inventor Nikita Slavin. The commune’s manifesto declares war on The Private, The Old and The Ego, and the group cultivates its own utopia, with Slavin (in fabulously full-on mad scientist mode) working to perfect his Propaganda Machine, and then the Socialisation Capsule, a device he claims will enable comrades to time travel to a utopian version of Now. As the crumbling outer world encroaches on the commune, Slavin vanishes. The question is, did the authorities remove him, or did he disappear into another space and time?Gerty is an immensely intriguing narrator, and her story is exhilaratingly original. Blending an extraordinary personal journey with fascinating, lightly worn historical detail, this is a triumph of a debut. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Judges said:‘Charlotte Hobson's The Vanishing Futurist fulfils the ultimate requirement of a historical novel: it inhabits a moment in history and in doing so illuminates recurring truths about the past, present and future.  The moment in history is the Russian revolution and the avant-garde theories of community, art and science which it spawned. But the charismatic founder of a commune, and the evangelical zeal of its members, are recurring phenomena throughout history, from early Christian times to our own day. The narrator's voice, disciplined yet passionate, is a perfect vehicle for this fascinating novel, with its fast moving plot and characters who are so real that I found myself leafing through the book in the hope of finding their photographs.’

eBooks of the Month
The Railwayman's Wife

The Railwayman's Wife

Author: Ashley Hay Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/08/2014

Savour every second of this stunning novel, take your time, don't rush, don't miss a single solitary word. The setting, Thirroul in Australia at the end of the Second World War, is described with such heartrending and vibrant beauty, you can quite literally feel the caress of the breeze, the grit of the sand, the thunder of the train on the track. The main characters are all lost and in search of something just beyond reach or possibly comprehension, the compassion the author feels for them is quite evident. Yes, this is a book about loss and love, yet at it’s heart feels as though it’s a celebration of life, in all it’s vital wonderful glory. This is a book to fall in love with, once finished to read again or dip in to, so you can re-capture the essence of the beautiful lyrical verse. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Innocents

The Innocents

Author: Michael Crummey Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.

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Perfume River

Perfume River

Author: Robert Olen Butler Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/10/2017

An understated yet profound and incredibly hard hitting and evocative novel that just simmers with tension. 70 year old Vietnam veteran Robert Quinlan and his younger brother Jimmy have been estranged since Jimmy left their parents house 47 years before. A homeless man fleetingly touches the story and feelings that have been lurking, lying deeply buried, slyly resurface and begin to run amok. Robert Olen Butler writes with beautiful subtlety, the story stays planted firmly in the here and now, yet thoughts travel back in time, connecting threads, opening up and provoking feelings. There is an exquisite understanding of human wants and needs at play here, this is an incredibly personal novel, yet it opens up a world of heartache. A quietly challenging read, the history, the war are so essential to the storyline, yet it’s the impact of now, of the moment, that is so significant. ‘Pefume River’ is simple yet provocative, and is a beautifully touching, truly worthwhile read. ~ Liz Robinson BUY DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER

eBooks of the Month
Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Author: Leo Tolstoy Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

  January 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.   On My Bookshelf by Wendy Holden... Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is the best in its class – I am a novelist, but for my money the writers of the19th century set the bar for the whole genre. The reason I love it isn’t so much the tragic Anna with ghastly Vronsky, but because of Princess Kitty and Levin. He’s cracked and she’s a bit cosy, but their love affair is just so transportingly romantic. The description of when they meet at the frozen pond, where she is skating and he can’t even look at her because he feels it would be like looking at the sun, gets me every time. It’s because of these two lovers that I’ve never understood the fuss about Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

eBooks of the Month
The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept

Author: Lara Prescott Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/09/2019

Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.

Star Books
Golden Hill

Golden Hill

Author: Francis Spufford Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/09/2016

Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Inventively entertaining, niftily plotted first novel set in New York during the city’s effervescent infancy. It’s 1746 and a young man by the name of Smith arrives in New York from London with an order for £1000. He takes it to a Lovell, a banker based on Golden Hill Street, in order to have it cashed. “Lord love us,” Lovell exclaims at the sight of so large an amount. “This is a bill for a thousand pound”. Speculation is duly aroused: what on earth is Smith planning to do with such a quantity of cash? And what’s his purpose in the city? But Smith emerges from the counting house as “a young man with money in his pocket, new-fallen to land in a strange city on the world’s farther face”. The depiction of place is gratifyingly sensory. New York and its citizens are vibrantly evoked, from the “perfumes of hot bread and well-ground beans” on Smith’s morning meanderings, to the “African footmen with wigs powdered to the colour of icing-sugar” he sights in a church congregation.While the puzzle at the heart of the novel is not revealed until the very last pages, the plentiful and nimbly executed plot twists provide much satisfaction throughout. Part mystery, part homage to eighteenth century literature, this is an exuberant literary delight with all the readability of a page-turner. ~ Joanne Owen Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2017 | Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017 | Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017 | Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2016. The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘Pre-revolutionary New York, and a stranger arrives in town, where he finds a ferment of social jostling, politics and money that invites adventure. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that's full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed. His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist's voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat.’ Costa judges' comment: “This spirited, wonderfully witty novel sets sparkling characters and a lively plot against a richly-realised backdrop.”

eBooks of the Month
A Guide for the Perplexed

A Guide for the Perplexed

Author: Jonathan Levi Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/05/2017

A flamboyantly fantastical literary voyage in which two strangers stranded at a Spanish airport during a strike are brought together by their mutual travel agent, whose Guide for the Perplexed travel book they both have. Executed with intellectual and sensual exuberance, this ingeniously original novel defies definition at every turn as the two marooned women share their remarkable stories. Holland is a British filmmaker and in Spain to interview a reclusive violinist, while Miami widow Hanni is set on finding a letter that will confirm her ancestral connection to Esau, purportedly the real discoverer of the New World. The language dances and sparkles as the narrative traverses time, religions and momentous historical events, and the serpentine structure of stories within stories is a flabbergasting imaginative feat. Truly a Pandora’s box of cerebral delights in the vein of Eco and Calvino, it dazzles, and demands one’s absolute attention. ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
An American Decade

An American Decade

Author: Richard Aronowitz Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/04/2017

An expressive, fascinating, and convincing glimpse into 1930’s America just before the Second World War. As the Nazi regime takes hold, 30 year old widower Christoph leaves Germany for a new life as a singer on Broadway, however he has left behind ties that will bind him to the events that unfold. Richard Aronowitz has a family history that inspired him to write this novel, looking from the present into the past, the simplicity and sincerity of the writing sets the story, and a stark warning free. This is an intimate tale, we witness Christoph’s triumphs and heartbreak, a flawed man, yet he offers hope. Within Christoph’s tale links to the wider world are unchained, a Nazi group in America, bully and strut their way across the pages, letters arrive from Germany, full of fear and uncertainty. ‘An American Decade’ set on the brink of a horrifying history, rattling thoughts and feelings, is a compelling, striking read. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Stella

Stella

Author: Takis Wurger Format: Ebook 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
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
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
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
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
John Crow's Devil

John Crow's Devil

Author: Marlon James Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/09/2015

An often uncomfortable, overwhelming, yet impressively compelling read. ‘John Crow’s Devil’ originally published in 2005, is the debut novel of Marlon James, Man Booker prize winner for ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’. Apparently James’ debut was rejected 78 times before being published, and personally I had my doubts as I began to read, and yet, and yet… the further I read, the more I felt myself being consumed by this penetrating and provocative novel. Two men, two preachers, battle each other, two women choose sides, while the rest of the village follow the stronger man. An anonymous village voice occasionally comes to the fore, narrating, telling, explaining, speaking with a Jamaican dialect, sometimes using unknown words that somehow make themselves understood. The story weaves between the village voice, clearly, firmly setting the story in stone, yet unexpected words will make you stop and think in a sentence previously flowing like water. With images that burst into your minds eye, be prepared to be moved, perturbed and to feel your heart break, yet wonder at the power of this profound novel.  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
Blood and Steel

Blood and Steel

Author: Harry Sidebottom Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/02/2016

A fabulous foray into the past, AD238 is the Year of the Six Emperors and makes for a fascinating and compelling tale. This is the second in the ‘Throne of the Caesars’ series, it’s best to start at the beginning with ‘Iron and Rust’ and read the books in sequence, otherwise you really will miss out on the story. There are a lot of characters jostling for dominance, however the chapter headings with dates and locations really helps to contain the story so it doesn't run away from you. The Roman way of life, culture and principles of the times are intriguing and sit perfectly alongside the warring factions. The author creates a world that is easy to imagine, this was a particularly hazardous time to be an Emperor, to live a long life it was best not to enter the power struggling political arena, however it’s remarkable place to be able to visit from the safety of your armchair. ~ Liz Robinson   A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...‘Harry Sidebottom is an extraordinary writer, who, whether in the closed-doors, small-room power-play of imperial politics, or on the grand-scale narrative of epic set-piece battle, underpins his thrilling storytelling with incredible authenticity and historical insight. His Throne of the Caesars promises readers fiction where Patrick O’Brian meets A Song of Ice and Fire.’ - Katie Espiner, Publishing Director, HarperFiction

eBooks of the Month
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. 

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Alexander's Legacy: To The Strongest

Alexander's Legacy: To The Strongest

Author: Robert Fabbri Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/01/2020

A fabulously readable, dramatic, and truly exciting start to a new series set after the death of Alexander the Great. On his deathbed Alexander refuses to name his successor, and so begins a bloody and ruthless struggle for ultimate power. Robert Fabbri introduces the players in this game beautifully, each chapter is headed by one of the opponents, with a few words summing up their nature. There are a fair few lead characters (there is a helpful list at the end), however each quickly became an individually distinct person in my mind. The author notes that nearly all of the characters actually existed, and almost all the events are noted in history. Robert Fabbri adds vivid life and breathtaking drama, and I found myself completely immersed in this fascinating story. Alexander’s Legacy: To The Strongest is a wonderful start to this new series, and has been chosen as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.

Liz Robinson's Picks 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 Silk Merchant's Daughter

The Silk Merchant's Daughter

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/07/2016

One of our Books of the Year 2016. Dinah Jefferies has presented another beautifully told and vividly stunning tale, this time set in 1950’s Vietnam. The story revolves around 18 year old Nicole, half French and half Vietnamese, Nicole finds herself torn as war between the ruling French and indigenous population prowls ever closer. Nicole hovers between two men, both from opposing worlds, both with their own journey to take. It feels as though you are watching a wide framed view of history, from the personal perspective of Nicole, her disorientation and heartfelt feelings clamour and writhe from the pages. It is the moments of quiet that really set this story apart, the descriptions of the surroundings, of the small and simple but oh so important things that shape, colour and bring this world to such vibrant life. The colours, smells and heat are all within touching distance, allowing Vietnam to sit beguilingly in the background, adding depth and flavour to the story of Nicole. Visually and emotionally powerful, ’The Silk Merchant’s Daughter' is quite simply a gorgeous read.

eBooks of the Month
An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone

Author: Diana Gabaldon Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2010

Once upon a recent time Claire stepped through some standing stones in Scotland and found herself in the Jacobean uprising.  Six books ago she fell in love with Jamie and married him.  Her big gift to him is her knowledge of the future, but things have got a lot more complicated as the books grew.  We are now in America in 1777 and the War of Independence trudges on … Comparison: Kate Mosse, William Davenport (James Long), Javier Sierra (Lady in Blue).

eBooks of the Month
The Lost Lights of St Kilda

The Lost Lights of St Kilda

Author: Elisabeth Gifford Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2020

Inspiring, gorgeous, powerful. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a beautifully written story brimming with guts and determination. When Fred meets Chrissie in 1927 a love flickers into being, the memory of their time together remains with them through the challenging years ahead. This may be described as a love story between two people, it is also a love story about St Kilda, Scotland’s first World Heritage Site. Elisabeth Gifford has used fictional characters in a real setting, with the abandonment of St Kilda and the Second World War adding an incredibly vivid framework to the story. Taking place over forty years, the novel actually starts in 1940 with Fred as a prisoner of war, plotting escape. From here we move backwards and forwards in time, in such a way that the words continued to flow into my awareness and created an intricate patchwork of knowledge and understanding. This love feels real, there is an inner core of strength, hope, and resilience on offer that really spoke to me. I rather fell in love with The Lost Lights of St Kilda, it joins my Liz Robinson picks of the month and comes as highly recommended by me.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Floating Theatre

The Floating Theatre

Author: Martha Conway Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/06/2017

June 2017 Book of the Month. Brimming with stunning writing and historical illuminations, this captivates the heart and enlightens the mind. It’s 1838 in pre-Civil War America, and the Ohio River snakes between the free states of the North, and the slave states of the South. Twenty-two-year-old May is her cousin Comfort’s “seamstress, dresser, and trunk packer. And a hundred other things as well” when the steamboat they’re on sinks. While actress Comfort is taken in by wealthy abolitionist Flora Howard, and hired to give speeches for her cause, there's no role for May. But being “quite independent in spirit”, as Flora describes her, and an exceptionally skilled seamstress, May finds work with Hugo and Helena's Floating Theatre, a fabulously evoked flatboat that travels up and down the river, coasting the border between the North and South.What follows is the captivating account of a young woman's serpentine navigation of ghosts from her past, secrets, betrayal, and love, at great personal risk, in a land split by slavery. Dazzling, involving, and immensely memorable, I was swept away by the flow of this remarkable novel. A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... ‘A compelling, beautiful and passionate novel The Floating Theatre completely swept me away. With great skill Martha Conway immerses her readers in a time of great turmoil, skilfully weaving sumptuous historical detail into a brilliant narrative peopled with characters that in 1830s United States could only ever find a home on a theatrical riverboat sailing the country’s North-South divide.  And in May Bedloe she creates a heroine whose quiet strength and inquisitive nature makes for a page-turning read. A powerful, moving novel about compromise, courage, friendship and love, and one woman’s struggle to find her way in a world riddled with danger, The Floating Theatre is a story I knew I had to publish as soon as I read it. I hope you love this as much as I do.’ ~ Eleanor Dryden, Editor, Zaffre

eBooks of the Month
The Silk Tree

The Silk Tree

Author: Julian Stockwin Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/06/2015

A non-stop, action packed adventure from 549 AD spanning the fascinating Roman and Chinese empires. Nicander and Marius are unlikely companions and after the Ostrogoths have sacked Rome, find themselves on the road together, in an attempt to change their fortunes. The pair suffer setback after farcical setback and initially are most certainly not masters of their own destiny. The simple descriptive detailing eloquently brings the background to life; Julian Stockwin has the gift of allowing the reader to see lands for the first time through the eyes of Nicander and Marius. ‘The Silk Tree’ is an entertaining, enjoyable read and one you can gallop through in an easy sitting. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ

Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ

Author: Carol Wallace Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/07/2016

A galloping adventurous tale is brought back to vibrant life in this updated version of Ben-Hur by the great-great-granddaughter of the author of the novel written in 1880. Judah Ben-Hur grows up in Jerusalem, after a horrific betrayal he becomes a galley slave before escaping a watery death and battling to right the wrong to his family. On his journey Ben-Hur meets Jesus and Balthasar, and while Jesus comes to the fore at the end, this really is Ben-Hur’s story, and what a bold and heroic story it is, too. The sea battle was immense and the famous chariot scene vividly scored the page. I’ve watched the 1959 film version of Ben-Hur so was fully aware of the sweeping epic tale this is, but I really didn't know anything about the book itself, so the foreword and afterword made for compelling reading. Lew Wallace had a fascinating life, in later years he became governor of the (almost) lawless New Mexico Territory, where outlaw Billy the Kid threatened to kill him, and it was during his time here that he wrote Ben-Hur. Wallace later become US minister for Constantinople and travelled widely through the Middle East. I felt in incredibly safe hands when I started this tale, Carol Wallace, herself an author (including historical fiction) has judged the pace and story perfectly, providing excitement, drama, honour and love, ensuring Ben-Hur is a thrilling and thought-provoking tale. The new film version of Ben-Hur is released on Friday 26th August. Click below to view the trailer.

eBooks 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.

Days Without End

Days Without End

Author: Sebastian Barry Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2017

July 2017 Book of the Month. Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. Winner of 2016 Costa Book of the Year and Winner of the Costa Novel Award 2016. This big-hearted, beautiful and splendidly sweeping tale of war, survival and love in the American West is a storytelling masterpiece.After losing his family to the famine, Irish boy Thomas McNulty crept aboard a ship bound for Canada and arrived as one of the unwelcome “rats of people”. In America, fate unites him with John Cole, a part Indian boy with “river-black eyes” and a “lean face as sharp as a hunting dog”. From the outset, Thomas knows that they’re “two wood-shavings of humanity in a rough world”, and John becomes his lifelong companion, his soulmate, his lover. As young boys, they find work as dancers in a saloon, dressing in women’s clothes to entertain the menfolk in a town bereft of women. When they grow too big to pass as girls, they join the US Cavalry. The horrors of massacres are intensely evoked, and so too is the tenderness between Thomas and John, and then between them and Winona, the Indian girl they form a family with. Thomas is a beguiling narrator, his voice warm with wisdom, and utterly unforgettable, as is this remarkable novel. That so much insight into the ways of the human heart has been distilled in so few pages is a truly extraordinary feat. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘Intimate, lyrical, courteous, Barry offers the authentic voice of Thomas McNulty, a nineteenth century Irish-American possessed of a nineteenth century respect for both language and reader. In this tale of Indian War and American Civil War carnage, the voice is also, miraculously, the voice of love. The voice alone secures Days Without End a place on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize. And the story of course. Neither comfortable nor pretty, it pulses with courage, loyalty and, amid the horrors, grace. This is a living novel. From its pages, Thomas shakes the reader’s hand and the hand of every ragged soldier on our ragged streets.’

Books of the Month
The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2020

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

eBooks of the Month
A Tall History of Sugar

A Tall History of Sugar

Author: Curdella Forbes Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Beginning in rural Jamaica in the late 1950s with the island on the verge of independence from Britain, A Tall History of Sugar is an all-consuming story of love, history and self-determination whose author, Curdella Forbes, possesses a majestic ability to evoke the big from the small. Rich details of dialogue, of time and place, of inner states and the outer world, intermesh with a sweeping sense of history, with its pertinent opening line referencing the state of contemporary Britain: “Long ago, when teachers were sent from Britain to teach in the grammar schools of the West Indian colonies (it was Great Britain then, not Little England, as it is now, after Brexit and the fall of empire)…” At the heart of this mythic tale is Moshe, whose appearance and biblical discovery as a baby in a twist of sea grape trees shrouds him in mystery, and elicits much mockery and fear. “With his pale skin, one sky-blue eye and one dark-brown eye…people said the boy just looked like sin. Big sin at work when he was made.” After spending his first years in the company of the childless woman who found him, Moshe forms an unbreakable bond with fellow outsider Arrienne. At school, “with the large girl sitting silently beside him, he felt that he would die of happiness.” While both Arrienne and Moshe excel in their studies, artistically gifted Moshe leaves his politically-engaged soul mate and arrives in England during the hot, fractious summer of 1976, where he hopes to find his birth father. His search takes him from Brixton, borough with a “thousand faces”, to Bristol, where he encounters the incongruity of former slave-owners being celebrated as hero philanthropists, with the urge to be close to Arrienne remaining a constant draw through all his experiences. Complex, compelling and luminously lyrical, this tells a powerful tale I know I’ll return to over and over. 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.

Star Books
The Missing Sister

The Missing Sister

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/03/2019

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly readable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost close your eyes and take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear.  I feel as though I could pick up a Dinah Jefferies book without knowing the author and would instinctively know it was hers, each book is completely individual yet the style of the author remains. The Missing Sister is richly and expressively eye-catching, it swept me up into the pages, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.

Books of the Month
Eden Gardens

Eden Gardens

Author: Louise Brown Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/04/2016

One of our Books of the Year 2016. Longlisted for the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. A vividly striking and entirely captivating debut novel set in Calcutta, covering both the Second World War and Indian Independence during the 1940’s. Beautiful adventurous Maisy and loyal, knowing ayah Pushpa tell their own tales, which are inextricably linked to each other. Maisy’s Mam ‘entertains’ army officers, yet she has big dreams for her daughter, as Maisy becomes a woman, their world starts to crumble. Louise Brown writes with the lightest of touches, yet is able to convey earthy, vibrant tones with an expressive eloquence. There are occasional moments of heart wrenching savagery, described by a character in such an unaffected, matter of fact way, that the thrust travels all the more intensely. My imagination soaked up this moving tale, the emotion it generated constantly surprising as I found myself transported to an exotically precarious world.   A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'I’d challenge almost anyone not to be seduced by Louise Brown’s spellbinding debut novel, EDEN GARDENS. It’s the story of Maisy, who has no chance of growing up a nice British colonial girl. Her mother is a prostitute and alcoholic, and when Maisy is seduced at sixteen by her Indian tutor, her life changes forever, for better and for worse. Set in the closing days of the British Raj period, EDEN GARDENS tells of another side of British India, a world of castes, secrets, politics, ambition, and love of a different kind.What sets it apart from me is the incredibly vivid sense of location, from the backstreets of the shared housing in Calcutta to the colonial bungalows beautifully wrapped by their flower-filled gardens – both dwellings are places that provide comfort and yet entrapment, too. The author also delves into some very serious issues simmering beneath the love story that arcs over the novel. It portrays an alternative story to the usual stories of dusty haired, bored British Colonial wives. It's colourful, rich in detail, probing in subject matter and beautifully researched. Ultimately, it is a love story, but it’s also a story of survival, told in the most entrancing way.' ~ Imogen Taylor, Publishing Director, Headline

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
Before the Rains

Before the Rains

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/05/2017

A gorgeously expressive and captivating novel, set in 1930’s India at the height of the struggle for independence against British rule. 28 year old photographer Eliza agrees to document the royal family and subjects of one of the princely states. Eliza spends time with Jay, brother of the prince, and as they become closer they open their minds to new ideas, however their relationship comes under scrutiny. Dinah Jefferies always transports thoughts, feelings, and senses, not only to the place, but also the time, so completely, it’s a shock when you look up from page and come back to reality. For me, there was an additional quality to this novel, the land is important, the descriptions are striking, and the history of this time absolutely fascinating; yet the relationship here feels vital, pronounced, and completely essential to the storyline. It is the relationship, with the different customs and cultures, and how it affects the people surrounding Eliza and Jay, that really provoked my feelings. With the issues affecting women taking centre stage, ‘Before the Rains’ is a beautiful novel, subtle yet striking, full of impact, and full of love.

eBooks of the Month
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Author: Mark Twain Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Mark Twain... The book. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called 'Huckleberry Finn.'” I believe he was understating the case. It was a family copy of Huckleberry Finn that first put my feet on the road to being a writer. Its glories have never dimmed.

eBooks of the Month
People Like Us

People Like Us

Author: Louise Fein Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.

Star Books
Last Letter from Istanbul

Last Letter from Istanbul

Author: Lucy Foley Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/03/2018

Just gorgeous, this is a story to shine a light in the darkness, even in moments of despair. Constantinople in 1921 is a confusing, often frightening place to be, in the first few pages, two reports from 1918, perfectly sum up the two opposing sides, each report almost interchangeable. Nur’s house is in the hands of the British and being used as a hospital, she finds her thoughts on the occupiers altering and conflicted when she takes an orphan in her care to be treated by George Munroe. Five separate yet entwined stories exist side by side, different time frames ensure the past spears the present, while the future whispers to the past. Lucy Foley has developed a beautiful writing style, the vivid colour stamps its impression on the pages, conjuring taste, touch, smells and sounds, as well as creating a feast for your eyes. As the book began to come to a close, it felt as though two trains were on an inevitable collision course. The sweeping horror of war and occupation, both momentous and insidious, is clearly felt, yet it is the intimate, the individual connections, that were the highlight of this read for me. ‘Last Letter from Istanbul’ caresses, sparks and skewers thoughts and feelings, it is a truly penetrating and captivating read - highly recommended.

eBooks of the Month
Imperial Vengeance

Imperial Vengeance

Author: Ian Ross Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/01/2018

An entirely captivating and thrilling read set within the heart of the Roman Empire in AD323. This is the fifth ‘Twilight of Empire’ novel and a must read for historical adventure seekers. I will admit to this being my first foray into the series, yet immediately felt at home and I feel this could easily read as a standalone. Honourable military commander Aurelius Castus finds himself in the middle of a power play between the emperor and his son. Ian Ross sets the scene beautifully, in fact the first sentence screamed with impact, snaring my attention, and the pages didn’t let me go until I had turned the very last one. I was by the side of Castus as he balanced on a knife edge between two of the most powerful men in his world, and I fought by his side in the bloodiest of battles, both large and small. The author’s note explains the history behind this tale, and the blend of fact and fiction has created an absolutely cracking read. ‘Imperial Vengeance’ is a swiftly moving adventure into the past, one that feels so authentically real it takes you there… now do excuse me while I nip out to get the first four in the series.  ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
War and Peace

War and Peace

Author: Leo Tolstoy Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2016

It's 1805 and St Petersburg, Russia is overwhelmed by terror and uncertainty as Napoleon marches on the country and war breaks out.  Focusing on three characters whose lives are transformed, War and Peace is about people trying to find their place in a world completely changed by war, social, political and spiritual upheaval. Timeless themes that resonate today while also offering an insight into a moment in history. A fantastic classic recommended by us. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

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
House on Endless Waters

House on Endless Waters

Author: Emuna Elon Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

A thoughtfully intricate and fascinating novel which tells two stories in a most unusual way. Yoel Blum, grandfather and famous Israeli author, travels to Amsterdam and finds that everything he thought he knew about himself has been turned on its head. Setting forth into the history of his family and the Jewish community within Amsterdam during World War Two, Yoel Blum begins to understand himself and his relationships. This isn't a loud or boisterous tale, yet the clarity is piercing. The detail of the underground networks hiding Jewish children in the Second World War is full of impact. Emuna Elon has the most beautiful way with words, her descriptions took me by the hand and led me into their very midst. There are no speech marks or indications of changing time frames, however I never felt out of place. The translation from Hebrew has been completed with great skill by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, this is a novel to read slowly, to experience, to become a part of. House on Endless Waters is a beautifully eloquent family mystery highlighting human tragedy and resilience. 

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Penelope's Web

Penelope's Web

Author: Christopher Rush Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/09/2015

Startling, assertive and intense, this is a distinctive and original take on the myth of Odysseus, focusing on reality, creative reality and fabrication. Reading ‘Penelope’s Web’, you quickly realise that the title is entirely appropriate, however make no mistake, this is a book about war, about bloody violence, rape, pillage, death… and it’s about the mental wounds that war inflicts. This is also a book where four-letter expletives and the treatment of women may make you cringe, in fact they should make you cringe. Keep an eye out for the icons heading each section as you start to read, Odysseus, Penelope and the Narrator have very different voices, yet the icons set the tone for the story and your expectations. Odysseus is a soldier, brutal, frank, cunning, able to express the basic animal instincts that cut in during battle, yet he also has a higher awareness of humanity. Penelope weaves gossamer strands of truth, spinning romance, half truths and exaggeration into a tapestry of myth and legend. Occasionally, I found some of the modern day terminology that Odysseus uses, jarred slightly in the storyline, however it served as reminder that war hasn't changed, it still maims and steals mental wellbeing and lives. Christopher Rush has written a tenacious and thought- provoking tale that is so graphically powerful, it feels as though you’re watching a film in the privacy of your own mind. ~ 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
Those Who Are Loved

Those Who Are Loved

Author: Victoria Hislop Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

An absolutely fascinating and beautifully intimate tale set in Greece, covering the Second World War, Greek Civil War and beyond, from 1930 through to 1999. Themis looks back on her life with two of her grandchildren, as she grows up in a family split with opposing political views. Her beliefs take her into the Communist army after the Second World War, where Greek fights fellow Greek. While this novel is set around a hugely complex event in history, Victoria Hislop opens it up with skill. By concentrating on one woman, we enter a family tale told with a matter-of-factly simplicity, so the impact of what comes, hits with huge power. This compelling novel, which brings a slice of history so vividly to life, is a stark warning of what could yet come in our future. It is also a reminder that we never truly know the life someone has lived, as what is presented on the outside, could be very different to what has been lived inside. Warm yet chilling and disturbing, uncomplicated yet involved and detailed, Those Who Are Loved is a tale full of emotional impact.

Books of the Month
The Saracen's Mark

The Saracen's Mark

Author: S. W. Perry Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/04/2020

An absolute belter of a read and another fabulous addition to the Jackdaw Mysteries series. It’s 1593, Nicholas is recruited by the Queen’s spymaster to travel to Marrakech, while Bianca has to deal with the plague knocking at her door. What a fabulous series this has shaped up to be, start with The Angel’s Mark and follow with The Serpent’s Mark before reading this, to get the full benefit of the tale so far. I just gobbled up the pages as the story fairly roars along battling spies and pirates en route. Marrakech is absolutely fascinating, the descriptions of the plague made me shiver, and the relationship between Nicholas and Bianca edges ever closer. S. W. Perry ensures the sights, smells and sounds of London and Morocco entered my very being. I love this series, it is so, so readable, and I have chosen The Saracen’s Mark as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
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
They are Trying to Break Your Heart

They are Trying to Break Your Heart

Author: David Savill Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/04/2016

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. A fascinating heart-breaking debut novel full of attitude and aching tension. Set over a decade and more, we see events unfold in the Bosnian war, and separately watch the relationship between two people ebb and flow before events converge in one unforgettable moment. At the end of the second chapter, a shiver of chills and understanding sliced through me as I began to see a vivid, striking picture emerge. David Savill writes with true compassion and unflinching honesty, his knowledge of two major events, from very different parts of the world, creates a sincere and provocative tale. Zigzagging around in time, between the three main characters, left me feeling unsettled, and a sense of foreboding hovered over the pages. ‘They Are Trying to Break Your Heart’ connects to the intimate, the personal, creating hushed stillness and reflection in a tumultuous world, what a truly captivating novel this is. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Ashes

Ashes

Author: Christopher de Vinck Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

A thoughtful, stirring, and compassionate historical novel set during World War Two. Simone, the daughter of a Belgian First World War hero is best friends with Hava from a devout Jewish family, together they flee the advancing Nazi army in 1940. Inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members in Belgium, this is essentially a tale of what should be an uncomplicated friendship sitting within one of the most complex and horrifying times in world history. Author Christopher de Vinck introduced the reasons behind this book before Simone’s prologue slammed into my contemplations. Each chapter epigraph includes excerpts and memories that really do spread chills. It is interesting to note that those unattributed are from the author’s grandfather who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery and was in the Belgian Resistance before being captured. Christopher de Vinck brings the girls to vibrant life by noting the small things that make each of us unique. He doesn’t sit in judgement, he releases the horror and emotion of the full story, with lost innocence spearing awareness and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.

Debut Books of the Month
Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Author: Victor Hugo, Norman Denny Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/03/1982

I first saw the musical, then read the book, and let me just put this out there, Les Miserables is long, and even with a relatively simple plot, not a particularly easy read. Having said that, I am glad that I read it, but am going to whisper this... I prefer the musical (and now I’m ducking). Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

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
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
The Invitation

The Invitation

Author: Lucy Foley Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/06/2017

A sophisticated, expressive, and emotional story set in the glamorous Italian film promotion world of the 1950’s. Hal and Stella meet at a party, an immediate connection flares into life, yet the spectre of war holds both in a devastating grip. The story in the present focuses on Hal, on the journey he takes with the other fascinating and intriguing characters. Occasionally Stella allows Hal a glimpse of her past. Told in the first person as the described events are happening, creates a separation from the intimacy of the confession, and ensures the innermost being of Stella remains hidden. A 16th century journal finds it’s way into Hal’s hands, as the story takes it’s hold on him, the feelings it evokes begin to combine with the present, creating an undercurrent of unease and tension. Lucy Foley balances a fine silky edge between serenity and passion, her writing caresses obsession, fear, strength and hope. ‘The Invitation’ gently takes hold and becomes a beautifully poignant, yet seductive and heady delight of a read.

eBooks of the Month
Arminius The Limits of Empire

Arminius The Limits of Empire

Author: Robert Fabbri Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/07/2017

Teeming with more brutal betrayal and conflict than you can shake an axe at, this first-rate historical fiction from the author of the epic Vespasian sequence recounts Rome’s monumental defeat in deep, dark Teutoburg Wald.    Arminius of the Cherusci led six tribes to mercilessly massacre three Roman legions. A mere two hundred soldiers survived and, in a stroke of utter humiliation for the Empire, three sacred Eagles were lost in the battle. But Arminius is far from being a true, through-and-through Teutonic. As the rollicking story races along - through multiple episodes of brutality, and multiple perspectives - we learn how he came to betray the people who raised him: the Romans.The author is masterful at transforming historical detail into an imaginative feast of action and impulse - the battles scenes are viscerally evoked, and the sense of landscape is awe-inspiring. Highly recommended for Rome-buff-readers who like their fiction intense, and with an edge of grisly gore. ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
The Court of Miracles

The Court of Miracles

Author: Kester Grant Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Book Thief

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/09/2016

A 2012 World Book Night selection.   Voted 3rd in the Books of the Decade by Lovereading readers.   Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2008.   This is the story of a street of ordinary German people living in the horrors of the Nazi regime.  Interestingly it is narrated by Death but the central character is an 11-year old girl who steals a gravedigger’s handbook and gets hooked on reading.  It’s grim yet uplifting, immensely sad yet light in style and touch.  A very interesting view of World War II and an unforgettable book, it’s aimed at both children and adults and should be read by both.   Larry Finlay, Managing Director of the Publisher of The Book Thief said:  “It is a great, great book, one that calls out to your head and your heart whatever your age.  Its success is due almost entirely to word-of-mouth for unlike many bestsellers it has not been made into a film (yet), nor was it picked by a Book Club such as Richard and Judy.”   A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘The Book Thief is one of those word-of-mouth bestsellers that has made its way into reader’s hearts entirely on its own merits. When this book came to me by way of the Children’s Division, my heart took that legendary leap. I met for the first time the delightful Liesel, Rudy and of course Death, the narrator, all of whom have joined the galaxy of best-loved characters in world literature. Rare is the reader who doesn’t close this book with a tear in their eye.' Jane Lawson, Editorial Director at Transworld    

Books 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
Fire and Sword

Fire and Sword

Author: Harry Sidebottom Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/05/2016

‘Fire and Sword’ is a powerful addition to the epic ‘Throne of the Caesars’ series. The Year of the Six Emperors continues in bloody and back stabbing style, covering three months of battle, both in the field and the senate. Roman versus Roman sees power changing sides frequently, it’s not a good year to be an emperor. The maps, glossary and list of characters are welcome additions and I read them all to settle myself back in, before embarking on this dramatic tale. Harry Sidebottom excels in bringing a human side to each of the characters, these men and women display both admirable and repulsive traits, sometimes at the same time. Allowing such a varied cast access to this tale, ensures it feels personal, almost touchable, from the plebs who live in the moment, through to those who scrabble and scheme for ultimate power. The story builds layer by fascinating layer ensuring ‘Fire and Sword’ is an impressively compelling and convincing tale. May 2016 eBook of the Month.

eBooks of the Month
The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon

Author: Sarah Steele Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/08/2020

This is such a lovely, charmingly heartfelt debut. When grief-stricken Florence discovers tantalising information about unknown relation Nancy Moon, she sets off to follow the path Nancy took through Europe in the 1960’s. I adore this premise, we travel with Florence and Nancy in two timelines, and vintage dress patterns create a vibrant link between the pair. I was able to just sink straight into the story as the intimacy and warmth of the writing from Sarah Steele created a cocoon around me. The two timelines hold equal interest, particularly as they begin to gently entwine. I was completely invested in each woman, their friends, relations, and love interests also sparking my interest and making my thoughts whirl. While I would describe this novel as uplifting, there is intrigue and heartbreak to be found along the way. Ultimately though, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a story full of love, friendship and hope and it gave me the most enormous emotional hug.

Debut Books of the Month
Distant Signs A Novel

Distant Signs A Novel

Author: Anne Richter Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/02/2019

A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.

The Last Embrace

The Last Embrace

Author: Pam Jenoff Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/08/2015

A lovely warm, evocative story with a lightening sharp edge that highlights the conflict of the Second World War. Set mainly in the USA, with a sojourn in London, the beginning of the book steps back, back and back again in time, which effectively snares your attention. Addie is searching for acceptance, love and a sense of belonging, her relationship with the Connally’s is complicated, yet the family acts as a magnet to her. Pam Jenoff writes with a beautifully sincere and simple style, she covers the complexity of emotions within the storyline with integrity. ‘The Last Embrace’ has hidden depths, it is easy to lose yourself to the obvious relationship side of the tale, yet it is the veiled, the concealed and the undertones that really make this an enjoyably compelling read. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
Circe

Circe

Author: Madeline Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2019

The Song of Achilles was a beautiful and evocative retelling of a Greek myth which well deserved its praise and prize.  It is possible that this second offering is even better.  The language is poetic with not a word wasted, a real joy to read.  I remember Circe was one of the challenges met by Odysseus, the one who turned men into pigs.  The beautiful character who narrates this story is that same “wicked witch” but a far cry from how Homer portrayed her.  She is lovely, misunderstood, wilful and brilliant, a strong woman slowly growing into her power.  Many famous mythical figures pepper these pages; Jason, Prometheus, the Minator … but don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them all, this spellbinding story gives you all you need to know.  If you are familiar with the myths you will find new life in them in this enchanting retelling.  I really cannot praise it enough.  It is a special book, bridging romance, fantasy, poetic literature and feminist writing to create a work of high standard with wide appeal.  I loved it and I think you will too.

eBooks of the Month
The Book of Longings

The Book of Longings

Author: Sue Monk Kidd Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/03/2021

What if Jesus had married? What kind of woman would he marry? Who would marry him?  These questions are at the heart of Sue Monk Kidd’s sweepingly inventive The Book of Longings. Ana, with her “turbulent black curls and eyes the colour of rainclouds” and a narrative voice that sweeps you up in its bold passion, was born into a wealthy Galilean family. Sharp-minded and a gifted writer, Ana secretly transcribes the stories of matriarchs in the scriptures, women omitted from the records: “To be ignored, to be forgotten, this was the worst sadness of all. I swore an oath to set down their accomplishments and praise their flourishings, no matter how small. I would be a chronicler of lost stories.” Ana seems destined to marry an elderly widower to further her father’s career (he’s the closest adviser to Herod Antipas, whom Ana despises), until she encounters eighteen-year-old Jesus and is emboldened and aroused by his revolutionary ideas: “I called him Beloved and he, laughing, called me Little Thunder.” Jesus understands Ana’s longings, her “life begging to be born,” and she loves his kindness, his capacity for listening. Of course, we know how the real-life narrative plays out, but this affecting story gets under the skin as familiar events unfold through Ana’s eyes, as a proto-feminist, as wife of Jesus, as sister of Judas. 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
House of Gold

House of Gold

Author: Natasha Solomons Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/04/2019

I’ll let you into a secret, I have a bit of a reading crush on Natasha Solomons as she writes such beautifully observed and engaging books. Each time I am transported, and her previous title ‘The Song Collector’ was one of my books of the year in 2015. I’m more than happy to announce that ‘House of Gold’ is another triumph. Set between 1911 and 1917 this is a story that reads on an epic scale. Europe sits at the forefront as World War One marches forwards, and for one particular family the Goldbaum’s, their whole existence is fractured and forever altered. In such a huge arena we meet Greta who is sent from Austria to England to marry a distant cousin, her thoughts and feelings create a touchable, emotionally rich and moving story. I felt her pain, the ache of loneliness, and her relationship with her husband and brother are exquisitely realised. I just sat and read from start to finish in one wonderful afternoon. ’House of Gold’ is an absolute treasure, it made me feel, it made me think, it made me realise the knife edge on which humanity sits is razor-sharp indeed.

Books of the Month
The Unwitting

The Unwitting

Author: Ellen Feldman Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/05/2014

A relationship tale with a difference; original, clever and set during the Cold War. The story spans a fascinating period in USA history, when the country was rocked by racial hatred, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the assassinations of JFK and Dr Martin Luthur King Jr… This is also a relationship tale of secrets, lies and moral ambiguity, where life sticks its oar in and packs a mighty wallop. The main characters, writers and civic/political commentators are fascinating and feel so very real. The heady joy of love and political idealism is offset by tones of cynicism, of guilt ridden remorse and remonstration. When your world is turned on its head, when the world you've known becomes a stranger, how do you respond, endure, carry on? ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Strangler Vine

The Strangler Vine

Author: M. J. Carter Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/09/2014

Absolutely riveting and fascinating in equal measure, the author seamlessly merges a fictional thrilling quest within the history of India and the East India Company during the mid 19th century. It’s a joy to read the interplay between the two main protagonists; Blake is a disenchanted maverick of a man and while the naive Avery initially flounders, he steadily gains credibility. This is an action packed galloping good yarn, yet the author has the wonderful ability to paint a vividly bright picture of the background and times without slowing the stimulating story. Some of the characters in this book actually existed and the historical afterword explaining their background is an interesting read in its own right and adds to the authenticity. Knowing that Blake and Avery are set to return in ‘The Infidel Stain’ is a satisfying consolation when you reach the end, as you’re nowhere near ready to say goodbye to this fabulously captivating duo.  Books in The Blake and Avery Mystery Series: 1. The Strangler Vine 2. The Printer's Coffin 3. The Devil's Feast Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

eBooks of the Month
The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds

Author: Colleen Mccullough Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2007

The Australian answer to Gone with the Wind became a publishing sensation when it was first published in 1977 and went on to sell 30 million copies worldwide. Readers enjoyed the book's  'large canvas' storytelling, its Australian setting and vivid sense of landscape. A real page-turner of a novel that will take you on an epic journey.

eBooks of the Month
The Other Girl

The Other Girl

Author: C D Major Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/09/2020

Enthralling, chilling, challenging, and wonderfully readable, this story winds itself around a moment in history. In 1942 a fire started at Seacliff, classed as a lunatic asylum in New Zealand, and all but two of the patients in a female ward perished. C. D. Major uses the fire as a focus and begins the tale there. Edith was five years old when she arrived at the asylum, after the fire she is questioned and a new doctor begins to doubt the reasons for her being shut away from the outside world. Covering the years between 1927 and the 1940’s I found myself either fully immersed in ‘now’ or  consumed by ‘before’. The plot itself twists, schemes, provokes, and ensures that this novel can’t be pigeon-holed by genre. The asylum sits brooding, biding its time, while the occupants become entangled and caught in the treatment and rules. Tension sweeps through the tale, and I found myself searching, questioning, hoping. Edith is a fascinating character, she is written with compassion and evoked so many emotions. The powerful ending made me exclaim, it truly spoke to me and has stayed in my thoughts. The author’s debut The Silent Hours was another emotional and impressive read and also comes as highly recommended. I have chosen The Other Girl as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, it has a haunting quality that ensures a compelling read.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Prisoner's Wife

The Prisoner's Wife

Author: Maggie Brookes Format: Audiobook 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
Hunting the Eagles

Hunting the Eagles

Author: Ben Kane Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/08/2016

A truly wonderful and ferocious slice of historical fiction, this is the second in the ‘Eagles of Rome’ series and takes place from AD 12. I really do recommend starting this reading adventure with ‘Eagles at War’ before moving on to ‘Hunting the Eagles’. Fair, steadfast and honourable Tullus still has nightmares about the catastrophic defeat the Romans suffered in Germania, and he thirsts for revenge. Ben Kane writes on an epic scale, yet adds to the vivid brutal reality of the times using seemingly small yet vital details. The descriptions of warcraft, of the logistical support, and the field of battle are intensely sharp and dynamic. By setting characters in place from both sides, and using facts and people recorded in history, this tale brilliantly and vibrantly comes to life. Striking, full of information, yet beautifully readable, this is a real treat. ~ Liz Robinson

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
The Confessions of Young Nero

The Confessions of Young Nero

Author: Margaret George Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/03/2017

In part inspired by a desire to redress how Nero “has suffered badly at the hands of popular culture,” as the author notes in the novel’s afterword, this epic, expansive tome about Nero’s transformation from little boy to ruthless ruler is a seamless weave of exceptional research and eloquent storytelling. Nero is but a child when the novel opens and he recalls his earliest memories; wistful recollections of his life with elegant Aunt Butterfly (Lepida) who told him tales of his ancestors, back when he dreamed of driving a chariot, as his father and grandfather had done before him. But Nero’s youthful innocence and inquisitiveness are cut short when Agrippina, the mother he knew nothing of, comes for him. In her charge, young Nero’s life is immediately transformed, and at risk, with cruelty and treachery slithering at every turn, from his uncle Caligula’s attempt to drown him, to his mother’s ruthless desire for power. Enthrallingly told in the young leader’s voice, this novel epitomises the illuminating scope of historical fiction. While fans of this genre, and readers interested in Roman and Greek history, will undoubtedly adore it, I’d also recommend it more widely. It serves up a rich feast of universally resonant themes - power, struggle, survival – and George’s style is as appealingly lucid as it is lyrical. ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
The Tuscan Contessa

The Tuscan Contessa

Author: Dinah Jefferies Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/07/2020

A fascinating, bold and beautiful historical novel, chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. Beginning in 1943 after liberated Italy has declared war on Nazi Germany, Contessa Sofia de’Corsi begins to help the resistance. The timeline of Italy during World War Two at the beginning of the book, helps set and centre the scene. If you have read Dinah Jefferies previous novels then you will discover a change in direction. You still have the historical aspect and thoughtful relationship tale, however we move continents to Europe, specifically Tuscany in Italy. The normally vibrant descriptive detailing of the sights, smells and sounds of countries within Asia reshapes to take in the daring Italian resistance. I could picture the walled village, countryside, and Florence, with the action scenes moving in vivid colour across the page. If you follow Dinah on social media then you will see some fabulous photos of some the trips she took and locations that inspired her. The Tuscan Contessa is another compelling, eloquent read from Dinah Jefferies that I can recommend.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Partisan Heart

The Partisan Heart

Author: Gordon Kerr Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/06/2019

An absolutely fascinating dual-time frame novel focusing on the Italian Resistance in 1944, and what starts as an investigation into a hit and run accident in 1999. Sandro Bellini is just 18 years old when he falls in love with the wife of his commander during the Second World War. Michael Keats is determined to locate the man who had been having an affair with his wife before she was killed in 1999. Set in a valley near Lake Como in Northern Italy, these two time frames weave together to create a truly captivating tale. The first few chapters set my intrigue antenna on full alert. I have an interest in the Second World War, and wondered whether the story from 1944 would push 1999 to one side. Gordon Kerr however, ensures that the two time lines are equally gripping, particularly as events start to embrace. The characters feel entirely believable and their emotions beat and thrum across the page. The pace and tension increased throughout and I found the ending extremely satisfying. ‘The Partisan Heart’ is a well-written, clever tale focussing on intimate feelings during the most stressful of times.

Debut Books of the Month
Golden Lion

Golden Lion

Author: Wilbur Smith, Giles Kristian Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/05/2016

A full on rollicking adventure set on the high seas and coast of east Africa during 1670. If you’ve read all of the sequences in the Courtney series then you are in for a treat as Giles Kristian has joined forces with Wilbur Smith. This title has been set to take place three years after the start of ‘Birds of Prey’, yet it could easily be read as a standalone novel. Hal Courtney wants to gather up his fortune and go home, however an old enemy is thirsting for revenge and a new one is hunting down trouble. ‘Golden Lion’ is a novel of non stop action, where the characters go to the edge and beyond in order to survive, it rushes towards an ending and is a thoroughly entertaining read.

eBooks of the Month
Dark Tides

Dark Tides

Author: Philippa Gregory Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/11/2020

Continuing the immersive, suspenseful story began in Tidelands, Philippa Gregory’s Dark Tides is a sweeping family saga that takes in the poverty and wealth of Restoration London, decadence and distrust in Venice, and hope and unrest in the New World. It’s 1670, 21 years after the events of Tidelands, and Alinor now runs a humble wharf warehouse in London with her daughter Alys, while her grandchildren Sarah and Johnnie are apprenticed to trades. The arrival of two visitors shakes their existence. Firstly, James, Alinor’s former lover who once failed her and now comes offering to share his wealth. And secondly beautiful Venetian Livia, widower of Alinor’s beloved son Rob, who comes in a whirlwind of glamour and ambition. While Livia and Alys form a close bond, and Livia promises to transform their lives if they’ll help her transport valuable antiquities from Venice, wise woman Alinor doesn’t believe Rob is dead, and so sends Sarah across the seas to discover the truth. Thousands of miles away, in the New World, Alinor’s ferryman brother Ned isn’t enjoying the new life he’d hoped for. A former New Model Army infantryman, he’d hoped “to get away from all the money-making and grabbing from each other.” Unlike his fellow Britons, he’s respectful of Native Americans, and with growing conflict between indigenous communities and the settlers, Ned might have to choose a side. I especially enjoyed Sarah’s sojourn in Venice - her voyage of discovery in this “city of spies” where “imaginings can come to life” takes as many twists as the tangled streets of Venice itself. She’s a fabulously adventurous character, determined not to “get stuck here, hoping for a man to rescue me." The narratives of London, Venice and America unfold with delectable drama, driven by the characters’ desires, and underpinned by a tremendous sense of time and place.

Books of the Month
Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur Golden Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2011

A first novel, so in some ways one must forgive the author for a little flagging in the middle.  Having said that I do most earnestly recommend it.  As an insight into the extraordinary culture, it is flawless.

eBooks of the Month
The King Without a Kingdom

The King Without a Kingdom

Author: Maurice Druon Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/05/2015

The world of fiction and fact merge in this feast of historical intrigue, bloody battle and cankerous corruption. Translated from French, visit the beginning of the Hundred Years War; with ‘narration’ by Cardinal Perigord, helping to draw you in, to settle at his feet and  become a part of these times. This is the seventh and final book in the ‘Accursed Kings’ series and will have you hunting down the first six. You really do feel as though you are in the midst of the most wonderful history lesson.  If it were fiction, you would call the author fanciful, knowing it has a solid base in history adds to the superb storytelling, making this well worth a read.

eBooks of the Month

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