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We absolutely adore books that transport you elsewhere, when you can settle in and find yourself wholeheartedly in the world of the book. There really is nothing better than becoming completely consumed and feeling that slight confusion when you eventually surface back into your own version of reality. Here, we’ve picked books that really do take you out of yourself and allow you to explore. It may be that they take you to sunnier climes or another time, it could be a gentle lazy exploration, a transportive love story, or high octane thriller, sometimes you may even explore off-world. However, we have tried to pick a variety of fiction and non fiction, books from different genres, books that will make you laugh, ahhh, and quite possibly cry, and of course books where you are transported elsewhere for the entirety of the journey.
A favourite book from our childhood years was an omnibus of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Here we have chosen one of those stories, the one that really did transport us most beautifully into a magical world that celebrated nature. It's one of the books several of us still regularly reread - The Secret Garden is quite quite lovely.
It is no secret that Terry Pratchett is a particular favourite of ours, with several of us having been reading his novels since our teenage years, and even though his final book has been written, we regularly go back and pick out some of our favourites. If you haven’t yet met Terry, we have selected the first book in the Discworld Series, as this is perhaps the most sensible place to start. Although he takes you to another world, and you will meet all manner of creatures from wizards to trolls, he really does have the magical ability to take the mickey out of the human race. He has regularly made us laugh, and he has always made us think.
Another much loved author is Guy Gavriel Kay, and we actually could have included all of his novels on this list! A reviewer once described his novels as historical with a quarter turn to fantasy, which we think is absolutely perfect. His books feel real, feel as though they are written about our past, yet the places are unknown, though they become much loved. He quite literally transports us with the beauty of his writing which delves into power struggles, battles and murder, love and loss.
These books aren’t in a particular order, they do though, include some of our personal favourites. It is by no means an exhaustive list, we could actually go on and on and on!
We hope that you will find some much loved friends here, but we also trust you will meet some new ones.
Please share any books which you have adored, books that have transported you to another wonderful world...books you think deserve to be in this list and of course, why!
Who would have believed back in 1985 that this first introduction into the madcap Discworld which satirised fantasy novels and introduced us to some fantastic characters would turn into the Discworld series numbering some thirty works. If you have wondered where to start in this huge series (which need not be read in order) then start here and read The Light Fantastic straight after it. They are great books. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘The very first novel in what turned into the celebrated, magisterial Discworld series, this novel was first published by Corgi in 1985. Although the more recent novels in the series have become more layered, satirical and thoughtful (number thirty-seven, Unseen Academicals, is the most recent) The Colour of Magic must remain one of my all-time favourites, for its soaring inventiveness, sparky parody and madcap humour – and for introducing us in the first place to that flat World so very different from, yet so very like our own. ' Marianne Velmans, Publishing Director at Transworld
Breathtaking in it’s intensity and exquisitely written, find yourself transported to a reimagined China during the decline of the Song Dynasty. The way the author writes is unmistakable, yet again he’s delivered a masterpiece combining lyrical subtlety and heartrending beauty. The purposeful principal cast, with their faults, their flaws, are sometimes outshone by the splendid secondary characters and the vivid yet small inconsequential stories that highlight the choices, decisions, pathways that pepper and alter lives. You will find yourself wanting to race ahead to discover what’s around the next corner, and simultaneously take a slow stroll through the poetic pages to enable you to savour every delicious word.
A completely glorious and captivating read, one where glamour and enchantment walk hand in hand alongside intrigue and mystery. Step into 1948 and meet Eve, she goes against her stuffy husband’s wishes and travels to the French Riviera to find out about a mystery inheritance. As Eve attempts to uncover the riddle of her benefactor, she discovers the glittering world she has walked into may have a very ugly core. This is such a beautifully easy book to read, I simply slid into the pages and swam in the silky mysterious depths. I found myself willing Eve on, I became more and more fond of her, completely invested in the storyline. The surrounding characters are simply delicious, the allure of the French Riviera was dazzling. Rachel Rhys writes with the elegance of the age, the words and story wrapped themselves around me. Intrigue sparks intrigue, and a whiff of dastardly turns more deadly as information floats free. ‘Fatal Inheritance’ is eloquently seductive, I highly recommend finding yourself a beautiful spot and slipping into this rewarding story.
An astonishing, stimulating, and quite quite wonderful novel based on the life of the indomitable Mazie Phillips who lived in New York through some of the most interesting times of the first part of the 20th century. With a fictional mix of diaries, recounting of family history and an unpublished autobiography, this has an almost documentary feel to it; it is quite matter of fact, which cleverly emphasises the emotion and feeling behind the written word. There is a stark rawness to this novel, it feels as though the author has seen a truth, felt a connection to Mazie and born witness to her audacious individuality. In this interesting, clever read, Attenberg takes a fictional peek at the woman behind the celebrity, in all her gutsy, passionate, courageous glory. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | April 2017 Book of the Month. Simply superb, ’Black Water Lilies’ has leapt straight into my heart and soul. Thirteen days in the heart of Claude Monet’s homeland, where murder, death, lies, and deceit stalk the village of Giverny. Three women and two investigators dance through a weaving, magical, almost dreamlike story. The prologue sent a thrilling chill coursing through me, I was immediately captivated and remained that way for the entire tale. This is most definitely a crime novel, yet it is also a mystery, and a story about love, I almost feel as though it shouldn't be categorised, but enjoyed instead for what it is, a stunning piece of literature. Michel Bussi is an award-winning French novelist, this is the second of his novels to be translated into English. Descriptions are so immediate and evocative I felt as though I was about to step into a Monet painting. The plot kept me on the edge of the frame, just on the edge of understanding as I viewed the scenes in front of me. The unexpected ending made me weep, not through sadness, but because, as my brain raced to catch up with the shock of awareness, my feelings were affected at a basic level, and I’m still affected by it now. As soon as I had finished, I just wanted to start reading again from the beginning. ‘Black Water Lilies’ has been a bestseller in France, and it deserves to be a bestseller here, it is, without doubt, a must read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'I have to ’fess up, I did a French degree and am predisposed to love all things French. But that’s not why I love this book. Why I love it is that it is such a clever and compelling read – mystery after mystery is revealed as the story unfolds, and at every turn you meet a new and fascinating character. For me, one of the best ‘characters’ is the village of Giverny itself – by day, a mecca for tourists from all around the world; by night a place where decades-old rivalries and secrets play out behind closed doors. And then there’s the twist . . . I immediately wanted to go back and read the whole thing again!' ~ Kirsty Dunseath, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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.
Crossing genres in style, this just has to be one of my favourite novels of the year. Set in the marshlands of North Carolina, the majority of this story takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s. The prologue begins in 1969 with the body of Chase Andrews being found in the marsh. The first paragraph of the prologue introduces surprising beauty, the marsh simply sings, it settled into my mind and became a part of me. The central character is Kya, we meet her as a child, and the truth of her life is immediately apparent. As the novel moves backwards and forwards in time, Kya emerges as the Marsh Girl, and suspicion begins to hound her after the body is found. Author Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist who has worked in Africa and written non-fiction, this is her debut novel. Descriptions entered my mind in wafting movement, I fell in love with the marsh and the girl who lived there. Where the Crawdads Sing is truly touching, almost hauntingly beautiful, and opens a doorway to a different world. It has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
This is a strange little book indeed; soulful, sorrowful and yet curiously engaging and charming. Translated from Japanese and including wonderful illustrations, drawings and photos, this quirky tale draws you into it’s deep dark secrets from the moment you turn the very first page. The illustrations have been beautifully considered and hold hands with the tale as it slinks and skulks along. Even though this is narrated by a schoolboy, with fairly simple language, this is anything but simplistic and childish. Sheep and doughnuts have appeared before in this author’s works - make of that what you will! As a word of warning, reading this may leave you wanting to run in the opposite direction from any little old men who happen to approach you in the library, especially if it has a basement, but it’s well worth that particular affliction.
Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.
One of the most inspiring and positive, yet also one of the most painfully difficult and uncomfortable reads of the year. Hillenbrand, the author of ‘Seabiscuit’ has written the life story of Louis Zamperini; mischief maker, Olympian, bombardier, hero… and what an incredibly moving story it is. Hillenbrand writes so cleverly, you feel that you are listening to Zamperini himself, he literally springs from the pages. The pictures of Zamperini, his family and his comrades from the Second World War are wonderful and help to cement the man in your memory. There are parts to this novel that kick and pummel your consciousness and literally cause a physical ache, if this were a work of fiction, you’d think it fantastical, the fact that this is a true story, quite simply blows your mind. The film version of Unbroken is released in UK cinemas on Friday 26 December 2014. Click below to view the trailer.
This is a totally unique and breathtaking introduction to what lies beneath us, to the earth below our feet. Let this very special and beautiful book take you by the hand and lead you through the sunlit fields to the place where the underland begins, a place most human thoughts shy from in fear and confusion. This is a sequel to The Old Ways, yet you can begin here without concern, you can trust and join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the underland. I will admit that I am in love with the writing, the words, the vision that allows you to see and feel in darkness. I haven’t ever considered our deep connection to this stunning underworld in the way you are encouraged to here. Robert Macfarlane meets and shares experiences with people who have chosen to explore, to look beyond the obvious. I absolutely adored how much he shares, how accessible Underland is, his words reached out and connected with my thoughts and feelings, altering, reshaping, transforming. While there is plenty to fear for our future, all the time there are humans with this amount of love for our natural world, there is also hope. Underland is one of my picks of the month, and also one of our star books - it is quite simply stunning.
Winner of the Selo Catedra Award, Brazil in partnership with UNESCO Gorgeous, fascinating and heartwarming, this is a book to put a smile on your face. In 2013, aged five and a half, Toby decided to write a letter to someone in every single country in the world. His Mum Sabine, embraced the challenge and started to seek out people who would be interested in writing back to Toby. A website was started as a means of storing the letters, social media leapt aboard and Toby’s dream started to come true. This is a book containing just a few of the letters, to and from the world, and what a special book it is too. Suitable for children as well as adults, each letter is a snapshot of the country and the people that live there. You can dip in and out, and each time you visit somewhere new, learn something new and wonder at the magic that has been created. In ‘Dear World, How Are You?' you can see how Toby has spread love and cheer around the globe, one letter at a time, how fabulous! Click here to read a special blog by Toby's Mum about the book and how it has changed alot of people's lives. April 2016 Non-Fiction Book of the Month.
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. ~ Liz Robinson
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Some books are claustrophobic as they isolate their characters in a constricted setting, but Norwegian crime author Ravatn achieves the curious exploit of making a novel mostly set in the vast open air of the fjords claustrophobic as its two sole characters (aside from just a couple of outside 'extras') stew, fight, love and so much more in a cabin by a lake under the wide open sky. Allis, a journalist in disgrace, seeks a new life as a cook, gardener and helper with Sigurd, a taciturn older man who owns a cabin in a remote region of Norway, and whose wife is mysteriously absent. The psychological cat and mouse game is gripping as they clash, repel and attract and questions soon are raised about their previous lives and how past events will affect their future together or apart. Intense, lapidary, dream-like and streaked with anxiety, this is not a comfortable book, with not always likeable obsessive characters, but it proves rewarding as an investigation into the blank darkness of lost souls. ~ Maxim Jakubowski One of our Books of the Year 2016. The Lovereading view... A subtle, quietly sinister tale, where the tension slowly creeps and coils around the edge of your understanding. Allis removes herself from her previous life to become a housekeeper for Sigurd. On the edge of a fjord in a lonely existence, can Allis make sense of her life and reveal the secrets that cloak the house? Agnes Ravatn hasn't used quotation marks, this creates an intimacy with the words, yet they somehow echo with desolate intensity. The translation by Rosie Hedger is perfectly and completely in tune with the story. Gradually, slowly and almost silently, information is revealed, which kept me on the edge of my seat. ‘The Bird Tribunal’ unsettles, agitates and unnerves before a fierce concentrated rush of drama filled pages… and yet at the end, I detected a whisper of uncertainty floating in my mind, which actually left me feeling very satisfied indeed with this enthralling read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...I had my eye on The Bird Tribunal for quite some time before I was in a position to acquire rights to publish in English, and I watched it win countless awards in its native Norway and go on to be made into a stage play. When a reader’s report and then the fabulous translation came in, I was not disappointed. It is one of the most captivating, tense, dramatic thrillers I have read in years. With only two characters and a Rebecca-esque plotline, it is beautifully written, with the isolated Norwegian fjord and the gardens of the solitary house situated there exquisitely described, and the sense of foreboding, the slow building of tension, the trickle of insights into the characters and the secrets they are hiding, make it an exceptional read. It’s already won an English PEN Translation Award, and been chosen for WHSmith’s Fresh Talent for the Autumn, and I could not be prouder to publish a book that takes Nordic Noir to fabulous new heights and marks the arrival of a major new talent in the genre. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
Absolutely adorable, this is an autobiography full of eccentricity, charm and a penguin called Juan Salvador. As a young man in the 1970’s Tom Michell travelled to Argentina to teach at a boarding school. While in Uruguay Tom rescued a penguin from an oil slick and found himself with an unexpected companion. Writing in a fresh, chatty and friendly style, Tom introduces his colleagues, students and the beautiful country of Argentina. With super little titbits and recollections of his time in South America this a beautifully written memoir, however, I have to confess, that it is Juan Salvador who truly enchanted me. This confident, sociable little penguin must have been a joy to get to know. ‘The Penguin Lessons’ has left me with a lovely warm glow of optimism, there’s far more to be gained from these lessons than you would originally suspect.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
Goosebumps still compete in a race down my arms when I think about The Snakes, it is remarkable, truly remarkable, so please just trust me when I say this is a must-read. Bea and Dan rent out their flat so they can travel, stopping off at her brother’s hotel in France on route. When Bea’s parents unexpectedly visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea has kept them at arms length and refused their financial help all of these years, surely it can’t hurt to get to know them? Sadie Jones is a master storyteller, apparently simple sentences gang together to create a slicing tension. There is a purity to the writing, even though the very darkest of human attributes are so wonderfully and tellingly observed as the tale unfolds. This isn’t a comfortable read, but gosh it’s compelling, I sat and read it in one heady afternoon. I felt on high alert, my mind unclouded as I tasted, tested, scrutinised both the thoughts of the characters, and my own. ‘The Snakes’ is powerful and provocative, not in a shouty, boastful way, it slid into my mind, creating and filling secret spaces, and when I reached the last few pages, and read the final words, I just stopped and sat in wondering heart-hammering silence.
May 2017 Book of the Month. Gosh, what a stunning read this is, I simply couldn't put it down and devoured it in one glorious sitting! Cassy travels half way around the world to New Zealand with her boyfriend, when they separate, Cassy is left stranded, and a split second decision changes the outcome of her life. I admit to grabbing this book as soon as it arrived in the office; Charity Norman has the ability to strike a chord, to answer a feeling, yet open your eyes and mind to new thoughts, and I simply love her writing. The prologue, set in 2016, sent chills racing down my arms, I almost had to sit on my hands to prevent me from sneaking a peak at the ending. As soon as I started to read chapter one, set in 2010, I was swept away, and stayed immersed in the story as the tension escalated to almost unbearable levels. I chided, fumed, beseeched, pondered and considered. Charity Norman has once again created a searing, expressive, and absolutely cracking read, I adored and highly recommend ‘See You In September’. ~ Liz Robinson
January 2017 Book of the Month. One of our Books of the Year 2016. Winner of the John Creasey (New Blood) and Goldsboro Gold Dagger Awards 2016. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer go rap! A striking literary thriller which follows the reluctant journey of East, a young ghetto kid from a world of drugs and crime in Los Angeles, across the United States on his way to a murder he must commit to prove his loyalty and gain redemption for a mistake he made back home. An old-fashioned narrative quest and road journey through the moral vacuity of America, alongside his psychopathic younger brother and other endearing junior gang members on a mission set for failure. The main protagonist's voice is both touching and engrossing, a modern version of Holden Caulfield had he been born in Compton and a generation or so later, and his itinerary both geographical and mental is a poetic as well as profane, delicate joy to behold. A character study of the highest quality as well as a thriller as addictive as crack. Without the shadow of a doubt, a book that will come to be seen as a landmark in US crime writing. Maxim Jakubowski's April 2016 Book of the Month.
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
When you start to read you may doubt, as you get used to the set-up you may wonder, as you settle in you may find yourself well and truly addicted. Wake up to an alternative reality, where an alien virus turns the world upside down; death for most, survival for few, extraordinary afflictions for the Jokers, incredible superhuman abilities for the Aces. Different chapters are written by different authors (including Martin), however the world exists as a whole, as one, which leads to a fabulous range of distinct and diverse voices and viewpoints. A main character for one chapter, will pop up as a passer-by in another. You may well prefer some stories, some characters over others, however all, even the most abhorrent, feel so very real, this is by no means a fairy-tale world. Originally published in 1987, this expanded edition, following history from the end of World War Two, is a heavy-weight of a knock out. You do not have to be a science fiction and fantasy buff to enjoy this novel, George RR Martin has proven his more mainstream appeal with the ‘Game of Thrones’ series. Recommended for anyone who appreciates the unusual and bizarre side of life.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Debut of the Month Surprising, vivid, and eloquent, this is a truly beautiful debut. Joan Ashby is a talented, award winning writer, and while marriage and family press pause in the story of her career, words demand access to the page. Author Cherise Wolas paints a vibrant and personal picture of Joan using a variety of methods including magazine articles and short stories. My mind was immediately captivated by the strength and purity of the writing, and I fell in love with this tale. The fictional world within fictional world caused my thoughts to fracture and reconnect, and asked my consciousness to think in a different way, to stop and consider. ‘The Resurrection of Joan Ashby’ displays life in all its wonderful confusing glory, the hidden, the echoes, the hurt and love. If I had to choose to be a book, to live within the pages, this is one that I’d most certainly pick. A wonderful debut and highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson
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.
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
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A remarkably touching and quite, quite beautiful read. Set in Hong Kong, the prologue is teeming with people making their way to this remarkable city. Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to survive heartache in a different and sometimes difficult world. Three distinct lives, at first separate, step closer to each other, then the links between the three women tighten, almost to choking point. Janice Y. K. Lee writes with an exquisite, startling intensity, she provokes thoughts and feelings into exploring identity, grief and a fluttering of possibilities. Hong Kong is breathtaking, with the mix of East and West acting as a vibrant backdrop to the intimate story of these women. There is a real depth and energy to the writing, yet the thread of compassion that weaves through the pages ensures a delicate balance. ‘The Expatriates’ is wonderfully fascinating, compelling and profound, and I absolutely loved it. ~ Liz Robinson
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
April 2018 Debut of the Month Ahh, this is just so, so lovely… a debut that made me smile, weep, and smile some more. Rosemary is 86, she has lived in Brixton all her life, watching as Brixton has changed a building at a time, from fruit and veg shops to trendy bars. 26 year old journalist Kate is surrounded by people, yet feels completely and utterly alone, when the local lido is threatened by closure, an alliance and unexpected friendship is formed. Libby Page has a lovely quick-witted, gently quirky writing style, surprising me with observations and unexpected detail (adored the fox!). I loved travelling through memories, getting to know Rosemary and Kate, and seeing the small snapshots of the lives they touch. While it is a truly beautiful read, part of the beauty is in the emotion I felt, pain and heartache is embraced, hugged, soothed. ‘The Lido’ is a deliciously warm and entertaining slice of wonderful, and I absolutely adored it.
An absolute wow of a relationship tale, gloriously beautiful yet it may well have broken my heart. Ben travels to Africa and volunteers at a lion reserve, as we remain with him in the present, we also look back to his past, where he meets Andrew, who keeps a Wish Box. When Louise writes it feels touchable, even if I have not experienced the emotions she describes I can feel them deep inside me. I remained in every moment, moving with the words, the feelings, knowing I was heading into unchartered territory, yet unable to pause, to stop reading. Another story heads each chapter, linking Ben and Andrew, yet creating a separate connection. As I neared the ending, I will admit to sobbing, the story hit me low in my stomach, unexpected, yet as true and real and felt as could be. Louise Beech has done it again, this will most definitely be on my list of favourite reads of the year. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a relationship tale with a difference, it is tender, gripping, eloquent, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.
April 2016 Book of the Month. Totally and utterly and completely gorgeous in every way, the thought of having to put this book down for even a second is inconceivable. The first few pages make you smile, make you laugh and charm you, there is a hint though, of the difficulties that seven (nearly eight) year old Elsa is experiencing. Elsa’s shrewd, wonderful bonkers of a Granny tells her fairy tales, and like all good fairy tales there's more than a dollop of truth and reality mixed in, so ensure you're sitting comfortably and the tale can begin. There is a beautiful simplicity to the writing, yet this is not a simple book by any means, there is a complexity to the emotions it evokes and explores. Elsa and her Granny are two of the most astonishingly different characters to ever appear in print (and that’s a compliment by the way). Set aside some quality time, so you can laugh and cry undisturbed, as the author is able to enchant, to capture your imagination and hold it spellbound from the first to the last page; this is a must have, must read, must treasure book.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. This is such a gorgeously expressive novel, it just sings with intensity, and is impossible to put down. Nine year old Leon loves his little brother Jake and his mum, he looks after them both as best he can, when Leon and Jake have to go and live with Maureen, Leon hatches a plan. Kit de Waal writes with a beautiful, sincere energy, the simplicity of the tale told from Leon's point of view allows a complicated backdrop of emotions to shine through. At times my heart absolutely ached, yet there are also proper laughter blurting moments, and I just wanted to gather everybody up into a huge, squashy hug. The 80’s, with it’s curly wurlys, royal celebrations, and riots is the perfect setting. A gloriously motley collection of characters come to life, each and every one of them is indispensable, and each affected me in some way. ‘My Name is Leon’ is a stunning, eloquent, stinging paper-cut of a read, I fell in love with it, and in turn, it left me full of hope. ~ Liz Robinson Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016
A sharply amusing and captivating memoir based on the attempt of the author to make a new life in France. Tommy Barnes and his girlfriend escape the 9-5 of the UK after being made redundant. Surrounded by animals, friendly locals, and stunning countryside, Tommy struggles to start a micro-brewery in the heart of the Loire Valley. The author is more than happy to poke fun at himself, he is also incredibly honest. His writing ensured I didn’t feel too badly as I chortled, smirked and raised my eyebrows as he somewhat stumbles through life. Rather stealing the show is Burt the dog, described by Tommy as squat, surly and defiant, Burt makes it his life mission to cause chaos wherever he is. I also just have to mention the gorgeous cover, which most definitely called out to me. ‘A Beer in the Loire’ is an engaging, ever so entertaining read, oh, and there are several recipes for beer too, how fabulous!
Just so, so gorgeous! Laura lives on her own in the woodland wilds of South West Ireland, a film crew discover she has a special gift, will she be exploited or set free? I always know a book is fabulous when I forget I’m meant to be reviewing and instead find myself completely transported to another world. Cecelia Ahern writes with such a light, magical touch, yet she opens up feelings and allows you to see, to feel, to think. Each part of the story is introduced by a fascinating section taken from a book written in 1933, and links beautifully to Laura. This story is alive with the mystical and unknown, yet is a very modern tale indeed. The writing is so perfect, I actually heard sound… noise touched me, clearly, effortlessly and beautifully, making my heart ache. A delicious enchantment underpins and threads through the story, yet there is also an undertone of unease and foreboding that lingers as you turn the pages, ensuring ‘Lyrebird’ is a bewitching, gloriously delightful read. ~ Liz Robinson
April 2017 Debut of the Month. An emotional, heart-stopping, and mesmerising debut novel. 34 year old retired banker and burgeoning artist Barry from New York, and 28 year old just-married Parisian architect Sophie, are the sole survivors of a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Stranded on a small uninhabited island, with only themselves and a small survival kit for company, can they withstand the trials that nature and the universe hurls at them? Chapter one was an unexpected and intriguing start, setting questions hovering in my mind, before I was propelled straight into the middle of a boiling, seething mass of water. Dane Huckelbridge’s clear, strong writing planted me firmly on the island, I witnessed shock, awe, and fear, laughter blurted out of me, I looked up at the sky, discovered joy, counted the days, felt hearts flutter. ‘Castle of Water’ is a gorgeous, captivating, surprising novel, one that storms your senses, yet encourages whispers of thoughts to escape your mind, and I absolutely loved it. ~ Liz Robinson
Gentle and pointed good humour abounds in this lovely read, Alexander McCall Smith excels in creating whimsical yet sharply observed novels with real heart. He was the winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2015 with Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party which I absolutely adored, and The Second Worst Restaurant in France certainly lived up to my expectations. Food writer Paul Stewart escapes to France to stay with his cousin Chloe in order to finish his latest book, however, located in the village is the restaurant aptly known as second worst in France. Within a few pages I had an understanding of Paul, he very simply makes himself known and acts as a perfect foil to Chloe, who on occasion rather steals the limelight! A whole host of wonderful characters enter the story as Paul’s livelihood is threatened and everything is thrown into a delightful muddle. The Second Worst Restaurant in France is a gorgeously easy read, I smiled, I laughed, and enjoyed every moment… PS I would love to see Chloe feature in her own story, what a woman!
‘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.
June 2017 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A book to put a great big beaming (and somewhat tearful) smile on your face. ‘Finding Gobi’ documents the quite amazing story of one man’s quest to find the little dog who had stolen his heart. Dion Leonard was a serious ultra marathon competitor in a race through the Gobi Desert, when a little street dog joined him, running by his side. We hear about Dion’s childhood, why he started running, what it takes to be an ultra competitor, and we meet Gobi, the dog with eyes that appear to see into your soul. You may already be aware of this story, as it took social media by storm, if like me, you weren’t, then the prologue sets your mind at ease before you start this simply sensational story. ‘Finding Gobi’ joins man and dog in a story to warm the cockles of your heart, I absolutely adored it. It is worth noting that a children’s version of the story is also available. ~ Liz Robinson
A gorgeously evocative tale, ‘Vermilion Skies’ may be classed as a love story, however there is far more on offer here. Set mainly in Chile, where the scenery and society paint a vivid scene, 14 year old Milana has an understanding of humanity far beyond her years. As Milana struggles with tragedy and to find life beyond the shanty town where she lives, she explores life and love. Wendela Lumley writes with a beautiful empathy and tenderness yet she doesn't shy away from reality. The fragility and harshness of life provokes and prods at your awareness, while in the next moment, joy in the beauty that can be found in the smallest thing, shines through the pages. Travelling across years, searching for truth and understanding, this is an engaging and captivating love story. ~ Liz Robinson
Extraordinarily powerful and emotional, this debut fictional tale, based around a true event that occurred during the Second World War, is one that shouldn't be missed. On the brink of war, clouds are gathering in a small French village, a young boy tries to weather the storm, a couple fall in love and we discover that for one person the tempest has already passed and is now buried in silence. Time doesn't run sequentially, allowing a feeling of disquiet, concern and dread to steal across the pages as worlds and lives collide. This story feels very personal, the author shows us ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, living life as best they can. If you aren't already aware of the incident that occurs towards the end of the book, don't research it further until you've finished, instead connect to the people, let them become a part of you, experience their dreams and feel their emotions, in this eloquently moving and thought provoking novel. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Gorgeously affectionate, loving, and generous, this is a read to escape into and really enjoy. Hunters Moon is a forever home, yet the current occupants are selling up and when Belinda takes on the sale, she finds herself becoming emotionally attached to Sally and Alexander. Veronica Henry sets the story so beautifully in two time frames, it feels completely natural to journey back to the late 1960’s as well as spend time with Belinda in the present. I was completely enchanted, both with the characters and the setting in the beautiful Peasebrook. If you are an existing fan, then you will recognise locations and a few of the people you meet along the way, however this can very easily be read as a standalone. I have to say that ‘The Forever House’ is one of my favourite reads by Veronica Henry, and the honey glow of Hunters Moon sweeps you up in a deliciously warm embrace. ~ Liz Robinson
A booky health warning should be stamped on this cover… once you start you won’t want to stop! I read right through to 03:30am, until I had devoured every single and absolutely wonderful last drop. Hayley Chill, ex-military and champion boxer, is a new West Wing intern in the White House. When she finds the body of the Chief of Staff, she also finds a clue that it wasn’t the reported heart attack, and everything now points to an assassination plot on the president. The first few pages really sum up Hayley Chill, she is courageous, honourable, and can kick some serious ass. In other words, she is someone you would most definitely want on your side. Chris Hauty has the ability to highlight a life in just a few sentences, adding to the vivid overall picture in my mind. Deep State is a fast-moving, full-on adrenaline hit. Please, please tell me that this is the start of a new series, because I want more! Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month and LoveReading Star Book, because Deep State really is that addictive. Find out more in our Q&A with Chris Hauty!
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A beautifully quirky, yet at the same time completely logical love story (well it is logical once you've realised that you too, have fallen in love with an alligator). ‘Carrying Albert Home’ is a nine part tale, detailing an odyssey that took place during the 1930’s, interspersed with snappy little introductions to each part of the story by the author. As Homer (the elder) and Elsie his wife, adventure their way down the east coast from West Virgina to Florida, with Albert the alligator and the Rooster, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Homer Hickam (the younger and author) is telling the ‘somewhat true’ story of the early years of his parents marriage, surely this is the most fantastical tale ever told! I believe that John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway would remember their parts in this tale with glee, who wouldn't want to have been introduced to the charming and rather glorious Albert? I quite simply devoured this enchanting book in one sitting, and I will want to read it again and again. One of our Books of the Year 2015.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A mesmerising and eloquently emotional novel exposing the complexity of relationships and the hidden, the things left unsaid and untold. I adored Fionnuala Kearney’s debut novel, so was very much looking forward to ‘The Day I Lost You’. She has the ability to see beneath normality, to the darker side within, and she writes with the perfect blend of heartbreak and hope. 48 year old Jess’s daughter Anna is reported missing in an avalanche, releasing a deluge of hurt, suspicion and the discovery of secrets. The focus remains on Jess, Anna, and Theo (their friend), their stories written in different ways, ensuring the transition from each flows, highlighting their individual thoughts and emotions. The supporting cast of characters are beautifully realised and makes this wonderful family drama feel realistic and touchable. As little quivers of suspicion started to arise and my mind darted to and fro, Fionnuala Kearney maintained a subtle balance, encouraging me to trust my instincts, yet laying artful trip hazards along the way. ‘The Day I Lost You’ is touching, heart wrenching, and I found myself completely lost in this gorgeously written tale. ~ Liz Robinson October 2016 Book of the Month.
A 2013 World Book Night selection. One of Dan Snow's favourite books. Marcus Sedgwick, July 2010 Guest Editor, says:"I continually list this book in my top five, because it's my belief that most people haven't actually read it, and know it only from bowdlerised abridgements, which is a shame because the real thing is powerful, dark and above all, scary."June 2010 Guest Editor Michael Morpurgo remembers:A terrifically exciting tale of a dead man’s map, mutinous pirates, skulduggery and buried treasure that will be thoroughly enjoyed by a child if read aloud to them from the age of 5 upwards. It’s such a gripping adventure that children are sure to pick it up again to read alone when they’re a little older. It’s the story of Jim Hawkins who discovers a map in an old sea chest but little does he know of the danger and excitement which lie ahead when sets sail for Treasure Island in search of treasure.What Michael Morpurgo says of his favourite children's book:'This was the first proper book I read for myself. Jim Hawkins was the first character in a book I identified with totally. I was Jim Hawkins. I lived Treasure Island as I read it. And I loved it. Still do. I wish I'd written it.'Treasure Island in a nutshell:Black spot moment. Sea dog dies. Jim finds map. Ship sets sail. Pirates on board. Island is found. Madman in cave. Two rival camps. Battle for map. Dig up chest. Treasure is gone. Gunn has gold. Head back home. Silver runs off. Jim writes book.
January 2014 Guest Editor Jodi Picoult on Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I memorized huge passages when I was twelve and pretended to be both Rhett and Scarlett (hence I had no boyfriend till I was 15…). I loved that Margaret Mitchell had created a world out of words, and I wanted to do the same thing. The Lovereading view... First published in 1936, this book is a historical novel set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War. It tells the love story of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. February 2011 Guest Editor Carmen Reid on Margaret Mitchell... Gone With The Wind must be the grandmammie of romantic novels. Yes it’s over 1000 pages long and you know the story already because you’ve watched the epic film over many a bank holiday. But February strikes me as the perfect month to turn the telly off, go to bed early and wade through this Southern Civil war blockbuster. Tighten your crinoline, practise saying: ‘Oh Ashley!’ And ‘No, no, Rhett!’ And vow to the skies that you will never, ever be poor again! Realise why it’s so terrifically good that Margaret snagged herself a Pulitzer Prize in 1937.
A gobsmacking, heartbreaking, punch of a read. You may well have heard of Chris McCandless, he abandoned his life to live in the wilds of Alaska. There is no happy ending to be found here, and the story of his last few months left me reeling. I have been to Alaska, and spent time in Healy, which is the last small town McCandless walked through before stepping into the wilderness of Denali. Author John Krakauer took me back there, his descriptions both sing and sting, this is no theme park ride. Into the Wild transports, it is also a provocative and powerful read.
One of the best loved stories in children’s literature, The Secret Garden brings nature alive in the story of how Mary Lennox, a lonely, unhappy and spoilt child is transformed by finding her way into a hidden garden. Brought to her Uncle’s house in Yorkshire after the death of her mother, Mary has no friends and no occupation. Used to being waited she is selfish and mean spirited. But when Mary unlocks the door to the garden she not only finds the wonders of nature as the flowers and trees grow and bear fruit but she also finds a friend in Dickon, the kindly gardener’s boy. How Mary, and her wheelchair bound cousin Colin are transformed by the garden remains as magical as when it was first written.
Friendship, hospitality and having fun propel the adventures of these four animals as they go about their lives against the watery landscape in this classic tale. Life on the riverbank with close-friends Mole, Rat, Toad and Badger is mostly peaceful. There is lots of entertaining as well as a great deal of just messing about on the river. Just occasionally the peace is shattered, as when Toad gets behind the wheel of his car and speeds around the countryside letting rip with the horn or, more seriously, by brief attempts to defeat the weasels and stoats in the Wild Wood.
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
A lovely hardback edition to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of this world famous children's classic. A book that’s chock full of great conversations between Alice and some extraordinary animals, ranging from the pipe-smoking caterpillar and the Mad Hatter, to the March Hare and the sneezing Duchess. From Philip Pullman: "Indispensable. The great classic beginning of English children's literature."
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.