The LoveReading Books of the Year 2021

2021 has been a year of cautious optimism. Along with the removal of restrictions on weddings, family gatherings and nights out with friends, shops reopened (including our favourite Independent Bookshops), we could take our favourite reads on holiday with us, and Book Award winners could accept their accolades amongst an audience once more.

As always, we must celebrate books that are bestsellers which continue to fly off the shelves many many months after first being published, and this year has been no exception, with 2019 and 2020 hardback titles like Girl, Woman, Other, Hamnet and The Thursday Murder Club still topping the charts and being loved loudly across the bookish world. This year we’ve also seen the rise of BookTok (book related content on social media platform TikTok) responsible for shining a brand new light on brilliant teen fiction like 2017’s They Both Die at the End and One of Us is Lying. And, as always, LoveReading stands by your side, your trusty partner in bookish love and our team of expert book lovers have been reading hundreds of books from the many thousands published to bring you our curated highly recommended titles from right across the genres, month in month out.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with our Books, Debuts and eBooks of the month, as well as the special selection made by our Editorial Expert Liz Robinson, but this year we’ve bolstered our non-fiction category in particular, allowing us to provide more recommendations for readers more intrigued by the world we live in than the realm of fiction. From within each of these monthly highlights we select a precious few books that go on to become our Star Books. These titles are shining examples of truly brilliant books and, when the year is complete, these books become our Books of the Year. 

And so, without further ado, behold our Star Books of 2021. These are our favourite reads of the year and we just know that you’ll love these books as much as we do. If you haven’t read them already, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy!

The Visitors

The Visitors

Author: Caroline Scott Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/12/2021

This thought-provoking and exquisitely written novel has touched my heart. In 1923, Esme Nicholls travels to Cornwall in the hope of learning more about her husband who died in the First World War. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott, and it won’t be my last. Her debut The Photographer of the Lost set in 1921 was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick, and When I Come Home Again set in 1918, was one of The Times Best books of 2020. The Visitors is so eloquently emotional and earthy it will stay with me for some time. The Cornish setting just sings, the house full of former soldiers where Esme stays made me feel welcome. The garden and natural surroundings soothe and act as a foil for the feelings of the people who reside there. Diary entries and articles add hidden thoughts and an awareness of the war. I adored the ending, the closing information so simply imparted, yet so satisfying and fulfilling, made me smile. The Visitors is beautifully expressive and heartfelt, and I’ve chosen this gorgeous novel as both a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month. 

Star Books
Barn Club

Barn Club

Author: Robert Somerville Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/03/2021

Our March 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is such a welcoming and warming read with community spirit, traditional craft, and the environment at its heart. Author Robert J Somerville was commissioned to build an elm barn by hand in Hertfordshire. Over the course of a year volunteers gathered together to help build the barn, and this is the story. There are so many positive elements to this read. A community of volunteers come together to: “teach, practice and celebrate skilled rural craftsmanship”. And while Dutch elm disease has decimated our Elm population, there is hope for the trees survival. As Robert Somerville says: “Elm is a species that suffered a major pandemic, but its incredible determination to survive prevails. Elm is proving itself to be a tree with an enduring life force, and, to my mind, is an appropriate icon for getting closer to nature, the resurgence in making things by hand and for bringing old skills back to life”. The book contains a myriad of interesting illustrations and photos as well as the story from concept to raising of the barn. At a time when community really matters, when our environment needs love and nurturing, Barn Club echoes with all that is good. It is a wonderful read that lightened my spirits and made me smile.   

Star Books
Saving Missy

Saving Missy

Author: Beth Morrey Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

A debut novel to read slowly, to savour, to adore. Yes, this is a rather special and beautiful read, and I want to climb a few rooftops to shout about it. Missy Carmichael is lonely, she lives by herself in a huge house, when opportunities arise for friendship and more, can she reach out and take them? I admit to having fallen in love with Missy, she isn’t perfect and she makes mistakes (who doesn’t!), yet there is something about her that tiptoed into my heart and soul and has taken up residence. So often we just see a snapshot of someone, a moment or period in their life, however not here. Beth Morrey has not only brought her to life, but by also dipping into the past, we discover the gems that make Missy, well, Missy! The surrounding characters are a wonderfully quirky bunch, and Bob is an absolute delight. I laughed and I cried (oh how I cried). Saving Missy meanders gently, poignantly, beautifully, to what was for me, a perfect ending. I adored meeting Missy and so have chosen this lovely debut novel as one of our star books.  Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Audiobooks of the Month
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
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.

Audiobooks 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. 

Star Books
The Soul of a Woman

The Soul of a Woman

Author: Isabel Allende Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/03/2021

Honest of heart and exhilarating in spirit, Isabel Allende’s The Soul of a Woman is an inspirational account of the writer’s lifelong feminism. Interweaving autobiography with astute commentary, it presents a stunning tapestry of a life lived fighting inequality in all its forms as it seeks to light the way for a better world. “When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” Allende begins this stirring memoir, referring to seeing her father leave her mother “with two toddlers in diapers and a newborn baby” when she was three, compelling them to move to live with her grandparents. It was here that Allende’s “anger against machismo started” as a result of realising that her mother and the housemaids were subordinates without voice or resources. The contrast made between the stoniness of patriarchy (an aggressively imposed system that “grants dominion and privileges to the male gender” and “punishes those who defy it”) and feminism’s ocean-fluid nature is sublime. Feminism “moves in waves, currents, tides, and sometimes in storms. Like the ocean, feminism, never stays quiet.” An ocean metaphor might also be applied to this book - it undulates beautifully as Allende recounts her life through feminist lens. The tone is invigorating, and charmingly familiar too, with interjected “by the way” digressions, as if in the company of a wise and passionate friend. And, like the kind of friend who brings joy to any gathering, Allende ends this book with a bright beam of optimism. While aware that inequalities have never been deeper (“we can’t continue in a civilisation based on unbridled greed and violence”), she believes that this is a time for reflection, a time to ponder what kind of world we want to live in following the brutality of a global pandemic. For Allende, that’s a world in which “peace, empathy, decency, truth, and compassion prevail.”

Star Books
Big Girl, Small Town

Big Girl, Small Town

Author: Michelle Gallen Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/02/2021

This is such a beautifully handled startling wow of a read, it has gone straight in to sit as a LoveReading Star Book. Spend a week with Majella as the routine of her life changes, she just wants to go to work, watch Dallas, and eat the same dinner each night. However… her mother is an alcoholic, her dad disappeared in the Troubles, and her gran has just died. The synopsis tells you that Majella is autistic, but this is her story, and she doesn’t know she is, so I met, I saw, I got to know Majella, as Majella. The extensive list of things she isn’t keen on are announced as the story progresses. The humour Michelle Gallen delivers is punchy, the swearing is particularly sweary, while the heartachy emotion wormed its way into my heart and squeezed. In fact Majella marched her way into my thoughts, she is one of the most wonderful characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I’d go so far as to say that she is unforgettable. The repetition of her life, echoed through the book, adding emphasis to each new experience. The surrounding town and its folk slipped and exploded into play while the chip shop sits centre stage. Simple and raw yet richly complex, Big Girl, Small Town comes with huge applause and recommendations from me.

Star Books
American Dirt

American Dirt

Author: Jeanine Cummins Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/02/2021

American Dirt is the first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border, a journey which thousands of migrants make each year. Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop. Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist. Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world. Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left. For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running. Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is both a page turner and a literary achievement: a novel that will leave you utterly changed.

Star Books
Between Two Kingdoms

Between Two Kingdoms

Author: Suleika Jaouad Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/02/2021

In Between Two Kingdoms, Saleika Jaouad traces her journey from her diagnosis of a rare form of leukaemia at a young age to remission and beyond. This deeply moving book is dark, raw and honest. The first half follows her experiences of the cancer treatments and how these affected her own identity, as well as her relationships with loved ones. The second half follows her fluctuating emotions as she shifted from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor with a ‘new normal’ way of living. After doctors told her she was ‘cured’, she took a road trip across the country with just her dog at her side, meeting strangers who had written to her in hospital offering their support. Saleika Jaouad is an exceptional storyteller and her book is beautifully written – I could feel the pain, anger, fear and passion behind her words as she learnt how to find meaning in life again. It’s a book about survival and support, hope and healing – not always an easy read but well worth the journey.

Star Books
Doctors Get Cancer Too

Doctors Get Cancer Too

Author: Dr Philippa Kaye Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/02/2021

Doctors Get Cancer Too is the 18-month diary of a cancer patient who is also a GP. Dr Philippa Kaye was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 39. In her book, she gives a personal, honest insight into her cancer scans, surgeries and chemotherapy, from diagnosis to recovery. She writes about how each stage felt and looked, the decisions she had to make and the impact it had on her and her family’s daily life, using humour to cushion the graphic details. Her GP role meant she understood the medical side of being a cancer patient, but the practical side was a steep learning curve for her, now seeing everything from the patient’s chair instead. She includes copies of the ‘just in case’ letters she wrote to her three young children, packing list for a hospital stay and home post-op tips. Her diaries weren’t originally written to be published. But by bravely sharing her thoughts, emotions and experiences in such a public manner, she hopes to provide some support, reassurance and comfort to other cancer patients – and to also highlight that bowel cancer can affect people at any age.

Star Books
Dear Edward

Dear Edward

Author: Ann Napolitano Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2021

An exquisitely written and beautifully emotional novel that will remain in my heart and thoughts. Edward survives a plane crash in which every other person, including his parents and brother, die. As the only survivor he becomes the lodestone for the relatives of the other passengers. Ann Napolitano writes with huge compassion as she explores overwhelming grief, and the tragedy is sensitively and skilfully handled. Knowing what is coming, in no way prepares you for the journey. Two time frames travel together, the first immediately leading up to the crash, the second as Edward learns how to survive the aftermath. Scattered within are smaller, intense, briefly short stories that added to, and intertwined with the overall tale. I was allowed to find my own way, to consider and contemplate as I walked alongside Edward. I felt the most profound heartache and joy as I sank into the lives of the passengers, not only incredibly thoughtful, it is also a thought-provoking read. Dear Edward has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Star Books, it is a must-read and truly deserves to be a huge success. 

Star Books
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 Englishman

The Englishman

Author: David Gilman Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/02/2021

Klaxon alert! Discover full-on heart-pounding action, plus smart, sharp writing in this absolute reading feast of a book. Travelling from Africa to the UK and ending in Russia, former Foreign Legion Commando Dan Raglan is on a hunt that guarantees death. This is the first in what promises to be a smash-hit spy thriller series and I already can’t wait for the next book. The prologue throws you straight into October 2019 with a man running through a frozen Russian forest while bullets whip towards him. Chapter one turns to 2013 and from here we get to know Dan Raglan. As an introduction, it’s spot on, within pages I was on board and by his side. Author David Gilman is a former firefighter, paratrooper, and photographer and now writes full time. His words build a vivid picture, this world feels authentic and I read with full confidence. I was so involved in the unfolding story that my thoughts didn’t skim backwards or forwards, I purely existed in each moment as it hit. And boy, each moment lands with ferocious intensity. Shockwaves of action expanded and the storyline tripped me with unexpected developments. Even though I had read the prologue, the ending still came with a whammy. LoveReading Book of the Month - tick, LoveReading Star Book - tick, one of my personal Picks of the Month - tick! The Englishman comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me, more please!

Star Books
Execution

Execution

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

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

Star Books
Space Hopper

Space Hopper

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

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

Star Books
Lightseekers

Lightseekers

Author: Femi Kayode Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/02/2021

An intelligent, brooding yet vibrant crime thriller debut that just thrums with atmosphere. Investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo walks straight into trouble when he is hired to investigate the brutal crowd murder of three students known as the Okiri Three in Nigeria. It is an absolute thrill to be in at the start of a new series that promises so much. Femi Kayode has created a relatable and likeable main character who is quickly out of his depth, and Philip tells his own tale. The setting was brought so vividly to life I found myself wide-eyed as I looked around and soaked up the sense of place. I could reach out and touch, could feel Nigeria and it’s history. Another story sits alongside Philip’s, it’s intense and provocative, it felt as though it was hunting down the main tale, ready to attack. While Philip investigates, the link to his home life allows a further connection and understanding of his background. There are a number of other characters that I sincerely hope will make a return and I am already excitedly waiting for the next book in this series. Lightseekers is a smart, action-packed and intriguing read. I want to shout about this one, so it’s not only a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s also a LoveReading Star Book too.   

Star Books
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
Mrs Death Misses Death

Mrs Death Misses Death

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

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

Star Books
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
There's Only One Danny Garvey

There's Only One Danny Garvey

Author: David F. Ross Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/01/2021

A powerful, eloquent, earthy and emotional novel about family, regret, hope, and redemption. Former footballing prodigy Danny Garvey returns home to manage the local football team, yet past secrets haunt the present. I simply fell into this novel, fell in love with both the writing and storyline, and similarly adored Welcome to the Heady Heights. David F Ross writes so beautifully, images spark into life, so vibrantly real they almost hurt. During the course of this novel I found myself roaring with laughter, high on feel-goods, then caught up in plummeting emotions that caused a physical ache… this is a novel with real heart. The direct thoughts of the other headline characters appear in italics, and boy does it create atmosphere. My head was full of the added information, creating a jigsaw, while searching for the missing pieces without realising it. The ending gave me full-on goosebumps, and I sat for a goodly while in contemplation after finishing. I want to shout from the rooftops about There’s Only One Danny Garvey, hand on heart it’s blimmin brilliant! 

Star Books
We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

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

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

Books of the Month
The Shape of Darkness

The Shape of Darkness

Author: Laura Purcell Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

This is Laura Purcell’s fourth novel and I’ve devoured the previous three – The Silent Companions, The Corset and Bone China. She is the absolute queen of the modern gothic novel, weaving tales of love, loss, darkness, spirits and revenge. I buy few hardbacks these days, but my collection of Purcell’s takes pride of place and I know I’ll return to them again and again. This is the story of Agnes Darkin a silhouette artist, cutting portraits from black paper, who is struggling to keep body and soul together. Her business is failing and she’s unable to make ends meet. When a client is murdered after sitting for her, and then another, Agnes turns to a child medium for help and take a step into the darkness. I love the twists and turns in this story – a real page-turner. Selected by Carole Matthews, Our Winter 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece. * What a gloriously dark and thrilling treat of a read this is! If I’m not careful I will go into exclamation mark overdrive as I adored every single moment spent with this novel, from the cover on the outside to the content within. Silhouette artist Agnes believes that her clients are being murdered, in an attempt to find answers she asks spirit medium Pearl to make contact with the dead. Victorian Bath is the setting with a dramatic and shadowy atmosphere that oozes from the pages. The characters are beautifully constructed, I found myself investing in their every word and move. The plot is fascinating, the uncanny elements thrilling, and yet it all feels so convincing, so vividly real. And oh, that ending, it gave me goosebumps in the best possible way! If you delight in a deeply satisfying story containing elements of the supernatural then this is the book for you. Slithering between thoughts into the darkest of places The Shape of Darkness is an eloquent, mesmerising gothic tale and one of my Liz Picks of the Month.  

Star Books
The Charmed Wife

The Charmed Wife

Author: Olga Grushin Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/01/2021

A powerful, provocative and quite wonderful modern literary fairy tale, but if you enter expecting ‘happily ever after’ you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather than sugar and spice and all things nice, you’ll instead find a novel brimming with exquisitely sharp and pointed attitude. Thirteen and a half years after Cinderella married the man of her dreams and she’s had enough, she wants out. The prologue pierces love, and binds hate, firmly setting the tone, yet wicked humour and gentle observations also tickle the page. The echoes of well known fairy tales make themselves felt, adding to the enchantment. There is much to take delight in, yet beware, all magic is paid for and you’ll need to be on the look out for hidden snares. I adore the tale that runs alongside the main story, of the two mice that accompanied Cinderella and live in a world circling through an entire civilisation. How easy it is to view what you want to see, rather than what is actually there. As the fairy tale splinters and a shimmer of reality breaks through, I found my thoughts tossed high in the air, and where they will land, I still don’t know. So bright, so clever, and thought-provoking this just had to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month. I danced through the deep dark magic of The Charmed Wife, long live the fairy tale that lives beyond 'happily ever after'.

Star Books
A Man Who Is Not a Man

A Man Who Is Not a Man

Author: Thando Mgqolozana Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/01/2021

Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who is Not A Man is a coming-of-age tour de force. The writing is exceptional - always muscular, often raw, occasionally wry - as it explores masculinity through a young man’s journey to selfhood in the wake of a rite of passage that goes devastatingly wrong. After going off the rails in Cape Town, Lumkile resolves to put his days of drugs, theft and violence behind him when he moves to his mother’s rural village. Here he “went clean” and “decided to make something of myself”, and it’s not long before “Item One on my grand plan was just around the corner”. Namely, Lumkile begins the initiation process that will lead to his circumcision, to his journey to manhood. Above almost everything, he’s warned by elders to avoid hospital at all costs, for that would mean failure and “there is no living space for failed men in our society. Either you become a man in the expected way, or you are no one at all.” After being circumcised, he remains alone in the mountains, alone with his “burning agony”, alone with the stench of putrefying flesh - such is his fear of the shame and social ostracism seeking medical assistance would bring. Lumkile’s resistance to hospitalisation is incredibly harrowing, and there’s little respite when he’s admitted and continues to suffer in silence. But through surviving this physically and mentally excruciating experience, he summons the strength to speak out, realising that “Survival starts from within... As a so-called failed man, I have had to gain a new understanding of myself in context...My self-image is no longer dependent on what my society thinks of me but what I think of it.” Powerful stuff from an exceptional writer.

Star Books
Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Author: Cixin Liu Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/01/2021

So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moment's doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, Of Ants and Dinosaurs just has to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book, I simply adored it. 

Star Books
Victoria Park

Victoria Park

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

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

Star Books
Dragonfly Eyes

Dragonfly Eyes

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

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

Star Books
Highfire

Highfire

Author: Eoin Colfer Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/01/2021

This high-octane, smart, whip-sharp novel is one heck of a reality and fantasy clash. It perhaps shouldn’t work, but it does, it really really does and has popped itself on my list of favourite reads. Meet Vern, he is currently hiding out in a Louisiana swamp, he doesn’t trust anyone, loves his vodka, has a thing for Flashdance, oh, and he’s a dragon. Having lived a few thousand years he really doesn’t need the escalating feud between Squib Moreau and crooked Officer Hooke to spoil his peace and quiet. This is the first novel for adults from the bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer. I feel as though Highfire has been waiting for me, to welcome it to my bookshelves. The balance between the different genres is beautifully done. Different emotions skittered through me as I read, there’s violence aplenty, and some wicked smirks waiting to be found too. Highly entertaining and exciting, Highfire is my kind of book, in fact if you could marry books, I’d be Mrs Highfire in no time!

Star Books
Ghosts

Ghosts

Author: Dolly Alderton Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

Nina George Dean on the surface has it all. Fantastic friends, a new home all of her own, a successful career as a food writer and a loving family. Saying that, her thirties thus far haven't been all they were cracked up to be...and so she decides to dive into online dating. This is a funny observational debut novel by Dolly Alderton, a voice we recognise from her best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love and her podcast The High Low. But it's fresh, it's so relatable, so real. We've all been through it or know someone who has - and because of that it's so heartfelt and sad and tender and true. But funny; I chuckled, laughed and nodded along on every step of Nina's journey. And it's not an easy journey as love interest Max isn't quite what she hoped he'd be with his good looks and prepackaged charm and we hope she doesn't fall hard when after two hours she "wants to touch his face which looked like it belonged to a Viking warrior". Her doting dad shows more and more signs of dementia, and her friendships drift as friends become consumed with kids, love and moving out to the 'burbs. Whatever decade you're in, this will serve as a witty warning, a reeling realisation or a magnificent memory and I can't recommend it enough. 

Star Books
The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

Author: Matt Haig Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/02/2021

A beautiful and inspiring story that is full of hope.  Nora Seed enters The Midnight Library and is given the opportunity to experience how her life could have turned out, answering her "what ifs?" and undoing each regret she has in search of the perfect life.  An open and heartfelt tale from the briliant, emotionally cognizant Matt Haig, The Midnight Library is an entertaining story with a soul and very important lesson to share.

Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain

Author: Douglas Stuart Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

A heart-breaking, unforgettable and incredible story that will stay with you long after you've finished it. It is difficult to believe it's a debut as you read the travails of young Shuggie, his alcoholic mother Agnes and see inside their dysfunctional family life in 1980s working-class Glasgow. It's a powerful story with unflinching honesty that will no doubt make you cry. It shows the power of love and despite the bleak subject matter, it's incredibly tender, hopeful and oh so readable. It's a triumph.

Audiobooks of the Month
Piranesi

Piranesi

Author: Susanna Clarke Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims? Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Girl with the Louding Voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Author: Abi Daré Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/2021

A powerful, emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of a young Nigerian girl who is determined to get an education so that she can escape her servitude. Meet Adunni. I've never met anyone like her. She's smart, funny, determined,  and this shines through on every page of her journey. Never before have I read a book where the voice is so strong, as you read the book, you are reading it in Adunni's words, hearing her voice. Adunni's mother is passionate about Adunni getting a good education: "Your schooling is your voice child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk. It be speaking until the day God be calling you to come." The spirited Adunni isn't just happy with a voice, she wants a "louding voice", she wants to be heard, to stand up, to make her own decisions and pave the way for other girls behind her. But her plans are dashed when her mother dies and her father sells her to a rich much older man, and she joins his two other wives with sole aim of bearing him a son. Tragedy strikes,  Adunni's forced to run and ends up in another evil house as a maid to an abusive family in Lagos. This is a beautiful book about an incredible 14 year old girl and the relationships she makes on her path to find her louding voice, the people she befriends with her intelligence, courage and strength. And I absolutely adored it. Adunni, you captivated me. Your Mama would be very proud.

Books of the Month
Self-Contained Scenes from a single life

Self-Contained Scenes from a single life

Author: Emma John Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

A wonderfully readable, thoughtful yet amusing, and sometimes painfully honest memoir from journalist Emma John as she asks: “What does happily ever after look like when your Prince Charming never shows up”. Emma is in her forties, she is not in a relationship, nor plans to be, in Self-Contained she looks at a society that views single as a temporary arrangement and, what it actually means to be on your own. Emma visits her past as she galloped through her twenties into her thirties and then entered her forties. She explores with intense personal reflection and writes with a self-depreciating wit. She is also incredibly honest and friendly, I felt as though I was having a heart to heart with one of my best friends. I have to admit to blushing beet red as I read one particular section, I still cringe at the memory of twenty-something me saying to a friend: “someone will come along when you’re least expecting it” and her vexed reply that she: “wasn’t looking”. Self-contained isn’t in the slightest bit preachy, it just feels as though Emma is allowing you into her thoughts, and in turn it made me think about mine. Chapter 14 is a wonderful closing chapter and it really, really made me smile. Self Contained: Scenes from a Single Life is a book for everyone, no matter how old you are, whether in a relationship or not, there is much to discover and appreciate between the pages. 

Razorblade Tears

Razorblade Tears

Author: S. A. Cosby Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/07/2021

A BLACK FATHER. A WHITE FATHER. TWO MURDERED SONS. A QUEST FOR VENGEANCE. *SUNDAY TIMES THRILLER OF THE MONTH* Ike Randolph left jail fifteen years ago, with not so much as a speeding ticket since. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid. Ike is devastated to learn his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah's white husband, Derek. Though he never fully accepted his son, Ike is broken by his death. Derek's father Buddy Lee was as ashamed of Derek being gay as Derek was of his father's criminal past. But Buddy Lee - with seedy contacts deep in the underworld - needs to know who killed his only child. Desperate to do better by them in death than they did in life, two hardened ex-cons must confront their own prejudices about their sons - and each other - as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys. A provocative revenge thriller and an achingly tender story of redemption, this novel is a ferocious portrait of grief; for those loved and lost, and for mistakes than can never truly be undone.

Star Books
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

Author: Marianne Cronin Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

The One Hundred years of Lenni and Margot is so special, it’s gentle yet pointed and warmly amusing as it highlights life within sight and touching distance of death. To celebrate their joint 100 years, 17 year-old Lenni and 83 year-old Margot paint their life stories while in hospital. Singing of friendship, love, and family, we discover how they can all be found in the most unexpected of places. This is Marianne Cronin’s debut novel, and I’ve added her to my list of authors to look out for. While Lenni and Margot are the stars, the other characters add essential energy. She brings these characters to vibrant life with a few perfectly chosen words. The smallest of details matter, in fact are vital. This book is so visual, slipping backwards and forwards in time, snapshots of the years appeared like magic to paint their own picture in my mind. The pages dance with joy and hope, while being realistic about death. I laughed and I cried, yes this novel is emotional, yet it also delivers the most heart-warming hug too. A well-deserved LoveReading Star Book, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot comes with a 'must-read' label of recommendation from me.

Star Books
Murder Under Her Skin

Murder Under Her Skin

Author: Stephen Spotswood Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/12/2021

The most wonderfully wild, smart, and hugely entertaining novel awaits your reading pleasure. It’s 1946 and Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker find themselves at the circus when one of Will’s friends from her performing days is murdered. I kept a beady eye out for this, the second in the Pentecost and Parker series, as Stephen Spotswood’s debut Fortune Favours the Dead was an absolute delight. I have to say that the cast list alone had me at hello. The circus comes to roaring vividly vivacious life, with the ups and downs of life on the road making the investigation particularly tricky. Little digs and pokes of humour nestle themselves in alongside the social issues of the day. The concerns faced by the residents of the sideshow in particular ensure that while this heads towards cosy crime, it comes with a sharply provocative edge. The writing is so visual, the descriptions come to colourfully dramatic life and as I read, I could see. The cunning ending ensured a resounding round of applause from me, Stephen Spotswood has done it again! A Liz Pick of the Month, and another LoveReading Star Book, Murder Under Her Skin is a charming, darkly amusing, and fabulously stimulating read.

Star Books
Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/11/2021

This emotionally intelligent and perceptive novel is hand-on-heart gorgeous. Diana finds herself alone in the Galapagos during the early months of the pandemic while her surgeon boyfriend is back in New York. This is Jodi Picoult at her best, what seems like a simple tale is full of richly beautiful and provocative imaginings. The natural world, our world, sings with celebration. The torment of the pandemic echoes with heartbreak. Relationships, love, awareness of self, the focus is intimate and penetrating and yet feels immense and inclusive to all. I experienced a meaningful connection with the characters and plot, as though I was a part of this story somewhere in the world. And though I had that awareness, the author has the magical ability to open your thoughts and then send them in an entirely unexpected and breathtaking direction. I absolutely adored this book and felt as though it had been written just for me, and yet also for everyone. It connects us all in a time of uncertainty and fear. In a welcoming arms-open-wide hug, the Author’s Note from March 2021 explains her writing story during Covid-19. Charting the raw immeasurable pain of the pandemic, and yet also administering hope and love, Wish You Were Here sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month. 

Star Books
Never

Never

Author: Ken Follett Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/11/2021

In Follett’s first contemporary thriller for more than a decade, he imagines the unimaginable, a cat and mouse game of brinkmanship between nuclear powers.  Expertly researched and brilliantly crafted, this 800 page epic is unputdownable. It’s a cover-to-cover action-packed mammoth tale of weaving multiple interrelated story lines, with captivating characters and intriguing plots with tension, terror, heartache, love, betrayal.  US President Pauline Green fights at home and abroad to prevent nuclear disaster as the book moves from Defcon 5, the lowest state of readiness, to Defcon 1, the brink of war. We follow the incredible work of Abdul Haddad, a spy working undercover with jihadis in Chad. Nearby, a beautiful young widow Kiah and her son Naji want to leave the shrinking shores of Lake Chad, escape their fate and travel illegally to Europe, no matter how terrifying the journey is with human traffickers. We fall for Tamara Levit a CIA operative attached to the American embassy in N’Djamena and her French counterpart Tab Sadoul, an attaché at the European Union Mission who are following the trail of a powerful group of drug-smuggling terrorists. In China, we support the machinations of Chinese spymaster Kai Chang, an ambitious senior government official battling against the old guard. Covert operations, terrorist activities, arms dealers, drug smugglers, human traffickers, government coups, military skirmishes – it has it all. And Ken Follett delivers it with aplomb. Hold on to your seats, it’s a bumpy rollercoaster ride!  

Audiobooks of the Month
The Ruin of All Witches

The Ruin of All Witches

Author: Malcolm Gaskill Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/11/2021

Oh my, The Ruin of All Witches is absolutely fascinating! Detailing the witch-hunting that took place in a frontier town in Massachusetts during 1651, this is a darkly enthralling read. The author describes it as a historical reconstruction rather than a novel. Written using historical documentation including court records, sermons, letters, diaries, deeds, and wills, this dual sense of story and history ensures a deeper awareness. It begins almost as a fairytale would, the style of writing placed me in time and location. I was able to look around and soak up the atmosphere. I felt a connection to the place and people, could reach a level of appreciation for thoughts and feelings. Examining small details, looking behind fears, beyond survival, makes this an accessible and thought-provoking read. The maps help plant the location, the Sources and Methods detailed at the back confirm the thought process behind this book. Malcolm Gaskill is a leading expert in the history of witchcraft and his knowledge and research shows. The Ruin of All Witches is a vivid, captivating and intriguing walk into the past and I’ve chosen it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.

Star Books
The Snow Song

The Snow Song

Author: Sally Gardner Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2021

A spellbinding fable for adults from the award-winning and bestselling author, Sally Gardner. 'This heartbreaking, brilliantly written novel is the most original publication for years' The Times on Sally Gardner From an award-winning author, whose books have sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide Women imprisoned by superstition, chained by guilt. Perched on a mountain in a land of ancient forests is a village, rife with secrets. Cut off from the outside world it is run by the elders, men to whom tradition is all. Edith lives alone with her alcoholic father who is forcing her to marry the village butcher. But she is in love with a shepherd who promised to return to her. As the village becomes isolated in a sea of snow, Edith loses her power of speech. And it is this enchantment that will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Edith but for the whole village.

Star Books
Midnight in Everwood

Midnight in Everwood

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

Deliciously rich and dark, this reimagining of The Story of a Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas is loaded with recognisable elements yet is as delightfully individual as can be. Set in Nottingham in 1906 ballerina Marietta’s family have proclaimed that she should stop dancing and take her place in society, when she meets neighbour Dr Drosselmeier she is thrown into a new world full of magic. This is the debut adult novel by M. A. Kuzniar, she draws enchantment and menace together and allows them to walk hand in hand. The beauty and strength of friendship sits centre stage while a relationship slowly blossoms. This most definitely isn’t a sugary sweet confection, a hint of the nightmare echoes through the pages. The traditional dark elements of folklore and fairytale scuttle and scurry with a fabulously modern edge. The characters crackle with energy, the setting sparkles with light and shade, and the ending, oh, that ending! Potently sharp and beautifully magical, Midnight in Everwood dances in to sit as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Robinson Book of the Month.

Debut Books of the Month
This is the Canon

This is the Canon

Author: Joan Anim-Addo, Deirdre Osborne Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

Highlighting reads that encourage you to explore new beliefs, ideas, and opinions, this was an eye-opening read for me. Recommending a collection of 50 novellas and novels from around the world, with voices from all backgrounds and races, the reader is encouraged to rethink the novels that are considered the classics of literature. It is explained as: “an intervention that offers opportunities for readers to explore a broader reach of works than those that are perennially taught and examined, or promoted”. Prior to reading this I believed that I read far and wide, across genres, continents, and authors, and yet and yet, I’ve only read books by four of these authors. It really brought me up short and has made me rethink my reading lists. I know that some of my LoveReading reviewing colleagues have already read many of these books, but for me, the majority will be new. Joan Anim-Addo, Deidre Osborne, and Kadija Sesay are well respected and explain their thoughts, reasoning, and hold their arms wide in welcoming you to This is the Canon. Each of the 50 books is introduced and includes details of publishing, the author, and other recommended books. The Afterword encourages you, as a reader, to make a difference in the literary world, to make your voice heard. Sitting as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, This is the Canon offers a huge opportunity to the reader, and one that I will be taking up.

Star Books
The Christmas Bookshop

The Christmas Bookshop

Author: Jenny Colgan Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

A simply joyous and magical relationship story to brighten up the darkest of times. Carmen’s sister Sofia comes to her somewhat reluctant rescue when Carmen is made redundant. The Christmas Bookshop goes to the top of my favourite books by Jenny Colgan, she is one of the most consistently fabulous romance writers out there, and if I need a boost I know just where to head. Yes there’s romance, you’ll also find intruiging family relationships and inviting new friendships. When we meet Carmen she’s not at her best, she’s definitely not perfect (who is!), and because she’s multi-dimensional it adds extra layers to this Christmas tale. I particularly loved the cast of characters, even the smallest part has depth, and then of course there is the Bookshop, which is divinely intriguing and welcoming. Edinburgh becomes a winter wonderland, with snow, beautifully decorated shops, and even if you’ve never been, the descriptions ensure a spellbinding sparkle. With a plot that weaves and twists its magical course with charm, The Christmas Bookshop is a truly lovely festive romance, and we’ve added it to our Star Book collection.

Star Books
The Rabbit Factor

The Rabbit Factor

Author: Antti Tuomainen Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

It has been 15 years since award-winning Finnish copywriter Tuomainen launched his career as an author and in that time he has delighted readers and critics with 6 books that have seen him hailed by The Times as “the funniest writer in Europe,” and “the King of Helsinki Noir” by the Finnish press. It’s hard to really capture and express just how brilliant this man’s writing is, but imagine, if you will, Ian Rankin’s gift for crime thrillers channelled through the skew-wiff comic genius of Christopher Brookmyre, or to put it another way, think of Carl Hiaasen in thermals, Mukluks and a big, down parka for, yes, he is that good. To even think that there might be a tale to be told of a staid insurance actuary inheriting a problematic adventure park takes courage. To then be able to grip readers' imaginations for three hundred pages, to make them laugh so hard they soak the pages of the book by squirting tea from their nose and then make them weep so fiercely that the tears trickle down their thighs, takes huge talent. But there is also nigh-on writing genius here as, woven into what is essentially a crime thriller, albeit a raucous, rip-roaring comic one, is a genuine sense of pathos, a real understanding and expression of human frailties, the random doubts and failures, that make The Rabbit Factor such a wonderfully engaging and enduringly humane read. Be in no doubt, this is quality, top drawer, writing and storytelling of the sort that makes you feel good to be alive and oh-so-grateful to be literate.

Star Books
Rise

Rise

Author: Maliha Abidi Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/10/2021

Relating the remarkable stories of 100 extraordinary women of colour, Maliha Abidi’s Rise is an inspirational, informative showstopper of an anthology. Global in scope and engagingly lively in style, it’s a powerful and beautifully curated testament to trailblazing women of colour from all walks of life, from all fields of endeavour (literature, science, engineering, business, banking, mathematics, politics, law, medicine, human rights activism, sport, art, music, dance), from all corners of the world. What a glorious gift this is to treasure - and draw inspiration from - for a lifetime. Featuring women from over 40 countries, these are pioneers who’ve risen above multiple challenges to have huge impact on the world, whether in the public eye, or behind the scenes. While the book includes seminal icons who are household names (among them Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks and Serena Williams), Rise also highlights lesser-known names whose work has had huge impact on our world. Like the women themselves, Maliha Abidi’s writing style is engaging and keenly focussed, and her striking portraits of each innovator are an exuberant, life-filled joy.

Star Books
The Book of Change

The Book of Change

Author: Stephen Ellcock Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/10/2021

An absolute wow of a book which offers and encourages new thoughts and feelings. I follow Stephen Ellcock on social media, he collates images and celebrates the beautiful, different, weird and wonderful and I often stop, pause, and ponder as I scroll. His first book All Good Things, was totally gorgeous, and a LoveReading Star Book. In The Book of Change Stephen states: “I am continually driven by an overwhelming, gnawing frustration at the injustices of the world and an intense desire for something better”. He goes on to explain that this book is a response to his lifelong feeling of alienation and dislocation, and the current situation we find ourselves in 2021. His introduction sings of his wish for justice, equality, and peace for all. He looks into the past, observes the present, and reaches out to the future, to information, mass media, and power, and he addresses the issues that are plaguing our planet. He offers seven sections, starting with Source, and ending with Hope, and boy, did the images contained within evoke my emotions. I found myself being drawn into each one, sometimes caught by the obvious, sometimes looking past and through into the hidden, the darkness, the suggestive heart. At times I felt uncomfortable, I was definitely challenged, and was left feeling that this book had taken on a life of its own within my thoughts and feelings. The Book of Change, so darkly beautiful and provocative, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. 

Star Books
In Every Mirror She's Black

In Every Mirror She's Black

Author: Lola Akinmade Akerstrom Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/10/2021

Through the finely-nuanced narratives of three Black women from very different backgrounds, Lola Akinmade Åkerström's In Every Mirror She’s Black is a remarkable feat of fiction. Teeming with hope, desire, struggle and love, this powerful page-turner pulls no punches as its engagingly three-dimensional characters strive for better lives in a world that makes it anything but easy for them to be themselves. It also dismantles any notion of there being a monolithic Black culture, and lays bare the unjust multiple standards by which Black women are judged - and all this through dazzling story-telling that will leave readers desperate to read the author’s next novel. The three female protagonists are linked by one wealthy man - Jonny Lundin, born into one of Sweden’s most privileged families, and CEO of the country’s biggest marketing company. Bored and frustrated by work, and by the men she meets on US dating apps, award-winning marketing executive Kemi is ripe for change when Jonny invites her to become his new Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. While on a flight to woo Kemi from America to Stockholm, Jonny encounters Brittany, a former model who now works as a first-class flight attendant. Initially dismissive of Jonny’s attention, she finds herself drawn to him - he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and lavishes her with unimaginable devotion and wealth. Then there’s refugee Muna, who lost her mother and younger brother during a treacherous sea crossing, and now works as a cleaner in Jonny’s office, while dreaming of becoming an accountant and having a group of good friends. True to life, the women variously make mistakes, face excruciating decisions, and long to feel fulfilled. Their finely-drawn stories are equally as engaging as they struggle to feel at home in a city that’s supposedly egalitarian, but turns out to be rife with implicit racism, tokenism, and injurious stereotyping. Riveting, moving and stirring (with punch-packing endings you won’t see coming), In Every Mirror She’s Black is a magnificent must-read.

Debut Books of the Month
Christmas for Beginners

Christmas for Beginners

Author: Carole Matthews Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/10/2021

A fabulously perfect festive read that delivers oodles of heartwarming charm. This could easily be read as a standalone novel, but I do recommend starting with Happiness for Beginners as Christmas for Beginners continues the lovely story of Molly and Hope Farm.  When I read the first few sentences: “One of the alpacas has eaten the Baby Jesus. I’m not sure which one. Frankly they all look the picture of innocence, but I know them better.” I knew I was in for a treat of a read. Carole Matthews takes the ‘up’ in uplifting and elevates it to a whole new level. She doesn’t shy away from the aches and pains of real life and it is this that makes her books so relatable. The characters of the farm animals ensure they sit front and centre, often eclipsing their human counterparts. Even here, in the middle of a freezing cold farm yard you can also discover humour, hugs, and merrymaking. Carole Matthews really is the most beautifully consistent writer and we just had to pop this into our LoveReading Star Books category. Christmas for Beginners is an absolute gift of a book and comes as highly recommended by me.

Books of the Month
Are We Having Fun Yet?

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Author: Lucy Mangan Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/10/2021

Oh what fun this is, written in diary form, the year in the life of Liz is a cackling, absolute fire-cracker of a read. Liz deals with all that life throws at her, from impossible questions from her two children, through to navigating family, neighbours, friendship, and work. I loved Lucy Mangan’s quick-firing and witty, yet compassionate and inclusive writing. I don’t have children, despite this, I fully participated in the family life on offer here. I could relate to the dilemmas and plights, joy and love, I sympathised, empathised, smirked, and on several occasions even laughed out loud. Although all the characters stand independently proud and fabulous, my favourite just has to be five year old Evie, who rules with an iron fist and is described as a gangster and anarchist. Author and journalist Lucy Mangan’s first novel is an absolute belter. Are We Having Fun Yet is a warm, uplifting, gloriously funny read and comes as highly recommended and a Liz Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book.   

eBooks of the Month
Memorial

Memorial

Author: Bryan Washington Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/10/2021

Wisely comic, soul-searchingly tender, and defiantly unsentimental, Bryan Washington’s Memorial is a brilliant bittersweet debut. Really it’s a story of many things that matter most in life, when it comes down to it - family, emotional closeness, physical closeness, the urge to break free, and the compulsion to return. It’s also about the unexpected experiences and discoveries that come in the wake of strangers being thrown together, in this case when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying as his mother is due to stay with him, and as his two-year relationship teeters into fizzling-out territory While Mike heads to Osaka, boyfriend Benson plays host to Mike’s mother in Houston. Benson’s never met straight-talking Mitsuko, but little by little they form an unlikely and profound bond. Meanwhile, after meandering memories and feeling the strange melancholia of being reunited with his dying, distant dad, Mike is transformed by his Osaka experience. Through all this richness, Memorial is an absorbing, funny, stirring achievement told in lucid, elegant style.

Star Books
Four Dervishes

Four Dervishes

Author: Hammad Rind Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2021

Four Dervishes draws on a long tradition of storytelling as it skewers issues like religious bigotry, injustice, the denial of women’s rights, and class division. Lavishly inventive, verbally rich, an exotic confection, this novel is both darkly thematic and humorously playful. The LoveReading LitFest invited Hammad Rind to the festival to talk about Four Dervishes.  The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.   

Star Books
The Nesting

The Nesting

Author: C.J. Cooke Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2021

Atmospheric, gothic, spine-chilling... The new thriller from C.J Cooke will haunt you long after you turn the last page... It was like something out of a fairytale... The grieving widower. The motherless daughters. A beautiful house in the woods. Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it's as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale. But this family has a history - and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory. Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don't make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care. But protect them from what?

Star Books
Girl A

Girl A

Author: Abigail Dean Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2021

'Girl A,' she said. 'The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.' Lex Gracie doesn't want to think about her family. She doesn't want to think about growing up in her parents' House of Horrors. And she doesn't want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can't run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings - and with the childhood they shared. Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love. 

eBooks of the Month
Beautiful World, Where Are You

Beautiful World, Where Are You

Author: Sally Rooney Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/09/2021

One of literature’s brightest talents and most talked about authors of her generation, Sally Rooney follows up 2018 Waterstones Book of the Year and Costa Novel Award Winner Normal People with another sure-fire award winner. Once you get past the fact that Sally Rooney isn’t a lover of conventional punctuation (there are no speech marks in her work), you sink into this beautiful novel following the life and love, the trials and tribulations of four young Irish friends. Yet again you are gripped from the first page with her searingly honest observational prose and dialogue. Both first books Normal People and Conversations with Friends featured characters in late adolescence and early adulthood struggling through first relationships whilst starting to find their way in the world. Just four years after her debut, this is another twenty-first-century love story of sexual entanglements and love lives of two best friends on the eve of their thirties. Alice, a successful novelist who has moved to the Irish countryside following a breakdown meets Felix a warehouse worker with a troubled past, via Tinder. Her best friend Eileen is in Dublin, working for a literary magazine, working through a painful break up and still battling with the on-off “friends with benefits” relationship between her and one of their oldest friends Simon. Her compelling writing just grabs you and her way of investigating the complexity of relationships and dynamics is just so incisive. Whilst you feel they are “ordinary”, “normal” people, the beautiful dialogue is interspersed with long narratives on email between Eileen and Alice. So cleverly done, rhetorical and didactic and it really serves to getting you thinking about the current state of our social fabric, of society, our global challenges, day to day political helplessness and environmental collapse. And it gets you to thinking: beautiful world, where are you? Beautiful? Yes. Serious? Definitely. I loved it. Barriers and all. Magnum opus. Without a doubt.

Star Books
NICK

NICK

Author: Michael Farris Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2021

Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.

Star Books
Everything is Beautiful

Everything is Beautiful

Author: Eleanor Ray Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/09/2021

When Amy Ashton's world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection. Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been. Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves - soon there'll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy's carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she'd lost still be hers for the taking? Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places 

Star Books
The Last House on Needless Street

The Last House on Needless Street

Author: Catriona Ward Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/09/2021

This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street. All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies. You think you know what's inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you've read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it's not what you think...

Star Books
The Man Who Died Twice

The Man Who Died Twice

Author: Richard Osman Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/09/2021

A simply glorious reading feast awaits in this crime novel that I'd describe as warm and cosy with a healthy dose of feisty attitude and smirky humour. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron find themselves on the trail of stolen diamonds and before too long, a murderer. I roared my appreciation of the first in this series, the best-selling and LoveReading Star Book The Thursday Murder Club, so I’ll admit to approaching Richard Osman’s second novel with an intriguing mix of excitement and apprehension. I am absolutely thrilled to say that The Man Who Died Twice more than exceeded my expectations. The superb introductory chapters sucked me straight in, and this is one of those books that I wanted to read in one sitting. I cackled and read with glee as I ran to keep up with these four septuagenarions. While I adore all of the main characters, Joyce is a particular favourite, quite possibly because we continue to get an outpouring of her thoughts, I so wish I had this woman in my life! The relationships evolve beautifully, and the humour tickles and flirts as the plot just hums along. The ending is rather wonderful and I predict that Richard Osman’s second novel will be just as big a hit as his first. So, of course The Man Who Died Twice comes with the LoveReading Star Book stamp of approval, and sits as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, what are you waiting for, go grab yourself a copy!

Audiobooks of the Month
Sugar

Sugar

Author: Bernice McFadden Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/09/2021

An absolute beaut of a debut which we get to enjoy thanks to Vintage, 21 years after its debut in the US. The book opens in Spring 1940 with a dead child, raped, killed and abandoned by the roadside in the small town of Bigelow, Arkansas. An event from which the family and the town would never recover. Pearl’s heart broke that day when she lost her Jude, and so did mine. We fast forward to Spring 1955 as we are introduced to Sugar who arrives in the small southern town like a storm with her red lips, in her red high heels and blond wig. She was labelled right then and there. Abandoned at birth by her mother, and raised in a brothel, Sugar has been to hell and back and comes Bigelow to settle. In spite of their differences, Sugar bonds with her god-fearing, pious next door neighbour Pearl over sweet potato pie and pain. It’s a beautifully crafted journey of love, of loss, of understanding, of friendship, of rehabilitation. It’s a reawakening, an unforgettable one of two incredible characters who you come to care for deeply and I for one cannot wait for the sequel This Bitter Earth, published in summer 2022.

Star Books
How to Raise an Elephant

How to Raise an Elephant

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

The latest instalment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in this new instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . . But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe's comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe's circumspection and Mma Makutsi's sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter? Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe's van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition. In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution - preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani's fruit cake.

Star Books
Entangled Life

Entangled Life

Author: Merlin Sheldrake Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Truly fascinating, this is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in a while. Seriously, I could rave on and on about it! Journey to what feels like an entirely different planet and explore the wonder of fungi. “Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live...Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view , and over 90% if their species remain undocumented.” Author Merlin Sheldrake caught and held my attention from the outset. I had to stop reading every so often just to contemplate the world that was opening up in front of me. I still feel gobsmacked days after reading it. Fungi has shaped our history and “the ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in breakthrough technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘wood wide web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.” Entangled Life made me reconsider established thoughts and opened my eyes to new ones. I want to recommend it to everyone, for me it’s a genuine must-read and just had to be included on my list of Liz Picks of the Month and as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Untraceable

Untraceable

Author: Sergei Lebedev Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

An extraordinary and angry Russian novel about poisons of all kinds: physical, moral and political. Untraceable is a wonderful piece of fiction rooted in the recent history of Russia's state assassinations, especially the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Professor Kalitin is a ruthless, narcissistic chemist who has developed an untraceable, extremely lethal poison called Neophyte while working in a secret city on an island in the Russian far east. When the Soviet Union collapses, he defects and is given a new identity in Germany. After an unrelated Russian is murdered with Kalitin's poison, his cover is blown and he's drawn into the German investigation of the death. Two special forces killers with a lot of Chechen blood on their hands are sent to silence him - using his own undetectable poison. Their journey to their target is full of blunders, mishaps, holdups and accidents. Urgently topical and compellingly readable.

Star Books
A Slow Fire Burning

A Slow Fire Burning

Author: Paula Hawkins Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/08/2021

Subtle and smart yet intense and thrilling, this story builds with each turn revealing another set of steps in front of you. Within a corner of London a murder sets questions hunting through secrets and the past. I was caught sleeping at the start and was given a huge shove, from that moment on my attention didn’t waver. This is all about the characters, yet the beautifully intricate plot more than holds its own. What Paula Hawkins does so successfully, is to allow you to see the inner being of people, the shadows that dwell within, without ever losing connection with their humanity. Every person in this story feels authentic, relatable, and that dreaded word, normal. It made me question what I would do in the same circumstances, could this in fact, be me. Oh, and just as an aside, great map! A Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, A Slow Fire Burning wanders through the everyday, before reaching under the surface and pulling out darkness.

Audiobooks of the Month
Three's A Crowd

Three's A Crowd

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

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

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Men Don't Cry

Men Don't Cry

Author: Faiza Guene Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/08/2021

Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry is an absolute triumph - wise, funny, enthralling, thought-provoking. At its heart, the novel explores the age-old (and sharply pertinent) pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case generational and family conflict between Algeria and France. It’s an incredibly powerful commentary on a very real conflict in contemporary France, perfectly summarised when the novel’s protagonist comments that “to be fully French you have to deny part of your heritage, part of your identity, part of your history, part of your beliefs, and yet when you succeed in achieving all that, you’re still reminded of your origins…So what’s the point?” Men Don’t Cry is also a superb coming-of-age story that sees an awkward young man, Mourad, find his feet, and his voice. He was born in Nice to Algerian parents, the youngest of three children. His eldest sister Dounia, a devoted feminist, leaves home without looking back, while his middle sister marries, has kids, and is happy. Mourad is between the two - neither desperate to leave home, nor especially looking to settle down. He’s insular, doesn’t have many friends, so he’s there when his dad has a hugely debilitating stroke. He’s there when his hypochondriac mum needs to vent (which she does a lot, about anything and everything, to comic and poignant effect). But then the time comes for Mourad to leave home too - he has a teaching job in Paris. A few weeks into his new post, he reconnects with Dounia, now a public figure feminist activist who’s stepped onto the political ladder. Her interviews in high profile publications and the book she writes about her upbringing and experiences rile Mourad. For example, she describes their dad as “authoritarian, change-averse, illiterate.” But, nevertheless, it’s Mourad who bridges the chasm between Dounia and the rest of the family, not least at the unexpected, heartrending end of this remarkable novel. Mourad’s voice is engrossing, and feels unfailingly authentic. On that note, deep appreciation must go to the novel’s award-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone - rendering Mourad’s voice so dazzingly into English, is a tremendous achievement. The result is a novel that reads like a dream - vibrant, nuanced, thought-provoking, funny, and shot-through with Mourad’s wit.

Star Books
Nala's World

Nala's World

Author: Dean Nicholson Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Instagram phenomenon @1bike1world Dean Nicholson reveals the full story of his life-changing friendship with rescue cat Nala and their inspiring adventures together on a bike journey around the world. When 30-year-old Dean Nicholson set off from Scotland to cycle around the world, his aim was to learn as much as he could about our troubled planet. But he hadn't bargained on the lessons he'd learn from his unlikely companion. Three months after leaving home, on a remote road in the mountains between Montenegro and Bosnia, he came across an abandoned kitten. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health. Soon on his travels with the cat he named Nala, they forged an unbreakable bond - both curious, independent, resilient and adventurous. The video of how they met has had 20 million views and their Instagram has grown to almost 750k followers - and still counting! Experiencing the kindness of strangers, visiting refugee camps, rescuing animals through Europe and Asia, Dean and Nala have already learned that the unexpected can be pretty amazing. Together with Garry Jenkins, writer with James Bowen of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob, Dean shares the extraordinary tale of his and Nala's inspiring and heart-warming adventure together.

Star Books
The Origins of Iris

The Origins of Iris

Author: Beth Lewis Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Gosh, this original and thought-spinningly intricate yet quietly simple read speared my emotions. I found myself utterly consumed by The Origins of Iris and absolutely adored every word. When Iris leaves her abusive wife for the wilds of the mountains, she quite literally finds herself when she comes face to face with another version of Iris. Being described by Hodder Studio as Wild meets Sliding Doors was an immediate hook for me, yet there is so, so much more on offer here. Love of course isn’t simple, it can be complex, cruel, even dangerous, and as this novel allowed me access to the layers of emotions within Iris, it entered my inner thoughts too. Beth Lewis skirts the obvious to open unrecognised pathways, she gradually opens up the story and sets information free. Goosebumps skittered down my arms as I felt understanding enter my awareness. I love the way you’re left to explore the complexities, I didn’t question, just let myself and my feelings go. Come the end, the fascinating, wonderful end, I didn’t make a decision as to exactly where I had travelled, I just knew that I had. Delving deeply into what it is to be human, The Origins of Iris is a truly unique and wonderful read.

Star Books
The Silence of Scheherazade

The Silence of Scheherazade

Author: Defne Suman Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Taking in the cultural complexities of the Ottoman Empire through the compelling, criss-crossing stories of Levantine, Greek, Turkish and Armenian characters, Defne Suman’s The Silence of Scheherazade is an astounding feat of historical fiction - tremendously ambitious, and dazzlingly realised through the author’s exquisitely-threaded plotting and lush storytelling. It’s September, 1905, and one moment seals the fates of four very different families. This is the moment Scheherazade is born in cosmopolitan Smyrna to a mother numbed by opium. Though her namesake is the legendary storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, she’s mute. A silent girl who grows up to bear witness to the brutality that eventually besets her city - the death and destruction, the expulsion of communities, the impending outbreak of WWI, and the burning. The magic of the city is dazzlingly evoked and intertwined with both the socio-political context and the very moving, very personal stories of this novel’s vast cast of characters. This is a novel to savour, to be dazzled by, to learn from, and reflect on. It invites utter immersion. The LoveReading LitFest invited Defne to the festival to talk about The Silence of Scheherazade. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member. 

Audiobooks of the Month
Savage Road

Savage Road

Author: Chris Hauty Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

AMERICA IS THREATENED BY CYBER ATTACKS ONLY ONE WOMAN CAN PUT A STOP TO THEM Running a double agent from inside the White House to spy on the Russians is not easy, but Hayley Chill has never backed down from a challenge. Then suddenly her whole operation is at risk as a series of cyber-attacks are launched on Washington, D.C. Tasked by the covert organisation she works for to solve the situation, her hunt for the hacker takes her straight to the heart of the intelligence community. SAVAGE ROAD - address The location of Fort Meade, headquarters for the NSA and Cyber Command. Hayley must stop the hacker quickly, before global politics is disrupted and World War III breaks out. But when she uncovers dark truths about her own past, her characteristic calm is threatened... Nothing is as it seems. Nobody can be trusted. Hayley Chill is on her own. Savage Road is a political thriller of our time, perfect for fans of Gregg Hurwitz and Terry Hayes and series like The Bodyguard and Designated Survivor. 

Books of the Month
All My Mothers

All My Mothers

Author: Joanna Glen Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

What a truly special book this is, thoughtful, refreshing and comforting, this novel has entered my heart and soul. From a young age Eva has questions about who she is and where she has come from. As she grows up, alters and changes, the questions remain and she begins to find answers. I adored Joanna Glen’s debut, The Other Half of August Hope which hurtled straight into our LoveReading Star Books collection, and this, this is just as memorable, just as beautiful, and firmly cements this author as one I will be looking out for. Eva has the most honest and contemplative voice, her voice is so individual that you can hear her, even feel her as she speaks. Even the smallest of her small thoughts planted seeds which rooted, grew, divided, and she entered my awareness and took up residence. Joanna Glen has a real gift, she is able to go beyond the surface of things to find the unfamiliar and make it feel like home. I love it when a book provokes new thoughts and feelings, and that is exactly what All My Mothers does. It also joins the LoveReading Star Book list, and becomes one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. Congratulations to Joanna Glen, All My Mothers balances fear and wonder, loneliness and belonging, despair and elation, it is a true joy to read.  

Star Books
Diamonds In The Mud

Diamonds In The Mud

Author: Brian Reade Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

If you don’t read the Daily Mirror, or have much interest in football, you may not know of columnist and commentator Brian Reade. In which case you have a real treat in store and should pick up a copy of this book and immerse yourself in it immediately. No really, stop reading this review and do it now.  From its title, drawn from a kerbside conversation in Garston before a mural of Spanish Civil War veteran and trade union leader, Jack Jones, and its subtly adapted John Lennon lyric subtitle, Reade launches into a powerful and principled analysis of why, as a nation, we have been duped into the reverence and recognition of the supposedly great and the good, when all too often it is those of more humble backgrounds who are the true heroes.  To crassly paraphrase Mr Reade, have you ever thought for a moment why the NHS staff who risked their lives and worked obscene hours in the toughest of conditions got a national clap and yet still fight for a modest pay rise, while many of those who sold dodgy PPE goods ended up with millions in the bank and big slaps on the back from our political classes? In drawing on his deep knowledge, superb research and award winning articles, and ranging across illustrative chapters on Dennis Skinner, Barbara Castle, Doreen Lawrence, the Hillsborough Mothers, Muhammed Ali and many more, Reade paints a picture of the corrupt, unspoken and all too often hidden systems that suppress real social mobility, hinder justice and prevent true heroes from receiving the credit they so richly deserve. As Ali put it to Reade in a 2001 interview at his Berrien Springs, Michigan home, “Service for others is the rent we pay on earth.” Reade has done us all a great service with this heart-wrenching, anger-inducing, truth-telling book that will make you weep with frustration while making you profoundly aware of the true nature of heroism and those who really deserve the statues, medals and infinite praise of grateful nations. It is the most affecting and truest hymn to stalwart, silent  - and too often silenced - heroism that you will read this year, and for many years to come.

Star Books
The Beresford

The Beresford

Author: Will Carver Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

Dark, provocative, and addictive, The Beresford saunters out into the limelight as it plays in the shadows. In an apartment building, in a city somewhere, a never-ending cycle of death is watched over by landlady Mrs May. This standalone supernatural thriller enters a fascinating world where hope cowers in the corner. Will Carver skirts and plays with the unseen curtain that sits on the edge of irreverence. There is a knowing, almost teasing atmosphere that is dark and grim and entirely seductive. The short punchy chapters ensured I couldn’t stop for breath or take a break. It felt as though the rhythm increased, as though I had to read that little bit faster in order to keep up as the ending hurtled towards me. I devoured The Beresford in one all-consuming sitting, if you find the edge of darkness a fascinating place to stand, then this is the book for you.

Star Books
The Dying Squad

The Dying Squad

Author: Adam Simcox Format: Hardback Release Date: 22/07/2021

Vividly bold and full of attitude, in fact it's gutsy as heck, this provocative supernatural crime novel takes a fabulous premise and nails its colours to the mast. While on a drugs operation Detective Joe Lazarus is suddenly faced with his own dead body and a new partner from the other side. I have to confess that while reading I completely forgot to make any notes for my review as I just sank in and was consumed. The live side smacked me in the face with its gritty reality, while the dead side just blew me away. I could see, feel, taste and smell purgatory, it menaced into existence as a fully formed entity in my minds eye. Adam Simcox writes with the most imaginative, smirky, thought-provoking pen. I really had no idea where this reading journey was going to take me, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to learn that this is the first in a series, I will be camping outside my local bookshop when the next book is due. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, The Dying Squad is a fabulously unique novel that feels as real and yet outrageously inventive as can be. A standing ovation from me to Adam Simcox, absolutely blimmin loved it!

Star Books
The Reading List

The Reading List

Author: Sara Nisha Adams Format: Hardback Release Date: 22/07/2021

How I loved this novel, it’s heartbreaking yet warming, beautifully deep yet has a light touch, and is vibrantly colourful yet gentle too. A reading list finds its way to people needing a helping hand. Prepare yourself for a number of emotions, as mental health, grief, fear, and loneliness are written into the pages with huge compassion and empathy. This book truly spoke to me, it is full of love and hope, and highlights inclusivity and kindness. Oh, and that cover, just gorgeous! There are a number of characters waiting to meet you, however the pairing and friendship of Aleisha and Mukesh sits centre stage and creates an inspiring glow. Sara Nisha Adams introduces the books from the reading list with great care and attention, ensuring that while they are discussed by the characters there are no spoilers. So if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading them, you’ll be enticed into finding a copy. One of my favourite sections declares: “When you really like a book, you need to read it again! To relive what you loved and find out what you missed before. Books always change as the person who reads them changes too”. I really can recommend The Reading List with my heart and soul, and I’m glad to declare it a LoveReading Star Book. The LoveReading LitFest invited Sara Nisha Adams to the festival to talk about The Reading List.  The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.

eBooks of the Month
The Mercies

The Mercies

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

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

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When She Was Good

When She Was Good

Author: Michael Robotham Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

This Liz Pick of the Month, is a thrilling yet thoughtful, highly charged read. Criminal psychologist Cyrus delves into the past of Evie, who was found hiding in a secret room after a murder six years ago. It’s the last thing Evie wants, as if Cyrus discovers the truth, death will soon start to hunt her down. This book follows on from Good Girl, Bad Girl (a particular favourite of mine), and boy is it shaping up to be an absolute belter of a series. If you haven’t yet read the first, you most definitely need to before starting here, as the development of the relationship between Cyrus and Evie is crucial. They both tell us their own stories in alternating short punchy chapters. This is a read where I was head down and totally absorbed. Evie as per the previous book, drew me in and I was desperate (like Cyrus) to find out what had happened to her. Michael Robotham deals with the crimes that are uncovered with consideration and compassion, yet we are left in no doubt as to their nature. I was on high alert throughout and the ending struck with an unexpected blow. When She Was Good comes out swinging after the fabulous first book in the series, and I can highly recommend it (just make sure you read Good Girl, Bad Girl first).

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Here is the Beehive

Here is the Beehive

Author: Sarah Crossan Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it. But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret. How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach - Connor's wife Rebecca. Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.

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Trust

Trust

Author: Chris Hammer Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

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

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Woman of a Certain Rage

Woman of a Certain Rage

Author: Georgie Hall Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

The most wonderful, funny, and engaging novel, Woman of a Certain Rage simply danced into my hands and I read with true glee. Eliza has hit middle age and the menopause, as she navigates all that her hormones throw at her, can she rediscover the joys of her youth? I wanted to wriggle with excitement when I heard that this was Fiona Walker taking a writing step in a new direction as Georgie Hall. I completely understand why she is using a different name, as she says on her site: “I don’t want to mislead readers into expecting a big-cast Walker romp”. I genuinely feel as though I have been waiting for this novel, she takes the menopause years and runs with it, with laughter, warmth, and most of all empathy. She explores family life with teens and parents while maintaining a career, a relationship and home-life while the menopause is on the rampage. She made me snort with laughter on a number of occasions, and I frequently exclaimed as I recognised and related with different scenarios. While the midlife years and all the trials and tribulations that come with it sit centre stage, this is a book that can be read right through the age groups. All hail Georgie Hall as she uncovers the menopause with wit and honesty, excuse me while I find a few rooftops to camp out and shout from. Beautifully readable and laugh-out-loud funny, Woman of a Certain Rage is a LoveReading Star Book with attitude.

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Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Author: Emily Austin Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Our July 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This deliciously quirky, amusing and sharply-pointed debut novel slowly wormed its way into my heart and soul. Anxiety is plaguing Gilda, who also has death on her mind, she unexpectedly finds herself in a new job, fending off unwanted attention from men while keeping her girlfriend secret, and investigating a suspicious death. Emily Austin writes with such honesty and empathy, I found her words burrowed their way into my mind before reaching beyond thought, to feelings. It took me a while to get to know and warm to Gilda, she borders on awkward as she tells her story. I gradually found myself getting closer and closer to this fragile yet thoughtful and beautiful woman. The plot weaves a unique magic as it ranges from mystery to family drama to relationship story. The humour is pithy and smart, the observations can sting yet are compassionate, and the descriptions simply sing. I really have fallen in love with this book, and can’t wait to see what comes next from Emily Austin, she is a writer I will be looking out for. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a compelling, provocative, and beautiful LoveReading Star Book. 

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I Know What You've Done

I Know What You've Done

Author: Dorothy Koomson Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Hugely entertaining and addictive, this psychological thriller presses all the klaxon alert buttons from the get-go. The diary of a murdered woman who had been monitoring her neighbours in Brighton holds some very dangerous secrets. Dorothy Koomson is such a consistent writer, her books are oh-so readable, smart and stimulating, and range from family drama and relationship right through to suspense and thrillers. This read is full of suspense and intrigue as it explores family, friendship, and just how well we really know each other. Different characters, all neighbours, head chapters with relevant dates, each person speaking in their own very distinctive voice. These are people who slowly reveal their secrets, and as an added lure the diary secrets are also gradually revealed. I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be as the tension increased, and the explosive ending was just fabulous. This would make a perfect summer read, and though you can just throw yourself in and let go, there are also some thought-provoking themes too. I Know What You’ve Done is a proper page-turner, you may never look at your neighbours in the same way again! Dorothy Koomson is our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to learn more

Books of the Month
Dutch Girl

Dutch Girl

Author: Robert Matzen Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Thoughtfully, in fact beautifully handled, this is an absolutely fascinating look at the early life of Audrey Hepburn as she lived through the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Ask me to name my favourite Movie Stars and Audrey Hepburn would appear. I have watched her films and read biographies detailing her life, she made a difference both with her art and her humanitarian work. This book takes you to the time before she became a movie star, a time that has previously been invented and misinterpreted in accounts. In Dutch Girl, the detailed historical explanation of the Second World War flows over and around Audrey, allowing you to see just why and how she became the woman so much admired around the world. The foreword by Audrey’s son Luca Dotti actually tells you everything you need to know about this biography, he thanks author Robert Matzen, calling the book a true gift. The preface tells you a little about the meticulous research carried out for Dutch Girl, Robert Matzen says that his investigation took many twists and turns and also provided surprising answers. He has located quotes from Audrey about the Second World War, has included new interviews, and used archives to form a detailed, compelling account. The photos are fascinating and act as a visual support to what is already a vivid biography. Entering this book enables you to touch history, to feel the effects of the war as it would have affected Audrey. If you’re just looking for glitz and glamour you most certainly won’t find it here. Dutch Girl is the most compassionate and wise book, it takes you beyond and behind the image of the Hollywood star, to what lay beneath.   

Star Books
Build Your House Around My Body

Build Your House Around My Body

Author: Violet Kupersmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Though complex, subtle, and rich in history and myth, Violet Kupersmith's Build Your House Around My Body makes an instantly potent impression. Her writing is at once measured and vivid, infused with the elemental power of Vietnamese folklore, and with the histories, fates and desires of its protagonists. Following the lives of two fearless women who both went missing (though decades apart - one in 1986, the other in 2011), and who both seek revenge, Build Your House Around My Body is hauntingly poetic, playful, and a puzzle, of sorts. A multi-layered Russian doll of a story with magic realist elements - ghosts, time travel, snake monsters. Indeed, the whole novel might be described as a coiled serpent that spirals and springs when you least expect it. Despite their very different backgrounds, the women are bound by the past, and by ancestors and ghosts. It’s a mystery, a mythic epic, a slippery history that defies classification, and I loved it.

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The Comfort Book

The Comfort Book

Author: Matt Haig Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/07/2021

The Comfort Book is just that. A beautifully packaged, beautifully comforting hug in a book. Haig’s lists, aphorisms, quotes, case studies and recipes are an antidote to today’s busy lifestyles, medicine for our crazy lives. It is suggested that you should read it how you want; “it’s as messy as life”. And there is something incredibly liberating about being told there are no rules on opening a book. So then I flicked. Because I could. Because I was given permission to.  I came to a chapter: Short. Life is short. Be kind. And it make me stop and think about when I last displayed kindness. Am I too busy in my life juggling. existing. coping. to show kindness as much as I should.  We need to give ourselves space. To breathe. And I spent 15 minutes on that page. Six words. Another page with 10 words I laughed out loud at. Pasta, is all I have to say. This book really made me stop. And think. And breathe. The pace of my life stopped each time I picked it up. And that space was so needed. The book is filled with Haig’s reflections on hope, survival and the messy miracle of being alive. He shares his collection of consolations learned in hard times and suggestions for making the bad day’s better. For now, I’m still enjoying it but know I’ll keep it by my bed or maybe next to the toilet for people to share. It’s a book to be savoured. To be enjoyed. To come back to. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. He includes quotes from Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, Nietzsche, existential philosopher Rollo May, Bruce Lee. Haig’s witty. He’s wise. I love the way he writes, the way he imparts wisdom, shares his nuggets on life and I recognise that I haven’t got a routine baggy enough to live in. Thank you Matt for the comfort. I’m off to make Matt’s hummus. And eat crisps. And get some “baggy” in my life.  

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Author: Cherie Jones Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers. For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result. When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man. And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all. HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.

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The Disaster Tourist

The Disaster Tourist

Author: Yun Ko-Eun Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist is a triumph of originality and slick, satirical style. It’s a richly wry, cuttingly dark comedy that shines a light on the absurdities (and ethical dubiousness) of certain tourism practices, and on modern life more generally, with its understated lyricism packing poignant punch. Through Yona, we certainly see the bizarreness of the world we live in. A world in which a thirty-three-year-old woman works for a travel company that specialises in disaster tourism package holidays. To compensate Yona for being sexually harassed by him, her boss allows her to take a break on one of the trips they’re thinking of axing. What a deal! What a way to deal with harassment! Yona goes on the trip to the remote Vietnamese island of Mui, where the major attraction is a supposedly catastrophic sinkhole. When she becomes trapped here, the island takes on the appearance of “a theme park that wasn’t yet open”. Then, after making a hideous discovery, cutting truths are revealed like exposed nerves amidst escalating absurdity - and tragedy. Quite brilliant.  

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False Witness

False Witness

Author: Karin Slaughter Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

A hard-hitting, devastating, wow of a read, Karin Slaughter has hit this standalone thriller out of the park! The past hunts down Defence Attorney Leigh Collier as she takes on a high profile rape case, and it threatens to destroy her. I am still squirming with reading euphoria having finished this novel. It’s no secret that I love Karin Slaughter’s writing and regularly shout about her books, for me, this is her best novel to date. It most definitely isn’t an easy or comfortable read, it travels into the very darkest of places, including violent sexual assault and drug addiction. This is one of the first novels I’ve read that covers Covid 19, it sat in the background, there, but not overtaking the storyline. From the beginning, when the shadows sucked me down into their spiralling depths and understanding hit, I knew this would be a one-sitting read. I didn’t want to put this book down, even when flinching from the pain that transmits from the page. While it packs an overwhelming punch, it also contains Karin’s unmistakable magic touch. She knows exactly when a lighter moment is needed, when a smirk or blurt of laughter will aid the reader. Yes it made me wince, it also made me consider what makes us who we are. False Witness is powerful and provocative, it explores social issues and violence, and is all the more fabulous for doing that. A LoveReading Star Book, this is a novel that’s going to stay with me for some time. Karin Slaughter is our Early Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to learn more.

Audiobooks of the Month
One Last Time

One Last Time

Author: Helga Flatland Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

A deeply layered, emotional and compelling novel that examines and contemplates family relationships. A terminal cancer diagnosis results in reflection for Anne and her daughter Sigrid. This is award-winning Helga Flatland’s fifth book, and her second to be published in English, it was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers Award and topped the bestseller lists there. Her first English translation A Modern Family which was a number-one bestseller in Norway is another beautifully written book I can highly recommend. Both books have been translated by Rosie Hedger, and it is superbly done, you can feel Norway and the differences, yet an exquisite connection to the story makes you a part of the words. Anne and Sigrid narrate, the chapters aren’t headed yet each character’s voice is distinctive and any momentary hesitation between chapters soon clears. This joining of voices yet fragmentation of thoughts as the voices change, helps not hinders as it establishes the tone, the feeling of these women. Helga Flatland is a writer who is able to directly touch innermost thoughts and set them free to explore. She knows how to display the raw yet real side of what it is to be human. Using small slices of humour to break tension, she allows emotions to form, alter, sway. The ending, that engaging eloquent ending, sent goosebumps skimming down my arms. One Last Time is a beautiful meaningful expressive read and I truly loved it.

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Fortune

Fortune

Author: Amanda Smyth Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

From the exceptional author of Black Rock, Amanda Smyth’s Fortune is an absolute dazzler. Set in 1920s Trinidad, and based on real-life events, the novel is founded on exquisite storytelling. It’s measured in style, and panoramic in impact - though the writing is so finely accomplished its influence swells over time as the novel charts a universal story of desire and ambition, of love and lust, of all-but impossible battles with the external forces of nature. I relished every sentence, every considered word, every beat of a plot that pulses to the varied rhythms of its characters’ unsettled hearts. What’s more, it captures a nation on the cusp of monumental change - Trinidad’s earth-shattering shift to oil from its struggling sugar and cocoa industries. A chance encounter between handsome, charismatic Eddie Wade and Trinidadian business man Tito (lately down on his luck) leads them to hatch a plan to make their fortunes in oil. And the man who holds the key to their future fortunes is Sonny Chatterjee, a superstitious farmer whose cocoa estate is failing due to the abundance of oil oozing up through his soil. Sonny is reluctant to go into the oil business with anyone, and sceptical, as is his wife (“Who really need oil? Who want it? Not me, not you. You can eat oil?”), though she’s also angered by their escalating poverty. And so the two men convince Sonny, and they’re granted a lease to drill his land for a year. The very first meeting between Eddie and Tito’s wife Ada is charged with electricity. She’s a beautiful enigma, he’s like no one she’s never met, “he could have fallen out of the sky.” As the oil project progresses, the men battle sickness and set-backs until the black gold starts surging, as does the yearning between Ada and Eddie. Though ignorant of this, Tito unwittingly makes a premonitory statement, of sorts: “Ada has fire in her. A woman who has fire, if you love her, she’ll warm up your heart.” To which Eddie replies, “If you don’t she’ll burn down your house.” Tito laughs, “That’s exactly right, Eddie. She’ll burn down your house.” The way Ada and Eddie’s relationship buds from fascination, to lustful tension, to overwhelming desire, is exquisite: “Ada knew something was happening to her. The world was different. The hills were greener, the sky a painting of light.” A fatal accident on a neighbouring oil site causes Sonny to want to halt the drilling and sell up, but Tito and Eddie want to drill one more well before their lease is up. Enthralling and heart-stopping to the end, Fortune is a magnificent feat of fiction.

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Moth

Moth

Author: Melody Razak Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Moth is absolutely gorgeous. Fair warning, it broke my heart, but is still completely and utterly gorgeous! Partition in India slices the country through its soul, one liberal family find themselves adrift and battling for survival. Set in 1940’s Delhi this story focuses on family, and in particular women as the world around them boils with political unrest and danger. The beauty and pain of the prologue turned my thoughts inside out, I had to stop for a moment before carrying on. The awareness of the prologue stayed with me as I continued to read, consume, feel. This is Melody Razak’s debut novel and was written on long train journeys across India. Here she takes an intimate story set in an epic, huge moment in history, and makes it feel real. Snippets and slices of all emotions are brought together to form the most wonderfully told story that highlights the tragedy that falls. Her writing caught me, lulled me, shocked me, seduced me. She writes with huge compassion, the smallest of details weave together to form a vivid and vibrant tapestry of life. It is all too easy to imagine this happening anywhere in the world, yet among all the pain is strength and hope. The moments of calm, love, humour, sharing, and kindness all combine to ensure that you can still feel delight among the pain. Oh, and I must just mention the stunning cover too, it matches the beauty within. Moth, so exquisitely emotional, powerful, and harrowing, will be one of my favourite books of the year, it is so special, I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.

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Unbury Our Dead with Song

Unbury Our Dead with Song

Author: Mukoma Wa Ngugi Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/06/2021

Setting out its stunning stall as “the story of how a Tizita musician stopped the Ethiopian-Eritrean war”, Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s Unbury Our Dead with Song casts a uniquely beguiling spell. Its narrator, tabloid journalist John Thandi Manfredi, has an engaging, down-to-earth style that shifts as he himself falls under the spell of tizita - usually translated as ‘nostalgia’, or ‘longing’, tizita is form of bluesy, folksy ballad music from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Through Manfredi we meet four musicians - The Diva, The Taliban Man, The Corporal and septuagenarian bartender Miriam - who are in Nairobi, Kenya, competing to be hailed the best tizita performer. Their music has Manfredi in their thrall, to the extent that he journeys to Ethiopia to discover more about them. During their meetings, Manfredi uncovers raw truths and secrets about each artist, and through them he learns to read the layers of life and longing he’s heard (and felt) in tizita performances: “I knew enough about telling stories - they were also about the storyteller,” he says. In this case, the four musicians have very different stories to tell - hugely different histories and longings - as imparted through their performances. Propelled by a subtly mounting sense of mystery and discovery to a stirring tizita soundtrack that plays out in your head, this captures the indefinable, almost magical, power of music and art to inspire awe - which is exactly what this novel does with sweeping verve.

eBooks of the Month
Erringby

Erringby

Author: Gill Darling Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/06/2021

Our June 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Heady, rich and evocative, and while a reimagining of Great Expectations, this debut stands as a unique and startling read in its own right. As a child, orphaned Kit finds the world of his Uncle and Aunt an enticing place to be, as he grows older he discovers that all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Gill Darling travels through three decades from the 1970’s, creating the most spelling-binding novel. She doesn’t flinch from the harsher side of life, and while building an enchanting world, exposes vulnerability, selfishness, and excess. The characters feel as real as can be, with a tapestry of traits they ensured my feelings moved through the gamut of emotions. While I knew this was inspired by Great Expectations before I started, I entered and read it as Erringby, completely absorbed and only looking between the two when I had turned the last page. I found growing up with Kit at times disturbing, while at others I relished his adventures, and the ending sent little goose pimples skittering down my arms. When I finish reading I always return to the cover again to see with new eyes, and oh what a gorgeously expressive and clever creation it is! Thoughtful and loving, yet passionate and provocative, Erringby is a truly striking coming-of-age novel and a deserves its place as a LoveReading Star Book.

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Fragile

Fragile

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

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

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Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

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

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

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This is How we are Human

This is How we are Human

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

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

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Sunshine Kitchen

Sunshine Kitchen

Author: Vanessa Bolosier Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/06/2021

Vanessa Bolosier’s Sunshine Kitchen is one of those rare kinds of cook books that can truly transform your cooking habits. It’s a life-filled, love-filled feast of recipes you’ll be proud to make and delighted to taste - recipes that are sure to become firm favourites. What’s more, it’s so beautifully-presented, you’ll want to give it pride of place on your shelves, or gift it to someone special - it’s a blast of sunshine in food (and book) form. Born in Guadeloupe, and half-Guadeloupian and half-Martiniquan, Bolosier brings a wealth of knowledge, passion and charm to the table. The book’s introduction is fabulously informative, explaining that Caribbean Creole food is a melting pot, “one of the first fusion foods, drawing influences from trading and cultural mixing since the 16th century. It reflects the diversity of the environment in which it developed - the land, the ocean, the climate - and also the diversity of the people on the islands.” These diverse people comprise the indigenous Amerindians who inhabited the region before Europeans came, Europeans, Africans and Asians. As for the recipes, the book covers drinks, starters, fish and seafood, meat and poultry, sides, soups, sauces, syrups and desserts. If you’ve never had the immense pleasure of drinking a planteur, dive straight to page 30 to find your new favourite cocktail (seriously - planteurs are paradise in a glass). Alongside recipes for classic Caribbean Creole meat and fish dishes (among them Creole fried fish, Creole cassoulet and pork ragout), there are some dazzlingly zingy, colourful salads and sides (pumpkin mash, coconut slaw), and inventive sweets (banana and rum fritters, wine pineapple). Without question, this is my new favourite cook book.

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A Room Made of Leaves

A Room Made of Leaves

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

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

Star Books
The Enchanted Life

The Enchanted Life

Author: Sharon Blackie Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

A thought-provoking book that almost shakes thoughts loose and sets them free in a bid to reclaim the enchantment within ourselves and the natural world around us. There are concerning studies that suggest: “the brains of people in this generation might be developing differently because of their almost constant interaction with technology”. This book explores history and myth, other peoples musings and findings, through to Sharon’s own thoughts in order to offer us the tools to find the enchantment again, to relish and really live with it. Dr Sharon Blackie is an award winning writer and we are confirmed fans here at LoveReading. Sharon is our June Author in the Picture, editorial expert Joanne said If Women Rose Rooted creates: “a richly interesting perspective on other ways of living” and I simply adored the 13 bitingly beautiful stories in Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. She is also a psychologist and mythologist, she understands our need to connect to the world around us. From the first few paragraphs The Enchanted Life really resonated with me, it made me stop and listen, it captured and thoroughly provoked my thoughts before setting me on the trail: “to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again”. I read, I agreed, I believed, The Enchanted Life is a meaningful and truly lovely book that I can thoroughly recommend.

Star Books
Three Days In June

Three Days In June

Author: James O'Connell, Lieutenant General Sir Hew Pike Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

James (Scouse) O’Connell was a 22-year old Private in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when, along with his fellow soldiers, he was deployed to the Falklands to engage the Argentinian invaders. Three days in June describes the last few days of the war when 3 Para fought the battle of Mount Longdon. By the time the battle was over, 23 of their number were dead and 48, wounded. Sergeant Ian McKay was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. James O’Connell was left with life-changing injuries, the result of a bullet that entered his face through his nose and removed his cheek-bone and right eye. Candid, gritty and, at times, gruesome, this is a warts ‘n’ all account by the young men who were there, and told in their words. This makes the book all the more readable as it’s the perceptions, the humour, the fears, the honesty and the sheer heroism of these men that shines through.  From the moment I opened the first page of the hardback, I suspected I was going to be in for a treat. The book looks and feels of very high quality and the content certainly delivered.  A book for anyone with even the remotest interest in military history, this is a book to savour, enjoy and then have pride of place on any bookshelf. 

Star Books
Dead Ground

Dead Ground

Author: M. W. Craven Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

A ferociously entertaining, sharply amusing, hard-hitting wow of a read. DS Washington Poe and programmer Tilly Bradshaw are faced with an apparently clear cut case that becomes more convoluted the deeper they delve. Excuse me while I rave about this book and series, it’s worth hearing me out! M.W. Craven is winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award for his first in this series, The Puppet Show, and the other two books have been long-listed for the Gold Dagger which in itself should tell you just how good this series really is. The combination of superbly readable characters, thrilling plots, and authentic voice ensure these novels are always on my must-read list.  M.W. Craven’s mind just blows me away, he is able to hook, twist, and throw my thoughts as well as make me cackle like a demented thing. Poe and Tilly are among my favourite characters in the crime fiction world, they are both treasures (of the reading variety) waiting to be found if you’ve not yet met them. A stunner of a stimulating ride, Dead Ground comes with a whopping thumbs up from me, and of course it’s one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. 

Star Books
The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl

Author: Zakiya Dalila Harris Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/06/2021

Whip-smart, incisive and incredibly gripping, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl presents a powerful exposé of publishing’s unpleasant underbelly - the elitism, nepotism, poor pay, and petty power-play some senior editors exert over their assistants. Think The Devil Wear Prada with edge - its young editor protagonist wants to publish writers whose voices matter. It’s a world of white gatekeepers, white privilege, with displays of (cue tiny violin) white affront when poor behaviour is called out. And all this is done through twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at New York’s prestigious Wagner Books publishing house. After feeling isolated and exhausted by the everyday micro-aggressions of her workplace, Nella is delighted when Hazel, the “Other Black Girl”, starts working next to her - until Nella starts receiving threatening notes telling her to leave the company, while having to deal with increasingly problematic office politics. Though the novel is set in the publishing world, it will resonate with anyone, for example, who’s doubted the authenticity of their workplace’s commitment to diversity. In Nella’s case, she was part of Wagner Books’ diversity group, but company interest soon waned, with no one really getting the point, or understanding why representation matters - why it matters to get it right. The brutal reality of the company’s lip service attitude to equality and representation is exposed when Nella speaks out about a white male author’s offensively clichéd portrayal of a Black female character. When he (cue another tiny violin) gets upset, feeling accused of racism, she’s expected to apologise. Never mind about his lazy, dubious characterisation - the poor man’s feelings have been hurt, goddammit! That this is nothing new is revealed through the interwoven story of Kendra Rae, Nella’s editorial heroine who blazed inspirational trails before her - but what happened to Kendra after editing a huge bestseller, she wonders? It turns out that as Nella faced a backlash after (gently) calling out her author’s caricature, Kendra’s “sin” was also telling it like it is, being “someone who rejected what was expected of her as a Black woman in a predominantly white industry.” Chiming with wit and vital commentary, this debut is a thrilling feat of fiction, with twists that are impossible to see coming.

Debut Books of the Month
Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes

Author: Carole Matthews Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

A wonderfully warm, bright book to escape into, to give yourself up to and just enjoy. Jodie Jackson leaves everything she knows for a houseboat in the Isle of Wight, she soon finds herself falling for the island and its inhabitants, but London is calling and won’t take no for an answer. I always look forward to reading the latest book by Carole Matthews, they wrap me up and give me a massive loving squeeze. Having said that, this isn’t syrupy sweet, oh no, some real life dilemmas and mistakes sneak in to ensure a feeling of connection, that this could be you, or someone you know. I loved Jodie’s voice and how she talks to the reader, it not only created a bond, I ended up feeling as though I had made a brand new friend. Pure, wonderful escapism, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes really is the most lovely relationship tale and I can thoroughly recommend picking up a copy and just allowing yourself to sink into the pages. We simply adored this book in the office and so it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as well as a Book of the Month.  Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Star Books
Where We Belong

Where We Belong

Author: Anstey Harris Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

Oh, this is almost too gorgeous for words, thoughtful and full of emotion, it’s a simply wonderful story that connected to my heart and soul. Cate Morris has no option other than to leave everything she knows and move to Hatters with her son Leo, will they be welcomed with open arms? Anstey Harris writes with beautiful eloquence, her debut novel The Truths of Triumphs of Grace Atherton was one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, Where we Belong is too. I was completely charmed by the first sentence, settled in with joy and then the end of chapter one caused me to take a deep breath. This is emotionally intelligent writing and perfectly timed reveals of information lay in wait. Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World is just lovely, do I want to go there? Yes I most certainly do, so was captivated to learn that it is based on a real location. Where We Belong bewitched me with its secrets and beauty, Anstey Harris really is the most wonderful storyteller and I salute her. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Star Books
The Bread the Devil Knead

The Bread the Devil Knead

Author: Lisa Allen-Agostini Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/05/2021

Written in its unforgettable protagonist’s captivating Trinidadian voice, Lisa-Allen Agostini’s The Bread the Devil Knead is an exceptionally immersive read that resonates with the heart-wrenching rawness of a women’s lifelong abuse at the hands of men, and the seeds of her future liberation. Every perfectly-placed word, every perfectly-formed sentence rings with truth and strikes deep. Port of Spain boutique manager Alethea is about to turn forty. Thankfully, though, there’s one thing she can count on, “and that is my looks. I going on forty but you would never know it, because every morning and night God spare life I does cleanse and tone and moisturise from head to foot.” But while she has her looks and is philosophical about reaching this life landmark (“is just a number and the face you does see staring back at you in the mirror not as important as the memories in the mind behind it”), the trouble with Alethea is that “most of the memories was bad”, while her present-day life sees her frequently abused by her partner. She finds some solace in the arms of her boss, though, and in books: “This is how I does see the world: by reading books. I does go to London, Hong Kong, Siberia, even, when I read a book. I does meet all kind of people. Learn all kinds of words. Live all kinds of lives. Thank God for books.” Then, when her adopted brother, now a priest, returns after decades away, she begins to take a new path as secrets are laid bare and ways through a dark and tangled forest come to light. Through Alethea’s complex, damaged character Agostini lays bare complex, potent truths about sexual and violent abuse, racism and colourism. Mixed race and light of skin, she’s subjected to prejudice: “because my skin light colour they feel like I feel I better than them. That is bullshit”, and “People in this island does always surprise to know it have poor white people, but though we skin was light and we hair was straight we wasn’t really white and we didn’t have a penny to we name.” And she also sees that “even after Independence, after Black Power, after all that. Is still a kind of racial, colour-conscious place where people who look like me does get through” while darker skinned people “doesn’t get one shit.” Raw and achingly beautiful, this really is remarkable.

Star Books
Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line

Author: John Sutherland Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/05/2021

An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.

Star Books
The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club

Author: Richard Osman Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/05/2021

Our October 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. An absolutely charming and thoroughly entertaining mystery debut starring four septuagenarians. A real-life murder tickles the detective fancy of certain members from a well-to-do retirement village. Led by Elizabeth they sneakily make themselves indispensable to the investigating officers. I’m already working out who I would cast as Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron if this was made into a TV series. Each character in this amusing (yes it is charming and amusing even with a murder to solve) story is perfectly placed. There is a sense of ease, an inviting warmth, and a hint of old-fashioned, yet this story is actually bang up-to-date. A sharp edge to observations slices through any thoughts of cosy, while there is a gentle poking of fun at middle England. Richard Osman has created a wonderfully readable story that is the perfect introduction to a new series. I can't wait to see what comes next! The Thursday Murder Club has waltzed its way into my heart and the LoveReading Star Books list - highly recommended.

Star Books
The Nothing Man

The Nothing Man

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/05/2021

Razor-sharp tightrope time with this belter of a read, it is as dramatic and different as it is fabulous. Discover two books in one novel as true crime is enveloped by breathtaking storytelling. Read Eve Black’s memoir as she searches for the man who murdered the rest of her family 20 years ago. Sitting by its side is the story of the killer Jim Doyle as he reads the book and fears he will be unmasked. This has such a clever premise, Catherine Ryan Howard ensures that this is one of the few instances where knowing the identity of the killer actually adds to the intensity and drama. The change from one book to the other doesn’t jar in the slightest, each embraces and calls to the other and the transition is seamless. The tension increases until it is fairly reverberating through the pages. I let myself be carried away in the story, and don’t forget, this is a story, and it works because there is no sneaking a peek at the end! The Nothing Man is a blast of pure reading entertainment, and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Nothing Man.

Star Books
Brixton Hill

Brixton Hill

Author: Lottie Moggach Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/05/2021

A really intelligent, intimate, and ultimately human story awaits in this fabulous crime novel. Within a few months, Rob is due for release from an open prison in Brixton, when he meets a woman while out on day release, he is determined to hide his background from her yet there are desperate secrets on both sides. This is such a beautifully written novel from Lottie Moggach, for a dark novel it is vibrant, almost visual in effect. It feels real, as though this could be happening somewhere close by, right now. There was an immediate sense of place when I started to read, the run of Brixton Hill from the prison to the charity shop where Rob works comes alive. I felt a palpable connection to the characters, even those just appearing for a few pages. The suspense is exquisitely handled, while the atmosphere of the prison keeps pace with the turmoil in Rob’s mind. As the story neared its conclusion the heightened tension pulsated from the page through to my fingertips. Brixton Hill is an absolute gem, and is both a Liz Pick of the Month and Star Book too. Loved it, I really really loved it.

Star Books
Squeeze Me

Squeeze Me

Author: Carl Hiaasen Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/05/2021

An absolute monster of a fabulous read! I smirked and chuckled my way through this thoroughly entertaining and smart comedic crime novel. It’s charity ball season in Palm Beach, when a prominent high-society member of the POTUSSIES (a group of women who support the President) goes missing, the President declares it was the fault of immigrant hordes. However, wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong has just been tasked to deal with an influx of huge pythons, so the President might just be talking out of his behind. By the way, I am a titchy bit scared of snakes, but this didn’t affect my reading of this novel in any way. The President’s name is never mentioned, but Carl Hiaasen brilliantly lampoons the President that came between Obama and Biden, and I actually snorted with laughter on a number of occasions. I first read Carl Hiaasen’s novels for young adults, including Skink No Surrender but this is my first of his novels for adults. If you’re already a fan then you might just bump into a much loved character in Squeeze Me. This is a book that you can just throw yourself into and trust in the talent of the author. He isn’t just funny, the humour is pointed and makes a point. Squeeze Me is so irreverent, stimulating, and gorgeously readable, I already know that it will be one of my books of the year. Chosen as a Liz Pick and a Star Book, in the middle of dark times this is just what we needed, unless of course you are a fan of a certain someone!

Star Books
How to Kidnap the Rich

How to Kidnap the Rich

Author: Rahul Raina Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

Smart and smirky as heck, this is a furiously wonderful wow of a crime caper that will no doubt be sitting on my list of favourite books of the year.  Ramesh has set himself up with a business sitting exams for the kids of India’s middle classes, it all goes spectacularly wrong when he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country. The opening slapped my attention, in fact from the first sentence I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be! This is Rahul Raina’s debut, and he has created the most extraordinary voice in Ramesh. Ramesh tells his own story, words spill from him in a torrent that feels so incredibly authentic even as my eyebrows reached for the stars. The words ganged together to create the most exhilarating story. The plot alternately sang or punched me in the guts, just when I felt comfortable, bang, my thoughts were swinging in free fall again. There is a political commentary to be found among the whirlwind wit and satire, however it certainly doesn’t preach, it just lays it out you to view, and then consider. How to Kidnap the Rich is a hugely entertaining wild ride, so good it had to be a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Sorrowland

Sorrowland

Author: Rivers Solomon Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

From its arresting opening (“The child gushed out from twixt Vern’s legs ragged and smelling of salt. Slight, he was, and feeble as a promise”), Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is an exquisite fusion of folkloric atmosphere and raw human experience. Through the eyes of unforgettable, invincible Vern, and in luminously commanding language, Solomon explores racism, religion, misogyny and motherhood with magnificent boldness.  Fifteen-year-old Vern’s firstborn arrived in the world without his mother’s albinism and his father’s “yellow-bonedness”. His skin was “dark-dark, and Vern found it hard to believe that the African ancestry that begat such a hue had ever once been disrupted by whiteness.” And then comes his twin - two brothers, Howling and Feral, born in the woods beyond the Blessed Acres of Cain compound that Vern fled two months ago. With origins in the Black Power movement, the religious community’s survivalist ethos stands her in good stead for a life in the wild - “she always had a way of getting what she needed from the earth”. Years pass and Vern tells her now-toddler sons about Cainland’s history, about the “white doctors who came in the night to rob Black People for medical experimentation” as she notices strange shifts in her body - it heals from terrible burns and rotting infections. “A side effect of the poison they’d been giving her giving her since birth” she thinks, soon deciding they must leave the woods. This unfamiliar outside world “increased Howling’s surliness and transformed Feral’s sweet curiosity into spirited adventurousness”, and the trio attract as much bewildered attention as the world bewilders them. As Vern’s sickness intensifies so too does the creeping sense of pursuit, and rising love and lusts, to create a bizarre and beautiful book that’s entirely unbridled by convention.

Star Books
Small Pleasures

Small Pleasures

Author: Clare Chambers Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.

Star Books
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 End of Men

The End of Men

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

An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories. The LoveReading LitFest invited Christina to the festival to talk about The End of Men. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member. 

Star Books
The Wife Who Got a Life

The Wife Who Got a Life

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

Light, bright, and tremendously entertaining, The Wife Who Got a Life also tackles some difficult subjects with balance and consideration. After years of putting her family first, Cathy decides to take back control of her life and sets up a list of monthly goals. Over the year I spent with her, I smirked, sniggered, and laughed, oh how I laughed! While Cathy is heading towards menopause, the writing ensures this is a read that everyone could enjoy. Tracy Bloom has a seriously witty pen, and knows exactly when a smile is needed, there were times when the words buffeted my thoughts and then in the next moment hugged me. She has the ability to write about tough times with love and empathy while being sharply aware and ensuring Cathy has an authentic voice. I absolutely adored this novel and would describe it as a wonderfully smart and joyous celebration of life. The Wife Who Got a Life is feel-good writing at its best as it lifts you up while remaining completely aware of the sharp reality of life. A LoveReading Star Book, this is one to pop to the top of your reading pile. The LoveReading LitFest invited Tracy to the festival to talk about the fabulously readable The Wife Who Got A Life. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member. 

Audiobooks of the Month
The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman

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

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

Star Books
The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Supple and immersive, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half is an epic, elegant story of sisters and mothers, of identity, and divisive racist and colourist mentalities that tear communities, families and individuals asunder. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful book, peppered with lines that latch (“When he visited, Desiree felt like a girl again, the years falling away like meat off the bone”), and an exquisitely crafted plot that threads generations through time, and across America - the Deep South, California, New York, and back.  “In Mallard, nobody married dark. Nobody left either.” But that’s exactly what identical twins Desiree and Stella do at the age of sixteen - they flee their “strange town” to start a new life in New Orleans. But after a time, Stella realises she can pass for white. After taking a job as a typist, she abandons Desiree for another new life as a white woman, eventually marrying her wealthy white boss who has no clue she’s black, and with whom she has a daughter who looks entirely white, to her relief. Meanwhile, Desiree’s path couldn’t be more different. She’s also married, with a “blueblack child”, and now, ten years after leaving, desperation forces her back to Mallard - she and her daughter need to escape domestic abuse. Through Stella’s fiercely emotive storyline we witness the most despicable bigotry when a Black family moves into her white neighbourhood. She’s agonisingly conflicted and tangled, especially when facing an unravelling of her fabricated identity. “She was one of the lucky ones. A husband who adored her, a happy daughter, a beautiful home. How could she complain about any of it?” And yet she’s desperately unfulfilled. Emptiness eats away at her; she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. As she says early on, she’s “split in two”. While following the sisters’ stories, Bennett brings in their daughters, and generations of secrets begin to bleed, creating a compelling, compassionate, consummately outstanding novel.

Star Books
Beauty in Letters

Beauty in Letters

Author: John Wilson Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A truly beautiful and stimulating book that can be devoured in one heady go or dipped into and adored. Meet and wonder over illuminated addresses, books, scrolls or certificates in celebration of events. Covering a hundred years, sitting mainly in Victorian times, each is its own masterpiece, the designs so colourful and intricate, they shine from the page. On display are 50 letters with a particular theme, from royalty, to civic duty, to clubs and societies. John P Wilson explains that the recipient could be wealthy or famous, or an ordinary person who had provided special service. He states these letters: “provide an opportunity to obtain an insight into someone’s life and achievements, and allow a brief historical opening into social history”. Each letter sits with an explanation, but the focus here is the beauty of the letter. In our current times, the art of the letter is all but forgotten, and these treasures appear to be almost jewell-like in their wonder and intensity. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it really speaks to me. Beauty in Letters is a wonderful insight into the past, and a stunning display of true creativity and artwork.

Star Books
I Belong Here

I Belong Here

Author: Anita Sethi Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Thought-provoking, inspiring, and inclusive, this is a wonderful blend of nature and an examination of language, community and friendship. Journalist and writer Anita Sethi decided to hike the ‘backbone of Britain’ The Pennines after she was the victim of a vicious race-hate crime. Born in Manchester and holding a particular love for the natural world around us, in I Belong Here she reclaims her sense of belonging while being open and giving of herself and her thoughts. She walks through the land, often by herself, and explores her experiences and love for nature. Words dance in her hands, she shows how much language matters, looking at the various meanings of words, particularly with regards to nature and emotions, stating: “language can imprison or liberate”. She is so beautifully eloquent. I’ve always had a deep connection to the countryside, yet Anita’s words encouraged me to look again, to not just see the face of our natural surroundings but to look in more depth at our natural history and how it exists and connects us. And, that resonates deeply with her thoughts on the colour of skin: “it is exhausting to be pigeon-holed, people not seeing beyond skin colour”. While at times this is a challenging read as she experiences anger and despair, there is an awful lot of love to be found as she welcomes her surroundings and the people she meets along the way. Ultimately I felt a connection with Anita as she held out a hand and invited me to explore thoughts, feelings and nature alongside her. A LoveReading Star Book, I Belong Here is a truly beautiful and important read that I can wholeheartedly recommend. 

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The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife

Author: Karin Slaughter Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

A hard-hitting, fast-moving slicing wow of a book. An old case is reopened when new evidence appears, and a violent predator hunts his next victim. It’s no secret that I get jump-up-and-down excited about Karin Slaughter’s novels. She has the most wonderful ability to pitch full-on sharp storytelling and blasts of drama alongside thoughtfully handled social issues and relationship dilemmas. This could easily be read as a standalone, however there are two series that link to this novel, Will Trent and Grant County. Both series are just too good to miss, and I highly recommend them. For those who have read both sets, in this particular book time slides along a different path in order to make two time frames work. The author’s note perfectly explains why at the end, but (big but), make sure you don’t read the author’s note until you have read every last drop of the novel! Will Trent and Sara Linton work with the rest of the team, while the past runs alongside and does some serious meddling. Please note there are some fairly graphic descriptions of medical examinations and brutal attacks within the novel. Karin Slaughter doesn’t shy away from highlighting a distressing subject matter, which she mentions in her notes and the last part of her acknowledgments. While graphic, it is not gratuitous, and I felt every word that made me wince was necessary. The Silent Wife is another winner of a read, it sent goosebumps skittering down my arms and this, her twentieth novel, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Pick.

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The Source

The Source

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

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

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How to Betray your Country

How to Betray your Country

Author: James Wolff Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

An absolutely cracking spy thriller with a difference, this is one to put to the top of your reading pile. Disgraced spy August Drummond finds himself up to his neck in trouble when he steps into the middle of an Islamic State plot. Author James Wolff (a pseudonym) has worked for the British government for over ten years. There is an undeniably sharp edge to this story that feels all too real, and yet the fabulous writing ensured I couldn’t determine what was outrageously inventive or shockingly authentic. One thing I would definitely recommend, and that’s starting with the first in this trilogy, Beside the Syrian Sea. While you could read How to Betray Your Country as a standalone, to fully understand what has come before is an important part of this tale. August is a loose cannon with a conscience, the loss and sadness that directs his every move is clearly felt. And yet, there is an underlying wit, smirk, and dark humour that skulks through the pages. This is a story that skips and flits and burrows and teases. As the file excerpts filled in missing information and as the plot sky-rocketed towards its conclusion I became more and more consumed. A LoveReading Star Book, How to Betray Your Country is ever so smart, provocative, and thought-provoking, its also thoroughly entertaining. It comes with the hugest of thumbs up from me.

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Nobody Tells You

Nobody Tells You

Author: Becca Maberly Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Nobody Tells You is a brilliant and reassuring companion for anyone starting out on the path to parenthood, from getting pregnancy all the way through to feeding your baby. Featuring diverse real-life stories, it feels so natural and personal, like you’re chatting with friends. These are real people (with their twitter handles and photos) answering real questions about different types of pregnancies, babycare and parenthood. So you know that whatever you’re thinking – or feeling – is normal, and that you’re not alone. It’s a reminder that parenting may be a struggle at times – all those niggling things that no one else is going to tell you and you’ve not yet dared to ask. ‘Yes, contractions can hurt.’ ‘It’s natural to worry about your baby.’ ‘It may take time to bond.’ This book is packed with simple advice from healthcare professionals too, featuring essential tips on morning sickness, hospital items, and more. I wish I had been given a book like this before my two sons were born.

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Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Lee Miller. Fashion in Wartime Britain

Author: Ami Bouhassane, Robin Muir, Amber Butchart Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/04/2021

Perhaps best known for her seminal WWII photojournalism, or her earlier life as a surrealist model and muse, or her sublimely striking solarised portraits, Lee Miller was also an exceptional fashion photographer, whose work illuminated the pages of British Vogue (Brogue) from 1939 to 1944. Featuring over 130 images, plus an excellent contextualisation essay by Ami Bouhassane, Miller’s granddaughter and Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives, Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain is a breathtakingly beautiful, informative book - clearly a must-have for Lee devotees, and also essential for those interested in forties fashion and style. Since many of the images featured here haven’t been seen since they were shot in the 1940s (they came to light while being archived in 2020), this truly is a treasure chest to delight in. Miller’s editor at Brogue wrote of her in 1941 that “she has borne the whole weight of our studio production through the most difficult period in Brogue’s history” and this book is a glorious record and celebration of Lee’s contribution to the publication, with an essay by Robin Muir, contributing editor to British Vogue, furnishing readers with detail on this. The range of subjects, settings and fashion is a joy to behold, and fashion historian Amber Butchart’s essay offers fascinating insights into the era. There are classic Lee portraits of women wearing tailored suits, striking angled poses in stark light. There are women positioned by rubble, or going about their day-to-day business. There are staged studio shots of women in elegant eveningwear. And there are women (and the occasional man) in utilitarian outfits - “fashion factories”. All of them, of course, bear Miller’s inimitable panache, her way of seeing the world and its people. Simply stunning.

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Hamnet

Hamnet

Author: Maggie O'Farrell Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.

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Ashes of the Sun

Ashes of the Sun

Author: Django Wexler Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.

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Mirrorland

Mirrorland

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

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

eBooks of the Month
Dalvi: Six Years in the Artic Tundra

Dalvi: Six Years in the Artic Tundra

Author: Laura Galloway Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Always engaging and illuminating, Laura Galloway’s Dálvi is an uplifting ode to doing something different. A testament to how a person can flourish after fleeing the monotony of the  work, spend, socialise, show-off-on-social-media cycle of modern life to live by an entirely different kind of cycle - the kind that’s directed by nature’s shifting seasons in a unique environmental and cultural setting. Threaded with themes of flourishing through adversity, and finding home and love in unexpected places, this remarkable memoir is as stirring as it is gripping. The author’s journey began when a genetic test revealed that she shares DNA with the indigenous Sámi people of the Arctic tundra. Having endured a disastrous marriage, and growing increasingly dissatisfied with her life in NYC, Galloway ventures to the Norwegian town of Kautokeino, ostensibly to discover her roots, but in actuality discovering herself and her future way of life. Here, in this remote reindeer-herding region she meets and falls for a herder and decides to stay - even after he leaves her just six months later. With only very limited knowledge of the Sámi language, Galloway lives a largely solitary life with little money, and yet this life is so much better for her: “Now it is simple. There is no noise and no distraction. I have to be with myself, whatever that means, in the silence, listening to nature, being still.” In contrast, “When I left New York, I was exhausted – emotionally, financially and physically, as if I had been on a giant rat wheel.” Galloway is an amiable, amusing companion - never self-indulgent and always honest, not least when writing about her traumatic childhood (the death of her mother when she was only three, and the unrelenting vindictiveness of her father’s second wife). In time, little by little through her six years in the Arctic, she realises, “I’ve moved between two worlds.” And, at the heart of this transition, and a consequence of living in nature, her “endlessly fascinating companion”, is the realisation that “home is inside you and all around you.” Home whispers, “’I am here’, when you are most alone.”  What a joyous life-affirming read.

Star Books
The Legacy

The Legacy

Author: Caroline Bond Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Penetrating and emotionally intense this is a fabulously compelling family drama. Jonathan Coulter’s will simply stipulates that his three children should decide how to dispose of his estate, this causes arguments and increasing tension particularly given that no mention has been made of their mother or their father’s new partner. Caroline Bond excels in creating dramatically readable novels that delve into what it is to be human. She also writes with incredible empathy as she explores thought-provoking subjects and allows the reader to arrive at their own conclusions. There are five main characters here, they feel as real as can be, with intricate layers slowly exposed to allow us to see who they truly are. This is an incredibly intimate tale, with the majority of the novel taking place over a weekend in Scarborough. As the tale progresses and the walls close in on the discussions taking place, the few excursions that take place out of the house release tension. The focus firmly remains on the emotions that swing and swerve as grief and loss in the immediate aftermath of death is explored. A story about love and family, The Legacy really is a wonderfully stimulating read, and it’s been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

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Watch Her Fall

Watch Her Fall

Author: Erin Kelly Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

A shout from the rooftops type of book, and this is so special, I may be there for some time! Ava is at the peak of her ballet career and about to appear in the most challenging role of her life, but she’s just one small step away from falling from grace, and someone desperately wants her crown. I am always so careful to avoid spoilers, and also wary of stating if there are twists. With this novel though, I feel as though I can proclaim that it is most cleverly unexpected read, without spoiling it in any way! Erin Kelly takes us behind the scenes, to the effort and obsession, to the pain and glory, and sets the most thrilling and intoxicating plot. This novel builds in an intensity that I couldn’t have even imagined when I first opened the pages. It was only as I got further in that my thoughts began to stutter, and then went into free fall. I became absolutely transfixed. The plot is everything, so cunning and smart, yet the characters and descriptions are absolutely on point too. I know this will sit as one of my favourite reads of the year, and along with a standing ovation it also receives a LoveReading Star Book. Breathtaking, sharp, and wonderfully rewarding, Watch Her Fall is an absolute stunner and I proclaim it a must-read.

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The Frequency of Us

The Frequency of Us

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

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

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Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

Author: Claire Fuller Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/03/2021

Our April 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. With love and family sitting centre stage, this is an emotionally intelligent and beautiful novel. Reclusive 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius find their lives in disarray when their mother dies and secrets spill forth. At LoveReading we have adored Claire Fuller’s novels since her debut Our Endless Numbered Days which won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015. I love her writing style, she has the ability to take you to known yet entirely unexpected places within the human soul and your own subconscious. Her descriptions almost hurt as they land with apparently effortless precision. This has a seemingly simple premise, yet it thoroughly provokes thoughts and contemplation. The words danced from the pages into my mind, and pieces of my heart cracked and broke away. A wonderful balance is maintained as hope is allowed to remain within touching distance. These are characters that will stay with me, this is a story that I will return to. Unsettled Ground evokes raw emotions and yet it is a thoughtfully compassionate and gorgeous read. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book.

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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.

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The Shadows of Men

The Shadows of Men

Author: Abir Mukherjee Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/11/2021

This searingly eloquent historical crime novel set in 1920’s India contains sharply pointed humour and a thrilling plot. Imperial Police Force officers Sam Wyndham and Surendranath Banerjee find themselves up to their necks in trouble when a murder threatens religious war. Here we are at book five in the award-winnning Wyndham and Banerjee series. Not only does each successive book add to the intricate layers that have gone before, but they also manage to exceed sky-high expectations. You could also successfully step in part way through this series and feel right at home (always the sign of fabulous writing). Having said that, do start with A Rising Man and work your way through in order, as to miss the full experience of this reading journey would be a crime. The joy of the relationship between Banerjee and Wyndham, and how it alters and grows is one of the highlights for me. It is continuing to develop into a true partnership, where each brings their own particular strengths and learns from the other. I can happily declare that these two are among my favourite crime-fighting duo’s in literature and I loved the dual narrative. Abir Mukherjee has the most exquisite timing, the humour stings as it plays alongside the drama and violence. The setting of Calcutta and Bombay, and the political and social history of this time roar into vibrant evocative life. The Shadows of Men is a vivid, powerful, scorching-hot read that I can recommend with my heart and soul as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month.

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The Trawlerman

The Trawlerman

Author: William Shaw Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/05/2021

A SHOTS MAG BOOK OF THE YEAR THE STUNNING FOURTH BOOK IN THE DS ALEXANDRA CUPIDI INVESTIGATIONS FROM ONE OF CRIME FICTION'S FINEST WRITERS A DOUBLE MURDER The naked corpses of Aylmer and Mary Younis are discovered in their home. The only clues are a note written in blood and an eerie report of two spectral figures departing the crime scene. Officer Jill Ferriter is charged with investigating the murders while her colleague Alex Cupidi is on leave, recovering from post-traumatic stress. AN ELABORATE SCAM The dead couple had made investments in a green reforestry scheme in Guatemala, resulting in the loss of all their savings. What is more disturbing is that Cupidi and Ferriter's disgraced former colleague and friend Bill South is also on the list of investors and the Younis's were not the only losers. AN UNLIKELY KILLER Despite being in counselling and receiving official warnings to stay away from police work Cupidi finds herself dragged into the case and begins to trawl among the secrets and lies that are held in the fishing community of Folkestone. Desperate to exonerate South she finds herself murderously compromised when personal relationships cloud her judgement. Pacey, intense and riddled with surprising twists, The Trawlerman shows that deceit can be found in the most unlikely places. The brooding waters of the Kent coastline offer an ominous backdrop for this lively page-turner of corruption, mental health and the complexities of human connection.

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