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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
Convincing and atmospheric, the first in the Dylan Series sets itself as a serious espionage thriller. Thomas Dylan joins the Defence Intelligence Staff as an analyst but finds himself in the hot seat when things go awry. I will admit that it took me a while to settle in as there is a lot of information to take on board. Once I had though, I thoroughly enjoyed this intricately plotted novel featuring a somewhat novice spy. Set in the early 1970’s there is a real sense of the time in the tone, plus a feeling of affection for the age in the writing. I could picture myself settling down to watch this as a film with the action playing out in front of me. It felt as though I was reading an actual diary, and Brian Landers with his previous links to the world of intelligence, has created a true feeling of authenticity. Set yourself aside quality reading time as this is one that you will need to concentrate on. Awakening of Spies is the first in a new series and I look forward to seeing what comes next for Thomas Dylan.
Eye-opening, amusing, and heart-warming, this is the personal as well as professional memoir of a health visitor. Rachael Hearson joined the National Health Service as a student nurse in 1979 and has spent time as a nurse, midwife, health visitor, and community practice teacher. As a health visitor she says she has a: “privileged and unique access to all families with children under five; our office is your living room.” Boy, does the introduction really spell it out, from the strange and dangerous through to the wonderful, she’s truly seen it all. I felt as though I was sat listening to a friend, she has a lovely light, bright, chatty style which helps provide a vivid and vibrant picture of her experiences. She clearly has huge empathy and adores her job (yes there are downsides too). The epilogue at the end titled ‘Love in the Time of Corona’ is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of an NHS worker as we all learn to live with Covid. She makes some striking points about the importance of the NHS, stating: “We must continue to bang the drum for the NHS.” In other words, now is the time to make the right changes to ensure our NHS continues. Handle With Care is a wonderful insight into a world that the majority of us are thankful for, and it has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Books of the Month.
Dark, gutsy, and smirky Tartan Noir. Secrets overflow and violence spills into the community when Alice Wenger arrives from America, Daley and Scott have a race on their hands to solve a long-standing mystery. This is the eighth in the DCI Daley thriller series (plus there are some short stories on offer too). The series started with the focus on the small town policing team before branching out beyond Kinloch. Here we return again to the heart of the town and I love the quirky characters (Hamish has to be a favourite) and hefty dose of humour. The pages are peppered with colloquial dialogue in the form of Brian Scott. A vivid picture forms of Kinloch and the surrounding countryside. As a former officer Denzil Meyrick has the ability to highlight the reality of policing, including the home lives, and successfully mix it with some wonderful storytelling. Jeremiah’s Bell continues the series in fine style, if you haven’t yet discovered them, do start with the fabulous Whisky from Small Glasses.
Emotionally haunting, dramatic and provocative, yet ultimately this is a novel full of hope. On the day the car collides with a wall, five sets of parents attend hospital not knowing if their child has survived. What follows isn’t an easy read emotionally as death, turmoil and loss features heavily, but… but… I was completely gripped and couldn’t stop turning the pages. Caroline Bond introduces the characters perfectly, I immediately felt as though I knew everyone. The interplay feels so very real and as the book skips backwards and forwards again, understanding of the personalities, relationships, and secrets seeped into my awareness. There is a thoughtful balance to this novel, no judgement is made by the author, rather she encourages contemplation. The drama sweeps across the stage, the readability factor is huge, and still One Split Second is full of empathy and compassion, earning it a place as a LoveReading Book of the Month.
Prepare yourself for an emotional read… full of deep abiding love and hope, there are also parts of this book that caused an intensely physical ache long after I’d finished reading. I don’t want to give too much away, I want you to be able to enter as I did, and experience all that is on offer. So, let me just say that Max and Pip have to make an impossible decision, one that will affect them forever more. The prologue sets the scene perfectly, and I felt a fellow sharp intake of breath at the last sentence before moving to chapter one. This is one of those books where I didn’t make many notes as I read, I was completely caught up in the story. Each character is perfectly placed, their emotions reaching out from the page to touch my heart and soul. There are times when right and wrong do not exist in a clear, comprehensive format and this book successfully shreds presupposition into tiny confetti-like pieces. After I had finished reading, the note at the end by Clare Mackintosh sent goosebumps skittering down my arms. After the End is powerful, provocative, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this extraordinarily beautiful read. I have chosen it as one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading star book.
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.
An absolutely fascinating and beautifully intimate tale set in Greece, covering the Second World War, Greek Civil War and beyond, from 1930 through to 1999. Themis looks back on her life with two of her grandchildren, as she grows up in a family split with opposing political views. Her beliefs take her into the Communist army after the Second World War, where Greek fights fellow Greek. While this novel is set around a hugely complex event in history, Victoria Hislop opens it up with skill. By concentrating on one woman, we enter a family tale told with a matter-of-factly simplicity, so the impact of what comes, hits with huge power. This compelling novel, which brings a slice of history so vividly to life, is a stark warning of what could yet come in our future. It is also a reminder that we never truly know the life someone has lived, as what is presented on the outside, could be very different to what has been lived inside. Warm yet chilling and disturbing, uncomplicated yet involved and detailed, Those Who Are Loved is a tale full of emotional impact.
An incredibly dramatic, graphic and gripping start to a new series. This isn’t just an introduction though, it’s a fabulous full serving in its own, very distinctive right. 15 years ago Kate Marshall solved a high profile murder case and very nearly became a victim herself, now, a copycat killer is on the loose, determined to finish the job. The beginning takes us back to 1995, within a few pages there is a real sense of Kate, and the case. Chapter two is incredibly stark, making me flinch before things seriously kicked off. I was glued to the pages, and read the whole book in one sitting. If you are a little squeamish, then be warned, there are some darker than dark, vivid and violent incidents ahead of you. Personally, I didn’t feel it was overly sensational though, as it felt all too real! Robert Bryndza really has set the scene for a fabulous new series. Fierce, startling and incredibly readable, Nine Elms comes as highly recommended from me.
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. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as the team just adored it.
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 seriously 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.
If you enjoy your relationship stories with a sharp spike of drama and a hefty dose of attitude then this could well be the book for you. A violent father terrorises his children, as Zane and his sister grow up, a particular incident changes their lives and sets in motion their future. While best described as romantic suspense, it does actually feel as though there are two stories here as Nora Roberts lays out the background to the trauma of Zane’s childhood before we then meet him as an adult. She really doesn’t pull any punches, yet manages to thoughtfully balance the aggression with love and support from outside of the immediate family. The suspense is handled nicely, with the reader being ahead of the game, and therefore squirming as the characters leave one particular avenue unexplored. While there is violence to be found between the pages, it is the later relationship tale that sits at its heart and turns this into a two-part tale. Under Currents is an engaging, hard-hitting read, sitting within a very romantic relationship tale.
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.
A super read! This is a sneak past your guard and send you reeling type of book. It’s fast-moving, yet is intimate and fully connected with my feelings. I completely forgot I was meant to be reviewing and just read! An armed siege takes place in a cafe in London, the story weaves between the gunman, captives, and police officers creating the most intense and readable storyline. The introduction to the characters immediately captured my interest, each of the chapters are headed by one of the characters, allowing the creation of smaller stories within the main tale. Each person is memorable, fully developed, and created their own place in my thoughts. Charity Norman is on my list of favourite authors, she has the most wonderful ability to look beyond the obvious and really make me think, while at the same time telling a vivid, emotional, and hugely entertaining story. The ending held immense impact, and really tugged at my heartstrings. Not only a book of the month, but a LoveReading star book, and a Liz Robinson pick of the month too. The Secrets of Strangers is a clever, eloquent, and dramatic story, it comes as highly recommended (with extra emphasis) by me. Check out our Putting Authors in the Picture piece for May!
“For the last thirty-two years, you’ve not once trotted out for a run around the block. And now you tell me with a straight face that you want to run a marathon.” So begins this scathingly amusing novel that sees 64-year-old Remington - recently forced to retire early after an unsavoury employment tribunal – develop an unhealthy obsession with extreme exercise and his hideously competitive trainer, Bambi. Remington’s wife, sixty-year-old Serenata has always been a solitary exerciser (“I find large numbers of people doing the same thing in one place a little repulsive”), so the fact that her “husband had joined the mindless lookalikes of the swollen herd” comes as a shock, and an insensitive affront too, given that she was recently compelled to give up a lifetime of running after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both knees. Their spiteful bickering begins immediately, with neither party displaying themselves in a favourable light. Indeed, both characters are largely unlikeable, which makes their sniping all the more entertaining. Remington bemoans accusations of privilege, thus revealing said privilege: “I’m a little tired of being told how ‘privileged’ I am... How as a member of the ‘straight white patriarchy’ I have all the power. I’m supposedly so omnipotent, but I live in fear, less like a man than a mouse.” After (eventually) crossing the finish line of his first marathon, Remington signs-up for a gruelling triathlon, with his farcical persistence in spite of serious incidents and injuries making this novel both hilarious and excruciatingly cringe-worthy, albeit with an unexpectedly bittersweet upshot.
Clever, sharp, and yet wonderfully poignant, this is a hugely entertaining multi-generational family drama. After hiring highly recommended carer Mandy for their father James, Phoebe and her brother Robert begin to wonder if all is as rosy as they first thought. Deborah Moggach excels in opening a window to all generations, there is a feeling of truth to her descriptions. With a different character heading each chapter, I soon felt as though I was diving deep into their thoughts. An ongoing rivalry for their father’s attention has kept Phoebe and Robert company through into middle age. All aspects of their personality spilled out onto the page, from selfish to thoughtful, fractious to charming, and so while not necessarily always likeable, it felt as though they were in the room with me. There are a few surprises in store, you know when you’re cringing and wincing, but can’t stop reading and almost want to peek at the pages between your fingers? That’s exactly what happened to me here! Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, and one of our LoveReading Star Books, The Carer is a vivid, colourful, smirky, yet penetrating and compelling read. Loved it!
Set in one of the most harrowing times in history, this powerfully beautiful relationship and friendship story shines a blazing torch on the very best that humanity has to offer. When British prisoner of war Bill, while on work duty from a labour camp in the depths of Czechoslovakia in 1944, meets farmer Izabela, love blossoms. They secretly marry, go on the run and determine that they will never be separated, not even if captured by the German army. Based on a true story it feels as though Maggie Brookes was destined to meet Sidney Reed who told her this tale, and that as a historical documentary researcher and producer for the BBC she was perfectly placed to write this as a novel. The prologue starts with the couple on the run from the German army, Izabela has disguised herself as a man, and by pretending to be mute when finally captured, is taken with Bill to a prisoner of war camp. Setting the scene so thoroughly heightened my emotions as chapter one then took me back to their first meeting. I’ve already read a number of novels and non-fiction books relating to this time, including one of the books Maggie Brookes mentions as further reading. My prior reading and knowing what was to come from the prologue, still in no way prepared me for what Bill and Izabela were to face. This intimate, vivid and compelling account reaches through the nightmare and finds true love and friendship, all of which is written beautifully by the author. The Prisoner’s Wife meets horror head on, so prepare yourself, but it also filled me with hope, and this comes as highly recommended by me.
Simply gorgeous! Seriously everyone, this really is THE most lovely book. I don’t know about you, but I adore looking at beautiful houses, and boy is Cath Kidston’s home stunning, it is also deliciously homely too. Yes of course, this is Cath Kidston of the Cath Kidston vintage-inspired homeware and designer brand. She has sent a gorgeous invitation to wander around her home, telling us how they found it, and how each room came into being. Pavilion have created a perfectly sized and visually beautiful book. Stuffed full of vivid, colourful photographs (shout out to Christopher Simon Sykes), I sank into the pages. I love her quirky touches, such as the cracker adorned painting, and the colour, oh my, the colour just pops! Yes I am rather gushing over this book, that’s because it sang to me, and I have fallen in love with it. A Place Called Home would make the perfect gift, but make sure you buy one for yourself too! Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, just because it is so beautiful.
Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.
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