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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
Oh my word, this is an absolutely cracking psychological thriller. Anna is unable to leave her house, she views the world from her window and connects with it on her laptop, when she witnesses a horrific incident in a neighbouring house, turmoil awaits. The first few pages set me on edge, and I remained on high alert throughout the story, doubting and questioning my own reasoning. Even if you suspect, you can’t be confident, and there are plenty of shocks and surprises lying in wait. Set over a few weeks, the short chapters whipped into my consciousness, yet the story reveals itself gradually. A. J. Flynn allows the tension to build, slowly, torturously, and exquisitely. Anna tells her own story, wounded herself, can she be trusted? When the revelations came, they spilled from the page and slapped my thoughts. So clever and focused, yet utterly mind-bending, The Woman in the Window is a heart-hammering read and I highly recommend stepping into Anna’s world.
From the author of Legacy, now a major BBC Film, comes a brilliant new historical crime novella for fans of Antonia Hodgson and CJ Sansom. `To Mr Thomas Combe my sword.' These six words in Shakespeare's will tell us that Shakespeare had a sword. Did he wear it? Did he use it? What sort was it? When and why did he get it? What happened to it? Might it - does it - still exist? These questions plague Simon Gold, an antiques dealer. He believes he has identified the sword as belonging to a customer, an unworthy owner indifferent to cultural icons and uninterested in history. Simon is desperate to acquire the sword, but how? How far is he prepared to go to get it? In alliance with Charlotte, his customer's attractive and disaffected wife, Simon finds himself going farther than he had intended - and finds, too, that Charlotte is rather more than she appears. Praise for Alan Judd:
A touchingly intimate yet scorchingly dramatic and fully realised view of a couple who meet just before the Second World War. This is a relationship tale that took hold of me, brought me to its very centre and allowed me access to innermost thoughts and feelings. Martin and Nancy fall in love, as Martin departs for the battlefields of France, they continue to communicate by letter, until suddenly Martin’s letters stop. My advice to you is to pick this book up, start to read, and whatever you do, do not allow the final few pages to fall open before you reach them. For me the ending was a heart-stopping moment, and is still very much in my mind, the emotion of the realisation continues to affect me. The letters are exquisitely crafted, with real heart, tying into the story perfectly and bringing a sense of nostalgia for this type of communication. S. C. Worrall allows the war to edge ever closer, until it strikes with a sharp hammer blow. The Very White of Love takes you step by step into another time, heartfelt and beautiful I can wholeheartedly recommend this read.
Lucy, Edgar and Florence are a fractured family dealing with the loss of Frank, a husband, a father and son whose body was never recovered. Lucy and Frank were both wild horses, with Edgar born into the throes of their frenetic relationship. Now he’s a drifting soul, an albino named after Edgar Allan Poe, stumbling through childhood under the protective eye of his grandmother, mystified by the behaviour of his hollowed mother, with her butcher boyfriend and perplexing remoteness. At once epic and intimate, and laced with affecting detail, this powerfully poetic work is suffused in acutely moving evocations of loss (“It was as if grief had impregnated her, the dark seed of it a living havoc in her belly”), and the satisfyingly complex story unwinds with un-put-down-able aplomb. I loved every perfectly-chosen, perfectly-placed word.
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a book to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with the story. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
A thrilling, chilling, shocking tale, perfect if you take delight in an icy shiver scuttling down your spine. A couple leaves their life behind them to join a commune in a former psychiatric hospital, events soon start to spin terrifyingly out of control. The prologue pounced on my imagination, I was immediately hooked and remained so until the very last page was turned. Several different characters take their turn in the spotlight in the present day, while a journal from the past casts a further shadow over proceedings. S.J.I Holliday weaves the different strands of the story together beautifully, each settling over the other while twisting thoughts and feelings. As I read my reasoning teetered one way and then the other. A supernatural presence heightens the tension further and my mind and heart fairly skittered in anticipation at what was to come. The Lingering is an exquisitely eerie tale, and I loved every single word of it.
'My mum always said, a fistful of rings is as good as a knuckleduster' As the Great Smog falls over London in 1952, Florrie Palmer has a choice to make. Will she stay with the Cutters, a gang of female criminals who have terrorized London for years and are led by her own mother? Or leave it all behind to make a safer, duller life with the man she loves? And what will she do if she's too crooked to go straight, and too good to go bad? Over the next five days, Florrie will have to find her own path and the courage to stumble along it - in a fog so thick that she can't see her own feet. Following the last days of a crumbling female gang in post-war London, this is a story of family, of love, of finding your way, and of deciphering a route through the greyest areas of morality.
This gorgeous festive book sweeps you up in a great big squishy loving hug. A glorious beach hut acts as a haven for Lizzy after she runs away from the stress of Christmas. Will her family realise what they are missing without her there to cater to their every need, and can Lizzy fall back in love with Christmas? I simply adore Veronica Henry’s writing, I smile as I’m reading, and she has the wonderful ability to make feelings, moods and issues relatable. From little tots, charming dogs, and tricky teens, through to a despicable bully, weary mum, and lonely grandmother, the characters fill the pages with a vibrant energy. There is a warmth to the writing that just settled over me in a lovely affectionate embrace. Christmas at the Beach Hut is a book you can curl up with, relax into, and really enjoy, and it is also perfect for anyone who adores Christmas in all its wonderful slightly mad glory. Featured in the LoveReading Christmas Gift Guide.
Thirty very different pieces about extraordinary women, keenly observed and astute. They cover the spectrum from triumphant to pathetic, sad to humerous, surprising to surreal. There is the woman who unravels, another who grows wings, one who secretly paints her grass green, one talks to ducks, one slips through a timeless crack and another is put on a shelf. Some will irritate, others make you laugh or cry. Do not read too many together else you will lose the flavour. I would believe it to be a good bedside book, read two or three a night and take the next day pondering and digesting them before the next batch. I also believe it would make an excellent Christmas present for any woman any age.
Taking in McCarthyism, personal and political distrust, constraints on women in mid-century America and fundamental moral questions around power and betrayal, this ambitious novel is as complex as its subject, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who co-created the atomic bomb. Hailed a hero for his role in developing the bomb, then denounced for his Communist Party connections, this discloses Oppenheimer’s contradictions through the perspectives of seven varied and compelling characters at different points in time. The secret service agent who trails Oppenheimer remarks that “another person is a mystery”, and this novel certainly bears that out with its positing of a fundamental question - can we ever truly know another person? Illuminating and thought-provoking, this is a fine work of historical fiction with intellectual bite and emotional resonance.
Before A Christmas Carol there was... Miss Marley A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister `tomorrow will be better' and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price. And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart... In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope - a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.
Brimming with black magic, sex and intrigue, a gorgeous historical novel for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Santa Montefiore. The Russian Empire is on the verge of collapse. Revolution is in the air. The starving stalk the streets of St Petersburg and yet the Imperial Court still commute between their estates and organise their lavish balls. Two sisters arrive in the city. Princesses from Montenegro; they are famed for their wild beauty and mystical powers. Initially ridiculed and outcast as the daughters of a provincial 'Goat King', they react in the only way they know how. They befriend the isolated Tsarina Alexandra and, using their gifts, they help her in her increasingly desperate quest to give birth to a son and heir. The circle closes. The girls are the gateway. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools and charlatans all try their luck. Then in one last, doomed, throw of the dice, the sisters introduce Rasputin into the Russian Court... Based on the true story of the lives of Princess Militza and Princess Anastasia of Montenegro during the dying days of the Russian Empire, The Witches of St Petersburg is a tale of love, lust, power and betrayal at the heart of the Romanov Court.
The name Kamal Ahmed wasn’t familiar to me when I was first introduced to this book. It should have been. In my defence, I would argue that, as I watch little television, I may be forgiven. The case against me, however, would certainly point out that since one of my favourite programmes is BBC News – where Kamal has, since 2016, regularly appeared in his role as Economics Editor – I really ought to have recognised him. Hopefully, I will be forgiven. Kamal Ahmed is a first generation descendent of a Sudanese immigrant father. I am third generation, through my grandmother’s family who come from South Africa – they were Xhosa and, I learned many years ago, from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela. And so, it was with an ever-increasing sense of déjà vu that I became absorbed by this book. Through a series of personal anecdotes, political comment and astute observations, The Life and Times of a Very British Man makes a compelling case for a new debate about what is it to be British, what makes us who we are and how we view those we consider to be ‘others’. I don’t use the word ‘absorbed’ lightly. Kamal is a talented writer, something apparent from the very first pages. He uses language skilfully, not so much to impress, but to present his arguments logically and passionately. He is perceptive, reasoning and persuasive. And he is absolutely right as he asks the reader to consider what it is that makes us British? Kamal Ahmed. Not a terribly British name is it? That antithesis is, perhaps, something that makes the title of this work so germane. What is it to be British? To quote the author, he likes National Trust Houses, the Specials, Victoria sponge cake and double-cooked chips. What is it that makes us feel British? At times disturbing, at times amusing, The Life and Times of a Very British Man asks searching questions about us, our country and our attitude to change. One day I hope to meet Kamal Ahmed and explain to him how, as I reached the end of this book, I realised a complete stranger had become a friend. I hope it does the same for you. I recommend it.
A stunningly original ocean adventure by a one-of-a-kind author whose work defies convention and abounds with a purity of ideas and execution. Kel was “always running away from something”, seeking escape “from the world she inhabited within and the world that bullied her from the outside”. She’s a swamper, born oceans apart from the wealthy tower people who live in the same Cornish coastal community. She’s also an unforgettable heroine, a girl with danger in her eyes, a baby to care for and “a stupid heart that beat wrong and was shaped wrong and had wrongness stretched clean through it”. Kel “didn’t want what the tower people had; she only wanted two things, a heart she could rely on and freedom from kin”, which is why she kidnaps Rose, the daughter of a cargo ship captain. Kel plans to use her ill-gotten gains to travel to South America to have a heart operation, because in the UK “swamp folk don’t get operations”. Aboard the ship Kel tracks down Rose and forces her to board a smaller vessel, soon running into trouble when the engine fails amidst scenes of devastation on the mainland. Steering clear of well-worn clichés, Carthew’s stories cut to the heart of human experience, often portraying and championing life’s underdogs and outsiders. What a thrilling, thought-provoking novel this is, brimming with perilous encounters, and the rawness of real-life relationships.
Buckle up for an exhilarating, twisting, tormenting ride, Throne of Glass fans! The long-awaited conclusion to this expansive, thrill-a-minute extravaganza of high-stakes sass and skirmishes is here, and it certainly won’t disappoint the author’s legions of readers. Indomitable Aelin has dealt with everything that’s been thrown at her during her superhuman journey from slave to assassin to leader, but she now faces – of course! - her greatest, most tortuous challenge yet. Surrendering to the Queen of the Fae would mean dooming her loved ones’ destinies, but things aren’t looking hopeful from inside the iron coffin the Queen has her locked in, and she must muster every last drop of fight. There’s grit and glamour, gutsiness and conflict, not to mention the unexpected turns taken by characters readers are truly invested in. The sheer scale of this immense six book series means it’s quite a commitment to sign-up to, but its continued success shows that it’s a commitment fans of epic, female-fronted fantasy are gratified with making. As ever, the writing is crisp, direct, and dialogue-driven, with plenty of visual fireworks thrown in. A fitting finale, if ever there was one.
An absolute wow of a relationship tale, gloriously beautiful yet it may well have broken my heart. Ben travels to Africa and volunteers at a lion reserve, as we remain with him in the present, we also look back to his past, where he meets Andrew, who keeps a Wish Box. When Louise writes it feels touchable, even if I have not experienced the emotions she describes I can feel them deep inside me. I remained in every moment, moving with the words, the feelings, knowing I was heading into unchartered territory, yet unable to pause, to stop reading. Another story heads each chapter, linking Ben and Andrew, yet creating a separate connection. As I neared the ending, I will admit to sobbing, the story hit me low in my stomach, unexpected, yet as true and real and felt as could be. Louise Beech has done it again, this will most definitely be on my list of favourite reads of the year. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a relationship tale with a difference, it is tender, gripping, eloquent, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.
First there was The Guilty Wife. Now read Elle Croft's next twisty psychological suspense novel, The Other Sister. How far would you go... Gina Mills is desperate to be a newsreader, but her boss - the director of the struggling Channel Eight, won't help. Walking home one night, Gina stumbles upon a dead body, and after calling the police, she makes the split-second decision to report the murder live. When questioned by the police, Gina can't remember specific details about her discovery, but these memory gaps are explained away as shock. ...to uncover your family's deadly secret? But when Gina finds a second body, it's clear she's being targeted. But why? And how is this connected to the death of Gina's younger sister so many years ago?
Heartbreaking and uplifting, the story of the workhouse orphan, Eliza, will touch your heart... Eliza was left as a small baby at the workhouse in Whitechapel, wrapped in her mother's shawl, which is all she has of the mother she never knew. At eleven years-old, she has survived sickness, near starvation and harsh beatings. Master Simpkins and his cruel daughter rule the workhouse with a rod of iron, but when Romany boy, Joe, arrives at the workhouse, his spirit and courage give Eliza hope that another life is waiting for her outside. When she is sold into service, Eliza is relieved to be out of the workhouse and hopes her fortunes are changing for the better, but cruelty and unkindness are everywhere and her salvation could become her ruin...
Uplifting and delightful, The Year That Changed Everything is another gorgeous read from Cathy Kelly. Three women have three milestone birthdays on the same day, they don’t know each other, yet a featherlight connection binds them together. In one day, the day of their birthdays, a bombshell shatters the life Callie knew, Sam’s waters break but she might not be ready for motherhood, while Ginger is forced to reconsider who she wants to be. These women aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, yet they are just so likeable and relatable I would be more than happy to be their friend... to hug, to console, to cheer them on. I just adore Cathy Kelly’s books, she writes with a lovely warmth and kindness, beautifully engages with women across the years, and doesn’t shy away from reality. I found myself sinking into a delicious story that wrapped itself around me, and even with heart-ache along the way, The Year That Changed Everything is ultimately a captivating, enjoyable, feel-good read.
Gosh, just stunning! For me, this is the very definition of a must-read… eloquent, absorbing, absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought The Last Hours (which you really do need to read first) was exquisitely engaging and satisfying, and I enjoyed The Turn of Midnight just as much, perhaps even more as the characters were known to me, beloved by me. Lady Anne and educated serf Thaddeus have joined forces to prevent the Black Death from decimating their community. As they attempt to secure the independence of Develish however, trouble continues to haunt them, to hunt them down. Maps and a summary of the people, places and events from The Last Hours ensured I was able to step straight into the story. Minette Walters has the most beautiful voice, my soul became at one with the words. I sank so fully into the story that I was surprised at the end of each chapter when I suddenly came to and became aware of my surroundings. The time, the place are vibrantly alive, I could touch kindness, smell bitterness, taste fear. Please, please, please let there be more! The Turn of Midnight is a powerful, gripping read, and yes I am gushing most effusively over it, that’s because it really is rather wonderful and I highly recommend buying yourself a copy.
From the number one bestselling author, Peter James, comes an explosive standalone thriller that will grip you and won't let go until the very last page. Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn't answer the phone call that would change his life - and possibly the world - for ever. `I'd just like to assure you I'm not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I've recently been given absolute proof of God's existence - and I've been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.' What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences? This question and its answer lie at the heart of Absolute Proof, an international thriller from bestselling author Peter James. The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life's work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world's major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence . . .
This book is Melmoth. It's pages reach out, take you by the hand and walks you through each of the character's lives, making you bear witness to moral complexities navigated by each character. The Interweaving narratives introduced with the strange manuscript bound me to this book and didn't release me until the final page. I still feel the tingle on the back of my neck - like the book is nearby, watching and waiting... Sarah Perry's writing is a lesson in the mastery of the English language, with the poetic fluidity of the River Elbe. Although this book is rather demure, it packs a real punch and manages to combine history, folklore and morality to create a thrilling allegory of ignorance and narrow sightedness.
What? You haven’t read a Stella Rimington novel! Don’t worry, nor had I… and even better The Moscow Sleepers can easily be read as a standalone novel. If you are now feeling rather smug as you are already well on board this particular series then I trust you won’t be disappointed. I now plan to start at the beginning and read the first ten in the ‘Liz Carlyle’ novels as I trust they will be just as addictive. Liz Carlyle becomes embroiled in a case that appears to be fractured and confusing, gradually however the pieces begin to slide, one by one into deadly place. As you’d expect, Stella Rimington writes with a commanding pen, I felt in safe and secure hands as I sank below the surface into the dangerous world of international intelligence. An intricate web with a number of characters weaved together in the most utterly believable way. The Moscow Sleepers isn’t sexy, fickle, excitable fantasy, instead I felt as though I was in a completely plausible world, one that particularly at the moment, feels all too heart in mouth real - highly recommended.
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