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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
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.
“Forty-six days, thirteen states, 3000 miles”. Documenting the author’s solo coast-to-coast road-trip across America, David Reynolds’s Slow Road to San Francisco is an absolute joy. An entertaining blend of observation and commentary delivered with a luminous lightness of touch. Buckle up for read that’s radiant with the author’s wit, charm and keen eye for people and place - everything you’d want from an on-the-road companion. Beginning on the Atlantic Coast and winding up on San Francisco’s Pacific Coast - “because Europeans landed on the east coast of the landmass that they named America, and moved slowly west until they reached the other side” - the author’s journey across Route 50 documents edifying encounters that reveal as much about America and the world as they do about the individuals themselves. Though Route 50 is known as the loneliest road in America (and it’s one of the few remaining two-lane highways in the country), Reynolds is never short of people to talk to. Through conversations with bartenders, gas station attendants and motel staff, and the assorted personalities he meets in bars, cafés and museums along the route (among them war veterans, judges and friendly bikers), it truly feels like you’re on the road with him. Peeling back layers of Native American history, slave history and contemporary politics (everyone the author meets has something to say about Trump, and often Brexit too), usually with a glass of IPA to hand, this is life-affirming, enlightening stuff. Perhaps what stands out above all else is a generosity of spirit, both on the part of the people who freely share their time, opinions and tables with Reynolds, and on the part of the author himself. Like all the best road-trips, I didn’t want this ride to end.
Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.
From the detailed domestic scenes dappled with loss, love, hardship and hanging on, to sweeping waves of war, the rare power of Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King creeps up on you, catches you unaware, becomes compulsive in the manner of complex classics of the ancient world. It’s 1935 in Ethiopia and newly-orphaned Hirut is employed as a maid by an officer in Emperor Hailie Selassie’s army. In her previous life, Hirut’s father taught her to use a gun: “This, he says, you do not touch unless you are prepared. Prepared for what, she asks. He slips the bullet back into his pocket. Prepared to be something you are not.” And this is what Hirut is prepared for when Ethiopia is invaded by Mussolini’s vengeful army. Not content to merely care for the wounded, she devises a plan and rouses women to rise up and fight. As they shift from being housewives, to nurses, to warriors, their stories are haunting, harrowing and stirring, and this novel confirms Mengiste’s status as a writer blessed with lyrical bravery and unique vision. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Punchy, sharp, and strong, this is a thriller that delivers in spades. A New York law firm comes under attack when secret documents from a prominent fraud case are lost. Corporate lawyer Elizabeth Carlyle hires ex-CIA officer Valencia Walker to discretely solve the case. Author Patrick Hoffman keeps you on your toes, I was launched straight in, and found that I hit the ground running. Snippets of juicy information are released, and it’s up to you to catch them. The fast moving plot introduces a host of interesting characters and problems that need to be solved. Questions are raised early on and I found myself wondering just who could be trusted. A few deliberate holes and trip wires are left in wait for the unwary, ensuring my mind was sifting through the puzzles as I read. This is one heck of a fascinating, murky and intricate world. The ending came as a shock, and I personally enjoyed the few enticing strands that tempted my thoughts to continue. Clean Hands is an action-packed treat of a read and LoveReading book of the month.
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.
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.
So beautifully written you can just slip into this gentle wander through Botswana alongside the kind and astute investigations of Mma Ramotswe. During a quiet patch at the agency, Precious has friends in need and Charlie is placed in a difficult position. If you haven’t read any of this much loved series, do start at the beginning with the aptly named The No:1 Ladies Detective Agency. We are now at the twentieth novel and the absolute charm of these books is in getting to know the characters (Mma Makutsi is a personal favourite). Alexander McCall Smith excels in creating a light yet warm atmosphere where he quietly looks at complex issues. Human nature in all its wonder is examined with mellow observations and compassionate wit sitting alongside the vivid heat of Botswana as it waits for rain. To The Land Of Long Lost Friends is a lovely, affectionate read and a fine addition to this celebrated series.
Hugely entertaining, tick. Multifaceted, tick. Intelligent, tick. Start of a new series, tick, tick, tick. Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven investigates the death of a young champion ice-skater, while also assessing Evie. Evie is in secure care after experiencing severe trauma and she has the gift (or curse) of being able to tell when someone is lying. Chapter one hooked me, a few more chapters in and another snare caught me, raising questions, leaving me wanting more. Short, intense chapters are written either from Evie’s viewpoint or that of Cyrus. Both characters intrigued me, leaving my thoughts knocking at the door to understanding. Two stories with Cyrus acting as the link gradually twist together to create one fascinating tale. I gobbled up this book, there were surprises waiting in unexpected places, and moments of calm when I was wary. Good Girl, Bad Girl is a wow of a start to a new series that promises much indeed. Not only a book of the month, I’ve also chosen it to sit as a LoveReading star book too. Books in The Cyrus Haven Series: 1. Good Girl, Bad Girl 2. When She Was Good Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.
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!
An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views. Mma Ramotswe is troubled by a strange smell in her van, her new neighbour causes concern, and a distant cousin asks for help. Can you believe that we are now at book twenty-one in this evocative series which began with The No:1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998? Do you have a favourite, I think this could well be mine…though as with all good series that create a world for you to inhabit, the latest usually becomes your most treasured! There is a graceful ease to the words of Alexander McCall Smith, he is so gently yet evocatively descriptive and as soon as I started to read a sense of ease enveloped me. The pace slows, the small things matter, and Mma Ramotswe is just glorious. How to Raise an Elephant really is the most delightful read, and it deserves to be included as a LoveReading Star Book.
A cracking and class-act of a crime novel stuffed full of atmosphere and detail which skilfully sits alongside a truckload of tension. Journalist Martin Scarsden plans on a new start in Port Silver, Australia. On arrival he finds his childhood friend murdered, and his partner is number one suspect. While this could be read as a standalone novel, I recommend starting with Scrublands, Chris Hammer’s debut novel which won The Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy New Blood Award in 2019. The author has been a journalist for over 25 years and I feel his knowledge is anchored in this tale. This is a satisfyingly long read which sets a quite wonderful scene before the story really takes off. Australia sings and Port Silver becomes a known town, with a map planting the locations firmly in mind. I sank in and only came up for air a couple of times. I feel this a beautifully balanced novel, the storyline, setting, characters, and potential for the next book all smoothly combining into one effortlessly compelling read. Silver just has to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, it is a vibrant, sweeping, fabulous read.
You are Positively Awesome is a book that’s designed to be noticed, from the bright colourful illustrations that cheered me up instantly, the short snappy wording that made me think about my own needs and the self-empowering messages that left me glowing inside. This book could have been written just for me as, like many, I struggle with self-confidence and self-belief at times. It’s important to remember that so many other people – often people we least expect – do feel the same way too. Stacie Swift has written a clear, concise guide to taking care of the number one person in our life – ourselves. Because if we don’t do that properly, we may find it harder to take care of anyone else. It’s easy to forget the positives in our lives if we focus on the negatives, and easy to ignore the giant leaps forward when we dwell on each little step back. This is a perfect book to dip into when you need a boost of self-care; a book that you may want to add to over time, reminding yourself of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve overcome to achieve it. It’s also a lovely gift if you know someone is struggling to cope with life’s ups and downs. You are Positively Awesome made me reflect on the past, think about the present and dream of the future – that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at times and focus on my own needs for a while. It made me smile, reminded me of my own strengths and achievements, gave me some valuable ‘me’ time and made me realise just how ‘positively awesome’ I really am!
A beautifully thoughtful, hopeful, and compelling read that ran wild in my mind and tugged at my heartstrings. It’s 1858 and three women are pushing the boundaries of what it is to be a woman. Spiritualism, seances, and the capturing of something otherworldly sit centre stage, dissected by newspaper reports and other material that splinters connections being made. Julie Cohen cleverly reveals information in the reports that increases tension, and left me itching with concern for what was to happen. Occasionally we travel back in time which encouraged my thoughts to hesitate and reform. The relationships unfurled slowly, almost gently, allowing time to become acquainted with each character. Mindful, vivid, and strong, Spirited explores death, grief, faith, class and gender, while at its heart relationships expand to make this such an engaging and rewarding novel.
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.
With characteristic vision and grace Meg Rosoff has done it again in this exquisite novel that merits a place alongside I Capture the Castle, Bonjour Tristesse and The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) for its coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence excellence. Though contemporary, it feels timeless and elementally affecting, much like the Great Godden’s impact on the family whose story it tells. With an idyllic seaside summer stretching ahead, the tingling anticipation of The Great Godden’s unnamed teenage narrator is deliciously palpable: “This year is going to be the best ever: the best weather, the best food, the best fun. The actors assembled, the summer begins.” But there are still two more actors to take to the stage - enter the Godden brothers in a shiny black car. The narrator’s older sister Mattie is immediately smitten by magnetic, handsome, self-assured Kit: “She was desperate to lose her virginity, and what sort of person would say no to Mattie? Surely not some movie star’s kid, fresh off the plane?” Though Mattie is certainly attractive, it’s obvious that charmer Kit has the upper hand of any situation, but might he also be a trouble-maker, as his curt, less-of-a-looker brother warns? Such wonderings underpin some of this novel’s essence. With the stage fully set and summer speeding towards the climax of a wedding, it poses fundamental questions about motivation, and the nature of agency, of lust, of the desire to be seen for who you are. Quivering with unease, passion and paranoia, it also reveals how past experiences engrave themselves upon us, creating fault-lines that may crack and cause future ructions. Sophisticated, seductive and smoothly readable, this is a summer story par excellence, and a coming-of-age tale for all times.
An intriguing, pulsing, provocative mystery that really kept me on my toes. Olivia is affected by night terrors, her past comes back to haunt her when she wakes in the middle of the night to find herself standing over a body in her garden. We’ve reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed all of Megan Miranda’s novels at LoveReading. I particularly love the sharp teetering edge of the relationship that develops between the reader and the main characters. Here, my trust for Olivia felt patchy and uncertain, her past is everything. Megan Miranda cleverly evoked emotions in me that Olivia had been feeling for years. The balance of suspense and information was held on a wire as my thoughts were nudged one way and then the other. As the pace increased so did the tension. The Girl From Widow Hills really highlights the dangers of secrets and lies, and it was only when I’d finished that I was finally able to take a deep breath and relax!
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.
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.
The Queen of Skin Care Caroline Hirons delivers a beautifully put-together stroke-able book which covers everything you ever need to know about a great skincare routine. Her usual straight-talking non-nonsense advice shines out of the book, and I know this will follow through to my skin as I start to embed these routines into my life. This holds your hand and takes you through how skin works, top tips for great skin, routines, as well as dispelling decades of skincare myths. This is the most comprehensive guide for the perfect complexion, choosing the right products, understanding your skin’s unique needs and feeling gorge. Caroline, I’m hooked, and I promise I will never not double cleanse again.
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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