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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, it is quite simply, glorious.
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.
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.
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.
Oooh, this an absolute belter of a read, in fact my mind is still bouncing up and down in appreciation. Serial killer Lucien Folter has spent just over three years in solitary confinement plotting his revenge on the person who put him away, Robert Hunter, head of the LAPD’s Ultra Crime Unit. Lucien can easily be described as the most dangerous man you would NEVER wish to meet, and Hunter will need all of his wits about him. Meet the 10th in the Robert Hunter Thriller series which actually follows on from the 6th An Evil Mind. Yes, yes, of course you should read An Evil Mind (and the others) first, but such is the writing, you could successfully read this as a standalone and thoroughly enjoy it. Chapter one hits with hammer hard precision and each of the following short shocks of chapters have the same impact. Just be aware that this is a rather graphic read (in terms of violence), well, you are dealing with the FBI’s most prolific murderer! Even so Chris Carter somehow makes evil personified human too, and dare I say that I find Lucien one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read. Hunting Evil has zoomed its way into our LoveReading Star Books, this is full-on supercharged reading entertainment at its best.
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A delightfully readable, emotional, warm and witty relationship tale. This is Milly Johnson’s 17th novel, and I still look forward to them, each feels fresh, different, and I just know I will have a lovely reading experience. Friendships form and love whispers hello at a counselling group, will it be recognised or even welcomed? If you haven’t read any of her books before, just be aware that there are plenty of emotional subjects to discover along the way, you just have to read the book synopsis here to know that! The prologue sent a shiver coursing through me, grief has kept company with many of the characters. Milly Johnson approaches the more difficult side of life with true compassion. Here, there are also some wickedly funny excerpts from the local paper which balance the story beautifully. Although your heart may well ache during, the overall feeling that I was left with after, was that I had just been given the hugest, squashiest hug. My One True North is a truly lovely read, and after I had turned the final page was left feeling fully satisfied and contented.
A magical, thoughtful, and gloriously wonderful little book. Cat Women would make a perfect gift, either for yourself, or someone else (and it really doesn’t have to be restricted to women who love cats, this is an engaging read full stop). Described as “an exploration of feline friendships and lingering superstitions” Alice Maddicott introduces us to cats and their role with humans through history before presenting second-hand photos and examining the relationship between the women and cats in the pictures. It is fascinating to view the suspicion that women with cats, particularly lone women, have come under over the years, ‘crazy cat lady’ and ‘witch’ are two of the more obvious labels. Alice Maddicott looks at the second-hand (orphan) photos with an almost forensic yet beautifully whimsical eye. She spotted things that my first glance had completely missed, her thoughts take a breezy wander, yet she really sees the woman, and in particular, the cat in each picture. Opening up into the most readable and heartfelt book, Cat Women has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as it is all rather intriguing and absolutely delightful.
In 1957, five members of the Oxford University Mountaineering Club set out to reach the peak of Haramosh, a previously unclimbed mountain in the Karkoram range that extends from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. Karkoram is the second highest mountain range in the world, exceeded only by the nearby Himalaya. It’s highest peak, K2, is well known to mountaineers, perhaps less so to those of us not so well versed in that world. The Last Blue Mountain is the story of this ascent, and of the tragedy that unfolded. It is a tale not of success or failure, but of human spirit and the determination to survive. Originally published in 1959, this re-publication now contains an enlightening foreword by writer Ed Douglas, former editor of the Alpine Journal. Two of the four OUMC climbers died on Haramosh. A third was killed descending the Weisshorn in 1963. Tony Streather, the final member of the team, died in 2018 at the age of ninety-two. The opportunity to speak with these men is gone but, thanks to the excellent writing and research of Ralph Barker, the chance to learn from them and to live their story is not. As I reached the end of The Last Blue Mountain and closed the final page I confess I said a silent thanks. It was not just to the late Ralph Barker for writing this excellent book, but to Tony Streather and his fellow climbers, who are the kind of men who inspire us and whose tales of bravery and resilience will continue to enthral for generations to come.
Radiant with an infectious enthusiasm for life, Scottish writer Iain Maloney has created a playful, powerful page-turner in The Only Gaijin in the Village, a brilliant blend of memoir and travel writing at its most edifyingly entertaining. Maloney’s post-uni TEFL work led him to fall in love with Japan and his future wife Minori. After moving to Scotland, the couple chose to return to Japan as a result of “racist and elitist” Tory government immigration rules that made it near impossible for them to live together in the UK. “I have embraced exile. I am home,” he says of living in Japan, first in a city, before he and Minori relocate to a rural environment. Fiercely funny, the author’s voice is akin to being regaled by a witty friend’s pub anecdotes, with observations moving between lyrical eulogies to nature’s beauty and outright hilarity, such as when he describes a wild typhoon as a “blowy bastard”. From deciphering the codes of Japanese rural culture, to navigating trials of the natural world (including snakes, centipedes and behemoth bees), Maloney takes everything in his stride with an exhilarating can-do spirit. “Humans can get used to anything”, he blithely - and sagely - remarks. Maloney comically covers cultural culinary differences when he describes encountering whale bacon and flame-grilled snakes, but true to form counterbalancing comes when he mentions haggis in the same context. There are similarly entertaining accounts of his farming endeavors, from uncovering digging myths the hard way (“Where is this ground made of tofu that’s easier to dig than a Miles Davies solo?”), to his superb description of growing peas that possess “a smell and taste so evocative Proust could have bored the arse off half of France for decades”. Honest, amusing, humble and informative, with prescient political underpinnings (“every immigrant story is also an emigrant story. This is what the Right want us to forget. They want us to believe it’s all about them coming here, not about them leaving there...the term ‘expat’ is encoded racsim”), I can’t praise this highly enough.
This is a psychological thriller with real attitude, in fact, it might even be described as feisty. Meg and her daughter Grace are a true part of their community, the whole town is in shock when Meg is murdered and Grace discovered to be missing. Grace has been ill for years and may only have days to live without her medication, two local people desperate to save her, begin to investigate. This novel was inspired by the true life story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard in the USA, can I suggest (insist!) that you don’t look it up until you’ve finished the book, I was very patient and I’m so glad that I waited! Each chapter either focuses on investigative journalist Jon, or neighbour Cara, and their individual tales open the storyline into a widescreen panorama. My thoughts sped in one direction and then another as I read, focusing on the small, the intimate, burrowing into the minds of the characters. Emily Elgar tells this intricate tale with assurance, suggesting, introducing, opening information for our reading minds to analyse. Grace is Gone is fascinating and thrilling tale, it becomes all the more haunting when you realise it's based on a true story.
A masterful murder mystery, this folks, is how it is done! A celebrity wedding is taking place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, but before the celebration finishes, a murder and a storm hit with full force. I’ve adored all of Lucy Foley’s novels, from historical to crime, she is one of my must-read authors. She has used the same fabulous format as in the bestselling The Hunting Party but this still feels fresh, original and very much its own wonderfully distinct creation. I slipped into the storyline, got to know all of the characters, and started to sleuth my way through the secrets and intrigue. And oh what intrigue! The immediate lead up to the reveal made my inner investigator rub gleeful hands. The reveal itself, well, I just want to stand up and applaud Lucy Foley! Addictively readable and immensely satisfying The Guest List has star quality stamped all over it. Chosen as a LoveReading book of the month and LoveReading Star Book, we adore it! Lucy Foley is our Putting Authors in the Picture Feature for February. Check out her Q&A here!
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