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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
The perfect pick-me-up, this book delivers plenty of romance, smiles, and most importantly enfolds you in a lovely satisfying storyline too. Minnie would rather spend her birthday on New Years Day hiding under her duvet, as far as she’s concerned the last and first day of the year is jinxed. Then she meets Quinn who shares her birthday but otherwise appears to waltz through life, and the attraction is undeniable. Sophie Cousens has the most lovely refreshing style, a lightness of touch and sparkling wit walks hand in hand with considerate contemplation and emotion. Travelling back to the past ensured we saw what had affected, shaped and changed these two characters. I loved the ping-pong of little morsels of information, popping up to build a picture that we had access to, but Abbie and Quinn remained unaware of. Missed chances is the main theme here, but there is so much more on offer too, with access to Quinn ensuring this wasn’t just a one way Minnie street. The supporting characters are a lively bunch, with a mixture of personalities and issues keeping things interesting. Romantic, yes most definitely, This Time Next Year is also an amusing, thoughtful, and friendly read too.
A wonderful game for all the family, this really would make the most beautiful gift to celebrate the wonder of nature. Based on the best-selling book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris this is a game for two to four players from the age of 8 and up. The Lost Words was one of our Books of the Year in 2017, and the more recent The Lost Spells is another LoveReading Star Book, these are books to celebrate and treasure. The card game has been created in conjunction with the authors, and is firmly embedded within the ideology found in the books. The cards are large (tarot size), feel luxurious to touch, and the pack contains the beautiful artwork of Jackie Morris (Nature Cards), spells of Robert Macfarlane (Spell Cards), and Special Cards which instruct an action, such as fishing for a Spell Card or sealing and protecting a completed pair. The aim of the game is to be the first player to place a matching Spell Card, on to all of your displayed Nature Cards. I would suggest you thoroughly read the instructions before starting, and perhaps form a few rules of your own, such as when you match a Spell and Nature Card, you read or chant or sing the spell! The game takes roughly 30 minutes, I was thoroughly beaten when playing for the first time. I would say there is a small amount of skill involved, but it is mostly down to the luck of the draw, which means all of the family can play together. The Lost Words Card Game would make the perfect stocking filler for Christmas, and comes with a celebratory thumbs up from me.
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.
A truly fascinating investigative piece focusing on journalist and ghost hunter Nandor Fodor who researched Alma Fielding in 1938 after a poltergeist attack. Described as historical narrative non fiction, Kate Summerscale opens a door into the world of spiritualism just as the Second World War was starting. Her prologue explains that she visited the Society for Psychical Research to look up Nandor Fodor and found his original papers including the dossier on Alma. It contained transcripts of her seances, interviews, lab reports, x-rays copies of her contracts, notes, sketches and photographs. The author sets out to explore the link between suffering and the supernatural. This is as much about Fodor as it is Fielding, their link at times almost disturbing. The story is laid out before you, Kate Summerscale thoughtfully relays the information without prejudice, and doesn’t judge, allowing the reader to form their own thoughts. The Haunting of Alma Fielding is a riveting read encouraging thorough yet reflective reasoning that is likely to continue long after the tale is told.
Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
Imparting wisdom from across two decades, Philip Pullman’s Dæmon Voices shares a generous banquet of thought-provoking insights into the art of story-telling and Pullman’s personal processes and passions. As the book’s editor, Simon Mason, writes in his introduction, Pullman is “interested in, above all, human nature, how we live and love and fight and betray and console one another. How we explain ourselves to ourselves,” and this all-encompassing ethos is reflected here, with essays covering everything from the responsibilities of the storyteller, how stories work, and authors’ intentions, to William Blake, Oliver Twist, and writing fantasy realistically. The tone is lively, ablaze with clear-sighted wit, no matter how complex the subject, with many pieces having been delivered at conferences. One of my personal favourites is “Let’s Write it in Red” which begins with an anecdote about a train journey during which the author witnessed children demonstrating the “two great principles of storytelling”. The first principle is that there are rules - among them stories must begin and have unity, and storytellers mustn’t be afraid of the obvious. Stories must have a destination too, and storytellers “must design the path so that it leads to the destination most surely, and with the maximum effect.” The second principle relates to form: “if the story is a path, then to follow it you have to ignore quite ruthlessly all the things that tempt you away from it. Your business as a storyteller is with the path, not the wood.” To these, Pullman adds a third - knowledge. Storytellers should “become more interested in your subject-matter than in the way you appear to others to be dealing with it.” With each of the 32 essays embodying these astute principles, Dæmon Voices is a trove of enlightenment, and entertaining to boot.
Full of captivating charm this is a novel where secrets shelter, friendships form, grief is exposed, and romance hovers in the background. Injured army doctor Trevor Benson returns from Afghanistan to an inherited cabin in North Carolina, he is immediately attracted to deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson and intrigued by teenager Callie who was friends with his grandfather. It’s been 24 years since his wonderful debut The Notebook was published, and The Return is Nicholas Sparks 22nd novel. His books have been translated into 55 languages, all have been international bestsellers, 11 have been adapted into major films and you can see why. The prologue took me to 2019 and sent a hint of mystery thrumming through the pages before returning to five years earlier. The Return blossomed into a vividly painted picture in my mind, which in turn set in motion a moving story. It is slow to build, to reveal itself, yet is full of interest and gave access to knowledge which enabled me fill in the jigsaw pieces. I occasionally felt a little uncomfortable with Trevor’s unwavering pursuit of Natalie, but don’t forget this is very much written from his perspective and for a while the full picture hovers just out of sight. When the ending neared and understanding came, I settled in and waited with interest to return to Trevor in 2019. The Return is a thoroughly enjoyable and effortlessly readable romantic mystery, oh, and you get to meet some bees too!
The past haunts the present and future in this dramatic, compelling and memorable crime novel. It’s the early 1990’s in South Brooklyn and a number of characters, from crooked cops to heartbroken widows, stand staring into the valley between life and death. The prologue focuses on three men, within a few words I knew them, their structure and substance. Each chapter highlights a different character, with individual stories spiralling together, the twists and turns a consequence of actions taken. This is a ballsy read, a dark path to take, and yet there is a purity to the writing. The lightest of touches direct moments that slide together in an inevitable collision course. I love the way William Boyle writes, and can also highly recommend another of his novels, Gravesend. He has the wonderful ability to allow you to see people from the inside out, their essence paints a vivid image even in the darkest of moments. There are times when it feels as though you are watching a film, descriptions build the most comprehensive of pictures. City of Margins is a first-rate read and a LoveReading Star Book, highly recommended.
Sparked by the gargantuan global popularity of English Heritage’s The Victorian Way YouTube series, How to Cook the Victorian Way presents the life and recipes of the real Mrs Crocombe. Head cook at Audley End House from 1878 to 1884, her handwritten cookery book was passed down through her family and uniquely reveals the tastes and dining habits of Victorian Britons. With context on Audley End House, “one of the greatest houses of Jacobean England”, and absorbing detail on the kitchens of Mrs Crocombe’s era (the book is co-authored by Andrew Hann, head of the historians’ team at English Heritage), her recipes have been modernized by food historian Annie Gray, yet retain their authenticity. Some of them are familiar - pancakes, ginger beer, macaroni cheese, trifle and spotted dick - then there are more outlandish dishes too (to modern tastes, at least), such as mock turtle soup, larded sweetbreads and squab pie. This beautifully presented, meticulously researched compendium is a true treat for gourmands looking to expand their culinary repertoire - perfect for inspiring flamboyant Victorian ‘Come Dine with Me’ dinner parties.
A beautifully gentle yet pointed, and amusing yet thoughtful, feel-good relationship tale. When head teacher and separated mum of two Lucy, meets butcher, babysitter, and aspiring DJ Joseph, their age gap is just one of the obstacles in their path to finding love. This isn’t an overly sensational or dramatic tale, it’s more subtle than that, though it does cover three years during and after the EU referendum. Don’t groan, as Nick Hornby looks back in the most mindful way possible. Thoughts are provoked and rich pickings are to be found, as lots of little lightbulb moments clicked on as I read. The plot settled in the lightest of dances through some pretty weighty subjects. It’s not shouty, or finger-pointy, a relationship is created within a set of circumstances that allows you to form your own thoughts. I feel Nick Hornby has written the perfect story for anyone suffering from Covid 19 blues. Just Like You is an incredibly uplifting, engaging and stimulating read, and I absolutely loved it.
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.
A hugely dramatic, intimate and yet expansive family saga that comes with ‘LoveReading Highly Recommended’ stamp, stamped, stamped all over it. Kittiwake, a Cornish holiday mansion originally bought by American heiress Peggy in the late 1940’s, has been handed down through the family. In 2018 the property has been returned to its former glory and a hugely elaborate party is planned, yet echoes of the past have come to haunt the present. The half page prologue most definitely intrigues, it captured my attention and left me wanting more. The story slinks around in time, fleshing out events while creating more questions and all the time singing with lush vibrancy. With several individuals highlighted and featuring throughout the story, Jenny Eclair also turns a short spotlight on other family members. She has created the most beautifully observed characters, small details form an inner core and in a few sentences I felt I knew every last atom of them, and yet, and yet… they were still capable of surprising me. Circles of consequences spiral together and shape the most wonderfully readable story. I gobbled up the words, loved every minute, and the ending sent a shiver of goosebumps down my arms. Inheritance is a story that whispers, suggests, cajoles, sings, shrieks and it is a thoroughly amusing, entertaining, yet also fiercely emotion-packed read.
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All the books we feature on the site are featured because we think they deserve to stand out from the crowd of the many thousands of other titles published each month. However, sometimes in a month, we wish to give that little bit more emphasis to a title and to make it a 'Book of the Month'.
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