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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
From the author of the divinely dark The Binding and several acclaimed novels for young adults, Bridget Collins’s The Betrayals murmurs with menace and the mystery of the grand jeu, an arcane intellectual game that melds music, maths, poetry and philosophy. The novel’s world - at once familiar and strange - is conjured with crystalline clarity and populated by a cast of distinctly charismatic characters. Set in an unnamed disintegrating European country in the 1930s, the story begins when thirty-two-year-old Leo is removed from his post as Minister for Culture and exiled to his former academy, the exclusive Montverre. Here the nation’s cleverest are schooled in the art of the grand jeu, and here Leo is forced to face tragedy from his past as he forms an unsettling connection with the academy’s new female Magister Ludi. Part homage to Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, this boasts a compellingly jolting plot that will keep readers on their toes, and a delicious dénouement - it’s a delight for lovers of literary conundrums. Find out more about Bridget Collins in our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' blog!
A seriously chilling, mind-burrowing read from a German author whose books have been translated into more than 24 languages. Emma reports being raped, she believes the offender was ‘the barber’ who killed his other victims, however she can’t convince the police or her husband. Sebastian Fitzek sent my emotions into overdrive in the prologue which was set 28 years previously, and they continued to race right through to the end. Hats off to translator Jamie Bulloch who ensured a seamless translation, the sense of place was strong, but I didn’t feel like an uneducated visitor in Berlin. Short, fierce chapters hit and ramped up the tension and certain thoughts were encouraged to conspire against me. The plot jerked at my scrutiny as it moved between now and three weeks earlier, with various characters being introduced and adding to the fabulous complexity of who, what, when, where, why, how! You may be successful in working it out, but will the journey be the one you were expecting? The Package is an intense psychological thriller full of plot-twisty action. Check out our Q&A with Sebastian Fitzek and a trailer for The Package on our Blog.
Oh how I adored this beautifully crafted and thought-provoking magic realist novel. The Thief on the Winged Horse sits in the real-world as we know it and contains an additional touch of magic. It also sways between genres including crime and relationship, yet feels as believable as can be. A world-famous doll making family is thrown into turmoil when their most valuable doll is stolen. These are dolls that can convey a single emotion to the person who holds them. Only the men in the Kendrick family know how to add the charm, only a Kendrick would know how to take the doll. Kate Mascarenhas adds mysterious layer upon layer to this novel, building an exquisite story. I immediately felt at home, the magic wasn’t meticulously explained, it was just there, sitting almost quietly in the background. This is a book where the world is known, but the enchantment isn’t, and my mind soared as I pondered and explored. I think it would make a perfect read for anyone wanting to take the first step into science fiction and fantasy novels. Multi-faceted, challenging, and entirely captivating, The Thief on the Winged Horse is a truly lovely read.
Hugely entertaining in a wonderfully witty and gentle way, this forms part of the 44 Scotland Street Series. While you could read A Promise of Ankles as a standalone novel and be perfectly and completely happy, you would be missing out on forming a relationship with the rest of series. From young Bertie (what a joy he is), through to student Torquil, and the Duke of Johannesburg, the variety of residents that greet you ensures an engaging read. As is the case with all of his books, the beauty of this read is in the detail. Alexander McCall Smith exquisitely places the finer points, delivering a lightness of touch that hits with precision. The detail matters, expanding and filling the space, allowing feelings freedom to mutter against Irene and delight in Cyril. By the way, the title is gorgeous, and connected to a certain someone, all will become clear! Chosen as a LoveReading star book, A Promise of Ankles delivers real life with a little extra sparkle and is the most lovely reading experience.
A suspense-filled, compulsively readable, energy-rush of a ride, and a book that I read in one sitting. Events take a decidedly dark turn when Kate Marshall is asked to investigate a death, and she and research assistant Tristan end up in a race to save the intended victim of a killer. This is the second in the Kate Marshall novels and if you are already a signed up fan, then Shadow Sands continues the series in wonderfully dramatic style. I do actually feel as though you could read this as a standalone novel (always the sign of a good writer), but to fully enjoy the storyline I recommend that you begin with the stonkingly good Nine Elms. Set two years after the last book, Robert Bryndza invites us further into the lives of Kate and Tristan and sets up one heck of a scary scenario, along with multiple suspects. He excels in creating a biting tension, and I found myself in that exquisite position of wanting to race ahead yet savour the story. Penetrating and chilling, Shadow Sands is thoroughly recommended if you like to be kept right on the very edge of your seat.
Spiralling down into darkness this fascinating and compelling historical novel is based on the true story of an inmate of Bethlam Royal Hospital (Bedlam) between 1800 to 1815. James Norris an American, was restrained, chained to a bar and confined in isolation for more than ten years, here Emily Bullock takes a look at possibilities and makes them fly. James tells his own tale, the words slinking, twisting, disappearing into the fog of his memory and thoughts. Bedlam broods its way through the centre of this story, with other inmates and the keepers affecting the atmosphere. As James visits the past in his mind, his relationship, role as seaman, and even Fletcher Christian, famous for his part in the mutiny on the Bounty all entwine to explain the man James has become. The writing sparked vivid details in my minds eye, and although my heart physically ached at times, there are also moments of hope to be found within the pages. Inside the Beautiful Inside is a rather special book, it opens a door and shines a penetrating light of awareness into the shadows of history. Highly recommended.
A fabulously perfect festive read that delivers oodles of heartwarming charm. This could easily be read as a standalone novel, but I do recommend starting with Happiness for Beginners as Christmas for Beginners continues the lovely story of Molly and Hope Farm. When I read the first few sentences: “One of the alpacas has eaten the Baby Jesus. I’m not sure which one. Frankly they all look the picture of innocence, but I know them better.” I knew I was in for a treat of a read. Carole Matthews takes the ‘up’ in uplifting and elevates it to a whole new level. She doesn’t shy away from the aches and pains of real life and it is this that makes her books so relatable. The characters of the farm animals ensure they sit front and centre, often eclipsing their human counterparts. Even here, in the middle of a freezing cold farm yard you can also discover humour, hugs, and merrymaking. Carole Matthews really is the most beautifully consistent writer and we just had to pop this into our LoveReading Star Books category. Christmas for Beginners is an absolute gift of a book and comes as highly recommended by me.
Thirty beautiful short stories written for Christmas sit within the pages of this book. George Mackay Brown (1921-1996) from Orkney, wrote these tales during the 1970’s and 80’s, and yet they somehow sit outside of time. As William S. Peterson says in the introduction: “Some of them are set in the ancient or medieval world; others seem to be taking place in the early twentieth century. Always, however, he insists upon collapsing the dissecting between the present and a shadowy past…”. Sometimes Christmas is obvious, while at others there is just a whisper as they sit within the Advent season, but these stories hold tradition, myth, childhood, family, and what it is to be human during this time of year. The wood and lino cuts are an additional treat. A story that is a particular favourite of mine is Dialogue at the Year’s End which sent a shiver of goosebumps cascading down my arms with the kiss of a fairytale, and brought a tear to my eye. Christmas Stories is the most lovely festive treasure, and would make a lovely stocking filler as it brings alive the human spirit and joy of Christmas.
Setting out to show “how the Roman military changed from one always on the front foot, driving the borders of the Republic and early Empire ever forward … to one acting as the bulwark on the Roman limes as offence turned to defence”, Dr Simon Elliott’s Romans at War draws on the huge canon of existing literature on the Roman military, while also being informed by the author’s pioneering primary research. Elliott’s scholarly lucidity is shot-through with an engaging, entertaining style, which means the keen layperson will find his exhaustive assessment of the Roman military’s key chronological phases (the Republic, the Principate Empire and the Dominate Empire) eminently accessible. Readers already familiar with literature on this subject will be especially interested in the author’s assertion that late Roman military leaders were effectively independent warlords. Elliott also shares new research into the Severan campaign in 3rd century Scotland, and offers a fresh evaluation of late Roman troops. Accompanied by a wealth of colour photography, and supported by a detailed timeline, thorough glossary and maps, this is a mightily impressive - and edifying - feat.
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.
With enough family drama and romance to please the most fervid romantic saga novel fan. This would also make a perfect gift as it starts and finishes at Christmas, with all the turmoil and excitement that the year between brings. As Sally Suggs struggles to continue the family rag-and-bone round in 1865, help comes from unexpected quarters. Sally is feisty, compassionate, and thoughtful, with two men quite obviously interested in her, she has a number of difficult decisions to make. Author Dilly Court has been writing novels for 15 years, and this is her 40th novel. She skilfully creates a story that gathers interesting characters, intrigue, and historical atmosphere to its heart. Rag-and-Bone Christmas is a warm-hearted, page-turning, festive feast of a novel. To find out more about Dilly Court, visit our LoveReadingLoves Channel - Fall in Love with Dilly Court
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.
At Lovereading we’re passionate about all the books we feature.
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'.
You’ll find those titles here in our Books of the Month page.
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