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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
Just to let you know that I get excitement overload when I read a crime novel that allows me to simply exist in the pages without an ounce of doubt… and Gallowstree Lane, the third ‘Collins and Griffiths Detective Novel’ is a truly fabulous example (so yes I am wanting to shout about this from the rooftops). Author Kate London ended her Metropolitan Police Service career in 2014 working as a detective on a Major Investigation Team. Her knowledge and experience undoubtedly shines through, you are quite simply, in very safe hands. This story about shocking gang violence is not only extraordinarily relevant, it also entirely captivating, meaningful, and memorable. Sarah Collins and Lizzie Griffiths are beautifully written detectives, both completely fascinating, for me though, the real jewel in this particular crown is Ryan, a young gang member who is left reeling and demanding vengeance after the murder of his best friend. Kate London encourages reality, fact and fiction to blend together, and adds so much depth to the characters I felt as though I knew them. I was so in tune with Ryan that my heart truly ached for him. Gallowstree Lane has left a vividly brilliant bruise on my soul, it is wonderfully raw, exquisitely written, and highly recommended as one of my picks of the month.
A captivating and absolutely thrilling historical tale that sits as a perfect sequel to the first in the series The Ashes of London. Please do start with the first book, it is a stunning read and sets the characters and scene so beautifully. After the Great Fire of London a court is established to judge the cases of discord between landlords and tenants. Suspicious deaths appear to link to the Fire Court, and as James and Cat attempt to find answers, their individual stories become more closely intertwined. After the drama and sheer visual spectacle of the first book, I did wonder how on earth the series would continue, and it is safe to say with great aplomb. The intricate plot immediately wormed its way into my head, slicing, enthralling, and sharply focused. There is one particularly unexpected and shocking moment that quite literally stopped my whole being, I sat in for a moment in silence before continuing, desperate to know more. Will you feel the same, will the words travel from the page, trap your feelings and hurl your thoughts in the air? This is a series that could run and run, The King’s Evil is already calling to me and quite simply can’t arrive quickly enough. The Fire Court has become part of a must-read series for me, it is highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
Simple, stunning, provocative, loved it! Author Raynor Winn has written about her own journey around the South West Coastal Path with her husband Moth. The synopsis sounds heartbreaking, it is heartbreaking, yet this is one of the most positive and hopeful memoirs I have read. After a three year trial Moth and Raynor lose their home and livelihood then within days Moth is informed he is terminally ill. Hiding under the stairs with the bailiffs at the door Raymor and Moth decide to wild walk the coastal path around the south west of England. The Salt Path was shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award and the hardback was a Times Top 10 bestseller, all deservedly so. The prologue captures a moment on the journey, a moment of wonder, of joy, of realisation and I just knew I was going to fall in love with this tale. Raynor Winn writes her own story with such positivity, she puts everything in, opens the door and lays her life bare. Raynor allowed me to see that this so could so easily be my situation, encouraged me to think, ponder, contemplate, I felt wonder at their determination and almost elated as I came to the end of the book. The Salt Path is an eye-opening, truly inspirational read and I’ve chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
Wonderfully clever and chilling, Changeling is a short novel that contains just as much as it needs to, and so is perfectly formed. This episode of Six Stories, a series of podcasts by online journalist Scott King, takes us to Christmas Eve 1988 and the disappearance of seven year old Alfie. If this is your first taste of this series, I think you could read it as a standalone, however I highly recommend starting at the beginning with Six Stories, followed by Hydra. The cold case podcasts are beautifully written by Matt Wesolowski, the voices so distinctively clear that I almost heard, rather than read the words. Wentshire Forest is deeply dark and exquisitely creepy, full of folklore, ancient belief and strange goings on. My heart battled with my head as I heard each podcast, I thought I had an inkling as to what was happening and will admit to a certain amount of smugness which was soon whipped out of me as the ending packed a real punch. Changeling continues a series which just keeps on getting better and better, it surprises, thrills and enthrals in equal measure.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
Oh what a beautiful all-consuming dream of a ride this is. Set in Moscow, a young woman finds herself at the centre of a battle for both humanity and a deep hidden magic. The Winter of the Witch is the third in the ‘Winternight’ trilogy, however, I confess that this was my first read of the three. I would most definitely recommend starting at the beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale as I’m now desperate to experience the wonder of the rest of the story, though it’s worth noting that the writing is so good, I immediately felt completely at home. I fell entranced into the pages and within the first few chapters I was so at one with the sense of place and characters, I actually cried at a heart-stopping moment. While the feel of a deep dark fairy tale washes over the pages, Katherine Arden creates a vivid realist bite and also encouraged me to connect as deeply with the more challenging characters as the more loveable ones. The Winter of the Witch is a fascinating, engaging, quite glorious read and I absolutely adored it. Highly recommended.
A group of Bristolian sixth-formers experience a whole lot more than the thrills and chills of the ski-slopes they’re expecting when one of their party discovers a trail of blood in their lodge. For outcast Charlie this trip was supposed to be a break from his troubled homelife, but he and his peers are now up to their necks in a gruesome, gory nightmare. Matters take a monstrous, mythical turn after ski instructor Hanna tells the students a tale “about things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night”… The action is jumpy, the writing sparse and direct, with plenty of unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats alongside the characters’ varied backstories. An accomplished debut for fans of atmospheric horror.
Are you ready for a heart-pumping shooting from the hip read? Do prepare yourself as once you start you just won’t want to stop! Bounty hunter Lori Anderson has plenty of good old fashioned gumption, yet is as modern a character as you could wish to find. Lori has just 48 hours in which to snatch a male in protective custody with the FBI, if she doesn’t, her family will be killed by the Miami Mob. This is the third in the ‘Lori Anderson’ series, I really do recommend starting at the beginning with the fabulous Deep Down Dead which was Steph Broadribb’s debut. Lori thinks with viper-like speed, speaks with strength and acts from her gut. Steph Broadribb has constructed a thoroughly believable world full of substantial yet flawed characters. I quite simply love this series, I leap in with total faith and just let myself go. Deep Dirty Truth is a thrilling, assertive and energetic read, go on I dare you, grab yourself a copy.
How to describe this beautifully engaging and fascinating book… it is certainly a memoir, it is also a series of small interviews and chats with people coping with the different shocks and traumatic events that life can throw at you, and it’s a riveting foray into the literary and artistic world. Christina Patterson is a journalist and broadcaster, working for The Sunday Times and the Guardian and regularly commenting on radio and TV. I started reading and just soaked up the words, I felt as though Christina Patterson was sitting beside me, speaking directly to me, connecting with my own thoughts and feelings. I slowly began to discover her life (she reveals her own life events with a composed yet gentle thoughtfulness), I also found her humour, friendships, frustrations, fears, and love for bubbles and crisps. She offers the very opposite of a self-help book, yet I feel there is much to be found within these pages by those in need of a little comfort. As I finished reading, I wanted to applaud and also hug her with thanks for writing this compelling and fabulous read. Incredibly moving, The Art of Not Falling Apart touched me deeply, a huge surge of hope and optimism also lies within, just waiting to be discovered.
Oh, what a truly beautiful read this is, though do prepare for your heart to ache, weep, and possibly even break. For the last ten years, Oliver Loving has been lying in a hospital bed, paralysed and non-communicative, is he trapped in his own mind, can a new test release him? Everyone wants answers, they also want to know what happened ten years ago, on the night of the school dance in Bliss, Texas… and what caused the tragedy that took place there. The story focusses on Oliver, his mother Eve, and brother Charlie, and how one event has trapped them, has maimed them all. Stefan Merrill Block writes so thoughtfully, an almost gentle lyrical quality caresses the pages, yet he encourages searching questions, for you to travel deeper, to look further. This is an emotional read, the writing touched me, deep inside my heart, and a part of Oliver Loving will remain there. Almost otherworldly, yet raw and true and full of heart, Oliver Loving is profoundly moving, and captivating, I highly recommend stepping inside the pages, and becoming one with the story. Oliver Loving is one of my picks of the 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.
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.
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