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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
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.
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.
June 2010 Book of the Month. Not a travel guide but a literary flavour of a city. The series has done Paris, London, Berlin and Dublin. They are anthologies of extracts from living and dead authors, some 60 in each volume, here with the likes of Camus and Voltaire to Irvine Welsh and Ian McEwan, each perfect gems. Going Dutch in Amsterdam from George Miller on Vimeo.
March 2010 Book of the Month. Get a feel for Dublin with this wonderful book full of short pieces and extracts about one of the best cities in the world. Whether you are travelling there or simply want to enjoy others experiences this is a treat of a book to soak up all that is Dublin.
November 2009 Book of the Month. Berlin is a fascinating city with an extraordinary history which gives plenty of fodder for the writer. Dip in to this wonderful guide to Berlin as seen through the eyes of writers through the ages of scenes imagined, perceived and witnessed.
April 2009 Book of the Month. The perfect book for the armchair traveller as well as those of you visiting cities around the globe. With extracts from over 60 authors such as Joanne Harris talking about chocolate in Montmartre or Victor Hugo describing the view from the top of Notre Dame. Whether it be fiction, non-fiction, blogs or journalism, lose yourself in the Paris discovered by others and be inspired to visit and indulge in the city as never before. These guides are perfect for dipping in to and will transport you to the city of your choice through the wonderful writings of those who have been before. A few words about Paris from Stephen Clarke... 'Paris is not entirely unique. You can sit in cafés, wear designer clothes and even have sex in lots of other towns. It just feels unique, as if everything you do, from buying underwear to chewing a hunk of baguette, is somehow more stylish because you’re doing it in Paris. Certainly Parisians act as if they’re unique – not as a community but each individual one of them. It is the city of moi. As they walk down the street they’re thinking, look at moi. Even when they’re kissing a friend on the cheeks, they’re saying it – moi, moi. And the obsession driving each moi is its lifestyle. Parisians have elevated lifestyle to an art – no, more than an art, it is (as only the French can say properly) a raison d’être.' City-Lit Paris is Introduced by Stephen Clarke, bestselling author of A Year in the Merde. To read more of Stephen Clarke's introduction download the extract. A 'piece of passion' from Heather Reyes, series editor of the Cit-Lit series: 'I’ve been in love with Paris since my very first visit as a teenager. In those pre-Eurostar days, it seemed an adventure just getting there — the slow, musty train down through Kent, struggling your luggage onto the ferry at Dover, the worry about the weather for ‘the crossing’ (would I need the Kwells?), watching the white cliffs recede and searching the horizon for the first glimpse of the French coast, the wind pulling your hair and putting salt on your lips. Then those magical letters, SNCF, on the side of the oddly high-up train from Calais, the long stop at Amiens and finally … finally …(the excitement overcoming the fatigue of the journey)…PARIS. But, oh the relief of that first, fast, simple Eurostar journey! The exhilaration of knowing you could get THERE so quickly and easily. But still the same feeling, stepping onto the platform at Gare du Nord, of life moving into higher gear. That’s what Paris is to me — life lived more intensely, more vividly, both in the senses (that smell of strawberries from the stall at the foot of rue Moufftard) and in the mind (favourite bookshops … La Hune, Gibert Jeune, Shakespeare and Company, … the streets haunted by the ghosts of writers and philosophers past … Abelard, Montaigne, Diderot, Voltaire, Hugo, Balzac, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus …)So, to have the opportunity of choosing and editing material for a collection of writing about the city was a dream come true, and I had the time of my life.' To read more of Heather Reyes' 'piece of passion' download the extract. You can also visit the Twitter page for this title by clicking here.
April 2012 Travel Book of the Month. As an eclectic a collection of travel pieces as you could wish – and the impressionistic style suits the subject material like hand to glove. Read my favourite of all his pieces on Albania and in 9 pages A A Gill has painted a vivid picture of Albania, its people and history. This is not a see-everything, do-everything travel collection but Gill will tell you far more in 2 pages than you’d think possible making this book’s 288 pages go by in a flash. A A Gill fans will go for the name but the cover depicting him in Arctic gear looking like Ranulph Fiennes’ younger brother does little to hint at the diversity and colour to be found in this collection. Like for Like ReadingThe Discovery of France, Graham RobbPanther Soup: A European Journey in War & Peace, John Gimlette
February 2016 Book of the Month. Coming after Snowdrops, A.D. Miller's Booker-shortlisted Moscow spy thriller, The Faithful Couple is a very different sort of creature altogether, a novel about male bonding, class and the vagaries of life, growing up and passing years that resonates deeply with both sometimes the voice and structural touch of David Nicholl's measured novels of ordinary people. Two young Englishsmen meet in California on an American gap year and forge a fascinating friendship in which envy and admiration make for awkward companions. An encounter they make whilst on a trip to Yosemite in which neither comes off with much honour will mark the rest of their lives and the ties binding them. The progress of their careers and love lives is examined at regular intervals with irony and acuity and their paths take surprising turns. A slow-building novel of British manners that grows on you page by page. ~ Maxim Jakubowski Essentially this is a book about friendship, the very flawed yet compelling relationship between two men, based on experience, elation and remorse. With strong psychological and sexual components, the terse prose style draws you into a very recognisable world yet seen through an intensely strange filter. A literary human drama of the highest calibre. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
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.
December 2016 Book of the Month. A clever, thrilling tale full of impact and drama set in the heart of Hollywood. In 1980 17 year old Kelly is convicted of murder, 30 years later and five years after her release, she finds herself once again in the spotlight. Another murder hits the headlines, everyone has already made their decision, but is Kelly guilty or innocent? My attention was snared from the get go, the tale spins between 1980 and 2010, each time change surprising my thoughts as I was so deeply immersed in the story. A. L. Gaylin plays, toys and teases with your reasoning as a number of possibilities open up before you. Kelly is an enigma, other peoples thoughts, reports and articles kept my judgement of her in limbo. There are surprises aplenty, and even when you're expecting them, they are written in such a way, and at such a moment in the story, that they still have the ability to disconcert. ‘What Remains Of Me’ is a riveting corkscrewing rollercoaster of a read, I recommend letting go of reality, throwing your arms up in the air, and just enjoying the ride. ~ Liz Robinson
September 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Having recently read Yvonne Ward’s Censoring Queen Victoria (recommended below) I was somewhat prepared for A N Wilson’s revelatory biography of the woman he calls “one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous and unconventional women who ever lived...” If you are used to thinking of Queen Victoria as a stiff, expressionless figurehead of a woman then be prepared to think again, here Queen Victoria’s life is revealed in stunning detail in this masterly biography that brings new light not just to the Queen but to C19 Britain. Like for Like Reading Censoring Queen Victoria, Yvonne M Ward Queen Victoria: A Personal History, Christopher Hibbert
September 2012 Book of the Month. In his first novel for five years, journalist and historian A.N. Wilson creates an epic novel, with an impressive cast of real and imagined characters. Set in the late 18th century, a time of industrialisation, revolution, slavery and colonialism. A commission from the Empress of Russia for a thousand-piece dinner service for her Frog Palace sets in train a series of events that will make Wedgewood a name and a dynasty, including Charles Darwin and Ralph Vaughan Williams, that will be remembered for generations. A fascinating look at the lives of important historical figures at a turning point in British history.
November 2013 Book of the Month. The great thing about these jockey-turned-author books is that you know the racing content is authentic. This one concerns up-and-coming jockey Duncan Claymore intent on getting his own back on the people who wronged his father, Charlie, a small-time trainer with a nose for a winner, now in a care home. Somewhere along the way Charlie made some enemies and was framed. In his lust for revenge Duncan also lusts for wealthy owner’s daughter. McCoy’s rivals, Dick and Felix Francis and John Francome often have a girl or two in the plot but McCoy goes several steps further and gives us steamy sex scenes. Those, along with the skulduggery, the betting, the racing and the twists make for a good, fun read. A very promising debut which I understand launches a series. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Taking The Fall a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'This is a good start for AP, in racing terms he’s completed two circuits of Aintree with a few questionable jumps on the way and he’s cruising past the elbow on his way to a bloodless victory. I look forward to his next effort.' Scroll down to read more reviews.
September 2011 Book of the Month. From the author of Possession and The Children's Book comes an extraordinary tale, inspired by the myth of Ragnarok. Intensely autobiographical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's truly great writers. You might also say it's timely in that it is a book about how stories can give us the courage to face our own demise. So just as Wagner's Ring Cycle was inspired by Norse myth so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling.
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