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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Huge, in fact, huger than huge klaxon alert as Cecelia Ahern has written a sequel to her truly wonderful debut, P.S. I Love You. It’s been seven years since Gerry died, and after Holly talks about his letters in a podcast, a group approaches her asking for help. I adore Cecelia Ahern’s writing, it just speaks to, and connects with my entire being. Confession time, I didn’t write any notes as I read, I just read for the pure pleasure of it. Which in itself, really makes a statement doesn’t it? Holly is honest, and entirely human as she initially tries to distance herself from the group. This is an older Holly, an altered Holly, she has moved on while Gerry and the letters have remained anchored in time. The other characters are absolutely fascinating, I grew to care about the group members and fell completely in love with Ginika. After reaching the end I found myself reflecting, the writing not only entered my heart, it also still sits in my thoughts. Postscript is just as brilliant, just as emotional, just as gorgeous, as P.S., and while linking so effectively to the past, grows into a truly beautiful novel in its own unique right.
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, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
With a wonderful premise and on point storytelling this is a truly fabulous and thrilling read. The manager of a set of holiday cottages has a hidden camera in the bedroom of a guest. The guest is murdered and the camera destroyed. What next? Hit rewind! I adore Catherine Ryan Howard’s novels, she plays with time and creates plot lines that deceive, outwit and impress. The chilling prologue to Rewind, so matter of fact yet descriptive, really hammers home. It feels like the end, it is the end for someone, yet of course it is just the beginning of the tale. As information is revealed and more characters introduced, even more questions are created. As I travelled backwards and forwards in time, the skill of the writing ensured I stayed fully involved and a part of the storyline. Rewind, so different, clever and powerful, is a sure-fire winner of a read for me, I absolutely loved it!
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Hitting rock bottom, hanging on, and coming back from the edge. Brian Conaghan has an incredible talent for telling it like it is. His characters are authentic and absorbing; flawed underdogs with serious troubles, like 17-year-old Maggie whose dad “drank his liver into a spreadable pâté”, and whose laid-off dinner lady mum is “gifted in the art of attracting pure dickheads”. And Maggie? Maggie’s “an island: the way I dress; the music I listen to; the patter my brain discharges; everything”. Maggie’s struggling to deal with the tragic loss of her best friend Moya whose death she feels excruciatingly guilty about. Moya was a “mad riot” of a girl, but as Maggie “couldn’t be arsed with all the love-struck vom” Moya was spewing, because she didn’t speak out against the Internet trolls, she believes she was a “failure friend”. Alongside her grief, guilt and self-harm, Maggie struggles with her mother’s severe depression, but also tingles with the hope that comes from starting art college: “now’s the time to make something of myself.” Indeed, she soon forms a band with new friends. Throughout, Maggie’s love of bands like The Smiths looms large, as does her relationship with her depressed mother. Maggie’s rage at her mother’s condition derives entirely from her primal love for her. She’s desperate for Mum to be happy, and her scheme to help her find happiness is heart-achingly poignant. Grief, depression, self-harm, online abuse, this novel is no walk in the park, yet it never drags the reader down. On the contrary. It’s sensitive, insightful, funny (Maggie is a master of biting one-liners), and genuinely uplifting as Maggie and Mum begin to find their way back to the world, with glinting prospects of love and new life.
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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