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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
Oh my word, as I sank into the pages of this brilliantly addictive psychological thriller I actually forgot that I was reviewing and just read for pure pleasure. Sisters Lori and Erin are travelling to a remote part of Fiji for a holiday, after an argument before the final inter-island flight, only one leaves on the small plane, which then goes missing. Lucy Clarke takes psychological thrillers to a whole new level. I adored You Let Me In, and The Castaways now ensures she is a must-read author for me. Set in two time frames, as the story progresses ‘Then’ inches, then hurtles towards ‘Now’. Each change in time frame felt like a hammer blow before I was immediately gathered up in the story again. The most exquisite tension builds and thrums with increasing intensity. The release of information is so clever, almost teasing, and I balanced on a razor sharp wire of awareness. I felt a deep connection with the sisters, their relationship was wonderfully complex yet tangible. If you love intelligent, yet hugely entertaining psychological thrillers, then put this to the top of your list. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, The Castaways really is the most compulsive, enthralling and beautifully written tale, it’s a 2021 sure-fire winner.
A twisty, intriguing, multi-layered mystery and fascinating fictional foray into the past from award-winning author Andrew Taylor. It’s 1668, James Marwood is tasked with finding out why Oliver Cromwell’s son has returned to London while Cat Lovett is drawn into a conspiracy, and both are soon in grave danger. This is the fourth in a terrifically readable series which began with the Ashes of London. I have to say that I just throw myself into each of these reads with abandon, completely trusting that what is to come will be a vividly convincing and exciting read. What a fabulous period in history this is, James and Cat really do live in interesting times! I love how each individual story twists around the other until they join together. I really do hope we will see more from these two. I can highly recommend this bestselling series, it’s just fabulous!
An absorbing, penetrating, and intricately plotted spy novel that just thrums with tension. Former CIA officer Alex Garin is asked to return to Moscow in 1985 to assist with the exfiltration of a senior KJB officer. Garin himself is a complete enigma and trust is a valuable commodity. Linking to the espionage novels featuring George Mueller, which began with his debut An Honorable Man you don’t need to have read the other books by Paul Vidich to be able to fully enjoy this story as it successfully stands alone. However, I would recommend hunting down the previous novels because they come highly recommended and if you’ve read them, you’ll note the jump forward to the 80’s. This is a novel that you can just throw yourself into, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Paul Vidich kept me off balance and encouraged my thoughts to explore and at times run full tilt in different directions. The sense of place is vividly realised, Moscow broods and swaggers, while Garin is wonderfully complex. Everything begins to slides into place, and then the incredibly powerful ending hits. Highly recommended, Mercenary is a wonderfully crafted, convincing, and thrilling novel.
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
A moving and engaging addition to the family saga and drama of The Four Streets series set in 1950’s Liverpool. The Doherty’s, who everyone relies on have moved to Ireland, another family is in serious trouble, and corrupt police officer Frank the Skank is about to move into the street. After several standalone novels, Nadine Dorries returns to the series that launched with her debut The Four Streets, and continued with Hide Her Name, and The Ballymara Road. The characters and location are still firmly stamped into my mind and I looked forward to their return. This is just as warm, gossipy and familiar as I remember, though among the ups, there are plenty of downs for the families on the street to contend with. Vibrancy and colour warm the pages, while the villain of the piece adds tension, and oh how I hoped that he would received his comeuppance! Coming Home to the Four Streets will appeal to anyone who loves an entertaining family saga, this is a satisfying and rewarding return to the series.
If you’re in need of a truly lovely and heart-warming relationship tale then I can recommend that you stop right here. If the thought of a rescue dog and a Scottish island also appeal, then you really have come to the right place. An abandoned small terrier enters the lives of residents and visitors on the Island of Sgadansay. I do so love Fiona Gibson’s writing, as I’ve said before, she writes with empathy, and the extra sparkle of romance and wit is just delightful. Her tales feel as though they are grounded in reality and I always find myself really connecting to her characters. This is a multi-generational tale and we meet 10 year old Arthur through to 78 year old Harry. Suzy and Ricky who are both in their late 40’s head the chapters, each telling their own tale and living life with its ups and downs. I love the dog sharing aspect of this story, connections form, seconds chances beckon, and friendships begin to flourish. There may well be a heart-stopping moment or two to encounter, but ultimately this is as feel-good as it gets. As a ray of sunshine to combat darkness, The Dog Share is a wonderfully engaging and entertaining read.
Co-written by Brendan Kiely and the always-exceptional Jason Reynolds, All American Boys is an immensely powerful, timely novel about police brutality against young Black men. Shining a stark light on white privilege and the racism implicit in not speaking out, it’s a punch-packing wake-up call for us all to stand up and plant ourselves on the right side of history. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour. It all goes wrong for Black sixteen-year-old Rashad when a cop jumps to the unfounded conclusion that he’s shoplifted a bag of chips. Rashad’s arrest is brutal and the cop, Paul, leaves him with internal bleeding and broken bones. There were witnesses though, among them Quinn, a rising basketball star from Rashad’s school who also happens to know Paul. In fact, Paul has been like a father to Quinn since his dad died on service in Afghanistan, which puts him in a tricky situation - speaking out against Paul would sever his friendship and support ties. But Quinn’s decision to keep quiet unravels when footage of the incident is picked up by the media, with everyone in town taking a side. As a powerful “Rashad is absent” school campaign gains momentum along with plans for a big protest march, Quinn realises that not speaking up is a form of racism, that as an “All-American” white boy he can walk away from anything. “Well, I was sick of it,” he decides. “I was sick of being a dick”. Aware that his dad had inspired Paul to become a cop to “make a difference in the world”, Quinn resolves to be like his dad too, but not in the sense of being loyal to his country and family, which is how people always frame his father’s heroism. Quinn means in the sense of standing up for what he believes in; being “someone who believed a better world was possible - someone who stood up for it.” Packed with plenty of moments that will make you melt and tear up (such as Rashad’s relationship with the hospital shop volunteer, and the bonds between him and his buddies and big brother), this is a smart, incisive, rousing read for our times.
Who was Nick Carraway before he stepped into the world of The Great Gatsby? Michael Farris Smith sets out to explore these questions in Nick, a darkly absorbing, brilliantly accomplished literary undertaking provoked by the author’s complex relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. With themes of isolation and dislocated identity at its heart, this masterful novel opens in Paris when Nick leaves his lover to return to the horrors of war, ever conscious of death. Imagining his own demise, he wonders, “Who would be there to mourn?... Did anyone truly love him and did he love anyone?” Nick is also constantly consumed by an impulse to escape, juxtaposed with wondering what it is “know your place in the world”. Unable to find his lover when the war is over, and unable to bring himself to return to the family home, he transports himself to Frenchtown, New Orleans, with its drinking dens, whorehouses and vicious vendettas. The world over seems to be filled with folk floundering, people desperate to escape or obliterate their tattered lives, and time and time again Nick’s life entwines with fellow broken, lost souls. This curious magnetism is pertinently expressed by sick bartender Judah when he says, “if there’s one thing the lost are able to recognise it is the others who are just as wounded and wandering.” Ending on a radiant dawn epiphany scene, with Nick on the verge of moving East, this left me longing to re-visit The Great Gatsby, and keen to read the rest of Farris Smith’s novels.
A thrilling reading feast awaits in this absolute belter of a read by one of my favourite authors. When a tech billionaire learns he has a terminal illness he begins to track down the children he never knew, but a killer is also on their trail. Linwood Barclay is one of the most consistently fabulous authors around, and each new title becomes my new favourite. I can just throw myself in, knowing that each time I’m going to get a sucker-punch read. Here the prologue holds huge intrigue before ripping back time to three weeks earlier. This is a story that builds tension and suspense with almost every page, and I read well into the night in order to finish in one exhilarating sitting. The characters got inside my head, the storyline held me captive. A LoveReading Star Book, Find You First is the real deal, it’s incredibly readable, thought-provoking, and hugely entertaining!
March 2012 Book of the Month. This highly original, dark (v v dark) and sinister thriller breaks all the rules; such as switching from 1st, 2nd and 3rd person and having a highly fragmented timeline, but it delivers something thrillingly different. Four friends set up an agency to say ‘sorry’ and allow company executives to be absolved of guilt - but does that mean anyone can be absolved of anything with a simple transfer of cash?
May 2012 New Gen Book of the Month. Matters of life and death and the role of a passionate romance in them lie at the heart of this spellbinding story of how the worlds of the dead and the living cross over and collide. Gottfried Academy is no ordinary school… It’s a place where Latin thrives and the Undead and the living make friends. Renee is a Monitor at the Academy; she can sense death even though she can’t predict it. And she has a vital role to play among the Undead. When Renee meets Dante she knows he is her soulmate. But he is an undead. Will Renee give up her life to save him?
April 2015 Book of the Month. In Iceland grandparents and a young child go to the port to meet a yacht with the girl’s family on board (parents and twin sister). The yacht smashes into the quay empty. So begins this terrific thriller. In alternating chapters of the yacht with seven people on board coming across from Lisbon and arriving empty and the police investigation in Iceland we, the reader, are drip-fed the mystery with our hearts in our mouths. The crew and passengers have simply disappeared. It’s creepy, chilling, compulsive and very, very good. I so dreaded being fobbed off at the end but no, the outcome was completely feasible and very satisfying. Do read it. In Iceland, Sigurdardottir is crime royalty, alongside Arnuldur Indridason and her series featuring local lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir has always been a personal delight. Offsetting the sometimes grim northern landscape with meticulous sleuthing, she brings a new, unique dimension to the genre. When a luxury yacht arrives in Reyjkavik harbour with no passengers left onboard, Marie Celeste-like, Thora is recruited by a relative to solve the mysterious case. As usual this is just the beginning and an inevitable trail of bodies soon has Thora dashing in all directions. Chilling, spooky and at times gruesome, Sigurdardottir's books (she also writes the occasional horror tome) are compulsive page-turners and prove fascinating eye-openers into the complexities of Icelandic life and its bleak exoticism.
June 2010 Book of the Month. This is an utterly beguiling magical, fable-like story that uses the relationships between humans and animals to address much bigger themes including those about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. Like his multi-million copy selling and Booker Prize winning Life of Pi, the reader is taken on an odyssey but this time to address the emotional legacy of the holocaust through Henry, an ordinary man with whom the reader will care greatly for and through Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey. It’s written on many different levels so it’s a book that is bound to create a big buzz both for and against it. Views are divided here but lovers of Life of Pi will I think find this an absorbing but possibly heart-breaking tale.
One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011. July 2011 Book of the Month. This is an utterly beguiling, magical, fable-like story that uses the relationships between humans and animals to address much bigger themes including those about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. Like his multi-million copy selling and Booker Prize winning Life of Pi, the reader is taken on an odyssey but this time to address the emotional legacy of the holocaust through Henry, an ordinary man with whom the reader will care greatly for and through Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey. It’s written on many different levels so it’s a book that is bound to create a big buzz both for and against it. Views are divided here but lovers of Life of Pi will I think find this an absorbing but possibly heart-breaking tale.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. A fascinating erotica debut for famed children's book author Sally Gardner and, most definitely, a change in register as a tale of 18th century debauchery unfolds in the tradition of FANNY HILL and other historical jolly naughtiness. Tully Truegood is incarcerated in Newgate prison in 1756, accused of murder, with the gallows perilously on the horizon and, in the traditional manner, relates the tale of her life and how she arrived here. It's an animated story of rags to riches from London back street chambermaid to courtesan at the celebrated Fairy House brothel run by her own stepmother, including time as a conjurer's assistant. Picaresque, bawdy, at times magically realist but always warm and affectionate for its sometimes reprobate characters, this is a novel, which albeit graphic retains a true sense of colour and place and pulls you along with vigour in its wake as it immerses the reader into older, momentous times. ~ Maxim Jakubowski November 2016 Book of the Month. The Lovereading view... A captivating, earthy, and striking novel set in the 18th century, one that reaches into the heart of friendship and love, and prods, provokes…inflames. Tully Truegood tells her tale from the bowels of Newgate Prison, she is desperate for one particular person to hear her story. Tully doesn't hold back, she graphically explains her route from childhood to courtesan, to alleged murderer, and some of it is uncomfortable and disturbing to hear. Wray Delaney brings Tully to vibrant, heart-rending, beautiful life, she tells her tale with a down to earth honesty, yet a fragile, sometimes chilling otherworldly presence dances over the pages. Wray Delaney is the pen name for children’s author Sally Gardner, the change of name for her first adult novel is entirely appropriate as this is most definitely an adults only, provocative read. Fascinating recipes, riddles and quotations slide into the novel, capturing the essence of the time, linking fantasy and reality. ‘An Almond For A Parrot’ is a rather spicy, yet sensitive and poignant read, and I truly do recommend introducing yourself to Tully Truegood, then settling down to hear her remarkable tale. ~ Liz Robinson
April 2012 Food and Drink Book of the Month. It’s the second part of the title – “in 100 Recipes” that makes this stand out from the usual plod from hunter-gathering to yesterdays sushi craze. Instead we start with flat bread and gradually follow man’s culinary progress through “Muscules in shelle”, Trifle, Peas Soope, Brussels Sprouts, Rice Krispies treats and ending with Heston Blumenthal’s Meat Fruit. A switch-back of a journey through food good and bad, cooks wild and wily and a public palate that knows no bounds. Contained within the history is a progress through the communication of recipes, how they were first written down and how they changed and developed to encompass radio, TV, magazines and now the computer and aps. I had doubts about the format when I first started reading it but soon settled in and while it lasted A History of Food in 100 Recipes was an excellent bedtime reading treat. Like for Like ReadingA History of English Food, Clarissa Dickson WrightFood in England: A Complete Guide to the Food That Makes Us Who We Are, Dorothy Hartley
April 2010 'new gen' Book of the Month title. Full of the myriad and criss-crossing emotions of adolescent love, this is a warm-hearted and finely observed view of two teenagers’ experience. Sixth-formers Maddy Fisher and Richard Ross both want to fall in love. Both want the heady experience of the real thing. They want all the craziness, all the pain that goes with the intense emotions but neither knows who they will fall for. Luckily, after complications and crossed lines, the two find each other gradually building a relationship and coming together for their first sexual experience. William Nicholson is the April 2010 Guest Editor on Lovereading4kids. Click here to find out more...
May 2010 Book of the Month. A wonderful collection of characters, in a small Sussex village, all have their secrets, resentments, heartache and desires. A book that will keep you gripped from page one. This author is perhaps better know for his teen fiction but this book shows his talents cross over in to the world of adult fiction too.
June 2011 Book of the Month. Nicholson casts an unflinching eye on men's attitude to sex, on women, love and family life. This is our own familiar world rendered pacy, funny, emotionally on the button and hugely entertaining.
January 2011 Book of the Month. Wonderful storytelling is the hallmark of all William Horwood's novels. Here in the first of four, William has returned to his fantasy routes in this epic series that follows the flow of the seasons. The Hydden are little people with big beliefs who live on the borders of the human world and one of them, Jack is sent to live amongst humans in order to try and find a long lost object that is so dear to them but can he and his loved one that he meets in the human world find their true destiny and complete the quest he was set to do and save both worlds? This journey begins in Spring and will continue in Summer and Autumn before culminating in Winter.
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.
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