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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
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.
A truly fascinating investigative piece focusing on journalist and ghost hunter Nandor Fodor who researched Alma Fielding in 1938 after a poltergeist attack. Described as historical narrative non fiction, Kate Summerscale opens a door into the world of spiritualism just as the Second World War was starting. Her prologue explains that she visited the Society for Psychical Research to look up Nandor Fodor and found his original papers including the dossier on Alma. It contained transcripts of her seances, interviews, lab reports, x-rays copies of her contracts, notes, sketches and photographs. The author sets out to explore the link between suffering and the supernatural. This is as much about Fodor as it is Fielding, their link at times almost disturbing. The story is laid out before you, Kate Summerscale thoughtfully relays the information without prejudice, and doesn’t judge, allowing the reader to form their own thoughts. The Haunting of Alma Fielding is a riveting read encouraging thorough yet reflective reasoning that is likely to continue long after the tale is told.
Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.
Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough.
Full of captivating charm this is a novel where secrets shelter, friendships form, grief is exposed, and romance hovers in the background. Injured army doctor Trevor Benson returns from Afghanistan to an inherited cabin in North Carolina, he is immediately attracted to deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson and intrigued by teenager Callie who was friends with his grandfather. It’s been 24 years since his wonderful debut The Notebook was published, and The Return is Nicholas Sparks 22nd novel. His books have been translated into 55 languages, all have been international bestsellers, 11 have been adapted into major films and you can see why. The prologue took me to 2019 and sent a hint of mystery thrumming through the pages before returning to five years earlier. The Return blossomed into a vividly painted picture in my mind, which in turn set in motion a moving story. It is slow to build, to reveal itself, yet is full of interest and gave access to knowledge which enabled me fill in the jigsaw pieces. I occasionally felt a little uncomfortable with Trevor’s unwavering pursuit of Natalie, but don’t forget this is very much written from his perspective and for a while the full picture hovers just out of sight. When the ending neared and understanding came, I settled in and waited with interest to return to Trevor in 2019. The Return is a thoroughly enjoyable and effortlessly readable romantic mystery, oh, and you get to meet some bees too!
Sparked by the gargantuan global popularity of English Heritage’s The Victorian Way YouTube series, How to Cook the Victorian Way presents the life and recipes of the real Mrs Crocombe. Head cook at Audley End House from 1878 to 1884, her handwritten cookery book was passed down through her family and uniquely reveals the tastes and dining habits of Victorian Britons. With context on Audley End House, “one of the greatest houses of Jacobean England”, and absorbing detail on the kitchens of Mrs Crocombe’s era (the book is co-authored by Andrew Hann, head of the historians’ team at English Heritage), her recipes have been modernized by food historian Annie Gray, yet retain their authenticity. Some of them are familiar - pancakes, ginger beer, macaroni cheese, trifle and spotted dick - then there are more outlandish dishes too (to modern tastes, at least), such as mock turtle soup, larded sweetbreads and squab pie. This beautifully presented, meticulously researched compendium is a true treat for gourmands looking to expand their culinary repertoire - perfect for inspiring flamboyant Victorian ‘Come Dine with Me’ dinner parties.
February 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Ten centuries' worth of French historical 'facts' bite the dust as Stephen Clarke looks at what has really been going on since 1066... It's a light-hearted but impeccably researched account of all our great fallings-out. With Clarke's trademark humour and lightness of touch that will be remembered with fondness from A Year in the Merde and Talk to the Snail, among others this is a brilliant take on the history of our near neighbour.
December 2010 Book of the Month. This is crime fiction at its tip top best from one of Scandinavia’s bestselling female crime writers. It’s modern and a pitch-perfect reinvention of the classic locked room mystery. Retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen has learned the hard way that truth always comes at a price and sometimes that price isn’t worth paying. So when she is caught up on a derailed train, one carriage of which is full of a secret cargo that’s being heavily guarded, in a snowbound mountain pass in a storm of all storms, old betrayals, murder and state secrets come to the fore. Like for like: Val McDermid, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo.
One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. If you love fast-paced, topical thrillers that you simply can't put down, then Andrew Gross and especially 15 Seconds is a great place to go. Pulled over by a traffic cop who is then shot by someone else leaves surgeon Henry Steadman framed for murder and on the run trying to prove his innocence. It's thrilling stuff. May 2012 Book of the Month.
December 2016 Book of the Month. St Andrews in the 16th century is once again brought to captivating vibrant life. With allegations of ghosts, witches, the Spanish Armada and high jinks, the year 1588 is full of life… and death. If you adore the ‘Hew Cullan Mystery’ series then you are in for an absolute treat, as in this ‘Calendar of Crime’ are five different books. They may be short, but each packs a punch as Hew uses his investigative skills in an attempt to solve 5 different mysteries. Shirley McKay sets you so completely in that time that awareness settles over you like a cloak as you read. The very different tales take place in various parts of town, and while the same core characters travel with you through the year, you also greet new ones along the way. The historical notes section and glossary at the end is an interesting read in itself. You can dip in and out of ‘1588: A Calendar of Crime’ and read it as five fascinating stories, or completely immerse yourself in it as I did, and read it one satisfying sitting.
November 2017 Book of the Month A sharp, edgy, yet lovely romance for young adults. Hildy and Paul are paired in a college psychology study about relationships. They are asked 36 questions over the course of the story, and through their answers begin to learn about each other and themselves. As the sparks began to smoulder and then fly we discover heart-ache and strength in unexpected places. Vicki Grant uses various methods to tell the story, including drawings, texts and instant messages. This form of communication ensures the story is quick witted and bounces like a tennis match between Hildy and Paul. The other characters, including a certain fish remain in the background, yet set the scene and give flesh to the main pair. ’36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You’ is an extremely readable and satisfying romance full of spark and attitude. ~ Liz Robinson
An enthralling read from the provocative prologue through to the whammy of a final chapter. DCI Jim Daley and DS Brian Scott have a nose for trouble, but Jim’s thoughts are elsewhere when a cruise ship carrying some of the worlds leading business people sails into Kinloch on a UK trade mission. This is the seventh in the cracking series of D.C.I Daley thrillers and if you’ve not read them, having been in at the start I can highly recommend beginning with Whisky From Small Glasses and enjoying the journey through to here. The prologue remained with me as I read. With several strands of the story weaving together, we also hear from an unknown person as he pours his feelings onto the page and plots destruction. While highly entertaining big action pieces take place, there are also some raw heartfelt moments closer to home. Denzil Meyrick allows enough information to escape to appeal to those who enjoy piecing together the evidence yet also uses multiple sleights of his writing hand to lay traps along the way. A Breath of Dying Embers is a rewarding, satisfying read and fabulous addition to the series.
April 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. The 1990’s - the last decade and already how far away it seems, some of the attitudes, the fashions and the politics make it seem a distant time, older and wiser, we’re glad to have survived. This attempt to catch the 1990’s and its affect on Britain is largely successful and in its way a triumph. Especially good is the knitting together of high politics and low culture with everything in between and at over 600 pages a long, deliciously detailed trawl through a decade and a bit. Like for Like Reading No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980's, Andy McSmith Austerity Britain 1945-1951, David Kynaston
This really is the most gorgeously scrumptious book, showcasing some truly beautiful and awe-inspiring skies. 365 photographs and paintings, information, science, poetry and quotations all sit inside this rather lovely cover. The book is a great size, not too unwieldy, and after the introduction, which also gives some handy page numbers of some of the highlights, every single page is adorned with clouds. Did you know there was a Cloud Appreciation Society? I didn’t, but of course it makes complete sense! Gavin Pretor-Pinney started the society and says: “Having your head in the clouds, even for just a few moments each day, is good for your mind, good for you body and good for your soul. This book aims to show you why.” It certainly does show you why, you can open it at random, return again and again, and just soak up the images. The next time you head out, you can look up and know a little bit more about our beautiful skies. A Cloud A Day is a stunner, visually and mentally stimulating, it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
May 2011 Book of the Month. The third novel in McCall's acclaimed series about the colourful inhabitants of Corduroy Mansions, Pimlico. This installment follows the adventures of Oedipus Snark, the nasty Liberal Democrat and his mother Berthea who is writing an unauthorised biography of him, and a vegetarian dog called Freddie de la Hay. Corduroy Mansions Series:1. Corduroy Mansions2. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold 3. A Conspiracy of Friends
May 2017 Book of the Month. Author famous for his excellent Logan McRae series presents a new police constable, one DC Callum McGregor. He is a man under internal investigation as he has accepted the blame for a major criminal being acquitted. We discover how and why along with learning a fair bit about the man’s dreadful childhood and his girlfriend problem. So lots of back story. There are chunks of radio conversations too and each chapter has obscure quotations. This bulks the tale out to over six hundred pages and detracts a little from the excellent yarn which shows much of the behind scene politics of a minor section of the police, to whit a unit of drop-outs or outcasts. These are officers who are unwell, have behaved inappropriately or are being investigated, as is our hero. The plot involves a serial killer who mummifies the victims. Initially there is some confusion as to whether the mummy is stolen from a museum. It is gruesome, exciting and unpredictable with a mounting body count. This drop-out unit initially investigating a theft has never handled a murder case before but Callum leads them into the investigation with great aplomb despite being physically assaulted.
June 2012 Book of the Month. Money, power, corruption and the apparent suicide of a media baron... The fourth in the atmospheric and beguiling Quirke mysteries. The Quirke series1. Christine Falls2. The Silver Swan3. Elegy for April4. A Death in Summer5. Vengeance
May 2013 Book of the Month. A tightly woven tale of moral dilemma, bold action and unexpected love from the undisputed master of the spy novel. Le Carré, seemingly effortlessly, delivers a stunningly written, furiously paced yet subtly nuanced and absorbing read - it really is remarkably good. Mary Mount, Editorial Director at Viking/Penguin, on A Delicate Truth... 'A Delicate Truth is one of le Carré’s finest novels. It is unbelievably tense but is also full of wit and brilliantly realised characters. It is extraordinary how le Carré is able to write with such tremendous pace while, at the same time, going right to the heart of who we are. A Delicate Truth is one of his most British books in recent years. I was stunned by it. It is a thrill and a privilege to publish a novel as good as this.'
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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'.
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