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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
Set in one of the most harrowing times in history, this powerfully beautiful relationship and friendship story shines a blazing torch on the very best that humanity has to offer. When British prisoner of war Bill, while on work duty from a labour camp in the depths of Czechoslovakia in 1944, meets farmer Izabela, love blossoms. They secretly marry, go on the run and determine that they will never be separated, not even if captured by the German army. Based on a true story it feels as though Maggie Brookes was destined to meet Sidney Reed who told her this tale, and that as a historical documentary researcher and producer for the BBC she was perfectly placed to write this as a novel. The prologue starts with the couple on the run from the German army, Izabela has disguised herself as a man, and by pretending to be mute when finally captured, is taken with Bill to a prisoner of war camp. Setting the scene so thoroughly heightened my emotions as chapter one then took me back to their first meeting. I’ve already read a number of novels and non-fiction books relating to this time, including one of the books Maggie Brookes mentions as further reading. My prior reading and knowing what was to come from the prologue, still in no way prepared me for what Bill and Izabela were to face. This intimate, vivid and compelling account reaches through the nightmare and finds true love and friendship, all of which is written beautifully by the author. The Prisoner’s Wife meets horror head on, so prepare yourself, but it also filled me with hope, and this comes as highly recommended by me.
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, it is quite simply, glorious.
Simply gorgeous! Seriously everyone, this really is THE most lovely book. I don’t know about you, but I adore looking at beautiful houses, and boy is Cath Kidston’s home stunning, it is also deliciously homely too. Yes of course, this is Cath Kidston of the Cath Kidston vintage-inspired homeware and designer brand. She has sent a gorgeous invitation to wander around her home, telling us how they found it, and how each room came into being. Pavilion have created a perfectly sized and visually beautiful book. Stuffed full of vivid, colourful photographs (shout out to Christopher Simon Sykes), I sank into the pages. I love her quirky touches, such as the cracker adorned painting, and the colour, oh my, the colour just pops! Yes I am rather gushing over this book, that’s because it sang to me, and I have fallen in love with it. A Place Called Home would make the perfect gift, but make sure you buy one for yourself too! Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, just because it is so beautiful.
Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
A blistering, gripping, and absolutely fascinating novel. Set aside plenty of quality time as I was consumed, and read it all in one heady, breathtaking go. It’s based on the true story of Nancy Wake, named by the Gestapo as The White Mouse, as she evaded their capture by slipping through check points in France during The Second World War. It is almost impossible to comprehend the wartime life of Nancy, it feels as though all of it is brilliant but astonishing fiction. Darby Kealey and Imogen Robertson have created a living, breathing, headstrong woman and I shook my head in wonder and shock at some of her escapades. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes and at times appears somewhat gung-ho, with no apparent regard for the safety of herself or her team, yet this woman was quite simply incredible. The authors have made changes to timelines and invented some episodes which they fully explain in the Historical Notes. A major film production is underway, and I recommend reading the book just as soon as you can (before the film) as it is fabulous. Nancy Wake has entered my heart, and we just had to choose Liberation as a LoveReading Star Book.
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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