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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.
October 2015 NewGen Book of the Month. A group of Californian teenagers with superpowers should be having the time of their lives, right? Wrong… This action-packed page-turner about the self-proclaimed Zeroes shows that superpowers come at a cost. In fact, Ethan’s power, an all-knowing voice that speaks through him, has torn the group apart. And that’s also what lands him in serious trouble when he finds himself in the throes of an armed robbery. After being taken in for police questioning, Ethan, aka Scam, is compelled to call on the Zeroes for help. While still angry about the insults his voice poured on them, the old gang comes to his rescue. Chizara uses her superpower to crash the police station's systems so Ethan can escape. But that’s not enough; the shockwaves are already out there and the Zeroes, a collection of six compellingly realised characters, are drawn into increasingly high-stake situations. The first in a trilogy, and the result of a collaboration between three esteemed writers, this is an exhilaratingly original take on superpower-themed fiction. And, as the extraordinary teenagers are forced to find a way to harness their powers, it’s also an allegory about stepping up and taking responsibility. - Joanne Owen
Northern Soul isn't just a music genre, it's a way of life and one that intensely encompasses and overpowers those that fall for it's high energy 'stomping' - dancing. Young Soul Rebels is part personal autobiography of the acclaimed music journalist and presenter Stuart Cosgrove, part biography of the music, fans, DJs, venues and musicians, and part social history. Every song, person, place and event is richly and significantly described. It's passionately and emotionally written with a depth of information that is expertly woven into the story, which informs but never gets in the way of the drive of it's narrative. You can't but help to want to play Northern Soul music whilst reading Stuart's excellent book. The true test for any great book on music.The book journeys through the defining years of Northern Soul - the 1960s through to the 1980s (and it's later rebirth) and it's backdrop is the decline and decay of the industrial north of England. But against this is the driving power of Northern Soul music.It kept the disposed alive, awake and stomping.At the heart of Northern Soul is the the hunt for that mega rare seven inch single, with an addictive beat and heartfelt lyric and then the pilgrimage to the 'all nighters' in jam-packed, drug-fuelled, sweaty clubs. To say that you had to be obsessive to be a true Northern Soul fan is an understatement and it's a music genre that those that love it want kept secret and underground, even to this day. The beauty is, for a lot of people, this book really shines a light on a time, people and music that most people know little of.It's time to go searching for the young soul rebels.' ~ Anthony Keates June 2016 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... ‘One of the most exciting books I've worked on in years. Okay, the most exciting book. Stuart was a joy to work with. He buzzes with ideas and infectious energy, and this jumps off the page. Memoir, true crime, music biog, social history, political history: you've got the lot. This will become the bible for northern soul fans.’ Alison Rae, Managing Editor, Polygon
January 2012 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. The compelling, dynamic, unfussy history of the first 35 years of Henry VIII, a magnificent and ruthless monarch. Readable and very accessible this was a huge success it when it came out in hardback so it’s great it can be enjoyed by a much wider audience in paperback. It is also a great companion to Robert Hutchinson’s earlier book The Last Days of Henry VIII.
June 2014 Book of the Month. Three school friends from the age of nine, two boys, Ben and Robert, one girl, Maddy, are each other’s ‘best friends’ through thick and thin and so they grow up. The book opens with Maddy walking down the aisle to marry Robert but admitting that if the best man, Ben, were to raise his head and say ‘marry me instead’ she probably would. The rest of the book takes us through those years from 9 to 26 from all three points of view, but mostly from Maddy and Ben trying to come to terms with their love. Robert’s input appears to be a diary-like entry. All the way through you wonder if Maddy will say ‘I do’ to Robert.
February 2011 Book of the Month. Mr Apparently Right, Mr Definitely Wrong, and one girl who has to work out which is which - this is clever, sharp and romantic storytelling. Will shy and bookish Neve catch gorgeously handsome William when he returns from being away for 3 years or will she fall for the wicked, shallow yet sexy Max who on the surface anyway has nothing in common with Neve. As her inhibitions recede will her heart take her where she least expects?...
July 2011 Book of the Month. This story is about a girl's compulsive obsession with her teacher and it is a compulsively obsessive book, taking you to the wilds of Dartmoor and the depth of your senses, both physical and emotional. What happens when childish dreams become reality? When emotions stretch across generations? And what if the past comes back to haunt you? This is a dark and moving literary novel, up there with the most evocative women's writing in the English language: the depth of characterisation you might expect from Austen and Bronte but with a modern more sensually explicit approach.
June 2014 Book of the Month. An old case of suicide is reopened in the light of new information, albeit from a dubious source. Anna Travis, La Plante’s popular series character, is joined by an overbearing, self-opinionated FBI agent, Jessie Dewar, and the case becomes complicated. Then they have to ditch it to go on a pre-planned FBI training course in America! Naturally Travis returns to do what she does best and uncovers a network of incest, theft and poisoning, duplicity and more in another thoroughly satisfying read. A superb book. Click here to view Lynda La Plante's new book, Twisted, out in hardback in June 2014.
A seriously fabulous, gritty, and whip-cracking humour filled read. Mary Shields is a menopausal probation officer on the edge, when a murderer is released into her care events soon spiral out of control. The first line smacked me in the face, I half flinched, half blurted with laughter. Just a note of warning, while I discovered a smirk lurking on nearly every page, some may see the humour as warped. It is the type of dark humour typical of anyone who has worked in some seriously difficult situations, where if you didn’t laugh you’d cry. Helen Fitzgerald is the author of the BBC TV series The Cry, and previously worked as a criminal justice social worker. Her knowledge shines through, I didn’t stop, I didn’t question, I simply sank into the deep murky depths of the story and believed. When I reached the oh so beautiful end I wanted to leap to my feet and give Helen Fitzgerald a standing ovation. I absolutely adored Worst Case Scenario, this is short, sharp storytelling at its very best, which has earned it a place as one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading star book.
May 2009 Book of the Month. A lovely book full of nostalgia and warmth. Jessie’s story is set in the 1970’s and finds her coping with a family life that is breaking down around her. In the letters she finds from Edith, a female explorer in the 1930’s we find another life, very different from Jessie’s, but still coping with the same worries and relationship problems. This will make you laugh and cry and laugh a bit more. Thoroughly enjoyable.
August 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A book of essays reflecting Geoff Dyer’s work over the past ten years. Essays covering everything from personal reflections to perceptive critiques of writers and artists, the range spaning humour to insights into military morality. You’ll find yourself furiously scribbling notes on future reading and references to follow up as you follow the author through subjects rare and familiar – and if you haven’t read his work before, I guarantee you’ll want to read more.Like for Like ReadingMe Talk Pretty One Day, David SedarisGhost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project, Iain Sinclair
September 2011 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. Highly topical and relevant to our world today. Employment has changed so radically in the last decade with fewer of us having full-time jobs with final salary pensions, and the former assumption that if you studied hard you would get the job of your dreams no longer holds. This title will help you gain the skills, aptitude and confidence to adapt and prosper in this world of work - whatever your age or background as well as make time for time outside work.
One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. Publisher turned author Fanny Blake has written another insightful, funny, addictive read that women will totally understand and men would do well to read in order to learn more about real women today. On holiday, soon to be divorced Lou meets serial mistress Ali and they strike up an instant friendship but they have a lot more in common than they realise. It raises the question, can you ever truly escape from the mistakes of the past? May 2012 Book of the Month.
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