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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.
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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