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2017 was a fantastic year for new title publishing. So many good books were published it’s quite possible even the most dedicated of readers missed a few. Below are favourites chosen by our book experts. We hope you enjoy the selection.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | December 2017 Debut of the Month Beautifully written, this stunning, unusual debut weaves its way through an intense, all-encompassing first love. A love forbidden by the times in which they live and yet one that they’ll risk everything not to lose. Hold Back the Stars is set in a future where the world has been ravaged by war and a new society introduced. The earth is now peaceful but this comes at a price. There are rules and one of the rules is that you don’t fall in love until you reach the appropriate age. Yet the heart rarely follows rules and when Carys and Max meet its ten years before either should be thinking of settling down. They are young, rebellious and maybe the system no longer works for their generation. Throughout the novel Carys and Max are desperately trying to find a way to survive after their ship is damaged and they are stranded in space and rapidly running out of both air and options. I loved discovering their relationship as Khan dips in and out of their past moving us towards the moment that brought them to be being in space and the catastrophic situation they find themselves in. It is intense and Khan conjures up the sheer vastness of space and their desperation as they watch the minute’s tick away taking them closer to death. Yes this is a novel about survival but ultimately it is a unique love story about how true love can turn our world upside down and also, maybe it can be the very thing that saves us too. ~ Shelley Fallows Click here to read a Q&A about this book.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | November 2017 Book of the Month In the hinterlands of America, a man completes his jail sentence for accidental murder and returns to his home town, where relatives of the boy he killed whilst drunk driving are set on revenge. The sad lives of people caught in a circle of despair is captured with poignant accuracy as well as the slippery slope that leads them there despite all their best intentions. A novel about the day to day life and travails of ordinary people eager for redemption or, at any rate, a chance at a normal life, this is both moving and gripping as the assorted characters reach out for a safety raft of sorts despite all the indignities circumstances heap on them and they struggle to retain dignity and principles. A harsh but beautiful thriller that has you cheering under your breath for its wounded, fallible protagonist throughout and a considerable achievement, with echoes of WINTER'S BONE in its celebration of the human spirit. And lest I make Farris Smith's novel sound too worthy, may I add it grips like a vice... ~ Maxim Jakubowski
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortly after the Russian revolution, a White Russian count is spared execution because of a subversive poem he wrote defying authority before the fall of the Czar and is, instead, exiled to an attic room in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow, where he once enjoyed a luxurious suite and all the amenities that wealth could provide. As he adapts to his house arrest, we follow his encounters with the motley denizens, employees and visitors of the hotel and watch how his state of mind changes alongside the Russia outside the walls of the hotel. Both meditative and, at times, truculent, this also forms a parallel history of Russia over the following forty years or so until the death of Stalin and for a narrative isolated inside a closed locale becomes amazingly broad in scope, reflective, expansive and so often terribly moving, albeit with much wit and humour. Unforgettable characters, both fictional and real life, a web of subtle relationships: all human life is here and a triumphant follow-up to Towles' debut novel which had been set in the glitter of New York in the 1930s. Long but wonderfully rewarding, this will make you laugh, cry and smile, an epic that never even moves outside the hotel's lobby! Loved it. ~ Maxim Jakubowski February 2017 MEGA Book of the Month. The Lovereading view... Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, the gentleman of the title, is not executed with his fellow aristocrats for he had already left Russia at the start of the Revolution and he returns in 1918. This mystifies the Bolshevik tribunal he stands before in 1922. He wrote a poem which is deemed a call to arms, but for which side? So he is placed under house arrest for life. Conveniently his address for the last four years has been The Hotel Metropol, the best in Moscow. Now moved to humble rooms in the old servant quarters in the belfry, he nonetheless has the run of the beautiful establishment, the restaurants and bar. He makes friends with the servants and guests alike and is dubbed by an old student friend who has suffered in the Gulag, “the luckiest man in Russia”. Intrigue, romance and friendship pepper the years as we follow the Count from 1922 to 1954, a time of huge change as a new Russia is created. With a nod towards the period in its style and lots of philosophy, I wouldn’t say this was compulsive but it is strangely hypnotic, one is certainly drawn to it although it isn’t an easy read. It is a comfortable book to be with despite its horrific span in history for imprisoned in his hotel, Rostov is indeed one of the luckiest in Russia. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Click here to read a Q&A with the author about this book.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. The first adult novel by an acclaimed children's book author, Sweet Pea hits all the right buttons. A dark, twisted read about a female serial killer with dollops of humour, sarcasm and a lightweight approach to a serious subject that shouldn't work but does! Rhiannon loves her pet dog and her doll house and works in a menial position at her local newspaper. She also kills people in imaginative ways. None of them are actually innocent; well, maybe one was... Her boyfriend is cheating on her with a friend to his peril. You can't help but smile along with Rhiannon as her diary unfolds, bitchy, sarcastic, lethal. Skuse is clever and maintains just the right balance of immorality, belly laughs, sinister actions and eye-opening commentary on the absurdities and pettiness of everyday life to, keeping you gripped and on the hook, both smiling and squirming. I'm looking forward to her next 'grown-up' book, as this one will be hard to beat! ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Oooh, this is a truly cringe-inducing, yet addictive, whammy of a read. ‘Sweetpea’ is the diary of a serial killer, Rhiannon may look sweet and innocent, but inside that shell, is a plotting, deviously twisted mind. The first chapter shocked me, in fact every chapter shocked me, I blurted with laughter and then burned with guilt at my reaction as words spilled from Rhiannon’s mind onto the page. If you find the thought of an evil-thinking, murdering psychopath, who tosses imaginative profanities like litter a little off-putting, then do think twice before opening this book. If you do peek, be warned, I found it impossible to put down, this is a psychopath whose words struck a chord and made me wonder at my own propensity for wickedness. This is the first novel for adults from C. J. Skuse, and I think she must have an evil little monster residing in her pen, yet as information was revealed, my thoughts halted, coiled, altered. ‘Sweetpea’ is a wonderfully surprising novel, obvious, a shock-fest, in your face… yet incredibly subtle and thought-provoking too, I loved it, I absolutely loved it. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | November 2017 Debut of the Month Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2017. A simply sensational and thrilling debut! Met police detectives William Oliver Layton-Fawkes and Emily Baxter find themselves smack bang in the middle of the hunt for a serial killer. A hammer hard prologue slapped my awareness, and from that moment on, I didn't want to put this book down, even for a single second. Daniel Cole handles the case and the characters with aplomb, this feels different, fresh, exciting. In the midst of the mayhem I found myself snorting with laughter, a moment later I wrinkled my face in horror and disbelief. An overflowing fistful of danger, gripping urgency, and the intricate twisting storyline certainly kept me on my toes. ‘Ragdoll’ is a humdinger of a tale that smashes into your senses, wreaks havoc in your mind, and leaves you wanting more. I really can’t wait to see what Daniel Cole comes up with next! ~ Liz Robinson A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. There are a lot of serial killer novels out there, for which Hannibal Lecter must take much of the blame, but Daniel Cole's powerful debut deserves a (bloody) place in the sun or, at any rate, in the autopsy lab! A puppet-like body is discovered made up of the dismembered parts of six different victims, hence the 'ragdoll' appellation given to it by the media. Once disgraced Met cop William Fawkes is assigned the case together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and they appear powerless when the killer taunts them by announcing the names of his future victims. As Fawkes seeks a form of redemption with the support of his team, the pace of the story accelerates exponentially and will leave you breathless all the way to a most intense finale. Gory and ultra-realistic, dark, populated by flawed characters and just not the villain, this is a splendid addition to the genre and well worth the nail-biting detour if you have a strong constitution! ~ Maxim Jakubowski A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... I have been on the hunt for a gripping police procedural for over a year, a detective to follow in the footsteps of Rebus and Grace. When RAGDOLL landed on my desk I knew this was the one to go for. It has all the hallmarks of a great crime novel (crooked lead, twisty plot, high body count) with the rocket-pace of the best thriller writing. And what made it stand out was the terrific dark humour, the razor sharp interactions between our lead detectives Fawkes and his colleagues. Daniel’s inspiration is Robert Galbraith, and that shows in the writing. This is the next big thing in crime fiction, and I can’t wait for readers to fall head over heels for it like I did. ~ Sam Eades, Editorial Director, Orion Books
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Not a thriller by any means, unless the quest by a twin sister to discover what happened to her other half in the horror of the concentration camps might qualify it as such, young American author Konar's literary novel aims straight for the heart, a lyrical evocation of both the bonds between siblings, the power of dreams and hope but also of the abominable power of ordinary evil which the Nazis released into the world. The sad tale of identical twins Pearl and Stasha Zagorski and how their personalities (and mutilated bodies) were modified by Doctor Mengele in the horrors of Auschwitz becomes an elegy to beauty and the invisible language of children. Despite the terrible nature of the subject, Konar manages to bring a new sensibility to it and turns this poignant story of an aspect of WW2 which should never be forgotten into a curious and moving fairy tale of sorts, and a salutory reminder. Like a flower on the scorched grounds of hell, this is a story about the human spirit, in the tradition of Primo Levi and The Child Thief, which should be praise enough. ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... A very special, rather beautiful, and truly unforgettable novel, this is a story that has become a part of me, and is now lodged in my soul. 13 year old twins, Pearl and Stasha are star ‘attractions’ at Mengele's Zoo. In the midst of the nightmare of Auschwitz, they witness the very worst and best of humanity in conditions that are almost impossible to comprehend. Each girl tells their own story, each child’s voice, views from a position of innocence and experience, a world of confusion, horror, and love. While this is deeply unsettling, uncomfortable, and my brain often wanted to skirt some of the searing truths, it is also a touching, stunning read. Affinity Konar writes with an exquisite hand, sparks of affection and passion flame through the darkness. ‘Mischling’ darts through thoughts like a dream of a memory, waking them to a harrowing age old horror, yet also displaying the true wonder of humanity, the love our hearts can hold. ~ Liz Robinson February 2017 Debut of the Month.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Another fabulous addition to the mind-blowingly good ‘D.I. Marnie Rome’ series. Marnie and Noah find themselves slap in the middle of the deeds of a deviously twisted mind. Pain and suffering slyly join hands as the past haunts the present. Sarah Hilary’s crime series is one of my favourites, I have stalked and hunted down the publication dates since I read her award winning debut novel, ‘Someone Else’s Skin’. So my expectations were high, and I can say with absolute conviction that ‘Quieter Than Killing’ more than delivers. I forgot I was meant to be reviewing, and just read. The words wormed their way inside my mind, creating uncomfortable spaces. At times there were parts that almost physically hurt, yet I couldn’t stop reading. This is cracking, tension-filled, compelling writing, and my mind is still chitter chattering to itself as I think back over the story. So, do I recommend ‘Quieter Than Killing’, yes, yes, yes, of course I do! ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A book to make you think and feel, this is an important, beautiful, spellbinding treasure. Words from nature are disappearing, being removed, left to one side to be forgotten. Some words are in real danger of being lost forever, this book reveals those words, sings them, shows them, reminds us how to love them. Spell-weavers Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris have created a bewitching ode to nature, reminding us of the danger of absence, highlighting beauty, whispering to our soul. It feels as though the words, the poems, and vividly beautiful pictures are as one, the essence of the word, of the being, escapes the page to wrap itself around you. ‘The Lost Words’ is suitable for all ages, and should find a special place in all homes, all libraries, all schools, all hearts. Do read the spell-poems out loud, listen, look, feel, touch, allow your awareness to open and receive these gifts. I found myself entranced, I fell completely under the spell of ‘The Lost Words’, I simply can’t recommend it highly enough. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Book of the Month A beautiful, and heart-achingly touching read, step outside of yourself, and into Catherine’s world. A world where a slice of Catherine has been missing since she was nine years old. Set after the devastating Hull floods in 2007, a crisis helpline sits at the centre of the story. Catherine was a bewitching, intriguing, puzzle. As her missing memories began to unfurl, the tale weaved through time, unsettling and thoroughly provoking my thoughts. My heart both cried and soared as I read, Louise Beech writes with quiet, subtle, painful beauty. Her ability to create hope in loss, to reach into darkness and find flashes of light is magical. Memorable, sorrowful, fascinating and yet full of love, Maria In the Moon has possessed my thoughts and taken up residence in my soul - highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Book of the Month An absolute belter of a novel, amusing, poignant, and hugely entertaining. This is a follow-up to the bestseller I Don’t Know How She Does It, however it could be read without prior knowledge of Kate Reddy's earlier life. Kate herself is fast heading towards 50 and invisibility, life however refuses to listen and keeps setting devious traps. I don't believe that you have to have passed or be nearing 50, to be a parent or even a woman, to be captivated by this tale of family drama. Allison Pearson writes with a witty, exceedingly realistic pen and I found myself nodding along, both smirking and wincing as I read. How Hard Can It Be captures life, proper gutsy, difficult, yet wonderful life, and while making you smile, also makes you think, I loved it. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month Although unanimously heralded for featuring the return of spy master Smiley, this is more about his sidekick Peter Guillam, a sometimes melancholy tale revisiting the past and, more specifically, the operation and some of the characters detailed in the classic The Spy Who Came in from The Cold. Although Smiley is an ever present figure lurking in the shadows, as Guillam is forced to unravel complex threads of treachery, lies and deceit that have now come to roost, Smiley actually only makes a brief, if welcome, appearance at the conclusion of the tale, a meditation on the secret world and the damage done when the end always justified the means, not withstanding the human cost. Disillusioned, a bittersweet ballad about the morality of its characters and written, as ever, so beautifully and wittily, this is a perfect coda to the saga of the Circus, where so many much-loved, if dubious, characters we knew so well make fleeting passages on the scene. Le Carre at his best and you can’t get any better. Reminds us of what we lost when the series initially came to an end. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Debut of the Month Surprising, vivid, and eloquent, this is a truly beautiful debut. Joan Ashby is a talented, award winning writer, and while marriage and family press pause in the story of her career, words demand access to the page. Author Cherise Wolas paints a vibrant and personal picture of Joan using a variety of methods including magazine articles and short stories. My mind was immediately captivated by the strength and purity of the writing, and I fell in love with this tale. The fictional world within fictional world caused my thoughts to fracture and reconnect, and asked my consciousness to think in a different way, to stop and consider. ‘The Resurrection of Joan Ashby’ displays life in all its wonderful confusing glory, the hidden, the echoes, the hurt and love. If I had to choose to be a book, to live within the pages, this is one that I’d most certainly pick. A wonderful debut and highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Herron's Slough House series just keeps on getting better and better, both on the sly humorous front and with the Machiavellian variations it offers on the levels of deception that operate within the British secret service. This is John le Carre territory with added dollops of sheer mischief as well as pathos as familiar, larger than life characters navigate another tortuous case, with the monstrous but endearing boss of the disgraced spy unit Jackson Lamb as ever pulling invisible strings and his ill-assorted team barely keeping their head above the water level. River Cartwright's grandfather who was once one of the stars of the great game is now old and senile and presents a danger to the new powers-that-be, while on the other side of town a terrorist attack on a shopping center triggers a whole series of new threats. Is there a connection between the two events and how will our motley group of losers come out of it all alive? Or will they? Great stuff. More, please! ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Whoo hoo! The Slough House misfits return, with the fourth of the series, and the horrendously brilliant Jackson Lamb at the warped helm. Former spook David Cartwright may be retired, his grandson and Slough House resident River may be worried about his health, however you wouldn't want to underestimate this old man’s capabilities, oh no… If you've not yet discovered the seriously wicked pen of Mick Herron, do start at the beginning with ‘Slow Horses’, as although this could be read as a standalone, you wont get the best result if you step into the middle of this fabulous series. Mick Herron has created a deviously twisted world, it sticks two fingers up at, well, everyone really, as the team manage to create as many issues as they solve. The intricate layers build slowly in what is actually a fast moving story, so don't get left behind, as you may feel a bit daft when you catch up. There are plenty of smirky laughter blurting moments, as well as wince and whimper inducing ones, along the way. ‘Spook Street’ is a wonderfully crooked, scalding hot, absolute crackerjack of read, and it’s part of a series that just shouldn't be missed.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Oh my word, this book is devious, twisted, and an absolute knockout! The story, revolving around love, passion, suspicion, and deceit, kept me teetering on a razor sharp wire of uncertainty. Sarah Pinborough’s writing is sublime, it’s shrewd, artful, cunning, and as the story sucked me in, I felt the manipulation of the words warping and writhing as they entered my consciousness. I found myself sitting in stunned silence when I reached the very end, then wanted to jump and down and recommend ‘Behind Her Eyes’ to the world. Start reading just as soon as you can so you too, can experience the deep, dark, dangerous depths of this truly bone-chilling and wonderful novel. Make sure you enter with a clear mind, and try not to get too confident as the story will quite happily trip you up and stamp all over you. Sarah Pinborough, I salute you! ~ Liz Robinson The considerable buzz building around Pinborough's new novel (following the already mightily impressive The Death House and 13 Minutes) is led not only from her respective publishers' camp but also, more importantly, from advance readers, and is fully deserved. This could well become a massive commercial success along the lines of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train and it held me in thrall from beginning to end. The tale of a dark, puzzling and twisted affair that goes horribly wrong for, seemingly, all parties, it's unpredictable, tricky, immediate, gut-gripping and difficult to summarise without giving out any of the shattering spoilers and seduces like no other, with viewpoints changing in front of your eyes as you turn the page, putting all you've read before into question in a most clever way, sowing constant seeds of doubt the moment you begin to identify with one of the characters and sympathise with them. Imaginatively wicked, ingenious, and 'that' ending will leave you open-mouthed. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | October 2017 Debut of the Month Make no mistake, this debut novel is startling and often painfully uncomfortable, yet it is a stunning, actually breathtaking piece of literature. 14 year old Turtle is strong, capable, different, she is also suffering… deeply and painfully. Within the first few pages I knew that ‘My Absolute Darling’ was going to be an unforgettable read. By the end of the first chapter, ice-cold fingers had run down my spine and sent my whole system into shock. I felt as though I was viewing life from an entirely different perspective, one absolutely humming with intensity. I wanted to stop the feelings of disbelief and horror that were crowding into my mind, but I knew that I had to bear witness. Gabriel Tallent’s writing is surprisingly simple, yet he paints a vibrant pulsating picture, this man sees life, sees beneath the surface, and grants you access too. The plants, wildlife, and surrounding countryside, so beautifully described, link with the reality of Turtle’s life and on occasion act as a buffer to what is happening. There were times when ‘My Absolute Darling’ made me scream inside, yet I couldn't stop reading this remarkable and actually rather beautiful novel. It will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2017. Ooh, this truly is a fabulously captivating and unpredictable tale, and it kept me clinging to the very edge of my seat. Annie’s mother is a serial killer, Annie informs on her mother and we hear her story as she attempts to deal with her new foster family and the approaching trial. Immediately from the start this feels different, my mind flashed onto high alert setting and remained there for the entire story. Annie's name is changed to Milly and she tells her own tale, speaking in short, sharp, powerful sentences. I felt her confusion, loneliness, and wanted to hug her as her thoughts tumbled in limbo. Her feelings wormed their way into my mind, making me think, making me question. Ali Land doesn't hold back, ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ is uncomfortable, powerful, provocative, and an absolute knockout. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Legal thrillers by Scott Turow, since the classic Presumed Innocent, have always proved rewarding, and presented a multi-faceted X-ray of American society and its system through the travails of the fictional Kindle County and its gallery of fallible principals. Only once has the unprolific Turow travelled beyond his patch but he does so again in Testimony, although the main character does hail from the County. Attorney Bill ten Boom's life has fallen apart, career, marriage and he has taken up a position at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where he he becomes attached to the case of the suspicious disappearance of a whole village of Roma and its inhabitants in the Balkans. When a witness to the ensuing massacre emerges, Bill travels to Bosnia to investigate on the ground, which opens a window on some of the horrors of past history as well as a complex web of tortuous and treacherous relationships involving Serb leaders, compromised international forces, paramilitary forces and local lawyers. Although the plot never actually reaches the courtroom, this is twists-filled and unputdownable as a thriller about the nature of evil and human frailty and compromises and equal to any of Turow's masterful earlier titles. A major novel. ~ Maxim Jakubowski Maxim Jakubowski July 2017 Book of the Month
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | August 2017 Debut of the Month As it dances across thoughts and emotions, ‘Say My Name’ proves to be a beautiful, thoughtful, and seductive read. Eve is 48, her life is stagnant until she finds a broken violin and meets Micajah, a young man capable of awakening her innermost being. Allegra Huston writes with a gentle sensuality, I almost felt as though I had stepped into a dream, yet moments of biting reality create an exquisite balance. The intimacy of the sexual relationship between Eve and Micajah allowed me to enter Eve’s thoughts and step outside of myself, as she followed the path she herself had created. ‘Say My Name’ has an otherworldly feel, that stimulates senses and provokes feelings, and I found this voyage of discovery to be a very lovely read indeed. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | July 2017 eBook of the Month. A mesmerising, haunting, and extraordinarily relevant yet beautifully evocative read. Kurtiz arrives in Paris after a sighting of her missing daughter, as the tale begins to unfurl, humanity at its very best and worst is revealed in several time frames. There is a slight departure in tone from previous novels, however the deep emotion and captivating writing is still reassuringly in evidence for existing fans. Carol Drinkwater explores thoughts and feelings during and after war, and immediately after an act of terrorism, her empathy shines a light on the darkness of the story. The movement in time allows more information to slot into place and the relationships between the characters began to connect like lightening strikes in my mind. ‘The Lost Girl’ is a story about relationships, family, and love during heartbreak, doubt and apprehension, yet rather than oppressive, I found an entirely captivating and beautiful read awaited. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Maxim Jakubowski July 2017 Highly Recommended. It's been too long since Harrison, very much a writer's writer whose sinuous and hypnotic, obsessive plots always leave their indelible mark on the reader, had published a new novel. You Belong to Me doesn't disappoint. As ever set in a New York city where the night holds a thousand secrets, this witnesses the life of a straight immigration lawyer with a passion for collecting rare maps intersect with an intense couple whose husband is particularly jealous and possessive and a man who returns out of the blue from the wife's past and takes all three into a dizzying waltz into darkness that will leave the reader giddy. Harrison has a particular talent for making places and things we know take on an area of shadow until they are no longer recognizable and this rollercoaster of a novel with its twists, turns, bare emotions and muted but craftily engineered thrills is par for the course and so eminently satisfying. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | July 2017 Book of the Month. A humdinger of a serial killer thriller in sheer overdrive, The Fourth Monkey is a winner from the get go, even if some of the explicit, gory violence inevitably scattered throughout the book might offend some. The Fourth Monkey Killer has been terrorising Chicago for five years, with seven victims each mutilated in different ways and has just died in a traffic accident, leaving the main investigator Detective Sam Peter, in a cat and mouse race to discover the the latest, now one-eared, abductee before she eventually perishes, when the killer's diary falls into his possession. The criminal's backstory which we gradually discover is both harrowing and fascinating as Sam has to delve into the psychopath's sick mind in an effort to understand him and solve the conundrum of the victim's whereabouts and identity, but is he being manipulated from beyond the grave? And why were the victims specifically selected? Fast-paced, full of twists related to the the title based on a Japanese saying, this is already in the bestseller lists and no wonder! ~ Maxim Jakubowski Maxim Jakubowski June 2017 Highly Recommended. The Lovereading view... Oh my, this is a sensational rattlesnake-strike of a read! The terrifying Four Monkey Killer is dead, he has left a personal diary containing clues for the investigating team to follow, can they beat the clock and rescue his last victim? We follow the diary, victim, and detectives over several days, short snappy chapters filled with impact and drama ensured I could not and did not want to stop reading. This book is so rammed full of shocking revelations, even if I had an idea of where something was going, I was soon hit full broadside by another stomach churning blast. The diary gave me the heebie-jeebies as I read, at points I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I could continue. Be warned, J. D. Barker owns one seriously twisted and evil-plotting pen, the diary is horribly addictive, and the rest just plain addictive. ‘The Fourth Monkey’ in turns repulsed and thrilled me, it is an exceedingly creepy, yet brilliantly plotted, fabulous read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | June 2017 Book of the Month. Wow! This is a cracking psychological thriller. Told in first person from two different viewpoints it causes you to question the reliability of both women. Smart, sensitive, talented Bo, always mothering, always looking to save someone and Alice, young, damaged and a drifter. The two meet at a writers retreat and a spark sets off an unexpected chain of events that will change the lives of both women. Alice is in awe of the successful author and in turn something in Alice’s writing captures Bo’s attention. The two embark on an intense, complex relationship which soon becomes obsessive and destructive. I was completely swept up in the brilliance of Sarah’s carefully constructed plot that had me constantly questioning the outcome and eagerly turning the page. The beautifully atmospheric setting of the Lake District and bustling, bohemian Brighton echo the different characters at the heart of this story. It was a chilling read, expertly crafted and difficult to put down. ~ Shelley Fallows Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | June 2017 Non-Fiction Book of the Month. A candid, objective, cooly passionate, and often unsettling account of policing from a police officer. John Sutherland joined the Met in 1992 aged 22, we see snapshots of his life as an officer, as he progresses up the career ladder, as he deals with all the horrors and glory a life in blue has to offer. From the very first page my attention was sucked in whole, I come from a family of blue, married blue, and spent 20 years as a member of police support staff. Even then, I was on the edge of understanding, I didn't ever have to run towards danger, tell someone a loved one had died, sit with death, experience the bitter lows, the jubilant highs of being a police officer, yet John Sutherland takes you there. As we read we step in and out of a series of events that have all added up to create this man, it isn’t a glittery or gory descriptive feast, but it doesn't have to be, he simply and clearly gives you a connection, and an understanding that under that uniform is flesh and blood and feelings. One thing is abundantly clear, this man loves his job, he feels the continued effort is worth it, and yet it very nearly broke him. It is truly captivating, whether you nod, smile wryly, and wish he could have been your boss, or feel the shock and admiration as you learn what our police are exposed to day after day. ‘Blue A Memoir’ is a worthwhile and fascinating read, I really do recommend it with my heart and soul. ~ Liz Robinson Author, former police officer, and fan of Lovereading Matt Johnson has very kindly sent us the following review: I was already an inspector at Stoke Newington in North London when John Sutherland joined the police. The subtitle to John's first book - 'Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces' - was something I was starting to experience just as he entered the world of London policing. And so, for reasons that may be apparent, I approached this book with some trepidation. I've followed John's @policecommander twitter feed and his blog for some time and we have been in touch many times. His blog, in particular, is simply brilliant. Eighteen months ago, he came to the London launch of my debut novel and was kind enough to bring me a present. It was a simple gift, but full of meaning. John brought me a tie, a Hostage Negotiator tie, from the Hendon course that he and I had both attended. Me, in 1991, John many years later. My original tie was lost, something I had mentioned to him and, without being asked, John sourced a replacement. That thoughtful side to John's character comes across clearly in this, his first book. He is a man who cares, a man who builds bridges.'Blue' is John's account of his 25-year policing career in the Metropolis, of his experiences and the challenges he faced, and of the eventual toll it took on his mental health. Reading 'Blue' took me back, long-forgotten memories returned and I felt a sense of re-connecting with my past. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Much of 'Blue' is written in the form of anecdotes, short stories of incidents, of people and of issues facing the police service. The writing style is that of a narrator, and it very quickly draws you in, to the point where you are soon fully engaged. For me, it felt like a warm blanket, comforting and, at the same time, reassuring that our police service is being run by people like John, who clearly care a great deal for the public they serve.'Blue' made me smile, it made me laugh. It made me cry out in frustration and sympathy and, just near the end, it brought a tear to my eye. I won't tell you where, but I suspect you will recognise the moment when you read it for yourself. And, I use that word 'when' quite deliberately, because I feel this book is essential reading for anyone interested in policing, whether it be as a serving or retired officer, or as a person who is interested in what happens behind the scenes of an organisation charged with preserving peace in our society. 'Blue' is a memoir, a one-off account of one man's police career. But it is far more than that. It is an insight into how the pressures and stresses of the high-paced career-focussed lives of our senior executives can place unacceptable and unsustainable responsibilities upon them. A 'must read', if ever there was one. - Matt Johnson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Gorgeously affectionate, loving, and generous, this is a read to escape into and really enjoy. Hunters Moon is a forever home, yet the current occupants are selling up and when Belinda takes on the sale, she finds herself becoming emotionally attached to Sally and Alexander. Veronica Henry sets the story so beautifully in two time frames, it feels completely natural to journey back to the late 1960’s as well as spend time with Belinda in the present. I was completely enchanted, both with the characters and the setting in the beautiful Peasebrook. If you are an existing fan, then you will recognise locations and a few of the people you meet along the way, however this can very easily be read as a standalone. I have to say that ‘The Forever House’ is one of my favourite reads by Veronica Henry, and the honey glow of Hunters Moon sweeps you up in a deliciously warm embrace. ~ Liz Robinson
A gorgeously expressive and captivating novel, set in 1930’s India at the height of the struggle for independence against British rule. 28 year old photographer Eliza agrees to document the royal family and subjects of one of the princely states. Eliza spends time with Jay, brother of the prince, and as they become closer they open their minds to new ideas, however their relationship comes under scrutiny. Dinah Jefferies always transports thoughts, feelings, and senses, not only to the place, but also the time, so completely, it’s a shock when you look up from page and come back to reality. For me, there was an additional quality to this novel, the land is important, the descriptions are striking, and the history of this time absolutely fascinating; yet the relationship here feels vital, pronounced, and completely essential to the storyline. It is the relationship, with the different customs and cultures, and how it affects the people surrounding Eliza and Jay, that really provoked my feelings. With the issues affecting women taking centre stage, ‘Before the Rains’ is a beautiful novel, subtle yet striking, full of impact, and full of love.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Maxim Jakubowski June 2017 Book of the Month. Following on from Martin Edwards' splendid, award-winning Golden Age of Murder, about Christie and the heyday of the British cozy school of crime writing, Ripley's exploration of popular literature's history moves on in time and closely examines the boom in British thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed, a period and genre that had hitherto mostly been glossed over by both academia and critics. Witty and meticulously researched, Ripley's exploration of a much-maligned category demonstrates how British values and the shadow of the Empire coloured the works of so many authors, many of whom so deserve to be revived, following their initial heyday, like Desmond Bagley, Alastair MacLean, Alan Williams, Hammond Innes, Ted Allbeury, Lionel Davidson and scores of others alongside better-known names like Le Carre, Deighton, Jack Higgins, etc... Many of the books and authors evoked were a reflection of their time and Ripley cleverly argues for their posterity in an impeccable exercise in scholarship and entertainment that makes you want to scour the second-hand shelves or EBay every few pages, or hark back to memories of your reading youth should you be of a certain age. Indispensable and destined for awards. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Maxim Jakubowski's May 2017 Book of the Month. May 2017 Debut of the Month. A truly stunning debut both powerful and disturbing by a UK-based French author, set in London, the West Coast of Sweden and, worryingly, during WW2 in the Buchenwald concentration camp. The use of such a harrowing location and era might in other less-skillful hands smack of exploitation, but here it just anchors an already scary serial killer investigation in reality with a series of heart-jumping twists you never see coming. When similar mutilations appear in the murder of a female Swedish jewellery designer in Falkenberg and the discovery of young children's bodies on Hampstead Heath, Scotland Yard call on the services of seconded Canadian profiler Emily Roy, and true crime author Alexis Castells who knew the initial victim and feels compelled to become involved. The contrasting couple's investigation alongside both police forces slowly uncovers layers of horror and surprises. The first in a series, winner of several awards in its native France, this heralds the English language debut of a major new talent and will have people talking (DISCLAIMER: I am the translator of this book, which I was pleased to bring to the attention of its British publishers). ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... As the start to a new series, this is a truly menacing, striking and powerful read. Profiler Emily Roy, and Alexis Castells a true crime writer, join forces as mutilated bodies are discovered in Sweden and London. The tale begins in 2013, as a body is hidden and thoughts are revealed in chilling focus. Roy and Castells make a fascinating duo, each adding their own distinct style. Short chapters provoke interest, and set feelings whirling, before moving swiftly on. Buchenwald concentration camp squats with loathing intensity in 1944, breaking into the middle of the story, just how do the atrocities committed there link to the investigation? Maxim Jakobowski ensures a seamless translation as Johana Gustawsson releases evil behind a stark and deceptively simple writing style. ‘Block 46’ left me shuddering as it reached a dramatic conclusion, and yet I couldn’t turn away, oh what a clever and very shocking tale this is! ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... As sometimes happens, Block 46 was recommended to me by a number of authors and reviewers, whose opinion I trust, and I was very excited to meet with Johana’s French publisher at the London Book Fair last year. My eldest son read it in the original French, as did an outside reader, and both come back with stars in their eyes, and a You MUST publish this book message! Maxim Jakubowski was already a fan, and we hired him to translate Block 46. Six months on and I still hadn’t read it. I flew through the first draft of the translation in less than a day, and knew exactly why everyone was raving – exactly why this book has won so many awards in Johana’s native France. This is a stunning piece of crime fiction, with a plot that twists and turns and leaves the reader both breathless and gasping for more. At its heart is a study of the nature of evil that is eye-opening and also terrifying, and the two main protagonists are fresh, never stereotypical, and hugely engaging. I am thrilled and honoured to be publishing such a fabulous series, with its sweeping plot and timelines. In all honesty, it is probably the best Noir to come out of France for a decade, by a young writer with a massive future ahead of her. ~ Karen Sullivan, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with the author.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | April 2017 Book of the Month. This is a beautifully crafted novel. Those familiar with Kostova’s writing will be delighted to know that her beautiful, descriptive prose has yet again created a masterful novel that will hold you entranced throughout as you immerse yourself into this gripping tale. In the spring of 2008, Alexandra Boyd, weary from travel and haunted by years of grief, arrives in the city of Sophia in Bulgaria. A chance encounter leaves her with a piece of lost property that turns out to be an urn of human ashes; the remains of some poor soul, now separated from his family in the hands of a stranger. Distressed and exhausted Alexander embarks on a quest to return the ashes to their family. Alone in a unknown city she soon finds herself accepting help from a young taxi driver who soon becomes as strange and mysterious as the quest she has suddenly found herself on. This is a deeply compelling story that moves from a seemingly simple search to return some lost property to a more profound and moving look into Bulgarian history and the effects of grief. Simply spellbinding. ~ Shelley Fallows
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | April 2017 Book of the Month. A captivating and subtly beautiful novel, where heart-catching surprises lie in wait. Alex recalls life on the road at the age of 13, a trip undertaken with Mom, where lessons are learned, and the truth within explored. The writing here is exquisite, the story evolves so simply, gradually revealing the complications that life has to offer. Sara Taylor placed me in the seat next to Alex, I joined this intimate, evocative journey meandering from the east to west coast of the USA, and I didn’t want it to end. The wonderfully sensitive writing creates blasts of feeling, and woke my awareness as prickles of revelation travelled up my arms from the page. These characters feel so touchingly real, Alex opened my eyes, I smiled, I ached, I wept. ‘The Lauras’ is an absolute delight of a read, and it touched my heart. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to download some Reading Group questions for The Lauras.
Category Winner of the Costa Book Awards 2017, Costa Novel Award | One of our Books of the Year 2017 April 2017 Book of the Month. Aged 13 a girl goes missing. The whole village turns out to search. Over the course of thirteen chapters and thirteen years we follow the affect of this tragedy on the villagers. We meet them all through brief snippets of their lives. In single chapters, with just their names to guide us, a picture of their village, their rural life, the pattern of the year, through lambing, panto, cricket, pub and New Year fireworks is built up. Miss a few lines and you could miss huge revelations. Kids grow, become teenagers, go to university. Couples come together, couples split. Babies are born, the old die, and nature rolls on. The style is abrupt, staccato, yet gets under your skin and sings to you. The novel centres on the missing girl but it is really about human nature, village life and the rhythm of a year. It is outstanding, stunning and immensely beautiful. ~ Sarah Broadhurst The Costa Judges say: ‘An extraordinary novel – poetic, haunting and hypnotic.’
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. This is such a gorgeously expressive novel, it just sings with intensity, and is impossible to put down. Nine year old Leon loves his little brother Jake and his mum, he looks after them both as best he can, when Leon and Jake have to go and live with Maureen, Leon hatches a plan. Kit de Waal writes with a beautiful, sincere energy, the simplicity of the tale told from Leon's point of view allows a complicated backdrop of emotions to shine through. At times my heart absolutely ached, yet there are also proper laughter blurting moments, and I just wanted to gather everybody up into a huge, squashy hug. The 80’s, with it’s curly wurlys, royal celebrations, and riots is the perfect setting. A gloriously motley collection of characters come to life, each and every one of them is indispensable, and each affected me in some way. ‘My Name is Leon’ is a stunning, eloquent, stinging paper-cut of a read, I fell in love with it, and in turn, it left me full of hope. ~ Liz Robinson Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016
Winner of the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 How one book can hold such aching heartbreak, beautiful tenderness, and vibrant emotion, I really don’t know. Sophie works from home and keeps her heart hidden, then in one life-changing night she meets Ben. Dani Atkins’s words have the ability to make me truly feel, and I impatiently waited for ‘This Love’ to arrive in the office. Once in my hands I didn't want to let it go, I sank into the story and read in just one sitting. This feels like real life, so authentic, but with an added glow of magic, not a breezy hocus-pocus, but an honest, heartfelt, revealing, soulful magic. Dani Atkins allows snippets of knowledge to fly free, small pieces of the puzzle start to drift together in front of your eyes. I will admit to sobbing my heart out, yet I also smiled, laughed, and was transported by the essence of the story. ‘This Love’ is a truly enchanting read, it captivates, and connects with vibrant intensity to the beauty of life. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | An enthralling and credible police thriller, this is the second in the ‘Robert Finlay’ series, and another humdinger of a read. Finlay is on a new team investigating the sex-slave industry, a series of events link together in a chain-mail coil of aggressive hostility and danger. The author’s background history ensured I was in reliable hands and from the intriguing prologue my interest was piqued and then narrowed into unflinching focus as I was consumed by the plot. If you've not yet read the first in the series, 'Deadly Game' can be read as a standalone novel as there is an excellent introduction, however you'll be missing out if you don't go back and start from the beginning with ‘Wicked Game'. Matt Johnson has the ability to give a lot of information, including army and police ‘speak’ in a easy to understand, readable format without losing the power of the story. ‘Deadly Game’, vibrating with dramatic intensity, allows access to a treacherous world; this series is fast becoming a favourite and long may it continue. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game was an extraordinary debut thriller – both raw and emotional and, of course, an unputdownable page-turner. I wondered what he would deliver next and if he could match it! Not only did he match it, but we were absolutely blown away by Deadly Game, which sees the return of protagonist Robert Finlay, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, like Matt himself. Not only has he tackled the emotive and deeply troubling subject of sex-trafficking, humanising the victims in an unforgettable way, but he has written an exceptional, high-octane, incredible roller-coaster-ride of a thriller that sees Finlay fighting to protect his family and a colleague from unseen enemies. What I love most about Matt’s books are their rich authenticity … their utter believability. The dialogue, the banter, the descriptions of police procedure, the strategies and operations are spot on, and the spine-tingling detail he includes draws us straight into the heart of his plots. Matt has raised the bar even higher with Deadly Game, with a complex, skilfully orchestrated plot, some simply beautiful writing, and a character who we are thrilled to meet again. I honestly cannot wait to see what he does next.' ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with the author about his new book, Deadly Game.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | April 2017 Book of the Month. Simply superb, ’Black Water Lilies’ has leapt straight into my heart and soul. Thirteen days in the heart of Claude Monet’s homeland, where murder, death, lies, and deceit stalk the village of Giverny. Three women and two investigators dance through a weaving, magical, almost dreamlike story. The prologue sent a thrilling chill coursing through me, I was immediately captivated and remained that way for the entire tale. This is most definitely a crime novel, yet it is also a mystery, and a story about love, I almost feel as though it shouldn't be categorised, but enjoyed instead for what it is, a stunning piece of literature. Michel Bussi is an award-winning French novelist, this is the second of his novels to be translated into English. Descriptions are so immediate and evocative I felt as though I was about to step into a Monet painting. The plot kept me on the edge of the frame, just on the edge of understanding as I viewed the scenes in front of me. The unexpected ending made me weep, not through sadness, but because, as my brain raced to catch up with the shock of awareness, my feelings were affected at a basic level, and I’m still affected by it now. As soon as I had finished, I just wanted to start reading again from the beginning. ‘Black Water Lilies’ has been a bestseller in France, and it deserves to be a bestseller here, it is, without doubt, a must read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'I have to ’fess up, I did a French degree and am predisposed to love all things French. But that’s not why I love this book. Why I love it is that it is such a clever and compelling read – mystery after mystery is revealed as the story unfolds, and at every turn you meet a new and fascinating character. For me, one of the best ‘characters’ is the village of Giverny itself – by day, a mecca for tourists from all around the world; by night a place where decades-old rivalries and secrets play out behind closed doors. And then there’s the twist . . . I immediately wanted to go back and read the whole thing again!' ~ Kirsty Dunseath, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Oh my, this is totally and completely gorgeous, in fact, an absolute treasure! An author leaves all his worldly possessions, and a hoard of lost lonely items, to his assistant Laura, can Laura reunite the lost things with their owners? Ruth Hogan writes with a beautiful lyrical whimsy, yet sharp edges and biting realism ensure this is a stunning, thought-provoking read. Each lost thing mentioned comes with an explanation, not the whole tale, instead snippets of information and emotions float free, helping you to feel the story. Each character, each lost thing, is imbued with love and sincerity, they become known, loved, and I cared about their wellbeing, their happiness. Links and connections create a chain reaction, ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ is more, much more than a relationship tale, it is a discovery of enchantment and delight. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | February 2017 Debut of the Month. A rather special read indeed… there are times when you wonder how you've missed sight of, or hearing about a book, and for me this is one of them. This is a treat, a heartbreaking, funny, eye-opening, jam-packed full of love treat. Ben shares his story as he literally battles to place his autistic son Jonah, into what he considers is the right school. Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s dad and we see what life is like for these three men as their worlds revolve around each other. Jem Lester writes with experience, yet he adds bittersweet, aching emotion, biting wit, and a lightness of touch that manages to skim joyfully across the pages. Letters from social services, the school, medical information, and receipts all find their way into the book, often bringing me up short and creating a link to the authenticity of the situation. ‘Shtum’ is brave, bold, and wonderful, it made me cry, rage, and laugh, and I loved every single beautiful second of it. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2017. Shortlisted for the Last Laugh Award at the CrimeFest Awards 2017. A first British crime novel, albeit set in a small American community, that appeared a few months ago and only recently came to my attention, Tall Oaks takes a sometimes hackneyed theme and turns it into a thing of wonder. A small child has gone missing, apparently kidnapped and we follow how a group of varied inhabitants of Tall Oaks are affected by the disappearance in an atmosphere reminiscent of both Twin Peaks and Fargo, as the tale that unfolds sensitively blends pathos and even tragedy with an affectionate sense of the absurd and the comic. The grieving mother falls into a downward spiral of despair and degradation, the errant father remains suspiciously absent and uninvolved, the policemen investigating the case obstinately fights against the odds and his own, terrible attraction to one of the suspects, a group of local teenagers, including a splendidly comic figure who aims to become the town's master criminal and dresses ridiculously to cultivate his image, his Syrian refugee acolyte and sidekick, the slightly retarded mother's boy who works at the photo shop, a forlorn waitress and a host of other striking characters take the stage in turn as the story develops and races to a both abominably poignant and also comic conclusion that ties all the threads together most satisfactorily. A gem of a story. Stunning. ~ Maxim Jakubowski Maxim Jakubowski's April 2017 Book of the Month.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | January 2017 Debut of the Month. The title refers to a Bible quote and two 10-year old girls are greatly mystified as to its meaning and where to find God. They spend the hot summer of 1976 looking for answers. Set in a small town housing estate, the girls’ avenue is a close-knit community of busy bodies. They all know everyone else’s business, they all have secrets they are trying to hide. Beautifully told in multi first-person narratives and nipping in and out of several houses, many of these secrets are drip-fed to us. At its heart is the disappearance of Mrs Creasy from No 8 and the neighbours ostracising Walter Bishop from No 11 whose house mysteriously burnt in 1967. Then there was the “taking of a baby” in the same year. All these mysteries and more bounce round the houses in a charming tale of ordinary folk sweltering in the heat. I loved it. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Fiction and Breakthrough Author Award 2016. Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016.
Each year thousands of new titles are published and each month we select those that we feel our members and browsers will enjoy as much as we do.
More often than not they are not the obvious bestsellers but bubbling under and debuts.
Below, after much debate in the office, and the help of our resident book expert Sarah Broadhurst, are the ones we think are the best of the year.
Almost all of them are available in a selection of formats including eBooks for both KOBO and iPad.
So, browse away and make sure you haven't missed out on our 'must reads' of 2017.
Don't forget too, that it's worth checking out other areas of the Lovereading site for little gems that we've featured over the last year.
As well as our unrivalled selections of fiction, we also have non-fiction expert reviews to make Lovereading the one stop shop for finding your next read in whatever format you choose. Here are some suggestions to take a peek at: For armchair sports books there’s nowhere better than our Sports Books selection, if it's topicality you're looking for then take a look at The Real World or if it's History or Popular Science then we can guide you in those areas too.
For Home birds we have Cookery and Arts & Crafts. Finally, if you're still stuck then our most visited area of the site is a must for you to look at - Book Awards - it's positively choking with stunning reads.