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There’s something about a debut. The team at LoveReading adore discovering a new favourite author. Can you imagine the blood, sweat, tears and love that has gone into the process of becoming an author? Here you can be in at the start and then recommend your favourites far and wide.
A blazing storm of a novel, big, bold, different, and so readable the words left the page and entered my entire being. The Ninth House was formed at Yale in 1898 to monitor the top eight secret societies using magic (of the deep and dark kind). When a murder darkens the door to Yale, newcomer to Ninth House Alex Stern investigates. This may be Leigh Bardugo’s debut adult novel, however she is already an award-winning young adult novelist (this is not intended for young teens). The plot sparks provocatively, the characters shine rather ferociously, and the fantasy elements just feel as real as real can be. As I read, the thought of this being a fantasy novel didn’t even cross my mind, I entered, I witnessed, I felt, I believed. The first few chapters slowly reeled me in, gradually releasing information until I was a part of my surroundings. Leigh Bardugo visits the past and steps forward into the present, hinting, suggesting, letting the reader form their opinion, come to their own conclusion. The fabulous ending left me hungering for more, there just has to be a sequel to Ninth House, which has the hallmark of must-read stamped all over it! Chosen as one of my picks of the month and also a LoveReading Star Book, I absolutely loved it!
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
Well! This is an absolute corker of a debut, different and intelligent, it wormed its way into my thoughts and then proceeded to hunt them down. Narrator Jane tells of her friendship with Marnie, and the seven lies that change that friendship forever. This is Jane’s chance to be honest, and if she had told the truth to start with, Marnie’s husband might still be alive. The introduction to each lie hits with hammer hard precision, there are truths waiting ready to trip you up. Elizabeth Kay has the ability to blur lines, and I found myself stopping, questioning, considering my thoughts. She quite simply made me look at things in a different way. I write notes as I read, and these were peppered with ‘Crikey!’, ‘Blimey!’, and an awful lot of exclamation marks! Provocative, thoughtful, and so very clever, Seven Lies deserves to be a huge hit. A debut of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, Seven Lies comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me.
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful.
Our October 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. An absolutely charming and thoroughly entertaining mystery debut starring four septuagenarians. A real-life murder tickles the detective fancy of certain members from a well-to-do retirement village. Led by Elizabeth they sneakily make themselves indispensable to the investigating officers. I’m already working out who I would cast as Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron if this was made into a TV series. Each character in this amusing (yes it is charming and amusing even with a murder to solve) story is perfectly placed. There is a sense of ease, an inviting warmth, and a hint of old-fashioned, yet this story is actually bang up-to-date. A sharp edge to observations slices through any thoughts of cosy, while there is a gentle poking of fun at middle England. Richard Osman has created a wonderfully readable story that is the perfect introduction to a new series. I can't wait to see what comes next! The Thursday Murder Club has waltzed its way into my heart and the LoveReading Star Books list - highly recommended.
Raw, honest and powerfully emotional this debut novel is an important contribution to understanding mental health and well being. Three beautifully drawn, distinctive and compelling voices narrate this heartbreakingly honest story. All three are young women dealing with depression and mental health issues. The story starts with Mehren and the depression and anxiety which she personifies as “Chaos” are overwhelming her life causing her to sign up to a terrifyingly authentic suicide website called MementoMori, a website that matches people with partners and allocates them a date and method of death. This is where she met Cara and Olivia. We learn that Cara is blaming herself for her father’s death and her own injuries while Olivia is suffering from the abuse that started when she was fifteen. The girls share their problems and find strength and friendship while completing the bizarre tasks set them by the website. The different points of view enable the reader to understand how mental health affects us all differently. The book pulls no punches and librarians and teachers must be wary of triggering descriptions of suicide attempts and abusive situations. But the authentic representations are extremely valuable for increasing understanding and showing that each culture and situation has its own unique problems. Family relationships and secondary characters are equally well depicted and although dark and intense the resolution is realistically hopeful. An impressive and important debut.
Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel - the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself. Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
February 2018 Debut of the MonthA raw, convincing, achingly intimate and individual tale about actions and consequences. 16 years after the death of his brother, Conway wants revenge. When Ray Boy is released from prison, Conway hunts him down in order to kill him, but pulling the trigger isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. There is a sharp edge to the writing, yet the chapters flow from one story to another, initially separate, then linking, writhing and twisting together. William Boyle has created intensely tangible characters, their voices, thoughts and feelings almost become physical, touchable, and are so very, very believable. I highly recommend Gravesend, it is fresh, original, and somehow feels both modern and ancient, as though this story has been lived again and again, and yet is being told for the first time. ~ Liz Robinson
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: sci-fi and fantasy blend in high-action, thought-provoking adventure Musician and entertainer will.i.am has collaborated with science of the future specialist Brian David Johnson to create an epic adventure. WaR seamlessly combines fantasy favourites wizards with robots, long beloved in sci-fi but now accepted as a crucial part of all our futures. Flipping back and forth in time, it stars feisty teenager Sara, whose mother is creating the first fully intelligent robot. This puts Sara at the centre of a power struggle, spanning centuries, between wizards and robots. As the story unfolds however, Sara must reconcile the two factions to defeat a common enemy. In this she’s helped by a young wizard called Geller and a robot, Kaku. Intriguing, refreshing and packed full of ideas, the momentum of the story sweeps readers along to its dramatic conclusion (at the CERN institute!). Real science is scattered throughout, and sci-fi has never seemed so now. ~ Andrea Reece
A fun and gripping first in a new series of Scandi-noir - unusually written by a British writer who grew up here but now lives in Sweden. Our heroine - Tuva Moodyson - has also recently moved there, she grew up in rural Sweden but left for the bright lights of London and has returned to near home because her mother hasn't got long to live. Not wanting to give up her career as a journalist she's moved a few hours away from 'home' to work at a local paper. It's pretty sleepy till the entire community is sent reeling when a body is found in the forest during hunting season, shot but with it's eyes removed, no accident and a chilling copy of a spate of murders from twenty years before. Tuva goes on the hunt for the story of her career almost risking everything to find the killer. Adding to the drama is the fact that Tuva is deaf and her ability to both operate without her hearing aids in complete silence when she wants to, and the danger she faces from her hearing aids failing, both up the ante significantly. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
Oh my, I have quite fallen in love with this absolutely glorious and spellbinding tale. A wonderful infusion of themes means ‘Attend’ quite rightly, refuses to be labelled. Set in Deptford, London the streets, houses, and locations are as eloquently described and important as the characters. Skirting the violent criminal underbelly of the town and exploring the struggle of addiction, the story hovers within touching distance of an unseen mysterious power that planted itself in my mind and continued to lurk and explore my thoughts and feelings. The enigmatic and almost otherworldly Deborah sits centre stage, acting as a magnet, weaving Sam and Anne into her story. ‘Attend’ has a deliciously dark fairytale quality that sits alongside the heartfelt realism of life quite beautifully. This is West Camel’s debut, his writing is alluring and sang out to me, I simply can't wait to see what comes next. I recommend Attend with every fibre of my being, it has must-read stamped all over it.
Forthright, funny Ayesha harbours dreams of being a poet and occasionally performs at a literary lounge, but her ambitions are somewhat hampered by her new teaching job and familial pressure to get married, a pressure that’s intensified by her stunning younger cousin’s countless marriage proposals. But Ayesha is adamant that she doesn’t want an arranged marriage, even if it means she might be doomed to spinsterhood. Then, courtesy of her best friend and a conference at her mosque, a few twists of fate throw Ayesha into contact with hyper-critical, conservative Khalid, who dresses like a time-traveller from several centuries ago and is utterly under his wealthy mother’s control. Cue much friction, farcical funniness and genuine soul-searching as Ayesha and Khalid embark on complex, intersecting journeys of discovery. Alongside serving up a sparkling love story, this debut also tackles meaty issues, from the rampant islamophobia of Khaled’s abhorrent boss, to the sexism Ayesha stands up to. Indeed, the criss-crossing sub-plots - both gritty and comic - keep the pages turning, and make this a treat for fans of romance with extra bite.
In a Nutshell: Mystery, memory, manipulation | A feisty thriller that fizzes with intrigue, paranoia and a cast of fascinatingly flawed characters. For Jess “every waking moment is a flashbulb moment. I recall everything from the age of eleven like a never-ending motion picture,” which is why she became part of Professor Coleman’s intensive memory study Programme. Following a family tragedy and sick of Coleman’s invasive methods, Jess fled the study and assumed a new identity. She’s an engaging, refreshingly straight-talking narrator, not always likeable, but consistently clever and ten steps ahead of everyone around her. But further tragedy follows at her new school when Hanna, her roommate, falls to her death. While Jess tries to figure out who’s behind the mysterious postcards she finds in the wake of Hanna’s death, she falls for new boy Dan and confides in him as it emerges that Professor Coleman wants her back. A tangle of questions arise as Jess tries to keep herself safe, and the answers are revealed with terrific tension as a series of damning discoveries set the stage for an explosive showdown. Recommended for YA readers who like their fiction fast-paced and full of psychological thrills and chills. Do you have a memory for faces? Could you be a Super Recogniser? Head over to the University of Greenwich website to take the test… greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com
A beautiful yet powerful debut that shares the story of twelve characters and empathises with the struggle of the urban native American. It’s a masterclass, an incredible book that has conflict, poverty, despair, humour, hope and so much sadness it’s heart-breaking. The stories are intertwined and involve the dozen individuals travelling to the Oakland Powwow about to embark upon a chain of events that build to a real crescendo. Get your tissues at the ready and prepare to be wow’ed.
March 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Thrilling fantasy and West African folklore An exceptional fantastical debut that weaves dark magic, powerful female protagonists and West African folklore into a richly rewarding novel, the first in what promises to be a truly epic trilogy if this opening installment is anything to go by. There was a time when Orisha was alive with magic but, under the command of a new king, those with magical gifts are now targets, and the fabulously rebellious, outspoken Zélie has been orphaned. Her heritage is of the Reaper Clan. Her mother was able to summon souls, and now Zélie, who has retained her magic, seeks justice for her mother’s death. Fuelled by thoughts of “the way her corpse hung from that tree” and “the king who took her away”, she’s determined to rise, and nothing will stop her. And so Zélie must seize control of her powers and venture forth to fight the crown prince. Throughout, the world-building and evocation of clan magic is astoundingly detailed, conjured with a vibrant visual sensibility, and Zélie is a one-of-a-kind young woman whose journey exhilarates, astounds and inspires. A message from the author: Dear Reader, There are so many things I want to say to you, but the most important is simple: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Children of Blood and Bone is the book of my heart in every way, shape, and form. It holds the magic and adventure that have made me an avid lover of fantasy and storytelling my whole life. It has thediverse cast I have always wanted to see in my favorite stories, but never got to. But above everything else, this story has my heart because it’s given me something to hold onto during very dark chapters in my life. This book was written during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and paralyzed and helpless, but this book was the one thing that helped me feel like I could do something about it. I told myself that if just one person could read it and have their hearts or minds changed, then I would’ve done something meaningful against a problem that often feels so much bigger than myself. And now this book exists and you are reading it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There are so many things I hope for this story, but I there want to end this letter with all the things I hope it gives you. I hope Children of Blood and Bone brings you an epic fantasy adventure like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I hope you see a glimpse into my Nigerian heritage and the beautiful cultures and people Africa holds. I hope this story makes you want to pick up a staff and ride on the back of a giant lionnaire. I hope if you’ve never seen yourself as the hero of a story, this book hanges that. I hope this novel makes you think and feel. I hope it propels you to help those who suffer the fate of the maji in the world around us.But most of all, I hope this book is only the beginning of our adventures together. Sending my love and appreciation, Tomi. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone. They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled - Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie's Reaper mother summoning forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic - and her growing feelings for an enemy. The movie of Children of Blood and Bone is in development at Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with the incredible Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (Twilight, Maze Runner, The Fault In Our Stars) producing it.
Controversially, and in my opinion inappropriately, long-listed for the Man Booker and appropriately short-listed for the Costa 1st Novel award (used to be the Whitbread), the Desmond Elliot prize and winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming award, this is a cracking good serial killer tale set in Stalin’s 1950’s Russia. It is certainly one of the best intelligent new thrillers I have read in a long time. Atmospheric, dark, evocative of the period and era, the gradual change in our hero is beautifully handled, as is the slow build in an intriguing plot. You must read it. We also have an exclusive pre-publication extract from his new book The Secret Speech, so be one of the first to read a chapter before it's published. February 2009 Book of the Month. Longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2010. Winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2008. Winner of the Galaxy New Writer of the Year 2009. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2008.Costa Book Awards 2008 Judges' comment: "This gripping, unputdownable thriller is an exciting new addition to the genre." Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 5 March 2009. Comparison: Martin Cruz Smith, Robert Harris, John Le Carré.