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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.
Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
A heart-breaking, unforgettable and incredible story that will stay with you long after you've finished it. It is difficult to believe it's a debut as you read the travails of young Shuggie, his alcoholic mother Agnes and see inside their dysfunctional family life in 1980s working-class Glasgow. It's a powerful story with unflinching honesty that will no doubt make you cry. It shows the power of love and despite the bleak subject matter, it's incredibly tender, hopeful and oh so readable. It's a triumph.
A huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut and LoveReading Star Book that warmed my heart and made me smile. Amy Ashton sees beauty in things most people would throw away, her house is now overflowing with the items she has collected and bordering on dangerous. When she discovers a mystery that needs to be unravelled, she begins to confront her past. We meet a withdrawn and lonely Amy in the present, and then a second time frame joins the story, taking us back to 1998. Eleanor Ray releases information from the past with perfect timing, each new moment explaining and allowing access to Amy in the present. As each memory highlights a decision, my thoughts expanded and Amy began to take up residence in my heart. The surrounding characters are gorgeous (in particular Charles and his JCBs), and bring an energy that flows through the pages towards Amy. Radiating empathy and emotion Everything Is Beautiful is just what the world needs to take us forward into 2021. The LoveReading LitFest invited Eleanor Ray to the festival to talk about this wonderful debut Everything is Beautiful. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Eleanor in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out all about why you should read this stunning debut.
This smart psychological thriller slowly and intricately builds layers of tension into a wealthy, modern family setting. Alone at antenatal class after being let down by her family, Helen finds herself talking to Rachel. Rachel, unsettling, overly enthusiastic and inquisitive, begins to push her way into Helen’s life learning every little family secret. This is Katherine Faulkner’s debut, she is an award-winning journalist and Joint Head of News at The Times. The first few pages opened up ‘afterwards’, setting the tone of the story and ensuring that knowledge stayed with me throughout. Returning to ‘before’, I discovered a labyrinthine of snippets and tidbits of information as I read. They caught at the edge of my awareness, digging, pointing, creating suspense. I hovered on the edge of relationships, viewing rather than immersing myself in particular personalities. This lead to me wondering and questioning, investing in the storyline. On occasion I was confident that I knew what was happening, but I changed my mind several times! Even if you find that you are right, there are still surprises along the way. This book really does serve as a reminder that from the outside everything can appear perfect, but of course the inside can be an entirely different place. Encouraging you to stay alert and pay attention to the smallest of details, Greenwich Park is an intelligent and stimulating slow-burner of a read.
A powerful, intense whammy of a debut that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating to read. Set in two time frames, we see 13 year old schoolgirl Carly as she tries to look after her mother and baby sister, and ten years later, journalist Marie as she investigates sex traffickers and allegations of sex abuse at an army base years before. Author Sarah Sultoon is an award-winning former CNN international news executive, and it shows. Chapter one throws you in the deep end, and I re-read it to fully comprehend what was happening. The subject matter is devastating yet thoughtfully handled even as it makes you flinch. Pacy and provocative I felt as though I was racing to keep up in both timelines. The words were sharp edged little missiles that fired into my thoughts and made them scatter. As information began to piece together, as 1996 hurtled towards 2006, I felt the hope that slipped almost silently through the years. Thought-provoking, tense, and expressive The Source is an utterly compelling debut that I can highly recommend.
Carole Johnstone's Mirrorland is a creepingly compelling psychological thriller of the highest order - a dark, suspenseful debut with haunting atmosphere and pitch-perfect pacing as thirty-something Cat returns to her childhood home after a twelve-year absence when her twin sister El is reported missing at sea. As children, the sisters spent most of their time in Mirrorland, an imaginary world located beneath the pantry stairs. The girls also grew up with their mother telling them they were special identical twins. The egg separated late, “which meant we were more than just two halves of the same whole.” To Cal, this also meant El was “my exact opposite. My reflection. My Mirror Twin.” While the police and El’s husband Ross are certain El is dead, Cal is sure she’s still alive - who else would be leading her on a treasure hunt around Mirrorland? The trail of clues draws Cal back to their childhood with tremendous edge-of-seat tension, back to Clown Café, Princess Tower and Kakadu Jungle, where she and El used to encounter Mouse, the Witch, the Tooth Fairy and Bluebeard. Where they dreamed of meeting their imagined pirate king father in an imagined future. Following this trail forces Cal to peel back - and confront - layers of trauma from the past, to remember that “bad things happened in this house… but that was a lot easier to forget when I was an ocean away from its walls." Chillingly atmospheric, this un-put-down-able page-turner is perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly, with the magic realist elements created by the sisters’ fantasy world giving it extra edge.
At seven years old, Nainoa falls into the sea and a shark takes him in its jaws - only to return him, unharmed, to his parents. For the next thirty years Noa and his siblings struggle with life in the shadow of this miracle. Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a brilliantly original and inventive novel, the sweeping story of a family living in poverty among the remnants of Hawai'i's mythic past and the wreckage of the American dream.
Telling the gripping tale of a Berlin-based writer’s appropriation of a stranger’s story, Chris Power’s A Lonely Man misdirects and seduces with a magician’s sleight of hand. Readers will teeter on the very edge of their seats as they - and the protagonist - are lured into a snare of distrust, with the novel simmering to an entirely unexpected end. Robert has moved from London to Berlin with his wife and two young daughters. While struggling to find his creative mojo, he meets drunk, charismatic, nervy Patrick. Patrick was ghost-writing a no-holds-barred book on behalf of an exiled Russian oligarch who was recently found hanged. Patrick believes it was murder, that he’s now being followed. Robert notes early on that “he had never known when to stop” and, true to form, despite deciding he’d only meet Patrick for one drink, it doesn’t stop there. Beers, whiskeys, and more for the road flow as Patricks explains how he met the mega-rich oligarch and the high-level secrets his book was due to expose. Though Robert he felt “like he had spent the evening walking into some kind of trap” and he’s not sure if it’s true, Patrick’s story has slithered under his skin and he secretly sets about transforming it into a novel. Highly recommend for readers who like their thrillers laced with chilling intrigue, the novel operates as a kind of puzzle, raising questions around the ownership of stories, and uncertainty planted with elegant aplomb.
Mary Blight, our unswervingly entertaining heroine, is a salty-talking, salty-acting woman. She picks over the corpses of those drowned off her craggy Cornish cove looking for treasures, such as the fine boots she pulls from a lady’s feet. And then she sees that the body’s earlobes are missing, leading to the national press reporting on the Porthmorvoren Cannibal, and someone saw blood around Mary’s mouth…But it’s Mary who takes in a washed-up stranger and nurses him back to health with the aid of Old Jinny’s curious cure. The man is a Methodist minister who decides to restore the cove to godliness and, observing Mary’s knowledge of the scriptures, he appoint her as Sunday School teacher, to the chagrin of the villagers who are familiar with Mary’s penchant for carnal pleasures. Mary throws herself into her new role but admits in typically honest fashion “I wanted Gideon to save me, but not so that I could kneel at the throne of King Jesus…I wanted him to help me flee the village so I could parade among all the smots in all my finery in a grand town”. As the villagers scheme against Mary, a nation-wide search for a thief gathers pace, and all the while the writing crackles with energy and atmosphere, making this an exhilarating read with something of a Dickensian spirit in the vibrant characterisation.
An absolute delight of a romantic comedy debut, stuffed full of smiles, flirtations, and feel-good moments. Evie has to prove that it is possible to meet and fall in movie-style love, her job depends on it, and so her life is taken over by arranging ridiculously cheesy meet-cutes. The intriguing chatty prologue made me snort with laughter and I found myself relaxing and sinking into the story. Text messages, emails, and screenplay excerpts appear within the pages (but not too many), which keeps things interesting. Anette, and Evie’s friends are a fabulous supporting cast, while the two leading men add an edge to the will-they-won’t-they potential! Rachel Winters keeps things beautifully bright and breezy, bringing out the very best of the romcom. Would Like To Meet is very lovely indeed, in fact, it allows you to properly escape reality for a while and I really didn’t want to leave the pages!
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.
A truly beautiful and powerful debut, it is haunted with exquisite emotion, but that emotion comes with an uplifting feeling of hope. Towards the end of the Second World War two people meet on a platform next to a train bound for Auschwitz, the exchange that takes place between them will have a bearing on their lives forever more. I entered this novel thinking I knew what to expect, I left having experienced an entirely unexpected read. Set in several time frames, While Paris Slept opens a sequence of doors as new aspects of the story emerge and converge. Each chapter is headed by one of the characters. Ruth Druart uses different points of view to great effect, ensuring each chapter took hold of my thoughts and retained my focus. I invested in each of the characters, the empathy on display here left the page and entered my heart. I would describe this as a positively emotional read, yes it features man’s inhumanity to man, but the intimacy of this particular story lies in a different direction. While Paris Slept is an intriguing, compelling story full of love and hope. It enters our LoveReading Star Books and comes with a highly recommended seal of approval.
For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens. Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Celeste Ng, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
Crossing genres in style, this just has to be one of my favourite novels of the year. Set in the marshlands of North Carolina, the majority of this story takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s. The prologue begins in 1969 with the body of Chase Andrews being found in the marsh. The first paragraph of the prologue introduces surprising beauty, the marsh simply sings, it settled into my mind and became a part of me. The central character is Kya, we meet her as a child, and the truth of her life is immediately apparent. As the novel moves backwards and forwards in time, Kya emerges as the Marsh Girl, and suspicion begins to hound her after the body is found. Author Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist who has worked in Africa and written non-fiction, this is her debut novel. Descriptions entered my mind in wafting movement, I fell in love with the marsh and the girl who lived there. Where the Crawdads Sing is truly touching, almost hauntingly beautiful, and opens a doorway to a different world. It has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
Did she slip through the cracks, or was she pushed? When a severed hand is found in an abandoned flat, Detective Jake Porter and his partner Nick Styles are able to DNA match the limb to the owner, Natasha Barclay, who has not been seen in decades. But why has no one been looking for her? It seems that Natasha's family are the people who can least be trusted. Delving into the details behind her disappearance and discovering links to another investigation, a tragic family history begins to take on a darker twist. Hampered by a widespread fear of a local heavy, as well as internal politics and possible corruption within the force, Porter and Styles are digging for answers, but will what they find ever see the light of day?
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 A darkly mesmerising and fascinating epic of a tale based in India, one that is all-consuming and fiercely beautiful. A family descends into a hellish nightmare when power, greed, and corruption begin to prowl through their lives. After his mother dies, Jivan returns home to his family and arrives to chaos. The first paragraph gently took hold of my thoughts, setting the departing view in my minds eye, setting my feet on the journey to India. I sank quickly and deeply into the page, Preti Taneja allows the words to sing, to explain, to show the world that Jivan is entering. I remained on edge, apprehensive, sometimes having to peek between my fingers as love and hate began a heady, swirling, burning dance, wrapping around one another until they became one. As a retelling of King Lear, it stands resolutely on its on merit and I almost didn’t want to mention the connection. ‘We That Are Young’ shocks, provokes, pushes and pulls at thoughts and feelings, it is also a ravishingly descriptive work of art. Featured in Episode 4 of the LoveReading Podcast
February 2018 MEGA Debut of the Month This tender tale of tragic loss, deep love and profound desperation is contemporary fiction at its best - a monumentally memorable debut that is at once brutally heartbreaking, wholly honest, and rich in humanity. Rob and Anna met as Cambridge undergraduates, he a working class boy with a magnificent generous-hearted taxi driver for a dad, while she was raised in a missionary household by her upright mother and serial-adulterer father. Rob and Anna’s love was instant and wondrous, and marriage came soon, followed by Jack, the loving, thoughtful son who makes everyday special. Life is sweet – alongside the daily magic that Jack brings into their lives, there are bikes rides on Hampstead Heath, idyllic family holidays – until Rob and Anna wonder whether their beautiful son might have something wrong with him. Pulling no punches, leaving no truth unturned, no emotion unexplored, this remarkable exposition of love and the complex depths of the human heart is raw, authentic and, quite simply, sublime.
Often eye-opening and heart-wrenching, always elegant and absorbing, Hafsa Zayyan’s We Are All Birds of Uganda is an outstanding debut that crosses continents, cultures and generations. Remarkable in its exploration of identity, family bonds, racism, colourism and the phenomenon of twice migration through characters who’ve moved from South Asia, to East Africa, to Europe, I read Sameer’s story in one sitting, utterly engrossed by his awakening from a state of unrest to finding new purpose as he redefines the nature of success. At 26, Leicester-born Cambridge graduate Sameer is flying high as a lawyer in London, and on track to fast track it to partner when he’s offered a post in Singapore. Life seems sweet, except for fearing what his parents will think of the move, the “filling a quota” remark made by a colleague, and a bullying new boss who excludes him from a social event because “you lot don’t drink”. Then comes news that one of his best friends since childhood has been left in a coma after a vicious attack, and Sameer begins to question everything - who he is, what he’s doing with his life, where he wants to be. Skipping back to 1945, we follow another Asian Ugandan voice via Hasan’s heartfelt letters to his deceased first wife. Through these we see colonialism through Hasan’s eyes. We read how the British “have crept up on us, unwittingly seeped through our skin and into our bones, and settled comfortably inside each of us like veins”, how they excluded Hasan from their Sports Club, and then comes the rise of anti-colonialism, a push for Ugandan independence, hostility towards and legislation against Asian Ugandans: “We are not natives and we are not Europeans.” Back in Sameer’s narrative, wealthy Mr Shah, a family friend, speaks of the betrayal of “being turfed out of the country in which you were born, the only country you’ve ever known, like you’re no one, like you’re nothing.” With his move to Singapore looming, Sameer decides to visit Mr Shah in Uganda to find out more about his family history, with monumental effects. Emotionally rich and deeply resonant, it’s no wonder this gem co-won the inaugural Merky Books New Writers' Prize. The LoveReading LitFest invited Hafsa Zayyan to the festival to talk about We Are All Birds of Uganda. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Hafsa in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone is blown away by this stunning debut. Check out a preview of the event here
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
Our January 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A complete joy of a debut, bright, observational and incredibly intimate, this book has lodged itself in my heart. Take twelve independent yet linked stories over twelve months about people who are connected to a London park community. The focus changes with each month, allowing individual stories to shine, yet they add up to a vibrantly wonderful whole. Gemma Reeves is beautifully eloquent, she has the ability with a few words, to give you admittance to someone’s soul. While she creates penetrating access to each person, there isn’t always a conclusion, instead life carries on, suggesting potential pathways. I fell in love with this powerfully blended infusion of life. The variety of characters, in age, personality, and beliefs crackle with energy. A new character might wander in for a few moments and then star in the next tale. Some connections may be obvious and linger, others lightly touch before moving on. The stories themselves tug at heartstrings and encourage thoughts to roam, the ending is simply divine and brought tears to my eyes. Thought-provoking and emotionally intelligent, Victoria Park slips with glorious ease onto our LoveReading Star Books list and is a Liz Pick of the Month, it really is very special indeed.