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A vividly disturbing, eloquent and enthralling tale set in a home for children who have been taken into care. Three girls, their childhoods irreparably altered and broken, live in a remote home. When the body of one is discovered in a nearby churchyard on the edge of a lake, the investigation begins to focus on their pasts. Sarah Stovell ushers us into a world that most know little to nothing about. The prologue and first chapter made me sit up, my thoughts snapped open, ready to receive what was coming. Three different and emotionally provocative tales move together in an inevitable collision course. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, and with the majority of the story coming from the girls themselves, the matter-of-fact telling lands with a hammer-blow intensity. The striking, thought-provoking, compulsive storytelling within The Home twisted my mind and broke my heart, and yet I feel that this is an incredibly worthwhile and meaningful read.
Offering a deep and abiding connection with nature and our landscape around us, this winter journal really is the most poignant yet uplifting, and emotionally observant read. Horatio Clare explains in his prologue that he is embracing winter, in order to raise a torch against depression. Declaring that “I will not lose touch with nature”, he says he wants to stop turning inwards, and start looking outwards. What follows is a journal that starts on the 16 October and travels through winter into early Spring. With a gift for seeing what others may have missed, for expressing and painting with words, Horatio Clare is able to take the reader by the hand and share the memory with us too. As he battles the darkness to be found in winter, he sends out a blazing light. I adored the snippets of new-found (for me) information, including that in Welsh lore dragons thrive as green woodpeckers. I have since seen a green woodpecker in their low, darting, rolling flight with completely new eyes! The Light in the Dark is so eloquently descriptive and beautiful, emotional goosebumps kept me company as I read, and oh, that ending! Highly recommended, this just had to feature as one of our Star Books.
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Ellwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Ellwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Ellwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Ellwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Ellwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Ellwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
In a bold, compelling and challenging novel, I found just under 250 pages of pure and utter reading pleasure. British Intelligence Officer Jake Winter is under huge pressure after recruiting a young male who has been enlisted in a terrorist plot. Can he foil the terrorists while at the same time answering questions from an enquiry into an earlier bombing which targeted rush-hour commuters? I found Jake to be absolutely fascinating, he sits centre stage in this story in such an understated way. Nicholas Searle regularly slingshots new characters into the fray ramping up the intensity, creating an almost unbearable tension. The severity of the situation is highlighted as each additional character helps to build a picture which alters, expands, and provokes. The ending is hugely powerful and I sat in contemplation for a while afterwards. You will quite possibly see me hanging off a few rooftops shouting about A Fatal Game. It comes as so highly recommended from me, I have chosen it as a Star Book, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
In a truly beautiful reading experience, encounter the footnotes of a time long ago, meet people capable of committing murder, of holding a stinging need for vengeance, of feeling deep abiding love and friendship. If you see the term fantasy and usually turn away, please don’t, instead choose to step inside and feel the connection to the Italian Renaissance, allow the people to become known, experience their emotions, appreciate the eloquence of the writing. I adore the work of Guy Gavriel Kay, and have done since I was a teenager, epic in scale, intimate in focus, these are books that have allowed me to step outside of myself and experience a different world, though one that feels recognisably ours. You can read this as a standalone, however if you have read some of his other novels, then the land in which this is set will call to you, and there are moments of awareness as you look around and feel the landscape, architecture and even at one point the half-forgotten presence of an age-old entity. I can recommend ‘A Brightness Long Ago’ with my heart and soul, it really is wonderful and so sits as one of my picks of the month.
Beautifully and deliciously foreboding, this is an eloquent, thrilling treat of a read. Iris and Silas meet as construction begins for the Great Exhibition in 1850, for one it is an experience soon forgotten, for the other the beginning of a dangerous obsession. Members of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood gather, their ideals and connection to the Arts and Crafts movement fascinating to observe, particularly when compared to the logic and occupation of Silas. The Doll Factory won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018, and it is easy to see why it was immediately snapped up, the storyline while disturbing is enthralling and the descriptive detailing exquisite. Elizabeth MacNeal allows us intimate access to the thoughts and feelings of both Iris and Silas, opening a doorway to the potential and possible future of the story which succeeds in increasing the tension to almost unbearable levels. I felt a duty of care to both parties, wanting to warn, to ease, to prevent harm. As the story gathered me in and opened my eyes, I felt a shiver of chills gathering, forcing goosebumps down my arms. There is a darkness of the gothic variety to be found with The Doll Factory, it is also the most incredibly rewarding read and comes with a highly recommended stamp from me.
Goosebumps still compete in a race down my arms when I think about The Snakes, it is remarkable, truly remarkable, so please just trust me when I say this is a must-read. Bea and Dan rent out their flat so they can travel, stopping off at her brother’s hotel in France on route. When Bea’s parents unexpectedly visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea has kept them at arms length and refused their financial help all of these years, surely it can’t hurt to get to know them? Sadie Jones is a master storyteller, apparently simple sentences gang together to create a slicing tension. There is a purity to the writing, even though the very darkest of human attributes are so wonderfully and tellingly observed as the tale unfolds. This isn’t a comfortable read, but gosh it’s compelling, I sat and read it in one heady afternoon. I felt on high alert, my mind unclouded as I tasted, tested, scrutinised both the thoughts of the characters, and my own. ‘The Snakes’ is powerful and provocative, not in a shouty, boastful way, it slid into my mind, creating and filling secret spaces, and when I reached the last few pages, and read the final words, I just stopped and sat in wondering heart-hammering silence. This is one of my picks of the month, in fact I already know that The Snakes will be one of my picks of the year.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
A beautifully powerful read that sits in darkness, not an all-consuming menacing murk, but one with pinpricks of light that can be found and felt if you open yourself to the discovery. Stella McKeever is working on her final radio show, she is encouraging listeners to divulge their secrets and waiting another call from a man who claims he knows who murdered the pregnant woman in the city three weeks previously, but should some secrets stay secret? There are times when I think it might be slightly distracting to label a book with one specific genre and for me this is one of them. I know Call Me Star Girl is a psychological thriller, it certainly does thrill, it also made me feel a whole host of other emotions too. Louise Beech excels in writing about people, at their very best, very worst, and everything in between, so I’d rather not pop this book into a pigeon hole but let it fly. Each chapter is headed by a name, and either ‘then’, ‘now’ or ‘with’. I quickly settled into the story while getting to know the characters, they became entirely real to me as I explored the how and why of who they were. While suspicion cut through my thoughts, unexpected slices of deep, aching surprise were served, and there is one particular moment that will stay with me for a very long time. Call Me Star Girl explored my feelings, touched my heart, and is one of my picks of the month, it is a truly glorious read.
Piercing, wonderfully real and so very readable, this is another cracking novel from Doug Johnstone. Set in and around a funeral home in Edinburgh, three generations of Skelf women arrange funerals and handle a little private investigation on the side. I love Doug Johnstone’s writing, it feels so authentic, yet he has the ability to get under the skin and nudge new thoughts and feelings into being. Dorothy, Jenny, and Hannah are simply wonderful, and Edinburgh itself sits brooding in the background. It’s the small detail that really matters here, encouraging the most vivid and intense picture to form. As I came to the end I realised I wanted to hear more about these women, and later learned there is to be a series, so, so pleased! A Dark Matter, sitting as it does in death, crime, and wrong-doing, still felt like a breath of fresh air, it really is a fabulous read and I loved it!
An intelligent, interesting, eloquent mystery which fairly bristles with whodunit verve! This is the third in the Katie Flanagan series, you could actually read this as a standalone, but I recommend starting at the beginning with Deep Water. Katie heads as an undercover technician to a lab researching deadly viruses jumping the species barrier. There is something suspicious happening at the laboratory, and events are set to take a lethal turn. The prologue thoroughly and completely sets the scene with a newspaper report highlighting the danger of a horrific virus that appears to have crossed from monkey to human. We then jump forward two years, and I quickly fell into step alongside Katie, just who if anyone, can she trust? The chapter headings set the timing in play, adding to the tense atmosphere. Christine Poulson’s eloquent pen brings the lab to life, makes the threat of the diseases feel so very real, and sets a fabulously chilling undertone. I suspected everyone, and could almost feel myself glaring at them as I read. An Air That Kills takes a deadly subject, ramps up the tension, and releases a wonderfully readable and thrilling mystery for your enjoyment.
A thoroughly interesting and engaging mystery that slowly but surely gathers pace until it fairly rockets along. When Graham spots an unexpected face at a hotel, he believes his past has come to pay a visit. His reporting skills come to the fore as he begins to investigate but events quickly turn from a friendly to deadly game. This was my first book by Paul Trembling, and as I read there were suggestions of a previous story, yet this felt like a complete and standalone tale. I later discovered that his previous novel Local Artist features Graham’s wife Sandra, ahhh, that explains those snippets of information! You can certainly start as I did, with Local Legend, though I do now want to find out what happened in Sandra’s tale. Paul Trembling is a former Crime Scene Investigator, and his knowledge ensures an authentic read. The family bond and relationship sits beautifully alongside the mystery elements. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter work really well and introduce the continuing story beautifully. With a cracking storyline and an ending that had me visiting the edge of my seat, Local Legend becomes a fast-paced, high octane ride.
A clever, cutting, addictive read that kicks impulsive to the ground, and stomps all over spontaneity. Two strangers meet on their travels in China, and impetuously decide to travel together on the Trans-Siberian Express, never have the words act in haste, repent at leisure been more appropriate. The synopsis grabbed me: “…as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel - because one of these women is not who she claims to be”. The prologue made me wince, the words thrust themselves into my mind and sharpened my focus. As the first few chapters uncoiled, whispers of uncertainty started. S. J. I. Holliday excels in almost quietly, yet throughly provoking feelings, allowing tension to build to an almost unbearable level. Out on the wild open plains I felt claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and yet the story called and clamoured to be finished. Violet is a fabulously unsettling ride, once you climb aboard it won’t let you off, so make sure your ‘do not disturb sign’ is on display.
An absolutely cracking, powerful, and oh so relevant novel focusing on domestic abuse, violence, and gaslighting. Ria Taylor is the manager of a refuge for women, she struggles to deal with threatening messages from an unknown source, but worse, much worse is to come. Author Jacqueline Ward is a Chartered Psychologist and Scientist and boy does it show. I entered the story and just felt the truth. The first paragraph is so descriptive, I experienced an immediate sense of place. I didn’t question, didn’t dwell, I was just sucked in whole and lived in each and every moment. The characters pop with authenticity, I could reach out and touch them, they became known to me. The ending had me sitting in contemplation. At the back of the book there are some pretty fabulous Book Club Questions, and most importantly a list of helplines for anyone experiencing domestic violence. How to Play Dead is not only a provocative and fabulous story, it also burrowed inside my head, it made me look, made me see. It shook me to the core to learn that two women a week in England are killed by a partner, or ex partner.
Expect the unexpected from the get-go as the prologue lights the touch paper to an intense, smirky, carnival ride of a fabulous read. You wont want it to stop! A valuable meteorite crash lands in a small Finnish town causing absolute mayhem. As Joel, the local pastor, guards the meteorite, he not only faces a crisis in his marriage but also a number of people who decide that the meteorite should be theirs, come what may! After the fiery prologue, chapter one slapped my attention to face a different direction. By the time chapter two arrived, I was sitting wide-eyed, this was setting itself up for a cracking read. I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, he writes with a finely balanced pen, darker than dark humour hits with a provocative wallop, while feeling fresh and different. I was consumed by Little Siberia and all too soon, as the events around Joel unraveled, the ending hurtled towards me. Not only sharp, amusing, and provocative, this is also an incredibly thoughtful read, so Little Siberia receives an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
A simply fabulous conclusion to the unique and penetrating Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. You must start with Snare and Trap, and if you’ve already read them you will be drumming your fingers in eagerness, waiting for the arrival of Cage. Agla is in prison for financial misconduct, with no idea as to why Sonya abandoned her. Surrounded by drugs, smuggling, fraud, and violence, can they survive the maelstrom heading their way? Lilja Sigurdardottir pursues individual stories, setting up a chain of events that begin to slither together. The translation by Quentin Bates continues to shine. Crisp, punchy, tight writing ensured I devoured this read, from the first word through to an ending that completely and beautifully hit the spot. The cover of Cage, when sitting alongside the previous two novels is just divine and ensures the books stand out as much as they deserve to. With shocks and surprises in store, and that oh so satisfying end, Cage provoked, chilled, and thrilled me.
Sneaking into an everyday life, this powerful and darkly dramatic tale smashes open the past to create a compelling read. When his mother goes into a home, John Docherty starts to sort through her belongings. The mention of a brother he knew nothing about sends his life into a downward spin. Orenda Books describe this novel as domestic noir, which is absolutely perfect. The writing is punchy tight, Michael J. Malone immediately gave me a sense of who John was as his thoughts travelled into mine. This is a book that crawled under my skin and had a good creep around. As John investigates and his every moment is consumed, his memories start to return. I knew that something was coming, the hints tripped me up and laid me flat. Challenging and emotional, In the Absence of Miracles enthrals as it corkscrews to a shocking, yet ultimately rewarding end.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
What a remarkable novel this is. The life-affirming story of five young women who live in a Bangalore slum called Heaven. Their city used to be “more green than grey”, “a place where things grew,” and now “towering glass buildings sprouted in the grass where sheep used to graze”, and Heaven is about to be bulldozed. But not if this largely female community has anything to do with it. Indeed, they rise up as one, supporting each other, refusing to bow to the city government. The novel pivots around the lives of five friends. Dance-loving Deepa, who’s blind but whose friends support her passion. Banu, a political artist who “can do things that the rest of us can’t”. Transgender Joy, who was born to a mother who wished she was “unlucky enough to have a daughter.” Padma, “who knows all the ways a woman can be broken,” and is the only member of her family to receive an education. And queer Rukshana who wants “to be myself first.” Through poverty and injustice, the women remain strong and united, with each of their situations, hopes and desires painted with dynamic brushstrokes. Both their individual stories and their collective warrior spirit will move, inspire and enrich.
A thoughtful, comical, thoroughly entertaining relationship story with a difference. Kelly is an introverted perfectionist, she is also a leading robotics engineer. When she feels overwhelming pressure from her family to find a date for her sister’s wedding, it makes complete sense to build her own boyfriend… doesn’t it? I instantly fell into the pages, this is such a delightfully readable tale, made all the more refreshing by Kelly’s family and friends. If this were a film, it would be billed as an offbeat Hollywood romcom. It borders on the quirky (perhaps more than borders with a robot as the romantic interest!). The chaos surrounding Kelly’s decision snowballs, creating smirks, and also intrigue, how on earth was she going to rescue the situation? While Sarah Archer embraces fantastical, she also focuses on legitimate thoughts and feelings, creating a wonderful and original balance. How to Build A Boyfriend From Scratch is a positive, smile-filled, engaging read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sliding through thoughts and slicing into feelings, this is a captivating and rewarding psychological thriller. Sandra Ireland’s novels speak to me, darkly mesmerising with throbbing attitude and heart, they are also just that little bit different. Ellie Rook rushes home when she hears bad news, however waiting for her is the life she so desperately wanted to leave behind. Constant, dwelling in the background of the story, is the legend of Finella, who lured a Scottish King to his death in revenge for the death of her son. As I read I discovered nooks, spaces, gaps, did I dare fill in them in? Ellie is feisty, contrary, full of love and uncertainty. She feels alive, real, touchable, relatable. There may well be some differences of opinion on the ending, I will say no more than I personally loved it. The Unmaking of Ellie Rook with a gorgeous blend of folklore and the most thought provoking and modern of times, is a fabulous read.
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eBooks have at last come of age and although you have been able to see if an eBook is available on a title by title basis on Lovereading for a while now, we also wanted to create a special section which features all of our eBook recommended reads.
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