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Corkscrewing through Italy, there is a tangled web of intrigue to unravel in this stimulating spy novel. We start during the summer of 1977 and the murder of relatives of the Director General of Defence Intelligence. The second in the Dylan Series highlights a mystery under the cloak of espionage thriller. I advise that you begin with Awakening of Spies, as I don’t feel that this is a series you can step into the middle of due to the intricacies of setting. Knowing the central characters meant I could focus on the rest of the plot (again though, no wandering off as you need to concentrate). The writing feels as though you are reading a memoir, with Thomas Dylan’s memories spilling forth onto the page. Brian Landers ensured that I was in the 1970’s and I really felt the history and spirit of the time. Families of Spies, delving as it does into the not too distant past, is an interesting and convincing read.
A delightfully readable, emotional, warm and witty relationship tale. This is Milly Johnson’s 17th novel, and I still look forward to them, each feels fresh, different, and I just know I will have a lovely reading experience. Friendships form and love whispers hello at a counselling group, will it be recognised or even welcomed? If you haven’t read any of her books before, just be aware that there are plenty of emotional subjects to discover along the way, you just have to read the book synopsis here to know that! The prologue sent a shiver coursing through me, grief has kept company with many of the characters. Milly Johnson approaches the more difficult side of life with true compassion. Here, there are also some wickedly funny excerpts from the local paper which balance the story beautifully. Although your heart may well ache during, the overall feeling that I was left with after, was that I had just been given the hugest, squashiest hug. My One True North is a truly lovely read, and after I had turned the final page was left feeling fully satisfied and contented.
Evocative, emotional and compelling, this historical novel may centre on a relationship, yet it throws open a door to the Second World War. Meet Spitfire pilot Eddie and painter Eva as they leave their teenage years at the onset of war. The prologue in late 1940 sets the scene for what is to come, I found myself in the clouds in the middle of a dogfight between Spitfire and Messerschmitt, the outcome of which stayed with me as I read on. Chapter one took me back to March 1939, I slid effortlessly in as Rachel Billington ensures the small and intimate elements are as well crafted as the more obvious aspects of war. The two main characters are fascinating, Eddie is self-centred yet not overwritten as unlikable, while Eva is finding her path, and both feel as real as can possibly be. Surrounding them are family and friends, all helping to create a vivid view of the times. The ending sliced into my emotions, and left me sitting for a while in contemplation. Expressive, rich and sharp, Clouds of Love and War is an engaging and worthwhile read.
Wonderfully quirky and yet earthy and tangible, this is an engaging and entertaining read. When is a holiday not a holiday? When 71 year old pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the work caravan, he tells his childhood sweetheart Ginny she has to pack her bag as they’re off to Wales. What follows is a road trip full of strange encounters, soul-searching and revelation. With a few words Lisa Blower allowed me to not only see, but feel the words. Descriptions slipped from the page into vibrant life. I could vividly picture the saucy mermaid curtains and fully stocked bar in the Toogood Aquatics caravan which becomes their world and future. I floundered alongside Ginny and Selwyn and I ached for the two of them even as I smiled. Pondweed flipped me onto a different thought path, where I strolled for a while and thoroughly enjoyed my journey.
A thoughtful, sometimes emotionally painful, yet unforgettable medical memoir I feel everyone should read. Our expectations of our medical and emergency teams are high, we trust, we rely, we hope. When a best-selling novelist, with the most beautiful way with words, tells the story of her time as a junior doctor, you just have to sit up and listen. Each chapter begins with thoughts from different people and roles within the medical profession. Joanna Cannon opens her arms wide and lets you in to her story, her way with words ensures you can see a full and vivid picture. Heartbreakingly honest, we see how she is overstretched, twanging like elastic that is on the point of completely fraying. A number of times her words resonated so strongly, they gave me goose-bumps. She not only made me look with different eyes at our medical practitioners, she also made me think about my own thoughts and words. I don’t think I will ever forget her “we each measure words with different scales”. Breaking and Mending is a LoveReading Star Book... I smiled, I cried, afterwards I sat and hugged it!
A thoughtful yet suspense filled novel introducing the first Sarah Sutherland thriller. Sarah, in her 40’s and divorced, rushes from her day job to care for her father who lives alone. She delights in a second role telling chilling stories to tourists about the Scottish witch trials of the 17th century. I have read Sandra Ireland’s previous three standalone novels and love her blend of piercing reality and folklore. Here we step into a new series and as Sarah narrates, I felt myself sympathising, smiling, and investing in her as a character. Both Sarah and her father John head chapters, with information about Alie Gowdie who lived in Sarah’s cottage and was executed in 1648 also slipping between the pages. A clever brew of tension, diversions and suspense takes hold, with questions forming and sitting at the back of my mind, waiting, biding their time. With an unexpected bite Sight Unseen challenges and provokes thoughts and I thoroughly enjoyed this start to a new series.
With a stabbing intensity and glowering atmosphere this is a crime novel with huge attitude. As it becomes apparent that the police have missed connecting a number of violent and brutal crimes against women, an officer on the edge begins to link the offences. This is the second in the Axel Steen Series by Jesper Stein but my first, and I was more than happy jumping straight in, so like me you can start here. Also like me, you then may well want to hunt down a copy of Unrest! Translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, the social and everyday differences of Denmark are still wonderfully tangy and sharp. The prologue sets the scene in Copenhagen 2004, blunt and dark I flinched as Axel Steen stamped his way into my mind. I was well and truly hooked, and set everything aside while I read. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like Axel, but as a cop in a novel, I loved him! The word gritty is often scattered through reviews for crime novels, but gritty is absolutely appropriate here and comes with extra emphasis. Die for Me is a wonderful addition for the list of any Scandi noir fans, and I say: it’s a Liz Pick of the Month for me, bring on the third in the series!
An interesting, expressive, and bittersweet dual time frame novel. Marine archaeologist Rachel investigates a shipwreck with links to the slave trade, while in 1763 Abigail falls in love with a tobacco trader in Whitehaven. This is the fourth in the Tales from Goswell series. These books feature the village of Goswell in Cumbria and a new main lead (or two) is introduced each time. A slice of history creates a dual timeline, with the present linking to the past and the focus equally on both. Characters from previous books are mentioned which adds continuity, it almost feels like a much loved holiday cottage, returning to a place that feels comfortable and homely. The slave trade spears this storyline, with Katharine Swartz balancing the thoughts of the time with love and as usual with her books, hope. What it is to be family sits centre stage in The Widow’s Secret, and while a tale full of warmth, there is also an undeniable flinty and provocative edge.
A rather lovely, incredibly thoughtful and moving memoir that drifts into an observation of memory, love and bereavement. Nicholas Royle writes about the feelings surrounding his mum, a nurse, nature lover and voracious reader who died in 2003. He says “it seems less a record of events than a grappling with what escapes words. Not just love and loss but fire and air and water and earth. Smell and music. Voice and touch”. I felt an affinity with those words, and entered the book with my heart and mind open. This feels like a wander down memory lane, stopping for a letter here, a song there, allowing thoughts to have their say before moving on. Nicholas Royle ponders the use of photos in a memoir, I’m so glad that he included them as I feel it brings an even greater connection. There’s no set menu on offer, “I’m losing my marbles” appears and reappears, those words so knowing, so full of knowledge and awareness, yet also full of loss. Mother: A Memoir takes an intimate and meaningful look at one woman, yet throws open thoughts to so, so much more.
“Take what you need from these pages; and most of all, enjoy what you do. Joy is such a vital part of creative writing – because if you don’t enjoy what you write, how can you expect anyone else to?” So begins Joanne Harris’s invaluably inspirational - and practical - Ten Things About Writing. Reading this book is rather like having a wise writer as a best friend, on hand to offer pragmatic and energising advice, with many unhelpful myths about writing crumbled, and an emphasis on the fact that writing is to be worked at, not something a wand can be waved at: “The ability to spin words into gold is a skill that comes from hard work, patience and lots of practice. Some people may have an aptitude; others will struggle to gain momentum.” I particularly loved the author’s unravelling of the myth of inspiration: “The idea that we must wait for the Muse to inspire us was invented by effete young Victorians who wanted an excuse to sit around doing nothing all day. Most of us don’t have that luxury, which means forgetting about the Muse and doing some actual footwork instead.” And this gem: “Don’t write because you want to be a writer. Write because you want to write.” In bracing style, Harris covers everything from doing proper research, finding your voice and effectual use of description (“If a passage doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s just pointless decoration. Kill it”), to drafting (“all first drafts are terrible... Just get on with it”), re-writing, and what to expect if you’re lucky enough to be published. And she doesn’t stop there, in the way that writing doesn’t either. She also covers dealing with fear, failure, rejection and writer’s block, with every stone turned and looked at from fresh angles, ending with an uplifting reminder that no matter how your writing journey turns out, “just writing is an act of bravery”. I’ll leave you with this typically droll nugget from the section on writing about women: “Top tip: real women very rarely think about their breasts at all – and certainly never in the way in which some male writers think they do.” I know this is a book I’ll keep coming back to, along with checking-in on the author’s #TenThings tweets.
Best friends since girlhood, and now in advanced age, Anna and George meet weekly to chat about their former mischiefs, regrets and day-to-day lives over a few glasses of wine. While their stories elicit many laughs, the dear friends have also experienced much sadness, with Anna raised by a critical, unloving mother and never finding the right man, and George having endured much tragedy. George lives comfortably now and has a loving, affectionate husband, though as the novel progresses she becomes more haunted by her losses, while Anna’s story takes a more uplifting trajectory when she agrees to look after a neighbour’s child and discovers the joys of making new friends, and even falls in love. “How odd I have reached an end and you are just beginning,” George poignantly observes of this unexpected turnaround. With a cast of endearing supporting characters, this novel radiates a lovely sense of community alongside being a touching tribute to the elemental importance of true friendship. Written with a lightness of touch and packed with funny, bittersweet life reflections, this will surely resonate with fans of warm-hearted, female-fronted fiction.
Take a compelling step back in time to London of the Second World War, then stroll behind the obvious and meet a family full of rich, gossipy, vibrant life. Francesca Fabrino has intimate ties to the Brogan’s, she is best friends with Mattie, and has always held a torch for Charlie. As the Blitz rages, Francesca has a life changing decision to make. Part of the Ration Book series, we see the Brogan’s return, they really are a vividly dramatic group, almost larger than life, yet you don’t actually have to already know them in order to enjoy A Ration Book Wedding. Grandmother Queenie continues her reign (her ferociously wielding a cudgel made me blurt with laughter), while the rest of the family deal with relationship highs and lows, and some of them, the occasional wheel and deal. Jean Fullerton allows access to the seedier side of wartime London, with a visit or two to strip clubs. She also knowledgeably highlights life as it would have been for people living under bombing raids and rationing. A Ration Book Wedding is a simply lovely escape, full of drama and family intrigue, it really is a terrific addition to this series.
What a gorgeously emotional and heart-warming read this is. Two women linked by an event that occurred eight years ago, find themselves at the centre of storm that could change their worlds forever, both will fight for what they believe in. The first chapter slams with impact. Oh Dani Atkins, you really know how to make me cry! In the very best possible way of course, with a heart full of emotion and feeling and wonder. The words reached inside me, made me ponder, and truly affected me. The characters are so engaging, the ups and downs so accessible. This is a relationship story with real personality, yes there is some anguish along the way, there is also plenty of hope, love, and feel-good too. I chose the hardback as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. If you choose to read A Million Dreams, and I really hope you do, I’ll just leave this here… have some tissues close to hand.
Stuffed full of captivating drama, wiles, and deception this is a thoroughly entertaining read. When Freddy returns home after 22 years she knows that old childhood alliances have deteriorated, so who can she trust when everything starts to go wrong? This is a standalone read from Lesley Thomson, if you love her successful Detective’s Daughter series, then you should definitely put this to the top of your reading list. The prologue nails intrigue and suspense to the mast, setting the tone for what is to come. The title stayed in my mind as the first few pages opened. Give yourself time to get to know all of the characters, each chapter is headed by one of them, and there are a fair few to meet. I settled into the conversational tone, which changes with the characters, occasionally unsettling with its staccato style. The coast and fishing community is vibrantly evocative. The drama ramps up before seriously kicking off and Lesley Thomson set my mind conspiring against itself. Death of a Mermaid is a stimulating read, the characters weave their way through the plot which spins to a dramatic conclusion.
You just have to say Oslo Detectives series and it conjures up everything you need to know, this is Nordic Noir with knobs on! Detective Frolich investigates a simple missing person case, but as a killer strikes, so the complexity rises. This could be read quite successfully as a standalone novel as Frolich has turned private investigator and it suggests a beginning. Do pop Faithless and The Ice Swimmer on your list though and start with these if you can! Kjell Ola Dahl writes with such crisp clarity, and translator Don Bartlett is on point as it feels as though not a word has been wasted. Short, sharp sentences pounce. I love how the story builds, the plot almost turns itself inside out, and yet is kept as tight as can be. There are no easy tick-box answers on offer here. Bang up-to-date, Sister is a raw, real, and fabulous read.
A dramatic yet entirely believable and oh so readable cross-generational family drama. As her husband walks out, ghost writer Joely enters recluse Freda’s life to help her right a wrong. The latest Susan Lewis novel means it’s time to settle back and let yourself disappear into the pages. The prologue and first chapter set a trap for my interest and caught it as surely as could be. We start in the present day with Joely, then another story emerges, a memoir that is being written by Joely and Freda. I really did feel as though I was reading two separate books, and as the tales began to entwine, the mystery started to slowly reveal itself. As always, the intrigue, emotions, and revelations are all beautifully handled. By the way, there is a lovely link to Andee for those of you, who like me, have read The Detective Andee Lawrence Series. My Lies, Your Lies is a tale that opens up to reveal a riveting, satisfying and convincing tale.
Quirky, provocative, and fabulous, these short stories highlight everyday normality and yet firmly shake the roots of your thoughts. Hannah Vincent is a novelist and playwright, I first came across her writing in 2014 when I read Alarm Girl, which I can still clearly remember (bearing in mind just how many books I read, it shows you how powerful her writing is). Some short stories feel as though you’d like more, want more, these leave more questions than answers and yet are perfectly formed. Sweary, occasionally shouty, definitely challenging, the mundane is examined, and experienced in a completely different way. She-Clown and Other Stories is a really interesting and decidedly different collection of 16 stories, that I really do wholeheartedly recommend.
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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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