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Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
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!
With short fast-moving chapters this is a piercing and riveting political thriller. Sitting within a time period of just over two weeks, former aid worker Ursula finds herself in deep water when she becomes Minister for the Interior in Iceland. Author Lilja Sigurdardottir and translator Quentin Bates team up again after the successful and fiercely intense Reykjavik Noir trilogy which I absolutely adored. The writing here is just as smart and powerful with dirty politics and corruption leading the charge and an otherwordly feel slinking around in the background. A number of characters are introduced, from Ursula who takes a high-profile role in government, to driver and bodyguard Gunnar, and cleaner Stella. A picture slows builds with a teetering edge of tension remaining in place throughout. I hovered on the edge of knowing and understanding, my focus sharp and waiting for what was to come. In summary, Betrayal is an edge-of-your-seat political thriller just brimming over with attitude.
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!
A stimulating, provocative brew containing drama, intrigue, dark humour, and thoughtful contemplation. It shouldn’t work, yet it does! The Skelf women return for a second outing running their funeral home and private investigation business side by side. Still affected by the turmoil from the first book in the series A Dark Matter (do read this first), investigations begin after a car crashes into the grave at a funeral. The first sentence is a corker, and sets the tone. Each chapter is headed by one of the three Skelf women, with the individual voices of grandmother Dorothy, her daughter Jenny, and granddaughter Hannah independently vibrant. I particularly like the multi-generational aspect to this series with the storyline bustling from one woman to the next. There is a fair bit of death to be found here, but where there’s death there is life too. All the small things that make up our existence, plus some huge pummelling emotions such as grief and anger are on offer. Doug Johnstone paints a multi-dimensional 360 degree vibrant view, and sparked a heady mix of thoughts and feelings as I read. The Big Chill is an energetic, colourful, and dare I say entertaining read that encourages both smirks and reflection.
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.
Twisty-turny and oh-so provocative, this is the type of book that will stick a sneaky foot out to trip you up. Spend five days in Hinton Hollow as it welcomes home Detective Sergeant Pace, who is being followed by Evil (yes, that’s right, Evil). Wait until you can give Hinton Hollow your full attention, because it deserves it. The town starts with a population of 5,120, what will it be by the end? Narrated by Evil, you are warned right at the very beginning that you can walk away and not read further. If you continue you may feel uncomfortable, start to self-reflect, even flinch, but remember, you were warned! Is this part of a series - well, there are now three books featuring Detective Sergeant Pace, but each reads equally well as a standalone. Having said that, I recommend starting with Good Samaritans and following it with Nothing Important Happened Today before starting here. As always with Will Carver, I couldn’t begin to guess how it would end, so didn’t even try, I just enjoyed the ride. If you like something just a little different then Hinton Hollow Death Trip is an original, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining read.
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.
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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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