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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!
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.
An intriguing and altogether thrilling tale that played games in my mind and twisted my thoughts. A man with no memory is found on a Norfolk beach, neuropsychiatrist Dr Emma Lewis is asked to assess him. Emma, however, has secrets… and Norfolk is the very last place that she wants to be. The prologue focussed my attention and stayed with me throughout. As chapter one and day one started, followed by chapter two and day six, I realised that an unsettled feeling would also be keeping me company. Time slides forwards from each of these two chapters, the jagged sequence leaving my emotions hanging as the following chapter sped away again. Catherine Steadman allowed me to see, feel, and experience, her descriptions vivid in their intensity. As suggestions whispered and cajoled, the story eventually overtook and whipped them into shape. If you like to be kept on your reading toes then Mr Nobody could just be the very book for you.
Set between 1917 and 1940, taking in the two World Wars and all the social and political upheaval between them, this intimate and thoughtfully told novel focuses on two women. A mother at 19, Alice is forced to give her up her baby, and that baby, adopted and living life miles away, grows up knowing she is different. As the two women live their lives, their two individual stories begin to intertwine. Rachel Hore shows immense compassion in her writing as this story about family, love, loss and hope travels through the decades. I found myself immersed in the story, hoping and willing for happiness to step into the end of the tale. Peppered with notes from history, the years between the wars were bright and alive in my mind. Simply, almost gently told, as bitingly fierce and emotional subjects are handled with sensitivity, The Love Child is a beautifully poignant and hopeful novel.
With a fascinating premise this tight, gripping crime novel is a seriously worthwhile read. Continuing the Tom Thorne series (now 16 books in), I would suggest if you haven’t yet joined you could step straight into this, but I think it’s best to start at the beginning. Always great to find a fabulous series isn’t it! Sarah wants more than normality, she wants thrills, meanwhile DI Tom Thorne has a niggle of doubt over a woman’s apparent suicide and starts to investigate the reasons behind it. My attention was snared from the get-go. The policing side feels authentic, I didn’t hesitate, didn’t doubt, just read and completely trusted the storyline. Mark Billingham allows us access to the opposite side of the policing tale, to thoughts and feelings that sent conflicting thoughts scudding through me. Compassion warred with flinching, biting emotions as the truth started to reveal itself. I savoured the feeling of being slightly ahead of the game, of having access to more information as I watched Tom and Nicola struggling to stitch everything together. Their Little Secret is a captivating and compelling read, prepare yourself for some eye-popping moments!
Just to let you know that I get excitement overload when I read a crime novel that allows me to simply exist in the pages without an ounce of doubt… and Gallowstree Lane, the third ‘Collins and Griffiths Detective Novel’ is a truly fabulous example (so yes I am wanting to shout about this from the rooftops). Author Kate London ended her Metropolitan Police Service career in 2014 working as a detective on a Major Investigation Team. Her knowledge and experience undoubtedly shines through, you are quite simply, in very safe hands. This story about shocking gang violence is not only extraordinarily relevant, it also entirely captivating, meaningful, and memorable. Sarah Collins and Lizzie Griffiths are beautifully written detectives, both completely fascinating, for me though, the real jewel in this particular crown is Ryan, a young gang member who is left reeling and demanding vengeance after the murder of his best friend. Kate London encourages reality, fact and fiction to blend together, and adds so much depth to the characters I felt as though I knew them. I was so in tune with Ryan that my heart truly ached for him. Gallowstree Lane has left a vividly brilliant bruise on my soul, it is wonderfully raw, exquisitely written.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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