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Our high-quality Family Drama selection offers the heart-breaking and heart-warming conflicts and dramas directly from the hearth, telling the stories of these families that have been struck by tragedy, conflict and drama and their struggle to survive intact.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence or a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
This moving, thoughtful, and expressive historical novel walked into my heart with deep empathy, and more than a hint of fantasy. Set during the Second World War, between 1941 and 1944, The World We Knew explores the nature of war, anti-Semitism, and what people can become when faced with the hardest of choices. When Hanni Kohn approaches her rabbi to help save her 12 year old daughter from the Nazi regime, assistance comes from the least likely of places. The first chapter, stark, urgent, and compelling was so intense I almost stopped breathing. As the chapter came to a close I sat for a moment in contemplative silence. I simply adored how Alice Hoffman balances the fantasy element of the novel, it feels as though a truth has been sent free. I disappeared into the words, and took to my heart that survival isn’t just a matter of life or death. One word of advice, you may need to have tissues close to hand, I cried at the beauty of the ending. The World That We Knew is not only one of my picks of the month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve.
Pure, wonderful, gobble-it-up reading entertainment. Really, what more could you want… friends, gossip, and a mystery that connives and conspires its little socks off! Pine Road, Dublin houses your usual group of very different people, all trying to live together as neighbours. Martha and her family have moved in, everyone wants to know why, and tongues are soon wagging! The first few pages made me laugh and set the group of residents up beautifully as a WhatsApp group overflows with juicy gossip on Pine Road. While I often chuckled, Eithne Shortall also sensitively and thoughtfully handles the more difficult sides to life. The characters, even if on the page for moments, simply burst with vivid intensity. This is one of those books that not only entertains, it also holds the most rewarding and satisfying story. If Pine Road and its fabulous inhabitants actually existed, I would want to pay a visit, and perhaps even stay a while, not for too long though, as parking is a problem! Three Little Truths is an absolute joy of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me.
New Yorker Leah is a tenacious, snarky queen of quips. She’s also an exceptional chess player but decides to give up the game after losing a match that, had she won, would have seen her move up the rankings to grandmaster status. Feeling the pressure of her mom and coach, feeling that she’s let down her beloved dad, she decides to get a tattoo, “proving to myself and the world that there is life after chess and that I’m not just a pawn for other people to push around.” Leah’s certainly not a girl given to being pushed around but, with the skills of a master weaver, the author sensitively shows how grief’s deep wounds underpin her anger and tendency to drive people away. When her tattoo plan is foiled by one of her blog readers, Kit, who makes big bucks from illegal chess hustling, Leah winds up making a thousand dollars in a couple of hours. It’s through the police busting one of the illegal games that she finds out about chessboxing, “the ultimate contest of brains and brawn”. The thrill Leah feels for this hybrid sport’s speed and tension is palpable, and she’s a natural at it too, with her boxing coach praising her exceptional resilience: “You never know what’s inside a fighter until they’re flat out on the canvas”, a perceptive comment that encapsulates Leah’s story journey. She’s grappling with grief, but making emotional breakthroughs and learning new skills, to the point that she’s ready to fight Death (a formidable champion chessboxer) in Vegas. With a truly pulse-quickening climax, this exceptional novel rages with raw emotion. It’s a bona fide page-turner seared with life-affirming insights into grief, friendship and finding new paths.
This brilliant novel will be released in February 2020. Click here to pre-order a copy! An exquisitely written and beautifully emotional novel that will remain in my heart and thoughts. Edward survives a plane crash in which every other person, including his parents and brother, die. As the only survivor he becomes the lodestone for the relatives of the other passengers. Ann Napolitano writes with huge compassion as she explores overwhelming grief, and the tragedy is sensitively and skilfully handled. Knowing what is coming, in no way prepares you for the journey. Two time frames travel together, the first immediately leading up to the crash, the second as Edward learns how to survive the aftermath. Scattered within are smaller, intense, briefly short stories that added to, and intertwined with the overall tale. I was allowed to find my own way, to consider and contemplate as I walked alongside Edward. I felt the most profound heartache and joy as I sank into the lives of the passengers, not only incredibly thoughtful, it is also a thought-provoking read. Dear Edward has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Star Books, it is a must-read and truly deserves to be a huge success.
This brilliant debut will be released in February 2020. Click here to pre-order a copy! A debut novel to read slowly, to savour, to adore. Yes, this is a rather special and beautiful read, and I want to climb a few rooftops to shout about it. Missy Carmichael is lonely, she lives by herself in a huge house, when opportunities arise for friendship and more, can she reach out and take them? I admit to having fallen in love with Missy, she isn’t perfect and she makes mistakes (who doesn’t!), yet there is something about her that tiptoed into my heart and soul and has taken up residence. So often we just see a snapshot of someone, a moment or period in their life, however not here. Beth Morrey has not only brought her to life, but by also dipping into the past, we discover the gems that make Missy, well, Missy! The surrounding characters are a wonderfully quirky bunch, and Bob is an absolute delight. I laughed and I cried (oh how I cried). Saving Missy meanders gently, poignantly, beautifully, to what was for me, a perfect ending. I adored meeting Missy and so have chosen this lovely debut novel 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.
Huge, in fact, huger than huge klaxon alert as Cecelia Ahern has written a sequel to her truly wonderful debut, P.S. I Love You. It’s been seven years since Gerry died, and after Holly talks about his letters in a podcast, a group approaches her asking for help. I adore Cecelia Ahern’s writing, it just speaks to, and connects with my entire being. Confession time, I didn’t write any notes as I read, I just read for the pure pleasure of it. Which in itself, really makes a statement doesn’t it? Holly is honest, and entirely human as she initially tries to distance herself from the group. This is an older Holly, an altered Holly, she has moved on while Gerry and the letters have remained anchored in time. The other characters are absolutely fascinating, I grew to care about the group members and fell completely in love with Ginika. After reaching the end I found myself reflecting, the writing not only entered my heart, it also still sits in my thoughts. Postscript is just as brilliant, just as emotional, just as gorgeous, as P.S., and while linking so effectively to the past, grows into a truly beautiful novel in its own unique right.
A lovely, gentle exploration of a bygone time, yet there is a quiet strength to this compelling read. It is also one of those books that just may surprise you. Violet Speedwell, still suffering the loss of both her fiancé and brother in the First World War, moves to Winchester in search of a new life. Canvas embroidery, bellringing, the surplus of women after the war, expectations and the judgement of society, all sit alongside each other as Violet explores new thoughts and feelings. Tracy Chevalier writes with true eloquence, the descriptions bloom, the characters sing, and she allows you to ponder, to consider. Notes of caution and unease pierce the tale, with occasional moments of biting intensity. Violet is fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her. In the acknowledgements I found out about the character who actually did exist, and I now want to explore Winchester Cathedral. Expressive and beautifully readable, A Single Thread is an engaging and rewarding tale.
Bea is the kind of open, honest, amusing character readers immediately care about. Told through her wittily illustrated diary, Bea’s tale begins with a(nother) upheaval. She and her family have just moved to their new Chinese takeaway, but her hopes for a fresh start are immediately dashed when she sees there’s no living room, and she has to share a room with little sister Bonny while big brother Simon lives with their grandparents. Bea’s experience of feeling “doubly different” is poignantly portrayed – she’s an outsider at school because she’s Chinese, and an outsider among her wider Chinese family because her own family is dysfunctional, and because she doesn’t speak the same language. Thank goodness, then, that she forms a friendship with fellow outcast, Tina the Goth, who stands up to racist school bullies. But while Bea begins to feel hopeful about her future and takes steps towards realising her dream of working in fashion, she and Bonny are increasingly neglected by their parents, and then there’s Dad’s aggressive outbursts. The mid-1980s setting prompts many amusing references, from ra-ra skirts and Gary Kemp’s perm, to sending drawings to Take Hart and going to Wimpy for a Knickerbocker Glory - but above all this is a highly readable, highly empathetic, impactful novel about familial abuse and neglect, trying to fit in, and finding your way in the world. Based on her own experiences, author Sue Cheung’s big-hearted story will chime with readers of 12+ who know how it feels to fall between cracks and dream of a different life.
This is such a special read, not only different, it is also so incredibly moreish and readable. I picked Louis and Louise up and didn’t put it down until I had turned the final page. I’m not often stuck for words on how to describe a fabulously gorgeous book, but this might just be one of those times when I don’t quite do it justice! Julie Cohen has created a fascinating premise, with one life, lived as both Louis and Louise, not separately but concurrently. I wanted to read this novel, almost before I had even heard of it! Starting in 1978 Louis and Louise are born in Maine, from birth we see them grow, their friends and family surrounding and a part of them. Julie Cohen writes so beautifully, what may sound complicated, actually just flows. Picture a fascinating DNA like strand, twisting beautifully together, creating one story from two, or two stories from one… yet it isn’t separate, it is one cohesive whole. Louis and Louise has an edge, a beautiful, sharp, provocative edge, I absolutely adored it and have picked it as both a Liz Robinson pick of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
A special and beautiful book to fall completely and irretrievably in love with. Audrey can not understand why her two daughters are estranged, or why her granddaughters have never met. She is determined to reunite her family, however at the heart of the problem is a secret that has been kept for 30 years. Either Audrey, Jess, or Lily head each chapter and while travelling forward over several months, they also revisit the past. Hannah Beckerman allows secrets to hover, creating an energy that weaves through the story, suggesting, cajoling, calling to past events. The different view points collide and sometimes splinter, which left my thoughts testing and questioning possibilities. I found such strength and beauty in the characters, I think they will remain with me for some time. If Only I Could Tell You, is a heartbreaking, truly fabulous read, you may well sob, but believe me, it is worth it!
Uplifting and dazzlingly unique, this coming-of-age treasure explores identity and sexuality with an emboldening message to remember that “you have the right to be you”. As a young Barbie-loving boy, mixed race Michael wonders if he’s “only half” of everything, to which his mother poignantly replies: “Don’t let anyone tell you/that you are half-black/and half-white. Half-Cypriot/ and half-Jamaican./ You are a full human being.” But he doesn’t feel like a whole human being. Dubbed a “queerdo and weirdo” by bullies and subjected to “batty bwoy” taunts through his teenage years, he leaves London for Brighton University with hope in his heart. But even here Michael feels “like Goldilocks; trying to find a group of people/the perfect fit for me”. He doesn’t feel black enough for the Caribbean Society, or Greek enough for Hellenic Society, or queer enough for the LBGT Society. Then Michael finally finds a fit at Drag Society where he becomes The Black Flamingo, “someone fabulous, wild and strong. With or without a costume on.” Michael’s journey is complex, moving and told with a raw vitality that makes the soul soar and the heart sing, with Anshika Khullar’s magnificent illustrations and the smart design adding further depth, prompting the reader to pause for thought as his story requires.
What a fabulous novel this is, chills raced in competition down my arms, fighting off the goosebumps on their way. It is also beautifully readable, and with Emily Bronte making an appearance, what more could you ask for! After a tragedy strikes at the heart of their family, Trudy Heaton and her son Will return to Ponden Hall. The Heaton’s have lived there since 1540. The Hall is full of memories, and as the past reaches a ghostly hand towards the present, Trudy attempts to balance hope and love for the sake of her son. I love Rowan Coleman’s writing, she always makes me look in a slightly different way at things, expanding my thoughts and feelings. In a few pages, The Girl at the Window captured my attention and harnessed my energy. This is a book I read in one day while on holiday, I just fell into and became at one with the story. The eloquently descriptive writing completes a whole vivid, striking picture, both in the past and the present. There are several strands on offer in The Girl at the Window, each harmoniously linking into one overall glorious tale and I just had to choose this book as one of my picks of the month.
Startling. Clever. Thrilling. Different. This book snatched my attention from the moment I entered, and the ending siren-called to me throughout. When new neighbour Roux joins the local book group, she suggests a game that quickly turns Amy’s life upside down. Amy has a secret, and Roux threatens to reveal all, unless Amy plays by her rules. The first chapter is oh so clever, my thoughts twisted, scattered, re-grouped. I was desperate to know where this was heading, and what was coming. I am not often tempted to peek at the ending, as I love the build, the tension, the reveal. I admit that I almost had to sit on my hands to stop myself from looking! Joshilyn Jackson has created two main characters who entered my mind, knocked down thoughts, and created turbulent feelings. I bristled with indignation, winced and flinched as I read. Never Have I Ever isn’t an easy, obliging read, instead it is wonderfully shocking, completely addictive, and thoroughly entertaining. I’ve chosen the fabulous Never Have I Ever as one of my picks of the month.
A sweary, sexy, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining tale set in a Welsh town. A homeless man sits just off centre stage, though this is actually very much an ensemble piece. Individual stories, each able to exist on their own, combine to become a complete and oh so fabulous community tale. The chapter headings serve as a siren like call to read. Crystal Jeans has created fascinating and unique snapshots, some made me shout with laughter, while in others I flinched. There are some very human attributes and an awful lot of feeling to be found and explored along the way. I particularly enjoyed the apparently randomness of the time line, which zig-zags and throws thoughts skywards. The Homeless Heart-Throb is clever, different, and it just roars along as it fans the provocative flames - loved it!.
Whether it’s Barbara Taylor Bradford’s window into the dark secrets of dynastic powerhouses, or the hard realities of Allison Pearson’s writing: the incisively humourous observations of Nick Hornby, or the light touch of Charlotte Bingham: the engrossing passion of Jojo Moyes, or the captivating worlds conjured by Jodi Picoult and Daisy Waugh, the range of fantastic stories in the Family Drama section is almost endless. Luckily our unique expert reviews and hand-picked recommendations are here to help match you with your perfect next read. Sign up to our monthly emails to stay in touch with the latest output from warm, wise Elizabeth Buchan, insightful Kate Atkinson, sensory-stimulating Joanna Harris, huge-scale Sidney Sheldon, magical Alice Hoffman and so many more in the varied family of fantastic authors of the genre.