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Looking to try something new? Check out our Debuts of the Month selection. You never know, one might become your favourite new author and a special discovery!
Telling the affecting story of sixteen-year-old Cal’s battles with homophobic bullies, family upheavals, mental health and heartbreak, this hard-hitting page-turner pulls no punches from the opening coming-out scene that results in Cal’s mum needing medical attention and an almighty clash with his dad. Reeling from strife at home and school, along with a series of ill-advised one-night stands, Cal’s life seems to take an upward turn when he falls for handsome, wealthy Matt. But since the course of passion and romance rarely runs smooth, thank goodness Cal’s best friend Em and her joyous Scotch-drinking, straight-talking nan are there when he needs them. Exploring themes of homophobia, self-harm, complex family dynamics, friendship, and intergenerational bonds with clarity and sensitivity, Fall Out is underpinned by a warm message of hope and the possibilities of starting afresh. As Cal says, “You can’t pave over the faults; you can’t wash away the past but sometimes, when you make mistakes, you get a second chance.”
A scorching, provocative, heady hit of a read, that also feels refreshingly unique. The setting is Australia, three girls disappear and years later Tikka looks back at what happened and how the events have affected her life. Felicity McLean sets two time frames in motion, but the story doesn’t flow in a straight line, words meander, get caught in an eddy before rushing onwards again. It took me a few pages to settle into the writing, and that is just because it is so wonderfully and distinctively different. Tikka’s voice is compelling, her childhood evokes bright vivid colour and touchable vibrant feelings which all spill from the page. She didn’t just visit my thoughts, but set up home too. As I read, punches of realisation landed with precision, opening my eyes, making me consider. The Van Apfel Girls are Gone really is the most special debut, it is dark, atmospheric and tragic, yet bright, engaging and satisfying too. Also chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, this Debut of the Month is one that I can highly recommend.
Open your hearts and minds to the world of seabirds and the wild landscape of the British Isles in this thoughtful and eloquently written book. Stephen Rutt travels the British Isles and tells of his love for birds that spend much of their life out at sea. Even if not previously entranced by seabirds or nature, Stephen Rutt’s words cast a spell to draw you in. If like me, nature is part and parcel of your inner soul, then this is simply magical, but also holds a warning for our future. One huge reminder from The Seafarers is that it proves just how important nature is for our mental health and wellbeing. The introduction really spoke to me, we learn a little about Stephen before he moves on to ten chapters focusing on different seabirds. From the thrill of meeting a Lech’s storm petrel, to the declining population of the skua, he travels from Lundy to Shetland and we learn as much about the islands as we do seabirds. His thoughts on: “the Anthropocene - defined as the era in which the majority of things on earth have been altered by the actions of humans” and that: “We are losing our seabirds. I fear that what we are seeing with plastics is perhaps the beginning of another death spiral” really hit home. Winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year 2019, The Seafarers is not only a beautiful book to read, it acts as a reminder of the importance of our natural world.
Falling in love, riding out change, figuring out what you want to do with your life – Ciara Smyth’s pitch perfect debut simmers with romance and deep-rooted dilemmas, delivered through witty dialogue and affecting emotional detail. Seventeen-year-old Saoirse (pronounced ‘Seer-sha’- be sure to get it right) is on the cusp of crossing the Irish Sea to read history at Oxford. Except she’s not sure she wants to go. She has more than enough on her plate dealing with her dad’s remarriage, getting over breaking-up with her girlfriend, and coming to terms with her mum’s debilitating illness. She just wants to spend her summer watching horror movies and kissing girls – no strings attached. To that end, Saoirse goes to a mate’s end-of-exams party and gets it on with his cousin Ruby. Irresistibly drawn to Ruby’s good looks and good heart, Saoirse accepts her challenge to embark on a summer romance with all the serious bits left out, in finest romcom tradition. But, as Ruby sagely points out, “the thing about the falling in love montage…is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love”. Super smart and funny (“If you are a girl inclined to deface school property, may I suggest the classic penis and balls, as you will avoid suspicion due to stereotyping”), Saoirse is lead fans of contemporary YA will love and root for - flaws and all - and her journey is a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking rollercoaster ride.
A thoughtful, stirring, and compassionate historical novel set during World War Two. Simone, the daughter of a Belgian First World War hero is best friends with Hava from a devout Jewish family, together they flee the advancing Nazi army in 1940. Inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members in Belgium, this is essentially a tale of what should be an uncomplicated friendship sitting within one of the most complex and horrifying times in world history. He introduces the reader to the reasons behind this book before Simone’s prologue slammed into my contemplations. Each chapter epigraph includes excerpts and memories that really do spread chills, it is interesting to note that those that unattributed are from the author’s grandfather who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery and was in the Belgian Resistance before being captured. Christopher de Vinck brings the girls to vibrant life by noting the small things that make each of us unique. He doesn’t sit in judgement, he releases the horror and emotion of the full story, with lost innocence spearing thoughts and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.
At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met. On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch. Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty. Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.
“Alistair Haston, student of moral philosophy and German no more. I was starting over, shaking things up.” As things turn out, innocent Alistair experiences a whole lot more than a shake up in The Lizard, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s audaciously murderous debut, when he heads to the Greek Islands in search of his ex-girlfriend and finds himself stitched-up to the nth degree. Alistair has barely begun his trip when his passport and cash are stolen after getting drunk with charismatic Aussie Ricky. Alone and penniless, a reencounter with Ricky offers him a lifeline when the Aussie gets him a job drafting tourists to pose for his employer, a wealthy German artist called Heinrich. Alistair seems to have fallen on his feet – Heinrich’s villa is palatial, the parties are wild and the money is great. Swept up in the sex, drug and alcohol fuelled fever of the villa, Alistair casts off his conservatism and does what’s expected of him, until the morning he wakes to find the villa messy with party detritus and empty of people. “What the hell had happened?” he wonders before a police car pulls up. A tourist has been murdered and Alistair is the number one suspect. And so begins a dangerous cat and mouse game during which Alistair is arrested, escapes and goes on the run. The sense of paranoia is palpable as the novel plots Alistair’s transformation from a naïve, lovelorn student to a fugitive prepared to do anything to save his skin, with the body count rising to Tarantino-esque proportions. The heady cocktail of kaleidoscopic plot twists and slick writing make this a sure-fire winner for fans of fast-paced thrillers.
A captivating, heartfelt and rewarding debut based on true events that began in 1940 when Nazi Germany invaded Jersey. As a young Jewish woman Hedwig Bercu had already arrived in Jersey having fled Austria, she soon finds herself relying on the islanders and a certain German lieutenant. There is a vivid simplicity to the tale, so intimate and sincere, that allowed me to see the events playing out in my mind’s eye. I could feel the uncertainty, fear, and conflicting thoughts as relationships grew. I was transported into the darkest of times, where friendship and love manages to shine a much needed light, creating a genuine balance. This may be a novel, it is all too easy to imagine the reality. Author Jenny Lecoat was born in Jersey and her parents were raised under German occupation. Her research is clear to see, and I can still feel the warmth that surrounded me when I read her acknowledgements regarding the work of Dr Carr and the submission of Righteous Among the Nations Status. Hedy’s War is a stimulating, emotional, and engaging novel, and has been chosen as one of our Debuts of the Month.
An absolute delight of a romantic comedy debut, stuffed full of smiles, flirtations, and feel-good moments. Evie has to prove that it is possible to meet and fall in movie-style love, her job depends on it, and so her life is taken over by arranging ridiculously cheesy meet-cutes. The intriguing chatty prologue made me snort with laughter and I found myself relaxing and sinking into the story. Text messages, emails, and screenplay excerpts appear within the pages (but not too many), which keeps things interesting. Anette, and Evie’s friends are a fabulous supporting cast, while the two leading men add an edge to the will-they-won’t-they potential! Rachel Winters keeps things beautifully bright and breezy, bringing out the very best of the romcom. Would Like To Meet is very lovely indeed, in fact, it allows you to properly escape reality for a while and I really didn’t want to leave the pages!
Well! This is an absolute corker of a debut, different and intelligent, it wormed its way into my thoughts and then proceeded to hunt them down. Narrator Jane tells of her friendship with Marnie, and the seven lies that change that friendship forever. This is Jane’s chance to be honest, and if she had told the truth to start with, Marnie’s husband might still be alive. The introduction to each lie hits with hammer hard precision, there are truths waiting ready to trip you up. Elizabeth Kay has the ability to blur lines, and I found myself stopping, questioning, considering my thoughts. She quite simply made me look at things in a different way. I write notes as I read, and these were peppered with ‘Crikey!’, ‘Blimey!’, and an awful lot of exclamation marks! Provocative, thoughtful, and so very clever, Seven Lies deserves to be a huge hit. A debut of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, Seven Lies comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me.
A sparky, touching, thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable relationship tale that is both accessible and engaging. When Zara flies to the UK to be with the man she loves, she really doesn’t expect to bump into Jim. As Jim spends time with Zara, he begins to look at his humdrum life, and what he can do about it. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Zara and Jim, Hayley Doyle really does bring these two characters and their friends to life. I felt as though I was becoming friends with them myself. Imperfections and flaws allow depth and emotion to emerge. This most certainly isn’t pink and fluffy, it has a tangy edge, and isn’t afraid to delve into feelings and look beyond romance. Wonderfully buzzy and full of light, Never Saw You Coming celebrates taking a chance in life with friendships, love, and new beginnings.
Ancient gods and the elemental spirit of an island are interwoven with modern reality in this remarkable debut that begins with a family impoverished by the decline of the sugar cane industry. In the pounding, poetic words of Augie, the father of the household: ”I was once the sugarcane. I was the cane and clacking and the sugar-sweet smoke of the reaping season.” Amidst escalating money struggles, a shiver of sharks save seven-year-old Nainoa from drowning, which the family embrace as a sign from Hawai’i’s ancient gods, especially when Nainoa also seems to have been bestowed with healing powers. Throughout the writing is majestically powerful, from punch-packing phrases that slam you in the gut, to monumental descriptions that rise, crash, roar and swell like Big Island waves, not least when life unravels again after Nainoi – now a young adult - and his siblings leave the island for various parts of the USA. Sister Kaui captures one of the novel’s core themes when, relocated to San Diego, she speaks of being, “A person of here and there, and not belonging in either place.” Meanwhile, in Portland, struggling with his healing gift, and the failings of this gift, Nainoa recalls the shark incident and memories call to him: “Home. Come home.” With its sweeping sense of myth, this multi-voiced family saga is a brilliant, involving exposition of how the places we inhabit also inhabit us at bone-deep level. It rings and rages with the wrath, revival, healing and hope of its characters.
Beginning with the author’s great, great grandmother Tory, who lived in Somerset “over 100 years before Edna brought me into the world,” Hold On Edna! recounts the remarkable story of Aneira “Nye” Thomas, the first baby to be delivered by the NHS. From learning that the “birth of the NHS received scant coverage” and was initially distrusted, to the author’s rousing reading of Michael Rosen’s “These are the Hands” poem at the NHS 70th anniversary event, this moving memoir is an absorbing mix of punch-packing family drama, and a powerful personal testament to Britain’s crowning achievement. Throughout, the author casts an edifying light on working class social history through her family story. For Tory and thousands like her, death was very much part of daily life. If you’re in a workhouse, struggling to feed your children, paying a “quack” to heal you in sickness was out of the question. It was Tory’s death that brought her widow and six children to South Wales to seek work in the pits. While further hardship followed, it was fortuitous that the author’s mother, Edna, left Wales to find work at the same time as her future father. Employed at the same London hospital, they fell in love but money troubles, mouths to feed and the outbreak of WWII brought them back to Wales. Through these same hard years, the couple’s compatriot Aneurin “Nye” Bevan had been devising a transformative plan for public health, leading to a Parliament bill “that would offer a state-wide health service" that was “to be free at the point of need; available to everyone, regardless of wealth or social standing.” And since “the man responsible for all this grew up not too far away,” Edna’s seventh child was movingly chosen to be the first child delivered by the NHS. Ready to give birth before the allotted time, Edna “held on… and then she pushed. I came barrelling into the world at a minute past midnight, the first baby to be born on the NHS”. A triumphant moment for a family who knew the toughest of times, and a triumph of transformative socialist policy.
A striking and compelling debut set after the murder of 18 month old Lexi Hunter sends a shockwave through the local community. Lexi’s family are deaf, and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter Paige Northwood assists the police as they investigate. Paige can’t help herself though, and begins to review the case herself in a bid to discover the truth. Author Nell Pattison became a teacher specialising in Deaf education working with students who use BSL. Her knowledge and awareness is clear to see as communication within the novel is skilfully written, piercing and penetrating awareness. I have to admit that Paige sometimes frustrated me, ‘Noooooo, don’t!’ escaped my lips on a number of occasions. Isn’t it fabulous when a character engages you in that way! With so many suspects to sift through and choose from, Paige really does have her work cut out. The Silent House is a different and thought-provoking crime mystery and sits as one of our debut books of the month.
Set aside plenty of quality time, as once I started, this was a read in one beautiful, heartrending, fully immersive sitting for me. When Elissa is abducted, her hopes of escape flame into being after Elijah finds her hidden in the heart of Memory Wood. A truly fabulous opening sets the scene, I felt as though I knew Elijah, his very being is stamped on the pages, and yet there is so much that remains unknown. Knowing the abduction was coming set my heart pounding and added to the tension rather than dispersing it. While the seven days of the story slide backwards and forwards in part one, I was completely confident and very much in every moment. In part one chapters are headed by the day, and one of the characters, while in part two you know exactly when you are. Sam Lloyd’s words were so in tune and belonging to each child that I almost didn’t need to know who was heading the chapter. I was on edge and uncertain as to the outcome throughout, as the ending hurtled towards me I gasped and felt utterly consumed. The Memory Wood is one of those novels that I almost wanted to read from behind a cushion, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Chosen as a LoveReading star book, this is a must-read for me.
So very readable, this debut is an amusing, sparkling and smart look at contemporary life. When separate calamities hit publicist Ginny and her neighbour, actress Cassie, they might just find a helping hand closer than they thought. While the friendship between the two women grows, potential love interests also enter their lives. I adore the fact that the occasionally feisty friendship between two neighbours of different ages takes centre stage. Can I say that Cassie rather steals the show with her antics, she certainly made me smirk, but this isn’t all fun and frothy frolics. Nicola Gill takes a thoughtful step into the more challenging and emotional side of life, handling the difficulties experienced with beautiful consideration. Fresh, witty and sharp, yet warm, wise and loving, The Neighbours really is a rather gorgeous read!
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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