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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!
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. Author Christopher de Vinck introduced 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 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 awareness and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.
Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, Tola Rotimi Abraham’s Black Sunday is a rich and accomplished coming-of-age debut that lays bare the hardships, heartaches and hopes of four siblings from 1996-2015. Twin sisters Bibike and Ariyke (“we were never stupid girls. We were bright with borrowed wisdom”) live a pretty contented life until their mother loses her job at the Ministry of Petroleum. With her sacking underpinned by broader political dealings, there’s nothing she can do to keep the family afloat but take-up a teaching post, which she hates. Later, when she leaves the family and the twins’ father loses their family home, they and their brothers are cared for by their Yoruba grandmother. With the narratives split between the four siblings, each of them must deal with abandonment and abuse as Lagos changes, and their lives take separate paths. The siblings’ intimate, affecting stories are wrapped-up in wider issues, such as church corruption and male exploitation of women. As Bibike notes, “Beauty was a gift, but what was I to do with it? It was fortunate to be beautiful and desired… But what is a girl’s beauty, but a man’s promise of reward? If beauty was a gift, it was not a gift to me, I could not eat my own beauty, I could not improve my life by beauty alone.” Meanwhile, Ariyke turns to religion. Universal emotions are also deftly handled, such as when their brother Peter comments “I think families who spend a lot of time arguing about the small stuff do it because they do not have the courage to talk about big things.” Fortunately for readers, Black Sunday is a brilliant book that has the courage to talk about the big things with honesty, humanity and beauty. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
An absolute gift of a book, contained within is enough emotion to make your heart truly ache, possibly even break, yet also soar with love for nine year old Frankie. Frankie Appleton likes to design gates, gates to keep the bad things out, but bad things have already edged their way in. I have fallen in love with The Weight of Small Things. Julie Lancaster writes with a beautifully gentle yet devastating eloquence. Small, sharp slices of information lie in wait, delivered with such innocence, they are all the more powerful. Two time frames exist side by side, one sitting in the late 1980’s, while the other creeps forward from the past. Do keep an eye on the year that heads each chapter to avoid confusion. As I began to confirm the link between the two stories, my apprehension grew and my thoughts hesitated and reformed. Julie Lancaster deals with challenging subjects with sensitivity and care, yet this book holds such compelling power. While Frankie sits as the focus, two other women create the foundations to this story. At times this debut stings and it can be an uncomfortable read. Drips become rivulets and rush into torrents, yet all the time there is an irresistible charm contained within. Frankie has taken up residence in a corner of my heart, and she is most welcome there. She also climbs into our LoveReading Star Books. A Debut of the Month, The Weight of Small Things is a shattering read and yet it holds a piercing note of hope.
This is such a lovely, charmingly heartfelt debut. When grief-stricken Florence discovers tantalising information about unknown relation Nancy Moon, she sets off to follow the path Nancy took through Europe in the 1960’s. I adore this premise, we travel with Florence and Nancy in two timelines, and vintage dress patterns create a vibrant link between the pair. I was able to just sink straight into the story as the intimacy and warmth of the writing from Sarah Steele created a cocoon around me. The two timelines hold equal interest, particularly as they begin to gently entwine. I was completely invested in each woman, their friends, relations, and love interests also sparking my interest and making my thoughts whirl. While I would describe this novel as uplifting, there is intrigue and heartbreak to be found along the way. Ultimately though, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a story full of love, friendship and hope and it gave me the most enormous emotional hug.
It's 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over. Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she's tiny until the night she's sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball ... are forfeit. But Sophia doesn't want to be chosen - she's in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia's night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella's tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world ... An electrifying twist on the classic fairytale that will inspire girls to break out of limiting stereotypes and follow their dreams!
Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
He is my husband. To honour and obey. Until murder do us part. London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. Thomas's behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets. When the first woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah's interest is piqued. But as she follows the reports of the ongoing hunt for the killer, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time Thomas stays out late, another victim is found dead. Is it coincidence? Or is her husband the man they call Jack the Ripper?
Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this is an engaging and absolutely riveting read following the memories of two sisters during the Second World War. Pat and Jean Owtram were still teenagers when the war began and signed up as soon as they were old enough, with Pat intercepting German radio and Jean becoming a Code and Cipher Officer. Each sister tells her own story in sequence, with letters to each other and family members adding a real insight into their lives and the times. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, they were unable to divulge their roles even to each other, but nonetheless the actual letters reveal their courage, resilience, and spirit. It is fascinating to discover that both women owed their wartime duties to their fluency in German, a skill that was honed after their family had taken in two Austrian Jewish refugees. I am intrigued by the world of intelligence, so found this a compelling read. It is the little things, such as Jean nearly not passing on a seemingly irrelevant yet vital piece of information that makes this so fascinating. Their wartime work shaped the women they became and I want to hand on heart, salute them both. Codebreaking Sisters is a worthwhile, truly lovely and enthralling read I can highly recommend.
Our July 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A completely divine and ultimately uplifting debut, I cried, I smiled, I laughed, I loved it. With the best intentions Andrew has told a fib which has grown to surround and become a part of him, his life is then thrown up in the air when he meets Peggy. Ahh, Andrew, I admit to completely falling for this shy, kind, thoughtful man. The first few pages had me smiling, humour finely balancing and holding hands with poignancy. Richard Roper has developed the most fabulous characters and one heck of an emotional setting, which he handles with beautiful sensitivity. As the story developed, I hoped, oh how I hoped for a happy ending but I really couldn’t tell what the final outcome was going to be. With heartache tempered by gentle good humour Something To Live For casts the warmest of glows. I have no doubt that it will be topping my favourite reads of the year. We adore this quirky must-read and have chosen it to sit as a Debut of the Month, Liz Pick, and LoveReading Star Book!
Oh my word, this hits hard, and with so much power it almost took my breath away. Set in the future it focuses on an antibiotic crisis, no one over the age of 70 is allowed treatment and they are sent to hospitals called ‘The Waiting Rooms’. Although written before the current Covid 19 crisis, there is so much here you can connect to as a reader it feels as though this book was meant for these specific times. The first chapter is provocative, it shocked me and yet introduces the main character and book perfectly. As Kate searches for her birth mother, different time frames and countries sent my thoughts and feelings spinning. This is one of those books that doesn’t sit comfortably in one genre as it crosses from dystopian right through to family drama. It is perhaps best described as a speculative thriller, and boy did it make me reflect. I have been left thirsting for more information, for more knowledge and Eve Smith’s final words when she talks about the inspiration behind the novel are chilling indeed. The Waiting Rooms is a gutsy, thoughtful, fascinating read, and we have chosen it to feature as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
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.
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!
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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