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!
Regrets. Teacher Frances has a few. She’s 39, single, and beset by dissatisfaction with all aspects of her life - personal, professional and familial. Her dad vanished from her life when he was lost at sea when she was only five and now her mum is vanishing into the fog of Alzheimer’s. On top of this, her relationship with Jackson, fellow teacher, former best friend and one-timer lover, has taken a painful downturn following a night of wine-fuelled passion. As Frances is led to question her father’s disappearance, it becomes clear that she’s the one who’s lost in a sea of doubt. After a lifetime of secrets and hiding, she’s steered by the words of a blind man she guides from a station: “Sometimes you just have to feel your way”. Realising that she’s been drifting for far too long, Frances shakily decides that it’s time for her to feel her own way in the world, and so she sets off on a journey to discover the truth. The snappy, short-tempered exchanges between Frances and Jackson are humorously and movingly authentic, and the race-against-time climax makes for a gripping reading experience. Often funny and always tender, this accomplished debut explores the cycles of life, messing up and making amends with charm and wit.
In a Nutshell: Rebellion, romance and an imprisoned princess set on revenge This ambitiously epic fantasy debut sees a captive princess rise from the ashes of her traumatic childhood to combat a cruel Kaiser. At the tender age of six Theodosia witnessed the brutal murder of her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury. Now, ten years on, and backed deeper into a no-hope situation by the cruel Kaiser who’s forced her to live in a degraded state as the Ash Princess, Theodosia is driven to concoct a scheme to exact her revenge. With the assistance of a band of magical rebels she will seduce the Kaiser’s son and ruin him from within in order to reclaim the throne. While this motif is far from new, the writing is bold and fresh, and this promising debut sparkles with Theodosia’s drive and desire. But, while she’s a straight-talking, sharp-thinking young woman, her lively first-person narrative also reveals hidden fears, doubts and personal conflicts which, alongside the gory grimness of the political climate (slavery, brutal colonisation) and a backdrop of elemental gods, makes for a riveting reading experience that comes recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
A touchingly intimate yet scorchingly dramatic and fully realised view of a couple who meet just before the Second World War. This is a relationship tale that took hold of me, brought me to its very centre and allowed me access to innermost thoughts and feelings. Martin and Nancy fall in love, as Martin departs for the battlefields of France, they continue to communicate by letter, until suddenly Martin’s letters stop. My advice to you is to pick this book up, start to read, and whatever you do, do not allow the final few pages to fall open before you reach them. For me the ending was a heart-stopping moment, and is still very much in my mind, the emotion of the realisation continues to affect me. The letters are exquisitely crafted, with real heart, tying into the story perfectly and bringing a sense of nostalgia for this type of communication. S. C. Worrall allows the war to edge ever closer, until it strikes with a sharp hammer blow. ‘The Very White of Love’ takes you step by step into another time, heartfelt and beautiful I can wholeheartedly recommend this read.
A fun and gripping first in a new series of Scandi-noir - unusually written by a British writer who grew up here but now lives in Sweden. Our heroine - Tuva Moodyson - has also recently moved there, she grew up in rural Sweden but left for the bright lights of London and has returned to near home because her mother hasn't got long to live. Not wanting to give up her career as a journalist she's moved a few hours away from 'home' to work at a local paper. It's pretty sleepy till the entire community is sent reeling when a body is found in the forest during hunting season, shot but with it's eyes removed, no accident and a chilling copy of a spate of murders from twenty years before. Tuva goes on the hunt for the story of her career almost risking everything to find the killer. Adding to the drama is the fact that Tuva is deaf and her ability to both operate without her hearing aids in complete silence when she wants to, and the danger she faces from her hearing aids failing, both up the ante significantly.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | In a nutshell: the unforgettable story of a girl with no memory. Can there ever have been a heroine like Flora Banks? She’s 17 when the book opens, but an accident aged 10 has left her with no short term memory. Then a secret kiss on the beach – with her only friend’s boyfriend – lodges in her mind. Inspired, she sets off alone to follow him, a heart-stopping journey that takes her deep into the Arctic landscapes of Norway, scribbled messages she writes to herself on her arms her only reassurance or guide. Flora does find out the truth about the boy and about herself, but she needs all her courage. A unique mix, part coming-of-age, part psychological thriller, with an almost fairy-tale setting, this is a story that readers will want to read more than once, and one they will want to share with friends too. Unforgettable!
May 2018 Debut of the Month A poignant, inspiring debut to really immerse yourself in, to feel and become a part of. Hero De Vera originally from the Philippines, joins her Uncle and his family in California, she arrives with secrets, and enters a house with secrets, can the family unite as one? The prologue sets the stage, another woman, not Hero, speaks. Elaine Castillo placed me entirely into an unknown world, her words took me there so completely I felt empathy, warmth, remorse resonating through me. Each central character has a distinctive voice, the different women take centre stage, strong, vibrant, hurting, resilient. The feeling of not belonging, of fear, sat uncomfortably within me, slicing through my thoughts. I felt as though I was being told a direct recollection of events, as though I was sitting by their side, listening, and becoming one with the words. Provoking thoughts and feelings ‘America is not the Heart’ is a fascinating, often painful, yet entirely stimulating read.
May 2018 Debut of the Month Our narrator Jasper is thirteen years old. He has synaesthesia which means he hears sounds, voices etc as colours and recognises individual by those colours and not by any physical appearances. We spend nearly a hundred pages learning about the disadvantages of such a condition becoming aware of many of the lad’s traits which are similar to autism. He lives in a confused world misinterpreting interactions and events and “blowing up” in panic attacks. It makes for harrowing reading. A couple of years ago his mother died and shortly after her his grandmother. His father finds the boy difficult to deal with. Now something has happened. Jasper thinks he has killed his neighbour Bee. Jasper is a very unreliable narrator. To discover what happened he has to recreate the colours of the last day of Bee’s life and try to match them to the events of that day. He spends a lot of time surmising and then painting naturally in those colours. The investigating police officer, “Rusty Chrome Orange” is a saint who eventually the boy learns to trust, but the poor lad is suspicious of everyone else, even at one time, his father. How it all works is naturally steeped in colour. Interesting.
April 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Falling Angels | Rising Hope | Falling in Love Compelling magic realist debut in which a fallen angel named Teacake helps heal a teen girl’s grief. Across the world angel-like Beings are falling from the sky. Their winged bodies seep golden blood on impact with the earth, and then they die. In the aftermath of the first sightings, the world exploded in an apocalyptic frenzy, yielding religious cults and angel-exploiting money-makers. Alongside this, Jaya is also dealing with a personal apocalypse – the sudden death of her mother. While Jaya struggles with her guilt-ridden grief, and with losing contact with Leah, the best friend who might also have been her girlfriend, she’s also irritated by her dad’s fanatical angel-chasing. But, as things turn out, it’s Jaya who’s there when an angel falls, and, for the first time, this angel survives. Angels don’t exist in Jaya’s mum’s Hindi religion so she pushes aside any thoughts that this is somehow a sign. But amidst the frenzy of the Edinburgh festival and the aggressive fanaticism of the Standing Fallen cult, Jaya does everything she can to protect this shimmering rose-gold Being from harm. The angels are never explained, or fully understood, but that isn’t necessary, for this isn’t about hard scientific facts, this is about matters of the soul. It’s a charming debut, radiant with humanity and heart.
April 2018 Debut of the Month Ahh, this is just so, so lovely… a debut that made me smile, weep, and smile some more. Rosemary is 86, she has lived in Brixton all her life, watching as Brixton has changed a building at a time, from fruit and veg shops to trendy bars. 26 year old journalist Kate is surrounded by people, yet feels completely and utterly alone, when the local lido is threatened by closure, an alliance and unexpected friendship is formed. Libby Page has a lovely quick-witted, gently quirky writing style, surprising me with observations and unexpected detail (adored the fox!). I loved travelling through memories, getting to know Rosemary and Kate, and seeing the small snapshots of the lives they touch. While it is a truly beautiful read, part of the beauty is in the emotion I felt, pain and heartache is embraced, hugged, soothed. ‘The Lido’ is a deliciously warm and entertaining slice of wonderful, and I absolutely adored it.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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