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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.
December 2014 NewGen Debut of the Month. Vlogger Zoella’s fans will fall headlong into this sharply observed, super-realistic teen story. Against a background of first the ordinary ups and downs of life at school followed by an amazing fairy tale trip to New York with her wedding-planner parents and very best friend Eliot, sensible Penny records the rollercoaster emotions of being a teenager. When the going to particularly tough, Penny shares what she feels on her blog. Through responses to her posts Penny finds support for herself while also learning how much emotional strength she is giving her thousands of followers. Amy McCulloch, editorial director of Penguin Children’s, says “Zoe has an incredible voice for teens and she drew on her wealth of experience dealing with real issues like anxiety and cyber-bullying to deliver a poignant, romantic and heart-warming debut novel. The whole team was bursting with excitement at the prospect of working with Zoe, and we know her fans – and the rest of the world – are going to fall head-over-heels with her writing.”
Ever wondered whether your partner is being less than honest and is leading another life? What would you do if you then found out? Here, Bonavero, a first time novelist, has written a disturbing yet riveting story that youâ€™ll find hard to put down.
Contrasting rural Iranian life and traditions with a London immigrant's affluence, this is an impressive work of love, family and identity.
Drawing on traditional Malayan folklore and superstition, The Ghost Bride is a haunting, exotic and romantic read perfect for fans of Empress Orchid and Memoirs of a Geisha. A Piece of Passion from Emily Thomas, Publisher This is a book that makes you feel enriched and educated as you read it, in a way that satisfies as well as entertains. Yangsze Choo's beautifully constructed narrative weaves romance, mythical intrigue and danger through the story of seventeen-year-old Li Lan's search for her true love and her true home, in earthly Malaysia, the Chinese afterlife and then back again, encountering sorrow and joy and a fair few vengeful spirits along the way. A must-read for anyone who likes bite and substance to their reading, and is not afraid to venture into the darkness...
One of our Debuts of the Year 2011. March 2011 Debut of the Month. The Holy Thief brilliantly evokes a society that has broken down and rules of human behaviour that are hard for us to imagine. We are in Stalinist Russia between the wars. Everyone has to be careful of what they say and who they say it to .Young people have to learn when not to say what is on their minds. 'Even the innocent (are) jumping at shadows these days'. Rank is important. 'The colonel placed a slight emphasis on Korolev's rank, just enough to remind Korolev of the thinness of the ice under his feet'. In this world, Korolev is ordered to solve a gruesome murder but does the culprit exist inside or outside the system? Who can he trust? Where can he turn? Whatever he does, he has to tread carefully. This beautifully written, finely judged novel is up there with the likes of Le Carre, thoughtful and thought-provoking: intelligently written and thoroughly readable.
Every now and again a new crime novel comes along and you know it’s something special. This won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey award for Best First Crime Novel. It’s first rate. A tale of corruption with an ending you really can’t guess; it’s mesmerising stuff.Comparison: Scott Turow, Richard North Patterson, Dennis Lehane.Similar this month: None but try Lisa Scottoline or James Patterson.
February 2018 Debut of the MonthA raw, convincing, achingly intimate and individual tale about actions and consequences. 16 years after the death of his brother, Conway wants revenge. When Ray Boy is released from prison, Conway hunts him down in order to kill him, but pulling the trigger isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. There is a sharp edge to the writing, yet the chapters flow from one story to another, initially separate, then linking, writhing and twisting together. William Boyle has created intensely tangible characters, their voices, thoughts and feelings almost become physical, touchable, and are so very, very believable. I highly recommend Gravesend, it is fresh, original, and somehow feels both modern and ancient, as though this story has been lived again and again, and yet is being told for the first time. ~ Liz Robinson
February 2018 Debut of the Month In a nutshell: sci-fi and fantasy blend in high-action, thought-provoking adventure Musician and entertainer will.i.am has collaborated with science of the future specialist Brian David Johnson to create an epic adventure. WaR seamlessly combines fantasy favourites wizards with robots, long beloved in sci-fi but now accepted as a crucial part of all our futures. Flipping back and forth in time, it stars feisty teenager Sara, whose mother is creating the first fully intelligent robot. This puts Sara at the centre of a power struggle, spanning centuries, between wizards and robots. As the story unfolds however, Sara must reconcile the two factions to defeat a common enemy. In this she’s helped by a young wizard called Geller and a robot, Kaku. Intriguing, refreshing and packed full of ideas, the momentum of the story sweeps readers along to its dramatic conclusion (at the CERN institute!). Real science is scattered throughout, and sci-fi has never seemed so now. ~ Andrea Reece
Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2013. Shortlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 'New Writer of the Year' 2012. One of our Great Reads You May Have Missed in 2012. A first novel to really get excited about. Set in an unnamed Eastern European country, our narrator is minding his friend's immaculate flat while the said friend is in America divorcing his wife ... easy, until alcohol raises its ugly head and small disasters turn huge. The absent owner has left little notes all over the place, the discovery of which introduces us to the man, a complete contrast to his flat-sitting friend. Beautifully written, very clever and unusual, this is an absolute gem. Highly recommended. September 2012 Debut of the Month.
February 2012 Debut of the Month. Winner of a Betty Trask Award 2013. Inhabiting the spaces in-between everyday events - a place where tiny oversights can have disastrous, farcical and even fatal consequences. This is a unique, bold and brilliant debut from a darkly funny new voice - which has a little bit of floor care in it as well.
June 2012 Debut and eBook of the Month. This original, gripping and darkly comic coming of age tale, exploring grief and guilt totally disproves the adage those who can’t, teach. Central Reservation, from English teacher Will le Fleming, is a beautifully written and assured debut and we look forward to his future books. Will le Fleming on his inspiration for the book...'Like everything I’ve ever written, Central Reservation began as a series of images in my head. One was an evening, cool and green, with trees outlined against a pale sky, and a girl with no illusions saying goodbye to someone she loved. Another was the same girl, lying hidden in long grass by the side of a motorway. And the last one might have been a news picture from the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001: a man in a white protective suit watching a pyre of cattle with an odd expression on his face - something like satisfaction. Those things, and the sense, sometimes, of being haunted not in a dark old house but while walking down a deserted country lane, feeling the shift of ghosts in the air, eventually led to this book. It’s about growing up, and families, and it’s a love story and a mystery about life and death, and although it can be quite dark, it is a comedy – it says so on the back – and has lots of hope and affirmation in it. I hope anyone who likes any of those ideas will enjoy it!'
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. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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