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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!
Based on her great-great grandparents’ experiences, Tammye Huf’s A More Perfect Union is a heart-rending, soul-stirring story of the love between a black slave and an Irish immigrant. A lucid, bold tale of the despicable brutality of slavery, personal conflicts, and a bond that will not be broken. Henry O’Toole fled Ireland in 1848 to escape the famine. On arriving in New York, “America stabs me with homesickness” and he can’t find a job - “Every day it’s the same. No Irish”. Compelled to flee the city, he changes his surname to the English-sounding ‘Taylor’ and heads to Virginia. House slave Sarah is separated from her Momma and brother when she’s sold as a “quick-cleaning-slave-who-don’t-get-sick”. She and Henry meet when he comes seeking work as a blacksmith at the plantation she’s been sold to. Here Henry is moved by the sound of slaves singing at night, while Sarah paces her hoe in the kitchen garden to “the rhythmic strike of the blacksmith’s hammer”. The stirring attraction between them is palpable, but theirs is a forbidden relationship - inter-racial marriage is illegal, and viewed as an abomination. What’s more, she’s owned by another man. The couple are in an excruciating situation, their complex personal conflicts evoked with shattering clarity. Sarah has to reconcile loving a man whose white skin represents her oppression, and she’s also ostracised by fellow slaves. Then there’s the searing exchange when Sarah sees Henry making neck rings and shackles. When he protests that he has no choice, that he needs to earn money, that he knows what it is to be shackled by poverty, Sarah’s response captures the despicable inhumanity of enslavement: “’I know you been through a hard, hungry life,’ she says. ‘I want you to understand that slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’” Both their voices are conjured with brilliant authenticity, and their story builds to an agonisingly edgy crescendo as the risks they take are as immense as their love. I cannot recommend this enough. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
If you need a slice of pick-me-up then stop right here. Dean Nicholson is famous on social media as 1bike1world. His original aim to cycle solo around the world changed when he rescued abandoned kitten Nala and she joined him on his travels. The book charts his and Nala’s story and contains some squeezably lovely photos too. It seems as though Dean is still in shock at how quickly people took to his story (their instagram page at the time of writing sits at 810k followers). Dean comes across as completely down to earth and appreciative of the small things in life, the things that actually matter and mean the world. He has seen the very best of people, while also bearing witness to the sorrowful treatment of animals by some. Dean has raised a huge amount for charity since Nala came into his life. She is one photogenic cat, and her utter trust and love for Dean shines through. A hugely glorious bundle of feel-good, Nala’s World comes with beaming smiles of recommendation from me. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this would make a perfect gift for a loved one (don’t forget to buy a copy for yourself too!). Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Diary of a Young Naturalist recounts a year in the life of an autistic and highly gifted 15 year old, struggling with school, bullies, moving house and fearing the decline of the natural world whilst rejoicing in it. Dara McAnulty is clearly an extraordinary person and a beautiful and mature writer. His descriptions of his adventures in nature are inspiring for children, but also sure to brighten the souls of many an adult too. The intensity with which nature presents itself to the author is overwhelming, and his ability to share this with the reader is enthralling. It’s a rollercoaster ride being in the head of this young man, but the book has the magic to open our eyes and ears to what beauty is around us each and every day - if only we looked! McAnulty's knowledge of wildlife and nature is simply extraordinary. His autism is a burden but also a super-power, providing him with piercing insight to a world that simply cannot be ignored with all its truth, tragedy and hope pouring out of every hedgerow, pond and dry stone wall. This is a diary which highlights our essential connection with the natural world, the landscape and our history embedded within it - but more importantly, it is also about our futures. Dara McAnulty is on a mission, and if the quality of this book is anything to go by, he will have a huge impact. For many children, this book will be the beginning of a wondrous journey. ~ Greg Hackett Greg Hackett is the Founder & Director of the London Mountain Film Festival
Our October 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. An absolutely charming and thoroughly entertaining mystery debut starring four septuagenarians. A real-life murder tickles the detective fancy of certain members from a well-to-do retirement village. Led by Elizabeth they sneakily make themselves indispensable to the investigating officers. I’m already working out who I would cast as Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron if this was made into a TV series. Each character in this amusing (yes it is charming and amusing even with a murder to solve) story is perfectly placed. There is a sense of ease, an inviting warmth, and a hint of old-fashioned, yet this story is actually bang up-to-date. A sharp edge to observations slices through any thoughts of cosy, while there is a gentle poking of fun at middle England. Richard Osman has created a wonderfully readable story that is the perfect introduction to a new series. I can't wait to see what comes next! The Thursday Murder Club has waltzed its way into my heart and the LoveReading Star Books list - highly recommended.
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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