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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!
What a lovely, amusing, and uplifting multi-generational debut this is! Viewed from three different perspectives of the Gogarty’s from gran through to teenager, we see family life in all its wonderful glory. The three distinct views, all linked and sometimes tangled yet separate, make this a readable peek into their relationships. Rebecca Hardiman lets you see possibilities and potential, encourages a connection and made me care about Millie, Kevin and Aideen. I wanted to reach out a hand, offer a warning, give a needed hug. I also smiled, and raised and eyebrow or two as havoc danced hand in hand with pandemonium. 83 year old Millie was a particular favourite of mine, she’s fabulously eccentric and adds just the right note of mischievous humour. Among the lightness, there are some stinging notes to be found too, which ensures this is a fully rich tale with much to discover. Good Eggs is a delightfully friendly and welcoming read, sit back and enjoy!
This is a book that will keep you wonderfully off balance, it feels as though you are being trusted with an unsettling and dangerous secret. When Ada Howell turns 18 her wealthy godmother presents her with a gift that could allow her access to the world she she craves. The shocking aftermath of a sudden death appears to pave the way for her dreams, but the route she takes comes at a cost. Ada narrates, opening a disquieting window to her world and looking at herself without sentimentality. I felt that any feelings of compassion I had for Ada would have been slapped away and yet they remained. The nostalgic recollections and empathy she does have channel themselves into the house she grew up in and lost. Laura Vaughn has previously written for children and young adults, this is her first novel for adults. She writes with an understated eloquence, slowly allowing the intrigue and tension to build piece by delicate piece. There are a number of characters, each perfectly placed and adding to the feeling of claustrophobia that haunted the pages. I felt a shiver of foreboding as the ending began to slide into place, followed by satisfaction as I closed the last page. A well-written and rewarding read The Favour slips into shadowy thoughts and finds the darkness that dwells there.
A truly beautiful and powerful debut, it is haunted with exquisite emotion, but that emotion comes with an uplifting feeling of hope. Towards the end of the Second World War two people meet on a platform next to a train bound for Auschwitz, the exchange that takes place between them will have a bearing on their lives forever more. I entered this novel thinking I knew what to expect, I left having experienced an entirely unexpected read. Set in several time frames, While Paris Slept opens a sequence of doors as new aspects of the story emerge and converge. Each chapter is headed by one of the characters. Ruth Druart uses different points of view to great effect, ensuring each chapter took hold of my thoughts and retained my focus. I invested in each of the characters, the empathy on display here left the page and entered my heart. I would describe this as a positively emotional read, yes it features man’s inhumanity to man, but the intimacy of this particular story lies in a different direction. While Paris Slept is an intriguing, compelling story full of love and hope. It enters our LoveReading Star Books and comes with a highly recommended seal of approval.
A debut novel to read slowly, to savour, to adore. Yes, this is a rather special and beautiful read, and I want to climb a few rooftops to shout about it. Missy Carmichael is lonely, she lives by herself in a huge house, when opportunities arise for friendship and more, can she reach out and take them? I admit to having fallen in love with Missy, she isn’t perfect and she makes mistakes (who doesn’t!), yet there is something about her that tiptoed into my heart and soul and has taken up residence. So often we just see a snapshot of someone, a moment or period in their life, however not here. Beth Morrey has not only brought her to life, but by also dipping into the past, we discover the gems that make Missy, well, Missy! The surrounding characters are a wonderfully quirky bunch, and Bob is an absolute delight. I laughed and I cried (oh how I cried). Saving Missy meanders gently, poignantly, beautifully, to what was for me, a perfect ending. I adored meeting Missy and so have chosen this lovely debut novel as one of our star books. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Falling with exquisite yet hammer-hard precision this beautifully written political spy thriller from a Russian author feels like a unique read. When the Soviet Union collapses a chemist who developed an untraceable lethal poison defects. After a murder occurs using the poison, two men are sent to silence Professor Kalitin. An intriguing start sets this novel up and the plot continues to bubble and scheme away. I almost felt as though I should be swearing an official secrets act in order to read Untraceable. Sergei Lebedev has created the most fascinating and readable novel. His words echoed though me, huge in scope yet intimate in detail and emotion. The translation by Antonina W Bouis is fabulous, sometimes translated novels make you feel at home, this quite rightly ensured that I realised just how much I don’t know. At times I was left reeling, desperate to read more, to understand more and the ending hit with a shockwave. Deservedly a LoveReading Star Book Untraceable is a beautiful, disturbing and penetrating read.
Set in Barbados in 1984, Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House undulates with ocean-pure, ocean-powerful writing. Telling the poignant stories of Bajan women struggling to survive the actions of abusive men who’ve veered violently off track, it’s an exceptional debut that deftly exposes the inequalities of race and gender that simmer beneath the island’s paradisal veneer. As a child, Lala’s grandmother guardian told her the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister who disobeyed her elders and ventured into the tunnels near their home at Baxter’s Beach. As a young woman, Lala braids the hair of white tourists who rent luxury beachfront villas while she cares for her baby and lives with her abusive, petty criminal husband Adan. When Adan bungles a burglary, he unleashes a succession of devastating events that results in two women losing the thing most dear to them. As a result, Adan is compelled to flee to his secret hideaway, and so the tunnels of the cautionary tale take on real-world significance. Demonstrating the deep-rooted extent of patriarchal control and abuse, the narrative slips back in time to tell the stories of Lala’s mother and grandmother. “Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other?” - tellingly this excerpt is applicable to all three generations. The author also explores the tangled relationships between these women, and the complexity of mother-daughter bonds, such as when Lala comments, of herself, “despite your best efforts, you are exactly like your mother”. And yet, at the same time, she misses her mother “more than ever”. Another powerful theme is that of the destructive underbelly of tourism - the fishing villages that “died in the birthing of the big houses, because rich tourists who visit for a few months each year do not wish to suffer the stink of market”, and the men who sell themselves to older white women, such as Tone the gigolo, Lala’s childhood love, who’s much more than he seems. What a novel. What execution. What a writer to watch.
Quirky yet insightful, bright yet wistful, amusing yet emotional… this is one heck of a thought-provoking and stimulating debut. When Rachel is told ‘everything happens for a reason’ after her son Luke is stillborn, she begins to search for proof, certain she is to blame. This is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, instead it straddles several, and actually stands quite rightly on its own two feet. Author Katie Allen is a journalist, and this story is deeply personal and painful to her, she said on twitter that after her baby died one person texted back: “everything happens for a reason”, and she had grappled with that ever since. Grief is a lonely and isolating place to be, yet this novel, while eye-opening, is also inclusive and encouraging. Letting her feelings out in a series of emails, Rachel is incredibly engaging, she took my hand and welcomed me into the pages. I quite honestly had no idea where this book was going to to take me, I didn’t try to guess and remained firmly in the the presence of the words as they entered my thoughts. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book, Everything Happens for a Reason is full of contradictions that fuse into the most surprising, moving, and beautiful novel.
An exquisitely unsettling and fabulous blast of speculative fiction awaits in this provocative, hard-hitting debut novel. An unknown virus that only kills men hits Glasgow in 2025, as it spreads, confusion, lies, and heartbreak follows. As Christina Sweeney-Baird explains in her author’s note, she wrote The End of Men before Covid 19 affected the world. While the current pandemic remained tucked away in my thoughts as I read, this is very much a work of fiction and the focus lies with a female lead society coping with life during and after a pandemic. This is told on a world scale over five years and is set as a gathering of memories, as though this event has already come to pass and you are reading a piercing slice of history. This novel contains a huge number of characters, and I felt as though I was observing them at a distance. Having said that, some characters return throughout the book, and I formed more of a bond, felt more of a connection with them. Short chapters, headed by the day after the outbreak and name of the character ensured my focus remained sharp and on point. There are bubbles of humour to be found along the way, as well as the more obvious emotions. Yes this is so very close to what is happening right now, but it is different enough to make this novel more readable as a result. Joining our LoveReading Star Book collection, The End of Men is a powerful, thought-provoking read that is both epic in scale and intimate in memories
A huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut and LoveReading Star Book that warmed my heart and made me smile. Amy Ashton sees beauty in things most people would throw away, her house is now overflowing with the items she has collected and bordering on dangerous. When she discovers a mystery that needs to be unravelled, she begins to confront her past. We meet a withdrawn and lonely Amy in the present, and then a second time frame joins the story, taking us back to 1998. Eleanor Ray releases information from the past with perfect timing, each new moment explaining and allowing access to Amy in the present. As each memory highlights a decision, my thoughts expanded and Amy began to take up residence in my heart. The surrounding characters are gorgeous (in particular Charles and his JCBs), and bring an energy that flows through the pages towards Amy. Radiating empathy and emotion Everything Is Beautiful is just what the world needs to take us forward into 2021.
This smart psychological thriller slowly and intricately builds layers of tension into a wealthy, modern family setting. Alone at antenatal class after being let down by her family, Helen finds herself talking to Rachel. Rachel, unsettling, overly enthusiastic and inquisitive, begins to push her way into Helen’s life learning every little family secret. This is Katherine Faulkner’s debut, she is an award-winning journalist and Joint Head of News at The Times. The first few pages opened up ‘afterwards’, setting the tone of the story and ensuring that knowledge stayed with me throughout. Returning to ‘before’, I discovered a labyrinthine of snippets and tidbits of information as I read. They caught at the edge of my awareness, digging, pointing, creating suspense. I hovered on the edge of relationships, viewing rather than immersing myself in particular personalities. This lead to me wondering and questioning, investing in the storyline. On occasion I was confident that I knew what was happening, but I changed my mind several times! Even if you find that you are right, there are still surprises along the way. This book really does serve as a reminder that from the outside everything can appear perfect, but of course the inside can be an entirely different place. Encouraging you to stay alert and pay attention to the smallest of details, Greenwich Park is an intelligent and stimulating slow-burner of a read.
Carole Johnstone's Mirrorland is a creepingly compelling psychological thriller of the highest order - a dark, suspenseful debut with haunting atmosphere and pitch-perfect pacing as thirty-something Cat returns to her childhood home after a twelve-year absence when her twin sister El is reported missing at sea. As children, the sisters spent most of their time in Mirrorland, an imaginary world located beneath the pantry stairs. The girls also grew up with their mother telling them they were special identical twins. The egg separated late, “which meant we were more than just two halves of the same whole.” To Cal, this also meant El was “my exact opposite. My reflection. My Mirror Twin.” While the police and El’s husband Ross are certain El is dead, Cal is sure she’s still alive - who else would be leading her on a treasure hunt around Mirrorland? The trail of clues draws Cal back to their childhood with tremendous edge-of-seat tension, back to Clown Café, Princess Tower and Kakadu Jungle, where she and El used to encounter Mouse, the Witch, the Tooth Fairy and Bluebeard. Where they dreamed of meeting their imagined pirate king father in an imagined future. Following this trail forces Cal to peel back - and confront - layers of trauma from the past, to remember that “bad things happened in this house… but that was a lot easier to forget when I was an ocean away from its walls." Chillingly atmospheric, this un-put-down-able page-turner is perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly, with the magic realist elements created by the sisters’ fantasy world giving it extra edge.
Slip into this beautifully simple yet profound novel and explore love, relationships, regret and second chances while travelling through time to the 1970’s. Faye’s mother died when she was a child, 30 years later and she is able to return to her mother’s side, will she take the chance? The time-travel aspect feels utterly plausible so I suggest that you suspend thoughts of reality and just let yourself go. It’s just so easy to fall into this novel, debut author Helen Fisher encourages a connection to form as Faye tells her own story. I wanted to reach out, be a voice of reason, yet I remained by Faye’s side as I read her tale, soaking it up until I felt as though it was a part of me. I explored loss and grief, love and hope, and oh how I hoped. Emotional, yet heartwarming, sharply realistic yet joyously magical, Space Hopper really is a gorgeous tale that I can highly recommendand have chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book..
An intelligent, brooding yet vibrant crime thriller debut that just thrums with atmosphere. Investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo walks straight into trouble when he is hired to investigate the brutal crowd murder of three students known as the Okiri Three in Nigeria. It is an absolute thrill to be in at the start of a new series that promises so much. Femi Kayode has created a relatable and likeable main character who is quickly out of his depth, and Philip tells his own tale. The setting was brought so vividly to life I found myself wide-eyed as I looked around and soaked up the sense of place. I could reach out and touch, could feel Nigeria and it’s history. Another story sits alongside Philip’s, it’s intense and provocative, it felt as though it was hunting down the main tale, ready to attack. While Philip investigates, the link to his home life allows a further connection and understanding of his background. There are a number of other characters that I sincerely hope will make a return and I am already excitedly waiting for the next book in this series. Lightseekers is a smart, action-packed and intriguing read. I want to shout about this one, so it’s not only a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s also a LoveReading Star Book too.
February 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Excuse me while I rave about this book, it’s so different, so powerful, so fabulous that I’m experiencing reading elation after finishing it. When Wolf Willeford meets Mrs Death, he becomes her scribe and travels with her to view humanity as it circulates from life to death. A renowned performance poet, this is Salena Godden’s debut novel. In 2018 a BBC Radio 4 documentary was broadcast as it followed the novel as it was written over twelve months. Containing poetry, chants, commentary, recollections, moments in time, and all within the most wonderful story, this is a recognisable yet totally unique take on death. Her words entered my thoughts and made me see, search, examine, they entered my heart and made me feel. Small intimate and intricate moments sit alongside huge stories that are all linked by death. My feelings span from humour to heartbreak, from darkness to light, and all the while the story flows with strength and beauty. There may well be some emotionally difficult paths to explore along the way, and while uncomfortable reading in places this is as much about life, love, and hope as it is death. This is a reading experience I won’t forget and I just had to choose it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month and of course a LoveReading Star Book. Celebrating life and opening up questions on how we view death, Mrs Death Misses Death is a wake-up call of a book that I will be recommending far and wide.
The book world has been excited about this debut for some time, and for good reason as it is such an intensely powerful and emotional read. Lex Gracie is Girl A, the girl who escaped the House of Horrors, as an adult she now has to confront the past all over again. This is a book that deserves your time, don’t rush, even though it is so good it calls for you to race through. Lex narrates, her clear concise words transferred to my thoughts with piercing clarity. Abigail Dean writes with a devastatingly eloquent pen, she examines the cause and effect of power, abuse, and trauma. When a book alters the patterns of your thoughts, if only for a short time, it deserves to be read, to be felt, even if those feelings are harrowing at times. When I reached the end, I slowed, stopped, and after a few moments returned to the last few chapters to read and again allow the words to enter and become fully absorbed in my heart. I’m not sure if everyone will follow the same fork in the path that I took as I read, and that is what makes this book so special, the reader will make their own decision as to where they step with Lex. A LoveReading Star Book, Girl A is challenging, thought-provoking and above all a beautifully compelling read.
Often eye-opening and heart-wrenching, always elegant and absorbing, Hafsa Zayyan’s We Are All Birds of Uganda is an outstanding debut that crosses continents, cultures and generations. Remarkable in its exploration of identity, family bonds, racism, colourism and the phenomenon of twice migration through characters who’ve moved from South Asia, to East Africa, to Europe, I read Sameer’s story in one sitting, utterly engrossed by his awakening from a state of unrest to finding new purpose as he redefines the nature of success. At 26, Leicester-born Cambridge graduate Sameer is flying high as a lawyer in London, and on track to fast track it to partner when he’s offered a post in Singapore. Life seems sweet, except for fearing what his parents will think of the move, the “filling a quota” remark made by a colleague, and a bullying new boss who excludes him from a social event because “you lot don’t drink”. Then comes news that one of his best friends since childhood has been left in a coma after a vicious attack, and Sameer begins to question everything - who he is, what he’s doing with his life, where he wants to be. Skipping back to 1945, we follow another Asian Ugandan voice via Hasan’s heartfelt letters to his deceased first wife. Through these we see colonialism through Hasan’s eyes. We read how the British “have crept up on us, unwittingly seeped through our skin and into our bones, and settled comfortably inside each of us like veins”, how they excluded Hasan from their Sports Club, and then comes the rise of anti-colonialism, a push for Ugandan independence, hostility towards and legislation against Asian Ugandans: “We are not natives and we are not Europeans.” Back in Sameer’s narrative, wealthy Mr Shah, a family friend, speaks of the betrayal of “being turfed out of the country in which you were born, the only country you’ve ever known, like you’re no one, like you’re nothing.” With his move to Singapore looming, Sameer decides to visit Mr Shah in Uganda to find out more about his family history, with monumental effects. Emotionally rich and deeply resonant, it’s no wonder this gem co-won the inaugural Merky Books New Writers' Prize.
Katie Hale is our January 2020 Debut Author of the Month. Click to find out more about Katie on our blog. Oh… my… word, this is one fabulous debut! I found a deceptively simple, and stark dystopian foray into a world blighted by bombs and sickness. Monster is completely alone until one day she finds a child. She becomes mother and passes on her knowledge, but are her mothering skills being received in the way she is expecting them to be? Told in the first person, Katie Hale has created short chapters where thoughts scatter, bounce, zigzag. I filed away feelings and emotions as I read, each within touching distance, lying in wait to prod and provoke. This feels honest, as though looking at a future just within grasp, or back to a history that has already happened. The feelings are raw, sometimes painful, yet relatable and believable. I found the premise of this novel absolutely fascinating, I explored interpretation of meaning, motherhood, and thoughts on the basic cycle of life. ‘My Name is Monster’ is poignant, moving and wonderfully different, it is also incredibly intimate, readable and surprisingly beautiful, I adored it. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Our January 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A complete joy of a debut, bright, observational and incredibly intimate, this book has lodged itself in my heart. Take twelve independent yet linked stories over twelve months about people who are connected to a London park community. The focus changes with each month, allowing individual stories to shine, yet they add up to a vibrantly wonderful whole. Gemma Reeves is beautifully eloquent, she has the ability with a few words, to give you admittance to someone’s soul. While she creates penetrating access to each person, there isn’t always a conclusion, instead life carries on, suggesting potential pathways. I fell in love with this powerfully blended infusion of life. The variety of characters, in age, personality, and beliefs crackle with energy. A new character might wander in for a few moments and then star in the next tale. Some connections may be obvious and linger, others lightly touch before moving on. The stories themselves tug at heartstrings and encourage thoughts to roam, the ending is simply divine and brought tears to my eyes. Thought-provoking and emotionally intelligent, Victoria Park slips with glorious ease onto our LoveReading Star Books list and is a Liz Pick of the Month, it really is very special indeed.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
Reading a fabulous debut is a truly thrilling reading experience. It can feel as though you are discovering a treasure hoard for the fervent bibliophile. Not only do you hold in your hands a gem of a book, but all the books yet to come. If you've been in at the start of a great series you’ll know exactly what we mean. You can rely on LoveReading to tell you about the debut’s that have called out to us, that give us that tingle of revelation. So do keep an eye out for our debut section on the site and in our newsletters where we highlight our favourites of the month. Our competition page is also a good place to haunt too!
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