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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.
September 2011 eBook of the Month.A magical and wonderfully inventive story about passion. An American in Paris falls in love with two women, one of whom he can only imagine, in this wonderful debut. A box full of century-old artifacts begins the love affair but why were they so conveniently put on his desk to find?It unlocks a dramatic and romantic story of a French woman who lived in Paris through both world wars and a present day story runs with it. The letters, jottings, photos etc are reproduced throughout the novel.
After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. Everything else is lost. While Janusz, a Polish soldier who has criss-crossed Europe during the war, hopes his family will help put his own dark past behind him. But the war and the years apart will always haunt each of them unless they together confront what they were compelled to do to survive.
Shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year Award 2010. Sarah Sargeant has been single for three years and nine months, and has just suffered a humiliating rejection from a bald man with a paunch who works in her local pub. In an attempt to revive her love life, Sarah’s family and friends persuade her to start a blog, and a mission. A mission to explore 50 ways to find a lover.
A gritty examination of the underbelly of 1950s Soho. Gangsters, drugs, crime and sex provide the background to this novel set around an illegal drinking den populated by a host of colourful characters. It's certainly a far cry from the 50s stereotype of pinafore-clad housewives in suburbia. Great dialogue a good pace, and characters with a lot of depth make this a worthwhile read.
February 2012 Debut of the Month. A beautiful, haunting literary debut from an extraordinary new talent who we can see scooping future literary prizes. When you are the Director of the Creative Writing Course at Oxford University there is, understandably, quite a lot of interest when you decide to write your first novel but Clare Morgan clearly hasn’t let it effect her.Looking at the lives of two academics through their passions for the philosopher Nietzsche and novelist Virginia Woolf, A Book for All and None, is highly accessible and thought provoking. Why not try the free Opening Extract?
June 2011 Debut of the Month. A beautiful, haunting literary debut from an extraordinary new talent who we can see scooping future literary prizes. When you are the Director of the Creative Writing Course at Oxford University there is, understandably, quite a lot of interest when you decide to write your first novel but Clare Morgan clearly hasn’t let it effect her. Looking at the lives of two academics through their passions for the philosopher Nietzsche and novelist Virginia Woolf, A Book for All and None, is highly accessible and thought provoking. Why not try the free Opening Extract?
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A brilliant debut from a fresh and unique voice, ‘A Boy Made of Blocks' is a book that will make you laugh, cry and think to yourself ‘thank goodness, it’s not just me!’ This wonderful book is one that every parent, every friend of a parent and every person who ever raised a judgemental eyebrow whilst witnessing a ‘difficult’ child should read. Alex is reeling from life. He's left the family home and has never felt further from his wife and son. He loves them both dearly but parenthood can put a strain on any relationship and having an autistic son adds even more pressure. Sam, his beautiful yet unreachable son, is a problem that Alex is finding impossible to solve and whilst suffocating under the responsibility he feels towards his family Alex finally hits rock bottom. Until that is Sam discovers Minecraft and so begins an adventure of a father finally finding a way to understand his son and maybe himself too. I adored Keith Stuart’s writing style. It was fresh and honest but with no trace of bitterness. Some moments were so beautifully written they made my heart ache and moved me to tears. He captures so much in so few words and I came to love his characters and felt truly sad when I reached the final sentence. A beautiful debut that not only changed the way I look at autism and children considered ‘different’, but also the struggles we all face within our lives today.' ~ Shelley Fallows September 2016 Debut of the Month. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'It’s hard for me to be objective about A Boy Made of Blocks: it’s the book I most want people to read, partly because when they do, they universally love it. It both has massive commercial potential and is a singularly modern, heartfelt and meaningful piece of writing. It is absolutely not an ‘issues’ book, but a wonderful, funny, emotional story full of memorable characters, wit, and warmth. It’s the kind of novel people fall in love with – I certainly did – and has one of the most uplifting finales I can ever remember reading.' ~ Ed Wood, Editorial Director – Sphere Fiction
February 2014 Debut of the Month. A challenging, big, historical novel steeped in fact and really quite an excellent history lesson. It seems Geoffrey Chaucer has lost an important book that has been tampered with and its content now treasonable. It contains a secret some will murder for. But this is no Dan Brown. This is serious historical stuff, difficult to know where fact and fiction part. It concerns a plot against Richard II and if you are into medieval history it is superb, full of lovely names of different areas depicting the trades associated with it, like Gropecunt Lane! Fascinating. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for A Burnable Book a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'London 1385. A missing book filled with dark prophecy. A monarchy under threat. Murder, conspiracy and treason. A debut tour de force which will keep you hooked from the first page.' Anita Wallas. Scroll down to read more reviews.
Contemporary Botswana but this is not the land of Mma Ramotswe of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. This is a dark, tough Botswana of diamond smuggling and corruption, and this stars Assistant Superintendent David Kubu Bengu. I liked him which is good news for he’s going to reappear in several more books. The traditional cultural background is here but this is a modern land where global influences prevail. It’s good. Comparison: Peter Temple, Colin Cotterill, Matt Rees.
April 2017 Debut of the Month. All aboard for an Agatha Christie-esque mystery set on a ship bound for the distant shores of Australia in 1939. As the world teeters on the edge of another war, working class Lily is about to plunge headlong into a new life. She’s leaving her family and her little room in Hammersmith to work in domestic service in Australia. While she’s on a lowly assisted-passage scheme, once aboard the ship she “feels like a person of substance”, enjoying cocktail parties in the company of flirtatious Edward Fletcher and the decadent Campbells as they stop off at the likes of Pompeii, the Pyramids and Colombo. But, as Lily’s Jewish friend Maria remarks, “on a boat like this everyone is running away from something”, and that certainly turns out to be true when a succession of misdemeanors strike; an assault, a disappearance, and then murder. All in all, this is a scrumptiously entertaining, read-in-one-sitting mystery that fizzes with glamour, romance and intrigue and the sting of an unexpected twist, while also exploring sexual, racial and class prejudices. ~ Joanne Owen
May 2016 Debut of the Month. Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016. A bittersweet, page-turning love story which jumps back and forth in time. It tells of a Japanese couple, Ameterasu and Kenzo, now living in America and the loss of their daughter and grandson after the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. We learn of Ameterasu’s great love before she married and then of their daughter’s great love. The identity of these men is at the centre of this tale. We start it as a very disfigured man arrives on widowed Ameterasu’s doorstep claiming to be her grandson. So the past is revealed to us in dramatic bursts and Ameterau tells us of the emotional conflict between her and her daughter: so sad. At the beginning of each chapter there is a Japanese word and an explanation of its meaning and usage, not always relevant but always interesting, hence the title. Highly recommended.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008 One of two debut novels in the 2008 Man Booker shortlist and it certainly deserves the recognition. Great characterisation, plot and observations on a disjointed family.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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