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Did you know that the first recorded reading groups were among women working in factories in the nineteenth century? And now, according to research undertaken a few years ago, there are tens of thousands of groups meeting regularly in the UK reading everything from literary classics to technical manuals! Of course, if you are in a book group, choosing what to read next can be a serious matter as not every book has subject matter that can really be discussed. So to help you LoveReading has decided to lend a hand by, each month, selecting a number of books we feel are perfect and will give your group a rewarding discussion as well as a rewarding read.
A clever, oh so clever read, where the story sits simmering, creating pools of tension and unsettling bursts of awareness. The police rule Sadie’s death a suicide, however a year later, questions are being asked and her friend Avery may well have to provide answers, can she clear her name? I was thrilled when The Last House Guest arrived in the post. Megan Miranda’s books are a must-read for me. A provocative, sharp, beautifully readable journey awaits each time. The story slides between 2017 and 2018, encouraging questions to kiss questions. The more I found out, the more I realised I didn’t know. Avery is a fascinating character, she sits on the edge of two groups, leaving her stranded. My thoughts tossed and turned as I read, I felt slightly unsettled as I waited, wanting to know the truth. The ending is a high-octane rush of a ride and I found myself perched on the very edge of my seat. Focusing on friendship, and how well we ever truly know someone, The Last House Guest has a commanding energy and is a compelling read.
In a truly beautiful reading experience, encounter the footnotes of a time long ago, meet people capable of committing murder, of holding a stinging need for vengeance, of feeling deep abiding love and friendship. If you see the term fantasy and usually turn away, please don’t, instead choose to step inside and feel the connection to the Italian Renaissance, allow the people to become known, experience their emotions, appreciate the eloquence of the writing. I adore the work of Guy Gavriel Kay, and have done since I was a teenager, epic in scale, intimate in focus, these are books that have allowed me to step outside of myself and experience a different world, though one that feels recognisably ours. You can read this as a standalone, however if you have read some of his other novels, then the land in which this is set will call to you, and there are moments of awareness as you look around and feel the landscape, architecture and even at one point the half-forgotten presence of an age-old entity. I can recommend ‘A Brightness Long Ago’ with my heart and soul, it really is wonderful and so sits as one of my picks of the month.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
A beautifully chilling gothic story set in Victorian England that gripped me from the start. It tells the stories of Ruth Butterham and Dorothea Truelove, two very different women from opposite ends of the social scale. Ruth’s is an abusive, bleak, harrowing tale and the narrative splits between Ruth and Dora as their lives intersect in Oakgate Prison where Ruth is imprisoned for the death of her mistress, and Dora attends to comfort prisoners as part of her charitable work. Dora becomes obsessed with Ruth driven by her interest in phrenology - is she mad or murderer, victim or villain? A story of abuse, murder and a hint of supernatural. I couldn't put it down.
The Song of Achilles was a beautiful and evocative retelling of a Greek myth which well deserved its praise and prize. It is possible that this second offering is even better. The language is poetic with not a word wasted, a real joy to read. I remember Circe was one of the challenges met by Odysseus, the one who turned men into pigs. The beautiful character who narrates this story is that same “wicked witch” but a far cry from how Homer portrayed her. She is lovely, misunderstood, wilful and brilliant, a strong woman slowly growing into her power. Many famous mythical figures pepper these pages; Jason, Prometheus, the Minator … but don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them all, this spellbinding story gives you all you need to know. If you are familiar with the myths you will find new life in them in this enchanting retelling. I really cannot praise it enough. It is a special book, bridging romance, fantasy, poetic literature and feminist writing to create a work of high standard with wide appeal. I loved it and I think you will too.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
An engrossing thriller replete with family drama, psychological intrigue, cunningly-plotted deeds, authentically complex characters and a tree-lodged skeleton at its root. With a good job, adoring girlfriend, loyal mates and wealthy family, Toby is a privileged sort whose life implodes when he’s badly beaten by thieves who break into his Dublin apartment. Left with some speech and mobility impairment and memory loss, Toby decides to move into the rambling family home to be with his terminally ill genealogist uncle. Soon after, while Toby struggles with the trauma and effects of the beating, a skeleton is found inside an ancient wych elm in the garden, and it’s not long before detectives find a connection with Toby. The gritty, authentic portrayal of family dynamics centres around a set of bickering cousins, whose bitter teenage experiences rear their heads as a truly multi-layered mystery unfolds. Toby being a quintessential unreliable narrator adds further tension to the tale, with unexpected twists coming to the very end. This character-driven crime thriller sure packs a powerful paranoia-fuelled punch.
Random House presents the audiobook edition of Educated by Tara Westover, read by Julia Whelan. Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn't exist. She hadn't been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she'd never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn't believe in hospitals. As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous story, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started to gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall has created a beautifully eloquent tale. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
The unnamed narrator of this remarkable novel is a vulnerable, bookish eighteen-year-old who lives in a close-knit community beset by sectarian violence. Harassed by an older man she calls Milkman, she’s compelled to keep her encounter with this sinister figure a deeply buried secret. She’s isolated, silenced, and must remain silent, and it’s this that cuttingly resonates with the #MeToo movement, and also with the situation of many teenage girls whose early experiences of womanhood all too often involve fear, shame and secrecy. Many reviews of this novel speak of its “challenging” nature, its “difficult” experimentalism, but whether a reader finds it to be “difficult” very much depends as to how one engages with the narrator. It took a little while to fall in step with her rhythm, but I found her stream-of-consciousness voice compelling and richly rewarding. Sharp on the psychology of small communities and the repercussions of inaction, and quirkily comic to boot, this is an exhaustively exceptional novel.