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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.
June 2017 Book of the Month. A fascinating foray into the past, and the intriguing missing period of time so well documented, yet little known about in Agatha Christie’s life. I’ve visited the Silent Pool and Newlands Corner where Agatha Christie went missing, so for me this was a must read. Andrew Wilson seamlessly blends fact and fiction, and has obviously thoroughly researched this period in Christie’s life. The Editor’s Note cleverly sets the scene, and then chapter one begins, Agatha Christie, speaking in the first person, oh my word! Andrew Wilson effectively took me back in time to 1926, creating an engaging, readable, and oh so colourful story. This is most definitely not a whodunit, rather it’s an imagined how and why did she do it. ‘A Talent for Murder’ is wonderful escapism, and a worthwhile, thoroughly enjoyable read. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 Category Winner for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award June 2017 Debut of the Month. It is the standard reply when people ask, “How are you?” ....you say “I’m fine.” Well, Eleanor is most definitely not fine and has not been since she was 10 years old. Shifted from one foster home to another, she does eventually go to university where she ends up in an abusive relationship. On graduation she gets a job in the accounts department of a graphic designer and there she is when we meet her, aged 31 and desperately lonely. Eleanor is on the spectrum with her life overshadowed by some dreadful childhood tragedy which has left her face badly scarred. She keeps her head down at work and spends the weekends with two bottles of vodka. She speaks to her mother on the telephone on a Wednesday and dreads the call. We are uncertain as to whether her mother is in prison or an asylum. Life ticks by until her works’ computer needs attention and enter one geeky IT man. How he and others break down her barriers is beautifully done. Very slowly we learn more about Eleanor and her past. Very slowly a future develops but once the geek (Raymond) arrives the novel is by no means slow. It becomes a page-turning, compulsive read of great charm.
Explore in ‘Chance Developments’ five charming and poignant short stories. I absolutely adore the premise for this little book and the cover just invites you in. Alexander McCall Smith has imagined a background tale to the five black and white photos that appear at the beginning of each short story. The photos are eloquent and moving, the stories delve deeply into possibilities, love and friendship, joy and melancholy. From Sister Flora to a circus performer, each story is a small snapshot of what might have been, and as I read, I found myself drawn back to the photo, to look again and ponder. Alexander McCall Smith has transformed five forgotten photos into a discovery of delight. ~ Liz Robinson May 2017 Book of the Month. Click here to read an exclusive interview with Alexander McCall Smith by Mary Hogarth. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'If you come across an old photograph what do you think about the people staring back out at you? Maybe that they are just anonymous people from another age, as if from another planet. Or do you, like McCall Smith, hear their voices, know their names, sense their hopes and dreams and imagine how their lives might have turned out.Blessed with a wonderful, humane imagination, McCall Smith brilliantly constructs paths for these forgotten people - some joyous, others bumpy and winding, all with unexpected twists and turns. An astonishing achievement: original and moving.' ~ Neville Moir, Editor of Chance Developments
May 2017 Book of the Month. Gosh, what a stunning read this is, I simply couldn't put it down and devoured it in one glorious sitting! Cassy travels half way around the world to New Zealand with her boyfriend, when they separate, Cassy is left stranded, and a split second decision changes the outcome of her life. I admit to grabbing this book as soon as it arrived in the office; Charity Norman has the ability to strike a chord, to answer a feeling, yet open your eyes and mind to new thoughts, and I simply love her writing. The prologue, set in 2016, sent chills racing down my arms, I almost had to sit on my hands to prevent me from sneaking a peak at the ending. As soon as I started to read chapter one, set in 2010, I was swept away, and stayed immersed in the story as the tension escalated to almost unbearable levels. I chided, fumed, beseeched, pondered and considered. Charity Norman has once again created a searing, expressive, and absolutely cracking read, I adored and highly recommend ‘See You In September’. ~ Liz Robinson
A gorgeously eloquent and powerfully expressive novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ explores an unusual relationship in the 1890’s. This isn't exactly a love story, it is rather, a tale about love, in all its different forms. While Cora and Will form the heart of this novel, every member of the surrounding cast is as important as these two, each fitting into a perfectly formed relationship jigsaw. At times they may not be likeable, they may have their quirks, their differences, yet they are so well formed, it is possible to feel empathy as you question a decision or comment made. The Essex serpent coiled and waiting, exploits fear and mistrust, creating a fascinating setting in which connections flourish and wither. Sarah Perry’s ability to paint a picture with her beautifully chosen words is extraordinary. At times the Victorian setting vanished and the relationships felt very current and modern, while at others the different time period proclaimed the complications and difficulties faced by anyone judged as being different. ‘The Essex Serpent’ isn't a story to be rushed, it should be savoured, and valued, and most of all, enjoyed for the truly beautiful novel it is. Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016. Costa judges' comment: “This is the best kind of historical fiction – brimming with ideas and energy.” A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'As an editor, there are books to which you become deeply connected. And then there are those books that you become so close to that you almost feel as though they are a part of you. The Essex Serpent, the second novel by Sarah Perry, is one such rare book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. It is a sumptuously imagined novel of lives playing out against bigger historical moments, and it is the most unusual and moving love story I have ever read. It confirms Sarah Perry’s place among the finest novelists of her generation.' ~ Hannah Westland, Editor, Serpent's Tail
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016. A gorgeously eloquent and powerfully expressive novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ explores an unusual relationship in the 1890’s. This isn't exactly a love story, it is rather, a tale about love, in all its different forms. While Cora and Will form the heart of this novel, every member of the surrounding cast is as important as these two, each fitting into a perfectly formed relationship jigsaw. At times they may not be likeable, they may have their quirks, their differences, yet they are so well formed, it is possible to feel empathy as you question a decision or comment made. The Essex serpent coiled and waiting, exploits fear and mistrust, creating a fascinating setting in which connections flourish and wither. Sarah Perry’s ability to paint a picture with her beautifully chosen words is extraordinary. At times the Victorian setting vanished and the relationships felt very current and modern, while at others the different time period proclaimed the complications and difficulties faced by anyone judged as being different. ‘The Essex Serpent’ isn't a story to be rushed, it should be savoured, and valued, and most of all, enjoyed for the truly beautiful novel it is. June 2016 Book of the Month and eBook of the Month. Costa judges' comment: “This is the best kind of historical fiction – brimming with ideas and energy.” A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'As an editor, there are books to which you become deeply connected. And then there are those books that you become so close to that you almost feel as though they are a part of you. The Essex Serpent, the second novel by Sarah Perry, is one such rare book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. It is a sumptuously imagined novel of lives playing out against bigger historical moments, and it is the most unusual and moving love story I have ever read. It confirms Sarah Perry’s place among the finest novelists of her generation.' ~ Hannah Westland, Editor, Serpent's Tail
Just incredible… this punchy, beautiful, readable story vibrates with a powerful energy. After Turk Bauer accuses nurse Ruth Jefferson of murdering his new born son, Kennedy McQuarrie defends Ruth in court. Each of the three main characters, in their own distinct and unique voice, tell us their story, we live side by side with them, and also delve into their past. This is a book that made me think, but also deep down in the centre of my innermost core it made me feel. Within a few pages I was crying, then in the next chapter I was burning with disbelief, a short while later still, I was reflecting, contemplating, questioning. This isn't about good and evil, it isn't as simple, or even as complicated as that, this is a book that shines a light on racism, on prejudice, and then invites you to examine your own thoughts and feelings. I was desperate to know the ending, and yet didn't want it to finish, and when I turned the last page I sat back and just felt myself float free. At the centre of ‘Small Great Things’ is an open, welcoming, loving heart that beats with a vibrant intensity, and it is quite simply, a must read. ~ Liz Robinson
Another outstanding, compelling read from Lisa McInerney, winner of the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize and winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016. Having devoured and raved about ‘The Glorious Heresies’ (one of our Books of the Year 2016), my expectations were sky high, yet I was an incy wincy bit worried, could she follow in her own fabulous footsteps? Well let me reassure you, she has, and ‘The Blood Miracles’ stands defiant. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, do start at the beginning with ‘The Glorious Heresies’, as this continues on from there, Ryan is now 21, he’s coming up in the world, or is it down, if you’re in the murky world of selling drugs? Lisa McInerney can really, really write, she can connect horror and beauty, violence and sweetness, she allows your mind to enter a world that feels scarily real, within touching distance. The sense of place within this series ensures ‘The Blood Miracles’ is convincing, captivating and very, very readable. Long may Lisa McInerney reign. ~ Liz Robinson
SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER. Unputdownable. (Guardian). Gripping. (Sunday Times). The Pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.
'A highly accomplished novel ...arresting ...ingenious' Sunday Times 'Wonderfully sinister' Fiona Barton, author of The Widow When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make ...
For the readership, this is a huge historical novel to immerse yourself in. A dramatic, violent, absorbing, long read for which you need to put aside serious time to devour. You will find it difficult to put down. Charting the lives of two families, the Sels and the Duquets from 1693 to 2013, it tells of the rape of the Canadian natural resources, namely timber and fur but predominantly timber. Hard men made fortunes with little regard for anything but power and wealth, certainly not for their workers’ lives or limbs. The first of the immigrant Sels married an Indian; their offspring are then trapped between two cultures. As you would expect, there is a huge number of characters for characters is what Proulx is all about. This is a truly impressive work detailing the destruction of the forests to the point of ecological disaster.
Two parallel stories, set in two time frames, where second chances and the links between two women flicker and burn with energy. In Chicago during 1999, Madeleine tells her own story as she flounders in a loveless marriage, she finds a journal and as she reads, describes her Grandmother’s story, which begins in 1919. As Madeleine discovers her grandmother, can she also re-discover herself? Eleanor Brown has a wonderful eye for detail, the descriptive detailing encouraged smells, sights and sounds to travel from the page into my consciousness. The two stories, full of life and emotion, twist and merge together into a beautiful relationship tale, yet for me, it was the subtle bitter sweet notes of reality that really added substance to this novel. ‘The Light of Paris’ traverses time and continents, in a captivating and gorgeously told, hope filled tale, it really is very lovely indeed.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. This is such a gorgeously expressive novel, it just sings with intensity, and is impossible to put down. Nine year old Leon loves his little brother Jake and his mum, he looks after them both as best he can, when Leon and Jake have to go and live with Maureen, Leon hatches a plan. Kit de Waal writes with a beautiful, sincere energy, the simplicity of the tale told from Leon's point of view allows a complicated backdrop of emotions to shine through. At times my heart absolutely ached, yet there are also proper laughter blurting moments, and I just wanted to gather everybody up into a huge, squashy hug. The 80’s, with it’s curly wurlys, royal celebrations, and riots is the perfect setting. A gloriously motley collection of characters come to life, each and every one of them is indispensable, and each affected me in some way. ‘My Name is Leon’ is a stunning, eloquent, stinging paper-cut of a read, I fell in love with it, and in turn, it left me full of hope. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016 Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.