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For all of you in reading groups and need guidance to select your next group read look no further than our reading group category. Why not print off a few opening extracts to read before you decide?
Three years ago Cardiff born Ellie moved into a small block of twelve flats in Kensal Rise, London. Her life is dull. She does tele-ad sales for a trade mag and then suddenly she gets postcards from Greece addressed to a S. Ibbotson at her address. They are from an “A” in Greece as he travels round the country. She loves them and sticks them to her flat wall. After a few months she is inspired to go there herself. As she leaves for the airport she picks up a small package from her post pigeon hole. It contains a notebook in “A”’s handwriting. So we learn the man, Anthony, was expecting his love to join him for a fortnight’s holiday though she never came. He was in Greece researching a book and has the advance which will last a year if he is careful. Dejected and in despair he goes travelling to forget, escape, lose himself … all those things Greece can offer, plus fantastic scenery and sunshine. As he is alone the locals embrace him and many tell him tales. There follows a series of short stories as he moves from village square to village square and listens. They are gentle, poignant, very Greek and quite charming. Some have religious undertones, some touch on mythology, quite a few are just human drama tales of love, deception, loss and sadness, although many do have happy endings. The most horrific is The Honeymoon, the sweetest Air on a G String. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2017, Costa Novel Award Flora Mackie leads a remarkable life. Daughter of a whaling captain, with her mother dead, she spent many of her teenage years sailing with him and living with the Inuit of Greenland. When grown, it naturally suits her to join an Arctic expedition with a British scientific team. Jakob de Beyn’s obsession with ice and glaciers also leads him north with an American expedition. Though they meet only briefly, he and Flora live similar lives with many parallels and some extraordinary stories. Hardship and determination colour both to the point where it is the Arctic that feels like home and the civilised Victorian world that seems hostile, and it is those sections that I found the most thrilling. Stef Penney’s book is huge; in length, in distances crossed, in ideas, in drama. Her elegant prose is a joy to read. Stretching from 1883 to 1948, it is not a novel of one thing only; not a portrait of a time, not a love story, not a cultural exploration, not an adventure story but all these things together, making it, above all, an excellent read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst A Piece of Passion from the Jane Wood, Publisher, Quercus: Dear Reader, I hope you’re wrapped up warm. Within these pages are driving blizzards, weeping glaciers and a sea frozen into concrete – all conjured so realistically that you may find your breath misting in front of you as you read. Stef Penney’s power to create a world remote in time and place that feels as real as the book you are holding is unparalleled, and in Under a Pole Star she outdoes even her stunning achievements in The Tenderness of Wolves.Although this book has a cold setting, it has a warm heart. I fell completely in love with clever, wry Flora Mackie and her determination to be an Arctic explorer. As she overcomes all obstacles to be seen as a real scientist and a true leader, I hope you will be as swept up in her adventures and her life-changing love affair as I was.Under a Pole Star is a truly epic story that will stay with you long after you read it. Enjoy the journey. The Costa Judges say: ‘A novel of huge scope with a tremendous sense of period and place.’
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2017. Ooh, this truly is a fabulously captivating and unpredictable tale, and it kept me clinging to the very edge of my seat. Annie’s mother is a serial killer, Annie informs on her mother and we hear her story as she attempts to deal with her new foster family and the approaching trial. Immediately from the start this feels different, my mind flashed onto high alert setting and remained there for the entire story. Annie's name is changed to Milly and she tells her own tale, speaking in short, sharp, powerful sentences. I felt her confusion, loneliness, and wanted to hug her as her thoughts tumbled in limbo. Her feelings wormed their way into my mind, making me think, making me question. Ali Land doesn't hold back, ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ is uncomfortable, powerful, provocative, and an absolute knockout. ~ Liz Robinson
August 2017 Debut of the Month Provocative and stimulating, this debut crime thriller set in Canada, slams with impact. Two detectives begin an investigation into the death of a man who may have been involved in the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war in 1995. Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a PhD in International Human Rights Law with a research specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans, her experience and knowledge sets the tone of the novel as she takes fact and blends in fiction. It did take me a little time to settle into the story, and I appreciated the setting of the background of the Canadian police unit and politics. Each chapter is headed by a compelling, sometimes heartbreaking quotation which is explained in the notes. The story slowly grows and gathers pace, creating an intricate, intriguing moving jigsaw of pieces. The most striking part of the story for me, was when the past began to speak, I found myself flinching and yet I couldn't turn away. ‘The Unquiet Dead’ is quite simply, as fascinating as it is a challenging read. ~ Liz Robinson
An enjoyable yet penetrating read, one that can lull you into a false sense of security before it jabs and stings at your awareness. A mystery sits centre stage, yet there is much more on offer here than may first appear. Set in the 60’s, the fabulous descriptive detailing ensures you are set firmly not only in the place, but also the time. This story feels like a tapestry of different threads that are slowly twisting together to create one intense and vibrant picture. There is a subtlety at play here, the story can float in different directions before it blasts your thoughts aside in a hit of raw, flinch-inducing reality. I loved the echoes of disappointment and hope that brought ‘Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars’ to life, this really is a rather lovely and engaging read. ~ Liz Robinson
A heartrending love story. An ode to vinyl. A poignant evocation of a community of shopkeepers in the late eighties. Like the music beloved by its protagonist, this pitch-perfect novel has an ineffable power to uplift the soul. At the heart of the story - and of run-down Unity Street - is Frank, steadfastly selling vinyl (no cassettes, and definitely no CDs) from his decaying shop: “With vinyl, you couldn’t just sit there like a lemon. You had to GET UP OFF YOUR ARSE and TAKE PART”. The polar opposite of Black Books’s Bernard Black, Frank is one of life’s altruists. He “knew what people needed even when they didn't know it themselves”. But, while his music recommendations transform and heal the loves of countless customers, Frank has neglected to partake in his own life. That is, until a well-dressed woman wearing a distinctive pea-green coat faints outside his shop. Ilse Brauchmann radiates movie-star magnetism, and Frank immediately falls for her, as does pretty much everyone on Unity Street. Ilse sets Frank’s heart-a-pounding, and his nerves-a-tingling, but his past pains (particularly his relationship with his music-obsessed mother) have left him emotionally impotent, and he’s at risk of losing his once-in-a-blue-moon chance to truly take part in life. The groove of this gloriously life-affirming novel gets under the skin and lingers long after the final sentence has been savoured. It’s a newly-heard riff you can’t get out of your head, and the favourite album you’ll return to in times of need. I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen
The party is where it all unravels and where the dark secret between rich, aristocratic Ben and poor, middle-class Martin is exposed. We are kept very much in the dark about the secret until nearly the end of the book. The story is set in different time zones and locations. We start with Martin being questioned by the police just after the party. We flick to school and university days. We come back to Martin’s wife Lucy’s diary she is told to keep in the psychiatric unit. We move to the party itself and so on as the mystery builds and the two young lives are mapped out. Martin plots his way into Ben’s life with care until the perfect opportunity arrives and Ben is suddenly very much in Martin’s debt. So the friendship builds throughout their young lives, careers and wives, they are ‘best friends’ until suddenly they are not. The message is very much “If you’re lucky enough to be born ‘into it’ you are made, if you are not then you are wasting your life trying to break in”. This is dark stuff. All the way through doom hangs over the pages. Will Martin get his revenge? In an elegant read you’ll be hooked finding out. ~ Sarah Broadhurst July 2017 Book of the Month.
Poignant, moving and funny, I chuckled my way through this delightful (but no longer secret) diary from the rather lovable Hendrik Groen. Hendrik has reached the age where his address book is depressingly empty and his life has become an endless string of funerals and conversations concerning bowel movements, the latest list of ailments and euthanasia. The care home he lives in is like a waiting room for death and so in an effort to keep his own sanity he decides to write his memoir. He intends to record it all, the mystery of the fish murderer, the suspicious activities being carried out by those who run the establishment and last but by no means least the happenings of THE-OLD-BUT-NOT-DEAD club. Hendrik is an endearing character who I very much enjoyed spending time with in this gentle read that left me feeling a little sad but hopeful. Snippets of the life he lived and what remains of it filter in throughout the book and have a greater sense of poignancy as they merge in with the everyday happenings of the here and now. When we are old we are still very much the person we have always been, hopefully reading this will remind us all that behind each and every elderly person lies a story. ~ Shelley Fallows Sarah Broadhurst's view... An old people's home in the Netherlands is the setting for this satire but it could be anywhere except for the small amount of political references. But Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela's deaths are commented upon too. With a vast cast of residents and all kinds of worries and problems we concentrate mainly on a group of friends who form the 'old-but-not-dead club' where each member organises an outing. They do more than most old people ever think of: take a cookery lesson, wine-tasting, painting, synchronized swimming, tai chi, bowls, golf and such. Hanging over the home is the threat of renovation, therefore change. Our narrator is determined to get sight of the regulations and decides to challenge the board. Solicitors become involved. His three closest friends have a dramatic and sad year which is sensitively portrayed. The action takes place over that year and is written in diary form. Personally I feel that if you are involved with the elderly you might find this all a bit disturbing despite it's amusing style. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
June 2017 Book of the Month. Brimming with stunning writing and historical illuminations, this captivates the heart and enlightens the mind. It’s 1838 in pre-Civil War America, and the Ohio River snakes between the free states of the North, and the slave states of the South. Twenty-two-year-old May is her cousin Comfort’s “seamstress, dresser, and trunk packer. And a hundred other things as well” when the steamboat they’re on sinks. While actress Comfort is taken in by wealthy abolitionist Flora Howard, and hired to give speeches for her cause, there's no role for May. But being “quite independent in spirit”, as Flora describes her, and an exceptionally skilled seamstress, May finds work with Hugo and Helena's Floating Theatre, a fabulously evoked flatboat that travels up and down the river, coasting the border between the North and South.What follows is the captivating account of a young woman's serpentine navigation of ghosts from her past, secrets, betrayal, and love, at great personal risk, in a land split by slavery. Dazzling, involving, and immensely memorable, I was swept away by the flow of this remarkable novel. A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... ‘A compelling, beautiful and passionate novel The Floating Theatre completely swept me away. With great skill Martha Conway immerses her readers in a time of great turmoil, skilfully weaving sumptuous historical detail into a brilliant narrative peopled with characters that in 1830s United States could only ever find a home on a theatrical riverboat sailing the country’s North-South divide. And in May Bedloe she creates a heroine whose quiet strength and inquisitive nature makes for a page-turning read. A powerful, moving novel about compromise, courage, friendship and love, and one woman’s struggle to find her way in a world riddled with danger, The Floating Theatre is a story I knew I had to publish as soon as I read it. I hope you love this as much as I do.’ ~ Eleanor Dryden, Editor, Zaffre
Finch, the last VanderMeer that I read, was referred to as ‘fungal noir’, a wonderful phrase. With that in mind Borne could be described as a post-apocalyptic thriller with squishy bits, or possible human drama with tentacles. Scavenger Rachel finds a squid-like plant and takes it home where, in true Little Shop of Horrors style, it grows. It is not a plant; it is not a child; it is Borne. In a ruined and decaying city where genetically engineered ‘biotech’ provides everything from security to medicines to rampaging monsters, Rachel attempts to raise and educate Borne and help him become a person. All she has to do is convince her secretive and paranoid lover, avoid the enigmatic magician, find enough food and salvaged scraps to survive and hide from the giant bear which is destroying the city. Told in a bold, clear voice, with humour, love and no small amount of graphic violence, Borne is a stunning book. Secrets, twists and unreliable memories keep Rachel and the reader on their toes, and the dilemma of raising a child who might be a monster, is compelling. In that sense this is truly a human drama of how far the bonds of love will stretch in adversity. Rachel is an excellent narrator and I really enjoyed her no-nonsense tone, upbeat despite the atrocities around her. A real survivor’s tale and a masterpiece of ‘squishy’ sci-fi which I really enjoyed. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
June 2017 Debut of the Month. Winner of the Writers’ Guild Best First Novel Award 2017 - This gentle yet beautifully told story follows recently-widowed Thomas on a journey back to the India of his birth, where he rediscovers not only himself but also the Bureau of Second Chances. Thomas and his wife Nimmy, had planned to retire together in the small fishing village of Kerala but life doesn’t quite go to plan when Cancer takes Nimmy from him. After a lifetime in London, Thomas returns to their homeland alone and soon begins to reacquaint himself with the traditions and life he left behind. When a friend in need asks him to help run his Optical Store, Thomas soon suspects that there is certainly more at work than meets the eye in the store. For the efficient and trusted assistant Rani is also providing lonely men and women the opportunity for a second chance in life and love. Before long Thomas is discovering himself in a way he hasn’t dared before and begins to hope that life may still yet hold a few surprises and the chance of happiness for him again too. Sheena Kalayil paints a wonderfully atmospheric picture of life in India and captures her characters perfectly so that I became invested in their stories and longed for them to find the happy ending they so deserved. ~ Shelley Fallows
June 2017 Debut of the Month. A thought-provoking and wittily pointed debut, about the life and loves of the Plumb family. There are four siblings at the centre of this novel, Leo causes uproar when a chunk of their common nest egg is syphoned off for him. A tale of love, hate and everything inbetween, complicated layers are peeled away, revealing a family in turmoil. There were times I almost felt as though I was eavesdropping, hearing a particularly juicy piece of gossip, could it possibly be true! The tale occasionally slips and slides away from the siblings, to other characters, the links combine to create moments of stillness and thought, or expose and cause mayhem. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney writes with eloquence, she has a beautifully light touch as she captures moods and feelings and sets them free in your mind, to flicker and provoke. ‘The Nest’ is a gorgeously expressive and captivating read and I highly recommend making room for it on your bookshelf.
Perfect Books for Reading Groups
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 dicussed. 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.
As one reader has said:
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