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Not all great books come through big publishers. Check out some of our favourite indie books on the market.
Not in my Name by Michael Coolwood is an interesting mix of political fantasy and murder mystery. It is earnest and passionate but quite straightforwardly written, which makes it also suitable for younger adult readers. The plot revolves around a group of activists living in a commune in an imaginary version of 2003. Each of the group has their own reasons for being there and their own personal problems that they have brought with them. The trust and camaraderie that the group feel towards each other is suddenly put in jeopardy, however, when they discover that they have been infiltrated and then...the murders begin. The writer has cleverly used authentic but edited contemporary quotes from public figures, applying them to a different situation, thus underlining his premise that politicians will say, do, promise almost anything in order to gain or remain in power, a very high profile scenario happening right now in the U.S. The book is also timely in the descriptions of the way the activists are treated at the hands of the police, very reminiscent of the BLM protests. The ending is slightly unexpected but perfectly reasoned and inevitable, going a long way to restore the reader's faith in human nature and family ties. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
An entertaining short story that doesn’t get bogged down the details. A fight between good and evil plays out in this sci-fi story. I am amazed at how much detail the author has managed to fit into a book of such an unassuming size. Penchant for Darkness is like a tardis, it contains an expansive plotline covering space travel, aliens, clairvoyance and Mile’s discovery and training of his anomalous powers as well as tender moments with his wife, Richelle and the battle closer to home to conceive and manage their family’s expectations. All this plotline condensed into an adventure you can enjoy in the afternoon. I personally think there could be more tension built up in order for it to fit perfectly in the thriller category and would say this book sits well in the sci-fi, adventure and perhaps relationship or family genres. When I closed the book I wondered whether the science fiction aspect of the book was metaphorical for the struggles faced by a couple trying to conceive, with Lucifer a spectre of Miles’ potential feelings of inadequacy and Michael, Rafa and Gaby representing the doctors and specialists on their journey. Whether you read in to it that way, or enjoy it as a short and snappy sci-fi story packed to the brim with plot, this is definitely a book worth picking up.
Little Else is a character created by award winning international cartoonist Mike Payne. She was born out of lockdown, when there was indeed little else. At 4 years old going on 40, this is her take on the world as it is right now. Her wisdom and insight shine through in this book of the first 120 cartoons to be published. Else loves her parents, her grandparents, her teddy and even her baby brother. She has perceptive opinions about mental health, comfort eating, the NHS, red letter days and home deliveries, not to mention President Trump! As you can see, there's a serious side to these very funny drawings, which make the viewer laugh then stop and think. This is a must have for these pandemical times. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Wow what an interesting book. If you like story lines similar to Twister, or 2012 then this would be a great book for you. I would describe this book as an environmental thriller, displaying the all too real and well researched consequences of global warming and the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. We follow several groups of scientists as they all investigate a number of natural events that slowly become more and more dangerous. Alongside the environmental dystopia there’s stories of friendships, romance and family that keep you invested in the well being of the scientists and the environment behaves less predictably. As the environment deteriorates and events wind out of the characters’ control I waited with bated breath to see if they would find their way back out OK. I really enjoyed this story, as well as skillfully adapting key tropes of the horror and thriller genres (namely taking a topic that is a key concern, and exploring some of the darker outcomes) I think Iceapelago also delivers a lot of important information about the potential impact of global warming in a way that’s digested easily. I do think that a map with the bases mentioned would be a nice idea but I didn’t struggle to enjoy the book without one. This book kind of reminds me of Twister and Dante’s Peak, films you watched in Geography class to get information across without feeling like you’re studying and so I think this would also be a great book for teens and young adults too. Iceapelago is a fast moving read that can be enjoyed in a day and I would recommend it.
In 'Single, Again, and Again, and Again...What Do You Do When Life Doesn't Go to Plan' Louisa Pateman eloquently describes her experiences in the dating jungle of the 90s and noughties and goes on, when her 'happy ever after' still doesn't happen, to explain how she eventually resolved her issues and found that the mould, formed for her by her upbringing, was not set in stone and could be broken. The first part of the book resonated a lot with me, as I was also playing the dating game at this time, the only difference being that I had already been married and had a family. I recognised many of the male types that she dated, having had some similar encounters, some funny, some heart-breaking or, on occasion, just plain boring! The second part moves on to the digital age, which I was not familiar with personally, but which didn't prove to be any more successful for the author in finding 'the right one'. Much more importantly though, the end of the noughties heralded a shift in society's view of the status of women and the expectations and acceptance of what constitutes a 'family'. The author could at last abandon her 'life plan' and fulfil her lifelong ambition to be a mother. This is an uplifting book, that debunks the myth of the happy couple ending, perpetuated in literature and the film and TV industry. There's a long way to go yet, as the #MeToo movement shows but, in the author's own words 'Imagine how much happier and freer young women would feel if they had a deeply embedded notion of choice, of carving out their own unique path...that you don't need to wait for your Prince Charming, that you can create an extraordinary life just on your own'. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Constant Tides is a really lovely story spanning several generations and set in Messina, Sicily. This book is split into three different stories, and from three different periods in history the author weaves together a tapestry of relationship stories with a common essence. The story of Lilla and Enzo is set during and in the immediate aftermath of the 1908 earthquake. Mira and Nicolas’ story is told with the backdrop of WWII, Mussolini leadership and German occupation. Antonio and Caterina’s modern story helps to bring events full circle and shows “When families are close, there is no one closer”. Throughout there is also a collection of equally endearing, interesting and colourful supporting characters. I really enjoyed this book, although by Book 3 I had created myself a little family tree to work out whether Caterina and Antonio were related, or whether they would receive the happy ending I was hoping for. While also being a delightful relationship tale, this book also does a very good job of being a travel brochure for Sicily. The descriptions of the places and the peoples of Ganzirri and Messina were charming and inviting. I feel like I’ve had a little holiday while reading. I don’t want to go into any more detail about the plot. I thoroughly enjoy waiting to see what each outcome would be and where each story would take us, and I would want everyone else that reads this book to enjoy Constant Tides without discovering anything in advance. I think this is a lovely book with real heart and I would recommend it.
'The Wynnman and the Crimsons Paths' is Trevor P. Kwain's second adventure set in a Wimbledon that exists only in his imagination. As in his first book, 'The Wynnman and the Black Azalea', the newly arrived Italian baker, Enrico LoTrova, plays amateur sleuth, aided by his friends and neighbours, exposing the shortcomings of the local police and solving clues in the most audacious way. This is an exciting and fast-paced read, Bond-like in it's conception, with characters who are either completely good or bad. The villains are truly evil or mad but at the end of the story we are left wondering whether the good guys are really all they seem to be. There are murders, robberies, explosions, secret tunnels and strange experiments that rock the neighbourhood...never a dull moment! The sentence construction and language used are sometimes distracting but the pure fantasy of the story is compelling and beguiling. As the author writes about a book found during the course of the narrative, there is a 'thin veil..between reality and fantasy'. As at the end of the first book, the arch villain escapes undetected, so we look forward to the third episode of 'The Wynnman' to bring us his further nefarious deeds and hopefully discover what he's really up to and, I'm sure, eventually be brought to justice. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Albatross: Contact is the first in a new Sci-Fi series. I loved that this book handles the very real topic of the cost of war on those in the military while presenting it in the guise of an action-packed, alien fighting plot line. In this Sci-Fi plot, when the aliens land, their aim isn’t apocalypse and destruction, but to ask for help in their war against the Forsaken (a very good name for a terrifying enemy race). This book has three different character perspectives which helps to round out the book well. We learn more about Will, his military past and his perception of the alien technology he finds himself surrounded by. We also meet Sarah, another human volunteer and Arthur, who is the leader of the Lumenarian convoy to earth. These different narratives and their interactions offer engaging and comparative insight into alien and human life. I also like the camaraderie built between Arthur and Will, their respective traumas helping them understand each other while also creating a common ground. The book ties together well but leaves plenty of scope for more stories to come. Honestly, as I was reading I was gripped. I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the story only taking useless notes like “I’m a little bit hooked” and, towards the end, “aaahhhhh”. I loved the tension created by the change in perspective, as recent events are recapped from a different set of eyes, all the while continuously moving towards an incredibly climactic final section. I really enjoyed this book and I think it would be a brilliant read for anyone who likes action and/or Sci-Fi epics. I can’t wait to read more. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Us & Everything Else is a collection of poems and short stories by Francoise Helene, in which the author explores her feelings about many different aspects of her life. Covering topics from love and loss, pain and healing to joy and wonder, self-appreciation and inner strength. There are also atmospheric black and white illustrations used throughout which are lovely. The poetry is in free form and the reader will relate to it on a very deep level. Each poem is written from the heart and truly inspiring. Francoise has made herself vulnerable when creating Us & Everything Else so that we may share her connection with the world and indeed the universe. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by these beautiful poems with their amazing imagery. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Also available on Kindle The Truth in a Lie is Jan Turk Petrie's sixth novel and the first in a contemporary setting. It is an engaging story of complex interpersonal relationships..husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters; a story of love and loss, expertly told with sensitivity and real emotional depth. The reader follows Charlotte, Lottie, through a particularly difficult time in her life. After divorcing Duncan, we join the story when she leaves her partner, Michael, and has to adjust to being alone again, though sometimes with the company of Kate, her university student daughter. Her life is rocked again when her mother is taken seriously ill and has to undergo emergency surgery. The reappearance of Duncan at the hospital and her mother's insistence that her private papers will be destroyed unread, set the scene for an unexpected outcome, clearly demonstrating the devastating consequences that secrecy can have. The novel is very well-written with fully developed characterisations and evocative accounts, so much so that the reader feels that they know the people, places and feelings described. Indeed, the strength of the writing is that most people will have experienced something very similar and will be able to identify completely. A highly recommended read. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Steggie Belle & The Dream Warriors is an interesting fantasy tale which leads us into the dark world of dreams. Reminding me slightly of a darker Peter Pan, the main character and “author” of the story you’re reading is Zoofall and is hurrying to recollect the tales of his travels in the dream worlds. Tying in the concepts of lucid dreaming with mythology, Steggie Belle & The Dream Warriors is an adventure story with a Good vs Evil Battle at its heart. I liked the style of writing throughout, Zoofall’s written account is conversational in tone, giving it the feel of a spoken story. It reminded me of the style of Homer’s Odyssey, with moments when the storyteller addresses you directly interspersed throughout the plotline of events that have already happened. I also like the threads of Greek Mythology and scientific explanation which run through the book. I think that these elements make Steggie Belle & The Dream Warriors multi-faceted and adds a believable edge to the story as a whole. There’s scope to add more to this story, to discover in more detail what happens after Zoofall finishes writing. However, I also think that this book is perfectly well-rounded as it is. It leaves you with questions, but this adds to the mystery of the book and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Unlikely Return is an effortlessly stirring expression of the complexities of human relationships. It is told against the backdrop of an unlikely, yet equally damning tragedy that befalls five men, whilst aboard a sport-fishing vessel. Captain Jack, his petulant assistant Tony and three other passengers; Paul, Ben and Stuart all board the Princess Rose, for a weekend away of fishing and as a means of escape from the woes of their everyday lives. Each of these men carry the burdens of estranged relationships and emotional trauma, which a shared life-altering experience at sea, will force them to confront and forever change them. This book is extremely cognizant of human emotion and how one's sense of self is deeply influenced by one's formative years. It stirs empathy within the reader and explores a wealth of different perspectives that make for fantastic characterisation. Unlikely Return is an insightful slow-burner of a book which I relished sinking my teeth into! Lois Cudjoe, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Vanity of Humanity is an entertaining look at anthropology and our perception of ourselves as different and special in comparison to the other creatures that inhabit the earth. I found this book to be very interesting and enjoyable. Throughout the author refers to his experience as a prison officer as well as wider reading that impacted his studies and worldview. Although you don’t have to read or be familiar with any of the other titles he mentions to enjoy this book, they and the bibliography serve as a list of recommendations for further reading. The Vanity of Humanity flowed quite seamlessly from topic to topic, handling evolution, communities, prison and the justice system, celebrity, death, money and God to name just a few. The author’s arguments are written in a clear and concise way, with humour and anecdotes throughout that help to make the abstract subject matter more enjoyable to read and easier to understand and digest. I enjoy reading books that focus on human nature and behaviour and I enjoy them even more when I’m not left struggling to concentrate on the language. This book uses understandable references and avoids jargon in order to make The Vanity of Humanity a really accessible book. I particularly liked the comparison of the creation of humanity to Frankenstien. The handling of more scientific concepts by equating them to simpler scenarios such as lego blocks was skilfully done. Part autobiographical, part popular science, this book calls into question humanity’s place in the world and the concept that we are any less animalistic than our primate relatives. This is a book that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Loss, recovery and pervasive secrets from the past - this engrossing saga tells the page-turning tale of an unforgettable Jamaican woman from WW1 to 1950. From the author of White Feathers, Susan Lanigan’s Lucia’s War is an absorbing, twisting, historical saga about the memorable Lucia Percival who came to Britain from Jamaica and worked as a nurse during WW1 before becoming a celebrated opera singer. Lucia’s lively, sharp-witted narrative undulates and unfolds at spellbinding speed - coloratura style, to use an operatic term - as she relates her story to a music critic as she’s set to give her last performance in 1950. It’s impossible not to feel invested in Lucia’s life as the tale darts back and forth from her working in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in France in 1916, to her striving to live as a musician in London on returning from war, to her later trials, all the while living in the tight grasp of her past. Recalling her father’s words towards the end of the novel, Lucia notes, “The trouble with you, Lucia, is that you can do anything.’ Turned out my father was right, just not in the way he meant. I was capable of doing anything.” This facet of her character chimes throughout the novel, as does her connection to the gruff Scottish surgeon she encountered in France: “You come all the way from the West Indies to England on your own…I’ve never met anyone like you in all my damn life.” These words ring true, for Lucia is a one-of-a-kind woman, driven by a longing to mother the son who was taken from her, a longing that sees her agree to a plan concocted by old Lillian (“The Witch”), a woman similarly scarred by loss, and damaged by war. Revealing the contribution Caribbean commonwealth citizens made to Britain during WWI, and touching on the Spanish flu epidemic, at its heart this is the powerful story of a black woman in a white man’s world; a personal account of the ravages of war; the story of a woman torn. In Lucia’s words, “The two parts of me – musician versus mother, public versus private – were separating out so rapidly and so completely there seemed to be no way of reconciling the two.” While I wondered what impact the novel might have if it followed a strict chronological structure, it’s gripping stuff, and the final twist is likely to catch readers off-guard, hungry to know how the next acts of Lucia’s extraordinary life play out. A Piece of Passion from the Publisher... Susan Lanigan and I worked together on her first novel White Feathers, and the glorious Lucia Pervical stole every scene she appeared in. It was clear that she needed her own book. When Susan approached me to work on Lucia's War, I was honoured to work with her again and to be one of the first to find out What Lucia Did Next. Susan's such a passionate author – personally, politically and poetically – who infuses her characters and the world they inhabit with a rich vivid life. I learned so much about Black British culture and history from between the wars and fell in love with Lucia's lyricism and her resilience. Technically, the novel is a tour de force of non-linear narrative by a writer skilled at her craft: the various strands of Lucia’s past are deftly woven together like the baby’s blanket she carries with her everywhere. I bawled each one of the three times I read it through from beginning to end. Which is a professional quality-control test we editors sometimes do.
The City That Barks and Roars is a humorous anthropomorphic crime fiction. As I started reading, following Chico Monkey as he heads into the city to start his new detective role there was that this book was going to be like Zootopia but rewritten for an adult audience. This was a recurring thought and I think it’s a very good way to explain or summarise the book in a sentence so I was amused when I saw it mentioned in the description after I had finished reading. I particularly like the attention to detail shown throughout the plot, the logistics of Chico Monkey getting into the car belonging to his partner, Frank Penguin as they get to work hunting for Lucas Panda. As the search for Frank’s missing partner goes on, they realise it’s connected to a darker web of corruption. I liked this book and I think it would be good for people who like good old-fashion crime mysteries, although this one does have a furry and feathery twist. I thought that the characters were all very different and I enjoyed trying to work out what animal they were before being told, and discovering whether they had their own ulterior motive that would pull Monkey and Frank deeper into the mire. The City That Barks and Roars is a quick and entertaining read that I enjoyed and would recommend for anyone looking for a good detective mystery.
Also Available on Kindle. The Inconvenient Need to Belong introduces us to Alfie, an old man with no visitors, living in a care home. To combat his loneliness, he sneaks out to the local park every Saturday to feed the ducks, where he meets Fred a young boy, to whom Alfie tells his life story in order to impart some wisdom. This book really reminded me of books like Three Things About Elsie and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I liked that the story also focuses on Julia, a nurse at the care home who wants to learn more about this rather grumpy old man. I thought that this was a heartwarming story about getting old, life and grief. Using the young Fred as a way to convey imparting wisdom to the next generation, is a brilliant idea and like in life, it’s just whether the younger generations as willing to listen. I would recommend this book to anyone who loved either the books that I have mentioned or the contemporary family saga stories that are similar on the market. A lovely read to curl up with and enjoy.
How Can I Stop Worrying? contains a concise 5-step process to help the reader worry less. Using their own experiences of finding and applying stress management techniques over the years, the steps depicted in the book are ones that they use to overcome the stress associated with everyday life. At the end of each chapter, there’s a summary of the key points discussed that I think would be really useful, especially if you take a break between chapters. Not only is each chapter simply, concisely named, but there are also headings throughout to break up the information and everything is written in a clear, conversational style. The five-step process demonstrates what the author does when worry strikes. The techniques try to help the reader form the habit of thinking more positively about a situation, thereby reducing the levels of stress and worry in their everyday life. Later in the book, the technique is also applied to letting go of the past and building self-confidence which I thought were useful applications. This is a very insightful book, and the author shares personal insight and examples of how the techniques she adopts worked for her. I think that How Can I Stop Worrying? is a nice example of someone pulling all of their years of research together in order to help other people. As is clearly stated in the book, I wouldn’t mistake it for medical advice. I would describe this book as a single experience shared, that can be related to and perhaps learnt from.
A Simple Life: A Snatch in Time surprised me. Paul Williams has a simple life, he lives on a boat, the Sandpiper, and works at the local college in order to be closer to his son. A cumulation of events (the prospect of reducing visitation access to his son and a bad classroom experience threatening his job), lead him to consider a life of smuggling when two local criminals proposition him. I thought to begin with that Paul was a bit of an unreliable narrator, his ex-wife and himself reference moments of an overactive imagination, so I did wonder throughout whether the “gangsters” in a small-ish town and the two love interests appearing on the scene in quite a quick succession were all figments of Paul’s imagination. The introduction of the 2039 epilogue timeline heightened my interest and fueled some of my suspicions about Paul’s unreliability. I was curious to find out the outcome of this book. But how wrong I was! I finished A Simple Life in one sitting and the end surprised me. I’m not going to spoil anything, but by the final page, I had reframed my perspective of the book. As I finished reading, I considered it a story of a man left vulnerable by a number of situations, which is exploited for someone else's gain. I write this in regard to the Jan and Gunton but realise this could also be applied to a number of the secondary characters in the book. As the introduction mentioned that Paul was mild-mannered and his equally mild-mannered lawyer left him paying out a significant amount after his divorce to his ex-wife. The ending gives a poignancy to the entire book and I would really recommend it to anyone looking for a shorter read, based around a moral dilemma. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador