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Unto This Last is a historical fiction centred around John Ruskin the Victorian era art critic amongst many other things. Before reading this book I had perhaps heard of Ruskin but didn’t know too much about him. Despite this lack of previous knowledge I found Unto This Last a detailed and interesting depiction of Ruskin’s connection to Rose La Touche. I found that this book was very well written, it seemed to me to be written in the style of a period novel while also managing to maintain a degree of self awareness that I thought allowed for a more critical eye on a range of topics such as mental health and Victorian attitudes in reference to women. I think the relationship between Ruskin and La Touche is quite delicately handled, with Ruskin coming across as almost naïve to me early in the story. I also particularly liked the additional literary nods throughout the book. The title itself is taken from one of Ruskin’s works and the chapter heading “State of Denmark” as a nod to Shakespeare's Hamlet are great examples that I noticed. I think that this book has been very well-researched and written with real insight. I think that anyone who enjoys period novels would enjoy this book without needing to know a great deal about the main character beforehand. The book covers an extended period and also fills in details about Ruskin’s early years and first marriage. I also think this is perhaps a great starting point for any interested reader to do more research on John Ruskin’s life. I would say that Unto This Last is a substantial and yet fascinating read that provides a considered look at the life and work of John Ruskin.
The Ancestor starts off in the middle of the action, I was immediately curious as I was led deeper into the story of Wyatt, his past and how he ended up in the circumstances at the start of the book. As I read I realised that this book has a sci-fi twist that intrigued me further. This book covers two distinct time periods and I like the way that the author uses memory and Wyatt’s diary to flip between the two. There are a lot of twists and turns in the book, and the plot never quite went where I was expecting, leaving me eager to know what was going to happen next. I found I was kept unawares right until the end of the book, which I enjoyed. The Ancestor places a lot of focus on the characters in this book, slowly developing each one while also fleshing out people from the past. It was really easy for me to picture Laner, with it’s small town feel and it’s sometimes flawed occupants. I think that the author subtly builds tension throughout the book to make this a really interesting and unique thriller, while also allowing for details of the gold rush and Alaskan history. I think that this book would appeal to a wide range of readers, both historical fiction and crime/thriller fans alike.
Chloe is a brindle boxer. Socrates, the Devil Dog, is a pekingese, as is Darby who qualified for the title "great dog". Together with Young Pup and Old Vet the author uses these four-legged friends to explore and illustrate the New Testament book of James in an insightful and memorable way. I for one will never look at soft-serve chocolate ice-cream in the same way post Socrates It is a simple but not simplistic read, which engages and educates but doesn't preach! I would recommend this book even if like me you weren't looking for a bible study but are happy to read life stories. The doggy pictures are a joy too. Cath Sell, A LoveReading Ambassador
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, who would want to read a book about a horrendous disease sweeping through the country? In the light of the mistakes and cover-ups surrounding the Coronavirus, who would want to read a medical conspiracy thriller full of lies and deceptions? I hope that the answer is a lot of people because, otherwise, a lot of people are going to miss out on one of the most exciting and gripping debut novels around...'Poison in the Pills' by August Raine. Jack Bright is a researcher for pharmaceutical company Rathbury-Holmes in Manchester, working on finding a cure for the disease affecting a large proportion of the population and commonly referred to as 'The Itch'. Some early research seems to establish a link between the disease and a street drug, known as 'Dose', so the cure hangs on producing something that will purge the system of sufferers of all traces of that drug. Jack has serious doubts about the efficacy of this type of cure but is ignored by the powers that be in his company. The final clinical trial of the cure goes disastrously wrong and seven people die. Jack, determined to get to the truth, starts poking about at work and is in his boss's office late at night when a bomb goes off. He is suspended from his job then framed as a drug dealer. Can things get any worse? Oh yes. Will Jack get to the bottom of what's really going on and who's behind it? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out. This story raises many questions about what means it's acceptable to use to uncover the truth and whose interests the pharmaceutical industry are serving best. A very thought-provoking and unpredictable read and, I hope, not the last featuring Jack Bright. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
'The Winding Road to Portugal' is Louise Ross's companion and comparison study to 'Women Who Walk: How 20 Women from 16 Countries Came to Live in Portugal'. This time 20 men from 11 countries share their stories of when, how and, above all, why they too came to up sticks and relocate to Portugal in particular. This is a fascinating and illuminating work, consisting of the words of the newcomers themselves, with analysis by the psychology trained author, the journalist and author Richard Zimler, who has also taken the winding road and Dr. Nigel Hall, a distinguished psychiatrist. If this all sounds a bit heavy, I assure you it's not. The whole book will stir such a gamut of emotions, that the reader cannot help but be curious about the causes of such upheaval. Though far from being simply down to one reason, for some, language must have been an important factor. Those from Angola or Brazil were already fluent, whilst those from UK, Ireland, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark or Germany may have been beguiled by the promise of the Mediterranean climate. Escaping political, economic or social hardship was also cited, as was being an 'accompanying spouse', supporting their partners in their new location. At the end of the day, we work abroad because we can. The free movement of labour in the EU and the rise of the digital workplace, means that, if we have the inclination and the incentive, we can work anywhere. However, the year 2020 brought a whole different scenario. The author decided to recontact her interviewees to see how the pandemic was affecting them and included an add-on to each section with their thoughts. Those working in tourism, such as taxi drivers and owners of hotels or guest houses, were not faring as well as, say, those working for international companies but most were optimistic that the future would be better. We all certainly hope that it won't be worse. The winding road by definition is not straight forward and not everyone interviewed saw Portugal as their final resting place. This study will surely make it's readers think carefully about their own life's journey, which can only be a therapeutic exercise. A very instructive and thought-provoking social observation. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
In 'BEYOND: The Frozen Future' Ema Cory offers us a terrifying version of the future for our planet. Her short science fiction/horror story builds on trends already evident in society today and progresses them in a frightening but thought-provoking way. The writing is crisp and concise, the characterisations clever and original and the use of Biblical sounding titles to the chapters reinforces the apocalyptic feel of the storyline. The year is 2279. After WWIII devastates the world's population, China and North Korea are put on an enforced zero-child regime and the world's essentials- food, water, waste, housing and transport- are placed under the control of a global organisation. Climate change creates millions of refugees, terrorism millions more, who along with the indigenous poor, live largely on the streets, beneath a smothering of smog and constant drone cover. The elite live in climate-controlled luxury, barely venturing outdoors, thanks to a well-developed teleportation system. When or just before their time comes, life expectancy having stalled at 90 thanks to the failure of science to eradicate disease, those who can pay have themselves and their loved ones cryogenically frozen, whether they believe in the system or not. Alison Greshwood is the CEO and majority shareholder of Life Beyond, one of the largest body freezing organisations in the world, based in London. Through her we learn of the history, organisation and weaknesses of the company, the latter eventually culminating in it's demise as the US Threat Protection Committee puts it's secret plan into action. We are left with the promise of a continuation of Alison's story as she puts Code Black into operation and disappears. Can't wait! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambasador
'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
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
Author Nathan Pettijohn has just broken up with his girlfriend. He rents an RV and takes to the road with his dog, Hafa, to explore the Pacific Northwest for the month of October. He describes the people he meets and the places he stays beautifully. He also shares his views on many aspects of life in America, up to and including their reaction to the current pandemic and the tragic murder of George Floyd. As a fellow motorhomer (as we call RVs in the UK) I read this book with great interest. It is wonderfully written and evokes the excitement and anticipation of going to a different place every day and staying in a different campsite every night. I’ve always found that a very addictive thing to do and clearly, so does the author. I feel that I now want to go to the US and explore the same area that he did, especially as, due to the pandemic, I haven’t had any trips in my motorhome this year and I’m getting very itchy feet. Like the author, I wouldn’t dream of going on a road trip without at least one dog. He brilliantly evokes the camaraderie that occurs when dog people meet and talk dog talk. His descriptions of the places he visits are excellent and I could empathise with some of the issues he faced in getting used to his RV. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, very well written and extremely readable. Highly recommended. Susan Wallace, A LoveReading Ambassador
Reckless Discernment is a sleuth mystery with lots of twists along the way. Starting out a little in the middle of things we are introduced quickly to both Andrew and Elizabeth as well as the case of a bar patron’s girlfriend who seems to have disappeared suddenly and without a trace. The initial twist is detailed in the synopsis of this book, but there are more complications and revelations to come for Andrew and Elizabeth as they are dragged back into their investigations. I did find that this started rather suddenly and I had to clamber to get up to speed with the narrative and the characters, but once I'd worked out what was happening I was interested in the plot and I wanted to know where it was going. I thought that the characters were well drawn and I liked that their backstories were filled in in a way that complimented the narrative. I found Andrew‘s humour to be entertaining, he was witty and sarcastic and his quips made me smile. I found Reckless Discernment to be an enjoyable book that I would recommend to crime fiction, mystery and sleuth fans. I think it is a clever and entertaining read that will leave you pondering all of the details until the climax.
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
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.