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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
Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in 18th century Norwich. He also does a bit of amateur sleuthing as a side hustle, and if he has any spare time left after those two pursuits, he is also something of a womaniser. When Foxe finds himself trying to solve three murders at once, one of them apparently linked to a book he has been asked to source for a client, there is little time for his other interests, and he is led through a tangled web of privilege, poverty, deceit and crime. A very readable and enjoyable book which successfully highlighted the vast differences in living standards, expectations, rights and morals of the different classes in 1760s society. Foxe himself comes across as a charming and likeable man who does his best to straddle the “uncrossable” class boundaries making him popular with men and women, rich and poor. The book ends with his love life about to enter a very unconventional (for the era) phase, which already threatens to have added complications, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see how he handles it. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
Revealing the beautiful romance between a couple who went on to be married for 58 years alongside fascinating social history, this anthology of letters - enhanced with dozens of photos and detailed footnotes - is an enthralling delight. Ronnie and Hilda met in 1945 when he was home on leave from Italy after fighting in some of the most brutal battles of WW2. Though they came from different backgrounds – Ronnie’s much tougher then Hilda’s more secure, carefree upbringing - there was a spark between them and they were engaged only ten days after meeting, before Ronnie returned to his duties. Through the letters that grace the pages of this elegantly executed book, we’re offered a window into how they came to know one another, with an abundance of sweetness laced through all their correspondence, such as when Ronnie remarks early on, “By the way, I’ve got a lovely cold. I’m really enjoying my eyes watering because I caught it off you!” Hilda and Ronnie’s letters lay bare their personal love story, and provide unique insights into the social history of life for post-war Britons, both at home and overseas. Ronnie shares his experience of attending the trials of SS soldiers and witnessing firing squads, while also expressing a longing to see Hilda in her “new dress, deep red cherry”, while Hilda tells of comings and goings at home, sharing ideas and plans for their much-anticipated wedding. Framed by family history and details of the couple’s later life, this is a radiant read from start to finish. Joanne Owen, 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.
Berlin in 1960 is a city that is very much still trying to cope with the after-effects of World War II and the subsequent division between East and West. Among those trying to pick up the pieces are Angelika and Christian, a brother and sister whose childhood was torn apart by Russian soldiers, and Max, Bastian and Ottilie, police officers who are investigating a series of brutal murders. I found this book to be really gripping and moving on many levels. The murder scenes were very gruesome, which is not always to my taste, but as the story unfolds and the reason behind the vicious way the victims are treated becomes clear, I began to understand why the murderers felt it important for the victims to die that way. Although it was clear from the outset who the murderers were, this didn’t detract from the enjoyment at all – the story was a great interplay between hunter and hunted and brought to light the fact that there is both good and bad in everyone and that sometimes very good people do very bad things that they perceive to be fully justified. The characters were well developed; people who I came to like and to want to know more about, so I hope there will be more books in this series. Issues such as the everyday sexism faced by Ottilie, the ethics of co-workers forming relationships, vagrancy, and the moral issues involved when a crime is committed but even the prosecution sympathises with the actions of the criminal are all sensitively dealt with. Finally, one small touch that I really liked was the technique of giving each chapter a title that was a brief but relevant quotation from Shakespeare. Jane Willis, A LoveReading Ambassador
England lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966 was controversial then and remains so to this day. In 'Fixing Sixty-six' Tim Flower debunks some of the myths surrounding our 'greatest sporting achievement' so successfully that it is at times hard to remember this is a work of fiction, albeit firmly rooted in fact. The story is mainly narrated by Harry Miller, a Liverpudlian sports journalist, working for 'The Daily Mirror'. In 1966 he was recruited by Ludovic Forsyth, the personal assistant to the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to Operation Jules Britannia. This project's aim was nothing less than to ensure England won the World Cup to avert attention from the Labour government's inadequacies and mismanagement of the nation's economy and was to be achieved by manipulating the media, the match venues and game officials. Fast forward 50 years and Harry, now terminally ill, has no more fear of the official secrets document he signed at the time and decides to sell his story to the press. The author has captured the feel of the 60s very well. He takes us back to a time when a married woman was expected to stay home and busy herself with childcare, cooking and cleaning, as anything else was seen as an insult to her husband, implying he didn't earn enough to support his family. This may have changed drastically now but little else the book refers to has. The 'power, privilege and complacency' of the gentlemen's club, the nations 'superior' attitude to the EU and foreigners in general, the corruption within FIFA, the 'freedom' of the press and the unholy alliance between politics and big business are all much as they were and parallels are easy to see with the present day. This is a fascinating tale, all the more so knowing how much contemporary evidence supports its revelations and even someone not in the least bit interested in 'the beautiful game' will appreciate the skill of the storytelling. A thoroughly good read! Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Available on Kindle I love reading about ‘off the beaten track’ places that are not on the main tourist trails. This fascinating book did not disappoint. The author’s style of writing so vividly depicts the places he visits that you really do feel immersed in West Africa. I particularly liked the accounts of interactions with the locals. It must have taken a lot of courage to do such a trip solo but the author clearly has the ability to interact positively with all sorts of people. I knew very little about these countries and now that I know more I would like to visit them, thanks to this fascinating book. Susan Wallace, A LoveReading Ambassador
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 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.
This is an unusual take on Christmas but so very good with hints of the future. Children no longer want the traditional toys and it seems video games are all they ask for so Santa and his elves have no work and then Santa finds a way to keep the workshop alive but it definitely isn't for the children. Back in the 'normal' world Dallas Stone a cop who 'did things his own way' has been allocated a partner much to his disdain but Joel is new out of university and is very much a rules guy, saying they would clash is an understatement but when they get information about Santa's little operation they have to investigate. What follows is such a great ride that I was rushing to see how it would end and in between, it held some funny parts and some poignant parts but all in all it was a good book. Well worth a read. I love David Blake's Space Police books and this reminded me of them. Carol Peace, A LoveReading Ambassador
'The Richness' by Stephen Driscoll is a powerful indictment of racism in all it's forms, wrapped up in a tale of love, cruelty and suffering that spans five centuries and three continents. It is well written, meticulously researched and chillingly relevant to the present-day crisis. The book comes in three parts. The first follows three young Irishmen, brothers John and Conor O'Driscoll and their cousin, Patrick O'Mahoney, who left Ireland in the early 17th century, each for a different reason and with a varying degree of compliance. We track the men and their fortunes until their deaths, with two of them eventually reuniting briefly in the West Indies. This section was full of historical surprises for me and was thoroughly readable, exciting and heart-wrenching as well as informative. The second section outlines the social and political issues of the Caribbean and Ireland, the inequalities and historical attitudes which have led to the existence of everything that is unfair and unacceptable in today's world. It's written with a great deal of passion and background knowledge. Finally, we are brought almost to the present day, when two strangers meet at a series of lectures and discover that they have more than physical attraction in common. This is where the title of the book comes into it's own, as the author demonstrates that none, absolutely none, of us would be who we are now, were it not for the variety in our heritage and the part that all races and religions have played in the past. We are human beings, first and foremost, and no-one has cause or reason to believe they are superior to any other in any way. A thoroughly fascinating read, highly recommended Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Wow! For the Love of Alison had me hooked from the very first chapter on and it just kept giving. The main character, David, a journalist, gets an unexpected phone call one day to meet his university friend Alison after not having seen her for about 30 years. He jumps at the chance as he used to be obsessed with her in the past to the extent that he had to be hospitalized in a mental institution for a while. The meeting will change his life forever and get him accused of a crime for which there is apparently only one possible perpetrator - himself. Has he gone insane or is there another explanation for the events that occurred? I absolutely loved the depiction of David's character: he clearly struggles with mental issues, but that doesn't stop him - he never gives up, taking anything in his stride that life throws at him. There are twists and turns wherever you look in this book and as I reader I was really rooting for David. The feel of it reminded me a bit of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. It felt life-affirming, sweet and made me feel good. A wonderful read! You know you are onto something fantastic when you feel sad upon reaching the last page! Alexandra Williams, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Secret Resort of Nostalgia is a modern-day classic, beautifully written, engaging and thought-provoking. Mike Denning gets offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a job on the remote island of Nostalgia, where he discovers a thriving community without crime, cars or any of the negative aspects of modern society, he even has a gorgeous colleague who he is getting very attached to. But is all really as it seems? Why are there security fences in parts of the island? Mike is on a quest to find out more. What a special book: it’s far from only being a mystery novel, as it touches on so many philosophical and environmental aspects as well, but always in a thoroughly approachable and entertaining way. Sahlan Diver’s talent for writing is phenomenal, his characters jump off the pages and his descriptions are so vivid that you can picture yourself in the landscapes. Gripping from the first to the last page! Alexandra Williams, A LoveReading Ambassador