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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
Available as part of Kindle Unlimited or for £1.99 I absolutely loved this book and the further into it I got, the harder it was to put it down. Sometimes it went into too much detail for me and there are some spelling and grammar mistakes, but if you can get past those, I think you will love it. I grew up in Guildford where Dark Corporation HQ are, so that was fun thinking about where the offices could be. The characters are all very believable. The story builds up gradually and then suddenly, it is all over. You are finished. I would have loved the suspense to continue a little longer. I am purposefully not wanting to give any spoilers. I am really looking forward to reading book 2 in the series now. Alison Bisping, A LoveReading Ambassador
This book shares Peter’s journey through contracting Meningitis. Having experienced this awful illness through a close family member, I really wanted to read this book. Peter speaks of his illness, his hospital stay and recovery in a very insightful out way. He goes into very interesting detail, explaining how he felt, the terrible side effects of his Meningitis and his gradual recovery. The journey is interesting, heart-breaking, and funny in places too. Peter also includes many of the doctor’s notes, so you also follow his experience from another perspective. The notes are easy to read and are not peppered with lots of medical terminology, something which I have experienced in other such books. I am so glad that Peter felt the need to share his journey and I am even more glad that I read this book. Gail Phillips, A LoveReading Ambassador
Stylish in form and content, this A-Z encyclopaedia of 200 classic cocktails serves up intriguing origin stories alongside inspiring recipes. Written and curated by London bar expert Cas Oh, whose impressive CV includes helming The Club at The Ivy, this gorgeously-produced book (think black-and-gold art deco elegance) represents the distillment of tens of thousands of cocktail recipes into 200 classics - nice work if you can get it! Chicly presented and organised A-Z, it covers everything from the Absinthe Frappé that originated in New Orleans in 1874, to the Espresso Martini of the 1980s, to the triple-rum Zombie of 1930s Hollywood. With the provenance and recipes of many cocktails keenly contested, this seeks to set the record straight, with beautiful reproductions of pages from recipe books of the past revealing the origins and evolution of each concoction. Alongside learning about well-known favourites like Margaritas, Mai Tais, Piña Coladas and Daiquiris, I loved discovering new bizarre brews, such as The Black Velvet, a blend of Guinness and champagne created to commemorate the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Designed to inspire and guide professional bartenders and home-mixers alike, CO-Specs will certainly add more than a dash of glamour to coffee tables. It’s a book to be dipped into, sipped and savoured, rather than downed in one. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
A tensely twisty, read-in-one-sitting family mystery in which a son races against time to find the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. Fans of family-focussed mysteries will be enthralled by this haunting tale of a son’s search for the truth behind his mother’s disappearance. It’s a gripping story, made all the more edgy by the outwardly composed first-person, present tense narration of the son, Sam, whose inner state is anything but calm. Sam has been a lost soul since the day his mother vanished without trace, leaving her wedding ring and a note to his dad on the kitchen table: “I’ve left you. Look after the boys.” Now, some twenty-five years later, Sam’s aggressive father calls to let him know that his grandmother doesn’t have long left, so Sam visits her realising that “when Gramma dies, her knowledge will be lost…And with that, it is likely that any chance of a resolution will be lost forever”. As Gramma edges closer to her end, fractured threads connecting the characters come to light - spindly strands between Gramma and grandchildren; between Sam and his estranged wife; between father and son; between brothers - and then comes a finale worthy of Eastenders’ style drum booms that leave one wondering how (or if) the family will recover. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
'46% Better Than Dave' is Alastair Puddick's third novel. Although it has been shortlisted for a prize for comic fiction in this far from comedic year, it contains a very serious message about mental health. It may be human nature to compare ourselves to others at times but this book emphasises the importance of keeping things in perspective and not losing sight of what really matters. It will make readers laugh in it's absurdity but also cringe when it reminds us of similar comparisons we may have made. Dave Brookman has no complaints about his life...happily married to a wonderful wife, two great kids, a nice house and a job he's good at. That is, until a new neighbour moves in next door. The newcomer, also called Dave Brookman, is the same age, from the same town and in the same line of work but there the similarities end and his advantages, both real and assumed, begin to prey on Original Dave's mind until what starts as friendly rivalry becomes something infinitely more sinister...obsessive jealousy. The lengths he goes to in his fear and insecurity about New Dave being 46% better than him are destructive, both to him and his family and also his career. Will he come to his senses in time to salvage his life and learn to appreciate the richness of his own existence? Though the main character comes across as immature and his own worst enemy, he is redeemed by the humour and the wit of the writing. I shall certainly be looking out for the author's two previous novels. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
I have been waiting to read this book for a long time, so long that I almost wrote it myself. Thank you Michael Tappenden for saving me the trouble and thank you A Long Dark Rainbow for being a far better read than I could ever have made of it. This is the story of Samantha and Alex, two septuagenarians, who meet each other again by chance after forty-odd years and realise that things could have been a lot different in their lives. Both very damaged by their previous relationships, they contemplate trying again though with serious concerns about the practicalities and fears surrounding self-image, physical capabilities and emotional adaptability. It follows their journey as they define, explore and finally, with mutual support, openness and honesty, expand their boundaries, building a healing and fulfilling relationship. The writing is explicit without being gratuitous or offensive and displays a genuine understanding of how important and difficult personal interactions are at any age but that, with advancing years, there are added dimensions that younger people might not necessarily appreciate. The author chose a quote from the Talmud to preface his work, which sets the tone completely and is very moving. 'For the unlearned, old age is winter. For the learned, it is the season of the harvest'. Readers of a mature age will find much here that will resonate and maybe inspire, whilst younger generations will hopefully see their elders in a different light. An enthralling read, thoroughly recommended. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
This was an interesting slant on World War 1 and focused on two British captains. Normally we read either accounts of battalions and individual soldiers in some of the famous battles. This story was quite different. Captain Quinn is the new intelligence officer for the 10th (Service) Battalion in France. He’s in temporary charge of the C Company manning the front line in Captain Cody’s absence. Captain Quinn's style of military management is different and the man is downright arrogant. He wants Captain Cody's company and sets about this in a ruthless and devious way, delving into Cody's private life. It is clear on Cody's return to the Front that Quinn has turned things and soldiers around to his thinking he begins to distrust. But Cody is a loose cannon. It is World War 1 and the storyline alone is shocking but the author skillfully throws some extra shockers in as the reader wonders who will survive. I found this book well-written and it offers a different slant on the horrors of the great war. Jane Brown, 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
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
Rich in romance and peril, this explores the intersection of art, gender and politics in the turbulent 1930s, from Germany, Austria and Italy, to the United States. Second in a trilogy, Roma Calatayud-Stocks’s A Symphony of Rivals is suffused in the author’s passion for music, and her belief in the powerful persistence of art. The novel traverses 1930’s Germany, Austria, Italy and the United States as it tells the tale of Alejandra Morrison, a woman who aspires to become a symphony conductor in a man’s world, at a time when culture is increasingly coming under the crippling, censoring grip of Nazism. With a keen eye for detail and spritely dialogue, the author is clearly immersed in her subject as we follow Alejandra’s determined journey, first training with celebrated conductors in Berlin, later attracting the unwelcome attention of a high-ranking German officer. At times, this has the page-turning pace and drama of a literary thriller, replete with terrifying peril as Alejandra must make agonising, life-changing decisions, and domestic strife playing out alongside tangled political troubles. Musicophiles will no doubt appreciate the appendix that details works to accompany each chapter, among them Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca, Hubfeld’s As Time Goes By, and Verdi’s Nabucco. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Cassidy is running away from his past on Alabama Chrome, but his ghosts never leave. With little other than his campervan, he doesn’t seem to settle anywhere. But a snowstorm changes all that, bringing Cassidy into contact with Lark, and a community he might be able to feel at home in. With more complications on the way, from an inscrutable new waitress and the arrival of a reality TV host with a full crew in tow to shoot a new TV show, will Cassidy be able to share his truth, or will he return to the road? A story that will bring your emotions to the front but in an enjoyable way. Alabama Chrome is written from the first person perspective of Cassidy; he shares the life of a small, close-knit community, featuring family bonds, the looming presence of domestic violence as well as a critique on reality TV. I was intrigued by the story throughout and I found the characters to be very well-rounded, with each past event revealed adding nuance and believability to the story. The author definitely has a detailed knowledge of people, their quirks, traits and behaviours and is good at crafting believable characters that evoke sympathy and empathy.
Lauren Patterson, an American PhD student, makes a remarkable discovery and accidently finds the diaries of Leonardo da Vinci's assistant. Paulo del Rossi's diaries then lead us through love stories, drama, blackmail, murder and the aftermath of monumental deception. The modern day quest to uncover the historical truths are fantastically interesting. Immersive and intriguing, Paulo del Rossi and Lauren guide us through the Renaissance in Florence to Nazi Germany and into the local Costa coffee shop with ease. We even discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and follow a tender love story that spans across the years. A fantastic read. Nikki Telling, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘Among Kings’ is based around the true story of William Sheppard, an African American missionary and explorer that brought down King Leopold II. Thoroughly researched characters make this adventure story enthralling and, at times, all the more poignant for the truth that provided its foundation. This is a fascinating story that gave me insight into the history of America and the Congo. Before this book, I was not familiar with the people or events included in this book and I appreciated the additional information and further reading provided at the end of the story. I enjoyed reading the development of the friendship between Sheppard and Samuel Lapsley. ‘Among Kings’ is a poignant reflection on a pivotal moment in history while also allowing for contemplation and reflection on what has changed in the years since. Covering faith, monarchy, unlikely friendships and real-life heroes, this is a great book for history fans.
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
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