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Welcome to the present, here we have some fabulous reads set in the modern era. From provocative to beautiful, open your heart and mind and discover strong, believable stories that hammer at your awareness and cause thoughts to hesitate, develop, and flow.
From childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, this enthralling novel follows a steadfastly thoughtful Ghanaian forging her own identity in the face of fractured family ties, tragedy and colonial imperialism. Though of illustrious heritage, Maya’s childhood as an émigré is complex, uncomfortable and evoked with lyrical precision. Her beautiful mother is self-absorbed, always scented with “powdery luxury” and critical of Maya. ”It’s a pity my child did not take my beauty”, she tells her reflection before counselling Maya to “always look more than perfect. Not just good enough, but perfect”. And Maya receives conflicting messages from her father too. “Boys will not like you if you are too clever”, he tells her, while also criticising an eight out of ten mark: “Why not ten out of ten? You must always do your best.” The arrival of cousin Kojo changes everything. His impassioned talk of Ghana fuels Maya’s understanding of her mother country, her parents, and her own identity. She observes that Kojo’s knowledge “gave him the power to upset the order of things,” leading her to wonder, “Could I learn these secrets and codes, even though I did not grow up in our country?” When she and Kojo are sent to schools in England, Maya experiences the racism of peers who “touched my hair and stroked my skin and passed me round on their laps like a doll”, and Kojo is bullied. No wonder then that he decides that, “this is nothing but a small shitty island that doesn’t work properly. It’s a cold wet Third World country, but they made us think they were all powerful.” Later back in Germany, Maya is maddened by the cultural imperialism of her education: “I could not think of much that was more frightening than fitting into this pinched-in sterile world.” Maya’s story is at once arresting and nuanced, and suffused in an elegant sense of triumph when she returns to Ghana, where Kojo has been struggling to set-up a museum, and in time finds her voice and purpose through navigating a tangle of personal misfortune and cultural complexities.
An interesting opening to a story about a young woman looking for happiness. This book starts in a therapy style setting and Chloe is asked to recall her life, a job more easily done in the third person. Thus begins an introduction to Chloe's story. Chloe's early life was fraught, with serious illness and the after-effects including jealousy displayed by her elder sister. This book only tells part of the story, taking you from Chloe's early life to university. Her faith is tested throughout, and although she seemingly makes lots of friends, finding love proves a struggle. I admired Chloe's determination and strong will - she displays confidence in speaking up for herself against elders, dealing with the reaction of her father to her faith and her struggles and enduring perseverance with her studies. She Smiled leaves the door open for the reader to continue Chole's story in the sequel, She Smiled: Broken Yet. Time will tell whether Chloe will be able to finally feel "refreshed" and have everything fall into place for her. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
This is what a reading experience is all about, Ness touches, tests, pushes, strokes, inspires, and I have given this little book my heart. I have hesitated about explaining the background to Ness, but have decided that to know doesn’t unduly shape thoughts. Orford Ness in Suffolk is a shingle island which is constantly changing due to the sea and weather. It is the site of an abandoned military base where research included nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. The author and illustrator know this place, and have created a powerful lyrical read where nature takes steps to stop a crime against the world. It is a wonderful heady mix of novella and poetry-prose, a fantasy creation of word and illustration that took up lodging in my mind. A hagstone, which allows a veiled glimpse to the future or past, sits centre stage throughout the book, the illustrations by Stanley Donwood allowing a viewing station, a pause, before the next taste of action. The words by Robert Macfarlane sing, they just beg to be spoken, to be heard. As I spoke the words, I had the feeling that I was setting them free, and at the final few pages a shiver of emotion skittered down my arms. Ness is a beautiful yet fierce and frightening call, containing a warning that we should be shrieking from the rooftops. I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
Discover and be transported by eight wonderfully diverse stories based on the myth, legend and folklore at eight English Heritage sites from the toe of Cornwall to the tip of Northumberland. Editor Katherine Davey, English Heritage, and September Publishing have worked their magic alongside the authors while Clive Hicks-Jenkins has created striking and disquieting illustrations to accompany each story. To give you an idea as to the quality on offer, the authors in order are, Edward Carey, Alison MacLeod, Paul Kingsnorth, Sarah Hall, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Sarah Moss, and Fiona Mozley. Journalist James Kidd introduces the tales, highlighting the importance of folklore, and states that: “The moods of the eight stories are similar eclectic, by turns comic or uncanny, absurd or scholarly, angry or fanciful, unsettling of poignant”. The location each story has been based on, sits at the end of the story, as while some are obviously of the site, others hover, offer, suggest. The afterword by the knowledgeable Charles Kightly explains the background to each of these new stories, the history and tradition that each site is steeped in. From sharp and pointed, to lyrical and whimsical, the creative and inspiring stories in These Our Monsters twisted in my mind. If you enjoy an original and wonderful blend of folklore, myth and legend, stop right here!
IS ANYONE'S LIFE . . . Beth shows that women really can have it all. Ruby lives life by her own rules. And then there's Lauren, living the dream. AS PERFECT AS IT LOOKS? Beth hasn't had sex in a year. Ruby feels like she's failing. Lauren's happiness is fake news. And it just takes one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out... The bold and brilliant new novel from Dawn O'Porter, the bestselling author of The Cows.
La Finca by Bea Green is a feelgood tale set in the idyllic countryside, the perfect antidote to the trials and tribulations of the real world as it is at the moment. It affords the reader wonderfully evocative glimpses of Andalusian life, making it a perfectly heart-warming chance to escape. The story chronicles four years in the life of Sebastian Ortez, a businessman from Madrid, who buys a derelict olive farm, Las Nevadas, near Ronda in Southern Spain and quickly discovers he's taken on more than he could ever have imagined, in both his work and private life. His passion for the restoration of the farmhouse and it's grounds to their former glory earns him the respect and friendship of all who come into contact with him and, in the end, also earns him the hand of the woman he loves. The book's fairly straightforward plot is engaging and well-written. The characters are relatable, each with their own foibles, flaws and strengths and, for the most part, are genuinely likeable, they really feel like people you might know. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was sorry to finish the last page, which is always the sign of a good read. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
I absolutely adored this very special, surprising and exquisitely written novel focusing on the period between the First and Second World Wars. In 1925 Selina Lomax regularly appears in the papers as she and her friends attend parties and live life to the full. When Selina meets struggling artist Lawrence Weston her life changes beyond all recognition. I entered ‘The Glittering Hour’ expecting the beautiful relationship tale that I found. However I also left having experienced so, so much more. Iona Grey has created sentences that caught and transported me with their stunning descriptions. The story slinks through time and space, effortlessly revealing links from the past that become present in the future. As I read, moments of understanding speared my awareness and left me reeling. I felt joy, tenderness, aching sadness, and I cried, really, really cried at the beauty in front of me. I wield my highly recommended stamp of approval all over The Glittering Hour, it really is the most wonderfully heartfelt and meaningful read, and so sits as a LoveReading star book.
This expansive, engaging pancontinental novel explores patriarchy, race and power against a dazzlingly evoked Ghanaian backdrop. The cross-crossing lives of two characters provide the focus of the story, with Ghana looming large as a vividly-evoked character in its own right. Fifty-something Carlos is a privileged Puerto Rican businessman who returns to Ghana to face his crimes of youth, a murderous misdemeanor that’s haunted his whole life. Liz is a Ghanaian native working in the US, from where she’s been supporting her family and building an orphanage. She returns to her homeland to oversee the construction, and finds herself also having to deal with her family’s complex needs. Both drawn back to Ghana, Liz and Carlos find their lives once again transformed by the country that transformed them so many years before, and by encountering each other. Evocative and smartly-plotted, this fine novel is as driven by its compelling characters as it is by the omnipresence of Ghana’s rich culture. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Alice had come halfway across the world to find that, yet again, she was considered wanting. Well, she thought, if that was what everyone thought, she might as well live up to it.' England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright - restless, stifled - makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind. But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure - or the escape - that she hoped for. That is, until she meets Margery O'Hare, a troublesome woman - and daughter of a notorious felon - the town wishes to forget. Margery's on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost - and she needs Alice's help. Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship - and a life to call their own. But when Baileyville turns against them, will their belief in one another - and the power of the written word - be enough to save them? Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
Told in narrator Newt’s distinctive phonetic English, this dark debut dazzles with originality and delivers a potent case for combatting inequality. Bearmouth is home to a grim mining business, where men and children labour under inhumane conditions to make their Master wealthy. They work under the earth, under the omniscient Mayker who - so workers are told - “sen us down into the dark Earf/To atone for the sins o our forefarvers an muvvers”. Naïve Newt hasn’t seen daylight in years, but takes pride in being taught to read and write by fatherly Thomas, blithely accepting this lot until the arrival of new boy Devlin. Devlin’s talk of “revolushun” makes Newt feel that things are “unravellin slowly slowly lyke a bootlayce comin all undun.” Life in Bearmouth is beyond bleak, but the sparks of Devlin’s revolutionary spirit catch light and drive Thomas to ask the Master for “more coinage” for the workers, to question why they must pay for essential clothes, to demand to know when the promised safety lamps are coming. Then when tragedy strikes, Newt too realises that things “ent bloody well ryte” and takes on Devlin’s insurgent tendencies, with explosive effects. Emotionally engaging, this searingly original novel about standing up to abuses of power and fighting for freedom is radiant with story-telling excellence.