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Liz Robinson has been an Editorial Expert writing reviews for LoveReading since February 2014. At LoveReading we only recommend books we love, and each month Liz now has the tricky task of choosing a small selection that really caught her eye. All are highly recommended and come with Liz's seal of approval.
With a stabbing intensity and glowering atmosphere this is a crime novel with huge attitude. As it becomes apparent that the police have missed connecting a number of violent and brutal crimes against women, an officer on the edge begins to link the offences. This is the second in the Axel Steen Series by Jesper Stein but my first, and I was more than happy jumping straight in, so like me you can start here. Also like me, you then may well want to hunt down a copy of Unrest! Translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, the social and everyday differences of Denmark are still wonderfully tangy and sharp. The prologue sets the scene in Copenhagen 2004, blunt and dark I flinched as Axel Steen stamped his way into my mind. I was well and truly hooked, and set everything aside while I read. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like Axel, but as a cop in a novel, I loved him! The word gritty is often scattered through reviews for crime novels, but gritty is absolutely appropriate here and comes with extra emphasis. Die for Me is a wonderful addition for the list of any Scandi noir fans, and I say: it’s a Liz Pick of the Month for me, bring on the third in the series!
A fascinating and provocative read documenting the author’s experience as a remanded prisoner at the largest female prison in the UK, HMP Bronzefield. It hovers between a memoir of her time within and beyond the prison system, her thoughts and feelings about the failures in the system, and her documenting facts and figures regarding research, education and rehabilitation. Just to note, Sophie has independently published this book, this really is her book, her words, her viewpoint, and therefore is all the more powerful. The author’s note states that some names, identifying details and order of events have been changed to protect privacy, plus: “This is a work of creative non-fiction. The events are portrayed to the best of the author’s memory.” Personally, I would have liked to know a little more about Sophie before we entered the prison. It feels as though she has taken a necessary step outside of herself in her recounting of events within the prison walls. Towards the end when we see what happens after Bronzefield, I feel her voice really fills the pages with passion and feeling. This isn’t a memoir filled with atonement and regret, rather real frustration at a system that she clearly feels needs reform. Most women leave prison homeless and only 8% enter the workforce. There is a lot to take on board, the major thing that I have come away with, is that a one size fits all attempt at rehabilitation just doesn’t work. Demanding, confrontational, and eye-opening, Breakfast at Bronzefield is one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
A scorching, provocative, heady hit of a read, that also feels refreshingly unique. The setting is Australia, three girls disappear and years later Tikka looks back at what happened and how the events have affected her life. Felicity McLean sets two time frames in motion, but the story doesn’t flow in a straight line, words meander, get caught in an eddy before rushing onwards again. It took me a few pages to settle into the writing, and that is just because it is so wonderfully and distinctively different. Tikka’s voice is compelling, her childhood evokes bright vivid colour and touchable vibrant feelings which all spill from the page. She didn’t just visit my thoughts, but set up home too. As I read, punches of realisation landed with precision, opening my eyes, making me consider. The Van Apfel Girls are Gone really is the most special debut, it is dark, atmospheric and tragic, yet bright, engaging and satisfying too. Also chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, this Debut of the Month is one that I can highly recommend.
Prepare yourself for an emotional read… full of deep abiding love and hope, there are also parts of this book that caused an intensely physical ache long after I’d finished reading. I don’t want to give too much away, I want you to be able to enter as I did, and experience all that is on offer. So, let me just say that Max and Pip have to make an impossible decision, one that will affect them forever more. The prologue sets the scene perfectly, and I felt a fellow sharp intake of breath at the last sentence before moving to chapter one. This is one of those books where I didn’t make many notes as I read, I was completely caught up in the story. Each character is perfectly placed, their emotions reaching out from the page to touch my heart and soul. There are times when right and wrong do not exist in a clear, comprehensive format and this book successfully shreds presupposition into tiny confetti-like pieces. After I had finished reading, the note at the end by Clare Mackintosh sent goosebumps skittering down my arms. After the End is powerful, provocative, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this extraordinarily beautiful read. I have chosen it as one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading star book.
Oh what a lovely summery ray of sunshine this book is, it made me smile from ear to ear! Robyn and Jake are planning a wedding at the beach hut, but secrets are lurking in the background, ready to cause a little turbulence along the way. Veronica Henry really does excel in creating hugely entertaining, captivating and uplifting reads. She has the wonderful ability to cross generations and time frames with her characters and storylines. The characters, from the leads to those who hover in the background, are beautifully well-rounded, and I loved discovering the inner tales contained within the main story. The smallest of details succeed in making this a vibrant and sparkling read. I could picture the setting so vividly I’m still hankering after Everdene, I want to traverse the dunes and wander down to the beach huts! I’ve chosen A Wedding at the Beach Hut as one of my Liz Picks of the month because it really is the most delightful hit of escapism, I adored it!
This new story in the Jackson Lamb Thriller Series of awkward back room spies, just fills my slightly warped little heart with joy. Slough House is full of exiled spooks, led by the indomitable Jackson Lamb who somehow manages to keep the slow horses moving. Here, the team are hunting down a man who could just break them. One particular sentence had me snorting, and reading it out to a friend, who also snorted. But, if I told each of my friends in order, about every clever sentence I came across in Joe Country, I would probably run out of friends to be able to tell. This is a series that makes me shout with laughter, cringe as things go from slightly to spectacularly wrong, and wince as the barbs shoot home. Mick Herron started with Slow Horses, and each book has been as skilfully written as the first, earning him amongst other accolades two Crime Writers’ Association Daggers. Joe Country is the the sixth in the series, it’s amusing with cracking writing and a storyline that kept me wide-eyed until the early hours. Loved, loved, absolutely loved it, and I’ve chosen Joe Country as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
A thoughtful, emotionally challenging yet beautifully readable novel. Naomi Cottle is a talented investigator and finder of missing children, here she searches for her own sister who has been missing since they were both children. Rene Denfeld is a must-read author for me. Her debut The Enchanted (one of our Books of the Year in 2014) is still lodged in my heart and my mind, and a book I often recommend. This is the second in the Naomi Cottle series, however can easily be read as a standalone. I personally though, would make the obvious decision of starting with The Child Finder. Rene Denfeld’s working experience means that she has a knowledge of horrific crime that the majority of people won’t ever, and shouldn’t ever know. She champions the hidden, the shunned, and makes them human and relatable. Celia, the 12 year old street child, really did creep into my heart, and the social aspects of the novel hit home hard. The dramatic feeling of tension that Rene Denfeld created, remained throughout, and I really had no idea as to how this novel would end. The Butterfly Girl prods and provokes, yet is wonderfully descriptive and eloquently written and I just had to choose this as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
A thoroughly entertaining, fast-moving and smirky crime caper. When Daniella arrives in Spain for her estranged mother’s funeral, she finds herself in the middle of a property scam, things soon get rather… complicated. The storyline has the feel of an old black and white crime comedy film, but this is bang up to date and in spectacular colour. The chapter titles act as a heads up and several times Morgan Cry tells you what is to come, which just ratchets up the tension. Words jabbed at my awareness, the characters are larger than life, and even when being vile, have the potential to be somewhat loveable. The police transcripts that are scattered through the book are extremely diverting and left me smiling. I read this in one sitting, and the ending arrived with a blast. I would describe Thirty-One Bones as a crime-laden romp, it is pure escapism, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ve included it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
A hard-hitting, fast-moving slicing wow of a book. An old case is reopened when new evidence appears, and a violent predator hunts his next victim. It’s no secret that I get jump-up-and-down excited about Karin Slaughter’s novels. She has the most wonderful ability to pitch full-on sharp storytelling and blasts of drama alongside thoughtfully handled social issues and relationship dilemmas. This could easily be read as a standalone, however there are two series that link to this novel, Will Trent and Grant County. Both series are just too good to miss, and I highly recommend them. For those who have read both sets, in this particular book time slides along a different path in order to make two time frames work. The author’s note perfectly explains why at the end, but (big but), make sure you don’t read the author’s note until you have read every last drop of the novel! Will Trent and Sara Linton work with the rest of the team, while the past runs alongside and does some seriously meddling. Please note there are some fairly graphic descriptions of medical examinations and brutal attacks within the novel. Karin Slaughter doesn’t shy away from highlighting a distressing subject matter, which she mentions in her notes and the last part of her acknowledgments. While graphic, it is not gratuitous, and I felt every word that made me wince was necessary. The Silent Wife is another winner of a read, it sent goosebumps skittering down my arms and this, her twentieth novel, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Pick.
Oh, this is almost too gorgeous for words, thoughtful and full of emotion, it’s a simply wonderful story that connected to my heart and soul. Cate Morris has no option other than to leave everything she knows and move to Hatters with her son Leo, will they be welcomed with open arms? Anstey Harris writes with beautiful eloquence, her debut novel The Truths of Triumphs of Grace Atherton was one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, Where we Belong is too. I was completely charmed by the first sentence, settled in with joy and then the end of chapter one caused me to take a deep breath. This is emotionally intelligent writing and perfectly timed reveals of information lay in wait. Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World is just lovely, do I want to go there? Yes I most certainly do, so was captivated to learn that it is based on a real location. Where We Belong bewitched me with its secrets and beauty, Anstey Harris really is the most wonderful storyteller and I salute her.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.
A super read! This is a sneak past your guard and send you reeling type of book. It’s fast-moving, yet is intimate and fully connected with my feelings. I completely forgot I was meant to be reviewing and just read! An armed siege takes place in a cafe in London, the story weaves between the gunman, captives, and police officers creating the most intense and readable storyline. The introduction to the characters immediately captured my interest, each of the chapters are headed by one of the characters, allowing the creation of smaller stories within the main tale. Each person is memorable, fully developed, and created their own place in my thoughts. Charity Norman is on my list of favourite authors, she has the most wonderful ability to look beyond the obvious and really make me think, while at the same time telling a vivid, emotional, and hugely entertaining story. The ending held immense impact, and really tugged at my heartstrings. Not only a book of the month, but a LoveReading star book, and a Liz Robinson pick of the month too. The Secrets of Strangers is a clever, eloquent, and dramatic story, it comes as highly recommended (with extra emphasis) by me. Check out our Putting Authors in the Picture piece for May!
A dramatic and powerful thriller that drills into the heart of what it means to be a family. When her young son Sebastian was taken Marin fell apart, a year later she discovers her husband is having an affair and she vows that she won’t lose him too. The first chapter left my heart in my mouth, feelings blasted from the page and lodged in my mind. The characters are colourfully vibrant, yet also feel so incredibly real. Jennifer Hillier excels in laying out the entirety of a person, she unlocks the facade and lets us in. No judgement takes place within the novel, I was allowed to view, empathise, and examine my own feelings. This was a read-in-one-sitting book for me, I squirmed, I flinched, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Once you’ve finished this I can also thoroughly recommend her Jar of Hearts as another wonderful page-turner, both have been included as LoveReading Star Books. Full to over-flowing with suspense, heart and emotion, Little Secrets is a provocative and compelling read.
So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moment's doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, Of Ants and Dinosaurs just has to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book, I simply adored it.
Clever, sharp, and yet wonderfully poignant, this is a hugely entertaining multi-generational family drama. After hiring highly recommended carer Mandy for their father James, Phoebe and her brother Robert begin to wonder if all is as rosy as they first thought. Deborah Moggach excels in opening a window to all generations, there is a feeling of truth to her descriptions. With a different character heading each chapter, I soon felt as though I was diving deep into their thoughts. An ongoing rivalry for their father’s attention has kept Phoebe and Robert company through into middle age. All aspects of their personality spilled out onto the page, from selfish to thoughtful, fractious to charming, and so while not necessarily always likeable, it felt as though they were in the room with me. There are a few surprises in store, you know when you’re cringing and wincing, but can’t stop reading and almost want to peek at the pages between your fingers? That’s exactly what happened to me here! Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, and one of our LoveReading Star Books, The Carer is a vivid, colourful, smirky, yet penetrating and compelling read. Loved it!
Chock-a-block with chills, this supernatural thriller also beautifully evokes teenage feelings of uncertainty and how they travel with us into adulthood. Theatre usher Chloe witnesses the iconic musical Dust returning to the stage after 20 years, the very stage said to be haunted by the leading actress who was murdered in her dressing room. It feels as though this book, which crosses genres so successfully, could only have been written by Louise Beech. Her ability to delve into the deepest of emotions and describe them so they land with acute precision in your own thoughts, is handfasted with her knowledge of the theatre. The past collides with the present and boy does the tension increase with each time switch. I felt as though I was a teenager again, and with all the buckets full of feelings that Chloe has to manage, I could have gathered her into the hugest hug. While this is spooky as heck, it is also hugely considerate of emotional heartache and distress. Compelling, original, and unmistakably Louise Beech, I Am Dust glides onto my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
A twisty, intriguing, multi-layered mystery and fascinating fictional foray into the past from award-winning author Andrew Taylor. It’s 1668, James Marwood is tasked with finding out why Oliver Cromwell’s son has returned to London while Cat Lovett is drawn into a conspiracy, and both are soon in grave danger. This is the fourth in a terrifically readable series which began with the Ashes of London. I have to say that I just throw myself into each of these reads with abandon, completely trusting that what is to come will be a vividly convincing and exciting read. What a fabulous period in history this is, James and Cat really do live in interesting times! I love how each individual story twists around the other until they join together, I do hope we will see more from these two. I’ve chosen The Last Protector as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, I can highly recommend this series, it’s just fabulous!
Diving through history and soaring across borders this truly fascinating book about birds was winner of the readers’ vote in Poland’s most prestigious literary prize, the Nike Award. Author Stanislaw Lubienski first began to observe birds as a child, he explores how people and art (stories, paintings, music, and dance) interact with birds. While he has always lived in and around his home town of Szczesliwice, his love for birds has taken him in person and in his thoughts around the world and back in time. I picked up my love for birds through my father, at home as a child we looked after some blind pheasants he had rescued, once he even nursed a particularly ill-tempered seagull back to health. So, I smiled at the story of James Bond, winced in sympathy as I heard how the photo of the eagle owl was taken, and my heart ached at the Last of the Curlews. A little bit different and a lot lovely, The Birds they Sang has crept into my heart to become a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
Liz Robinson has been an Editorial Expert writing reviews for LoveReading since February 2014. Reading has always played a huge part in her life and she can quite happily chat books all day. Liz previously spent twenty years working as a member of police support staff, including roles as Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Briefing Officer and Crime Reduction Advisor. She relishes her time spent exploring all genres, and particularly enjoys novels that encourage her emotions to run riot, or fling her back in time or to unknown places, Liz is also thrilled when broadsided by an unexpected twist. Liz was delighted to have been asked to be a judge for the Romantic Novelists' Association Goldsboro Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2018, the LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2019, and the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2019. She would describe herself as a reader, a lover of all things books, and can be found on twitter as @LRLizRobinson.