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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.
Oooh, this is one heck of a feisty, dramatic, and addictive tale! On the anniversary of her husband’s death, Marianne stumbles across the dark web and an assassin’s hit list with her name on it. This is a seemingly simple premise, however an intricate plot, two time frames, and a sturdy cast of characters ensures a powerful read. I entered the dark web alongside Marianne as a complete novice, and found what awaited was utterly chilling. Holly Seddon has the ability to really bring a character to life, the words transfer from the page into feelings, thoughts, and actions. These are people who sit on the edge of right and wrong, which way will they topple? Some realisations sneaked into my head, while others arrived with a sledge hammer. The stakes are high, the tension increases and waits ready to trip you up until the ending hits. Provocative and stimulating, The Hit List is a wonderfully unexpected story that I can highly recommend.
Both charming (yes I know that is a strange word to describe a crime novel) and stimulating, look forward to the feel of a golden age mystery with a modern twist. The death of a 90 year old murder consultant to authors is investigated by DS Kaur and a diverse group of friends who turn amateur detectives. This is the second novel featuring DS Harbinger Kaur, however you could quite cheerfully step in here and read it as a standalone. Set in West Sussex (with a brief sojourn in Scotland), I can say with some glee that the book world takes centre stage. From literary festivals to publishing offices, if you love all things books then this is the crime mystery for you! Elly Griffiths takes the premise and runs with it, which made me clap my hands with delight. I adore the diversity and quirky nature of the characters, the somewhat gung-ho approach by the amateurs is highly entertaining. The Postscript Murders is a wonderfully readable crime novel to cosy up with and joins my Liz Picks of the Month.
Delivering a creepy premise, chilling atmosphere, and intricately built suspense, this is a satisfying psychological thriller. As a teenager twenty-five years ago Paul left town after a murder, and he heads home just as a copycat killer strikes. I completely fell for Alex North’s last book, The Whisper Man which held the most deliciously supernatural undertones and was a LoveReading Star Book. On the strength of that, The Shadow Friend jumped straight on to my list of reads I was looking forward to. Two time frames, ’now’ and ‘before’ ensure child and adulthood are very different places yet by the end of part one, the background and foreground have met and set the scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of foreboding, of waiting, of understanding edging into the corner of thoughts before disappearing again. There were several surprises to be discovered along the way and the tiptoeing tension and haunting dream sequences ensured I was desperate to find out what happened. The ending was very neat and rather nicely wraps everything up. The Shadow Friend is a twisty, intriguing, and rewarding tale and has been chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the month.
A shout from the rooftops type of book, and this is so special, I may be there for some time! Ava is at the peak of her ballet career and about to appear in the most challenging role of her life, but she’s just one small step away from falling from grace, and someone desperately wants her crown. I am always so careful to avoid spoilers, and also wary of stating if there are twists. With this novel though, I feel as though I can proclaim that it is most cleverly unexpected read, without spoiling it in any way! Erin Kelly takes us behind the scenes, to the effort and obsession, to the pain and glory, and sets the most thrilling and intoxicating plot. This novel builds in an intensity that I couldn’t have even imagined when I first opened the pages. It was only as I got further in that my thoughts began to stutter, and then went into free fall. I became absolutely transfixed. The plot is everything, so cunning and smart, yet the characters and descriptions are absolutely on point too. I know this will sit as one of my favourite reads of the year, and along with a standing ovation it also receives a LoveReading Star Book. Breathtaking, sharp, and wonderfully rewarding, Watch Her Fall is an absolute stunner and I proclaim it a must-read.
Meet eleven fabulous short stories by China’s number one science fiction writer. This is the first time they have been published in English, originally written between 1999 and 2017, a number of different translators have ensured that an exquisite reading feast awaits. Cixin Liu’s foreword ensured a few raised eyebrows and smiles on my part. It is absolutely fascinating to read these stories, that: “inevitably have a strong Chinese flavour, imbued with the culture, history, and present reality of China” as well as explore the universe beyond our understanding. These are stories that are set on an epic scale, yet focus on the intimate and essential meaning of being human. I particularly enjoyed The Village Teacher, a story that pivots on an apparently small, individually brave act. This would be the perfect introduction to science fiction for anyone who has not yet dipped a toe. For lovers of sci-fi, there is plenty here to fall into and enjoy. Hold Up The Sky is a cracking collection of stories that allows your mind to look within as well as well as travel into the unknown.
A simply gorgeous and emotional tale about love and all the different forms it can take. Jack and Clare have the chance to learn that leaving love behind can potentially allow it back into your heart. Just one thing to note, while this is a relationship tale, it comes with an edge so be prepared for some thought-provoking themes. The characters in A Thing Called Love make mistakes, find themselves on unexpected paths as thoughts alter and grow, and really put my feelings through the wringer! Jack, Clare, and Grace entered so fully into my heart that I truly cared about them, while certain other characters got so far into my head, that they evoked other strong feelings! I love how Nell Carter writes and she is on my list of favourite authors (under a different name). She has the ability to encourage feelings to falter, fall, and soar, all while writing with beautiful compassion. Plus she has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of what it is to be human. A Thing Called Love is a truly lovely novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend as a Liz Pick of the Month.
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
A really intelligent, intimate, and ultimately human story awaits in this fabulous crime novel. Within a few months, Rob is due for release from an open prison in Brixton, when he meets a woman while out on day release, he is determined to hide his background from her yet there are desperate secrets on both sides. This is such a beautifully written novel from Lottie Moggach, for a dark novel it is vibrant, almost visual in effect. It feels real, as though this could be happening somewhere close by, right now. There was an immediate sense of place when I started to read, the run of Brixton Hill from the prison to the charity shop where Rob works comes alive. I felt a palpable connection to the characters, even those just appearing for a few pages. The suspense is exquisitely handled, while the atmosphere of the prison keeps pace with the turmoil in Rob’s mind. As the story neared its conclusion the heightened tension pulsated from the page through to my fingertips. Brixton Hill is an absolute gem, and is both a Liz Pick of the Month and Star Book too. Loved it, I really really loved it.
An absolute monster of a fabulous read! I smirked and chuckled my way through this thoroughly entertaining and smart comedic crime novel. It’s charity ball season in Palm Beach, when a prominent high-society member of the POTUSSIES (a group of women who support the President) goes missing, the President declares it was the fault of immigrant hordes. However, wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong has just been tasked to deal with an influx of huge pythons, so the President might just be talking out of his behind. By the way, I am a titchy bit scared of snakes, but this didn’t affect my reading of this novel in any way. The President’s name is never mentioned, but Carl Hiaasen brilliantly lampoons the President that came between Obama and Biden, and I actually snorted with laughter on a number of occasions. I first read Carl Hiaasen’s novels for young adults, including Skink No Surrender but this is my first of his novels for adults. If you’re already a fan then you might just bump into a much loved character in Squeeze Me. This is a book that you can just throw yourself into and trust in the talent of the author. He isn’t just funny, the humour is pointed and makes a point. Squeeze Me is so irreverent, stimulating, and gorgeously readable, I already know that it will be one of my books of the year. Chosen as a Liz Pick and a Star Book, in the middle of dark times this is just what we needed, unless of course you are a fan of a certain someone!
Smart and smirky as heck, this is a furiously wonderful wow of a crime caper that will no doubt be sitting on my list of favourite books of the year. Ramesh has set himself up with a business sitting exams for the kids of India’s middle classes, it all goes spectacularly wrong when he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country. The opening slapped my attention, in fact from the first sentence I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be! This is Rahul Raina’s debut, and he has created the most extraordinary voice in Ramesh. Ramesh tells his own story, words spill from him in a torrent that feels so incredibly authentic even as my eyebrows reached for the stars. The words ganged together to create the most exhilarating story. The plot alternately sang or punched me in the guts, just when I felt comfortable, bang, my thoughts were swinging in free fall again. There is a political commentary to be found among the whirlwind wit and satire, however it certainly doesn’t preach, it just lays it out you to view, and then consider. How to Kidnap the Rich is a hugely entertaining wild ride, so good it had to be a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book.
A dramatic and enthralling relationship tale that captures emotion and takes you on a journey through the Second World War. When Sara and her parents flee their homeland taking refuge in the French Alps, the full impact of the Nazi oppression edges ever closer. Inspired by her visit to a small museum in the Lower Alps Carol Drinkwater has created the most captivating story of young love, and the courage needed to face the most devastating of times. She has the ability to focus on the things that make us human, to create a link that alters the focus from watching, to actually feeling the events that take place. A balance is created between the intimate moments of relationships and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during the horror of war. This is ultimately as much a story about Sara’s own relationship with, and understanding of herself as it is with the man she falls in love with. The ending came with beautiful words and tears welling up in my eyes, I just had to include this as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. An Act of Love will encourage emotions to dip and soar as it gives hope even in the darkness.
Thought-provoking, inspiring, and inclusive, this is a wonderful blend of nature and an examination of language, community and friendship. Journalist and writer Anita Sethi decided to hike the ‘backbone of Britain’ The Pennines after she was the victim of a vicious race-hate crime. Born in Manchester and holding a particular love for the natural world around us, in I Belong Here she reclaims her sense of belonging while being open and giving of herself and her thoughts. She walks through the land, often by herself, and explores her experiences and love for nature. Words dance in her hands, she shows how much language matters, looking at the various meanings of words, particularly with regards to nature and emotions, stating: “language can imprison or liberate”. She is so beautifully eloquent. I’ve always had a deep connection to the countryside, yet Anita’s words encouraged me to look again, to not just see the face of our natural surroundings but to look in more depth at our natural history and how it exists and connects us. And, that resonates deeply with her thoughts on the colour of skin: “it is exhausting to be pigeon-holed, people not seeing beyond skin colour”. While at times this is a challenging read as she experiences anger and despair, there is an awful lot of love to be found as she welcomes her surroundings and the people she meets along the way. Ultimately I felt a connection with Anita as she held out a hand and invited me to explore thoughts, feelings and nature alongside her. A LoveReading Star Book, I Belong Here is a truly beautiful and important read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
An evocative and satisfyingly engaging read focusing on family, friendship, and hope. Ellie knows she needs to step beyond the sanctuary offered by her home and garden, but she hasn’t left it for over two years. Sitting alongside the main story in 2018, we also visit Romanian state orphanages with journalist Harriet in 1990 and the two stories begin to merge. I so love Catherine Isaac’s writing, she has the gift of transporting you both in heart and mind. She encourages a connection to her characters, and makes them relatable, even when exploring darkness. This is as much about Ellie’s relationship with herself as it is with others. The story explores trauma in an open yet balanced way and encourages thoughts to expand. I similarly adored Messy, Wonderful Us which journeys to Italy and I described as both heart warming and achy. The World at my Feet just has so much heart, it really is a lovely read and joins my Liz Picks of the Month.
Quite simply a wow of a book, it’s almost too difficult to describe as I’m wary of spoilers. This story involves murder, abduction, and revenge, and yet, and yet, that is just a part of what lies before you in this beautifully written and startling read. The first few pages made me sit up with all my senses on full alert, Ted narrates, with his thoughts and feelings tumbling out, and I reread the first chapter to fully settle into the unique writing style. Catriona Ward’s ghostly and beautiful Rawblood was one of our debuts of the month back in 2015, it’s fabulous but I feel she has gone several steps further with Needless Street. You’ll enter heartbreak territory, but also find an enthralling and truly worthwhile read. Her exquisite writing almost hurts with where it takes you. She breaks down barriers to thought and throws open the door to exploration. The press reviews are fabulous, from Joanne Harris to Stephen King. Just one piece of advice, no matter how tempted, don’t read the Afterword until you’ve finished. With twisted poignancy The Last House on Needless Street squeezes, taunts, and heightens emotions. This is a book that will stay with me, tucked in my heart and soul, and of course it just had to be a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
What do you get if you mix romance, bats in the attic, and a library, you get the most comforting warm embrace of a read, that’s what. When Jess starts a new life she discovers her cottage comes with the addition of a telephone box that has to be used for the community. What would a former librarian do, turn it into a little library of course. Jess needs a helping hand in the confidence department, and her willingness to lend her hand and get involved means she has a lot of support. I just couldn’t resist this one, the title and cover called out to me, and I settled down with a smile. Poppy Alexander has created a perfect escape, with an idyllic village, intruiging neighbours, and several relationships to ooh and aah over. While romance most definitely features, friendship lies at the heart of this novel, with community spirit to the fore. The Littlest Library is a wonderfully easy and soothing read and I’ve chosen it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
A whammy of a read that fires intense shots of action into a slow burn investigation of a cult. Colter Shaw goes undercover to check out the Foundation, a community with a charismatic leader and a seemingly dark purpose. I adored The Never Game, which is the first in the Colter Shaw Thrillers, this continues the series in fine style. Shaw is a resourceful professional reward seeker with a heart and a conscience, he is easy to like and believe in. Jeffery Deaver’s writing style ensures suspense overlays proceedings and that the tension ramps up as you read. He purposefully leaves information out, and then allows understanding to explode into your awareness, so expect surprises along the way. This cult feels all too believable, and the research behind the story is clearly felt. The Goodbye Man is a fabulous burst of escapism, it comes served with combat and empathy, a mix that ensures it a place as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
A rewarding and eloquent book that focuses on our connection with nature and how it can bring us back to ourselves, to become more grounded and aware of the world around us. Dr Ruth Allen is a psychotherapist, writer, speaker, and adventurer. She is very aware that we don’t all have equal access to nature, yet she shows that access is possible and encourages us to forge relationships with our natural environment. She has: “suggestions, tools, approaches and inklings” and I found an accessible, satisfying read that really spoke to me. She introduces her own story with nature, followed with a guide on how to use the book, stating: “You don’t have to be wealthy, athletic, ‘outdoorsy’, from an adventurous family or of any particular age demographic, gender, ethnicity, nationality or sexuality: the words over the following pages are for all of you.” Beautiful photos accompany her guidance, suggestions, and activities. I feel that this is a book you can take your time with, dip in and out of, or just get on and do, be, and find what strikes a chord with you. Balanced and wise, Grounded helps us to explore our relationship with nature, and I’m pleased to recommend it as a Liz 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.