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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.
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.
An absolute belter of a read and another fabulous addition to the Jackdaw Mysteries series. It’s 1593, Nicholas is recruited by the Queen’s spymaster to travel to Marrakech, while Bianca has to deal with the plague knocking at her door. What a fabulous series this has shaped up to be, start with The Angel’s Mark and follow with The Serpent’s Mark before reading this, to get the full benefit of the tale so far. I just gobbled up the pages as the story fairly roars along battling spies and pirates on route. Marrakech is absolutely fascinating, the descriptions of the plague made me shiver, and the relationship between Nicholas and Bianca edges ever closer. S. W. Perry ensures the sights, smells and sounds of London and Morocco entered my very being. I love this series, it is so, so readable, and I have chosen The Saracen’s Mark as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month.
A twisty, intruiging, 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.
Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick 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.
Edgy, gutsy, and so so readable, gosh how I love this series. Black River is the third book after Will Dean’s hugely successful debut Dark Pines and follow up Red Snow. Reporter Tuva Moodyson is back, full of spiky attitude and fortitude, which she will need in bucketfuls after her best friend Tammy goes missing. Tuva just has to be on my list of favourite characters, she yells out to me to join her when I see her book waiting! This is Scandi-noir with a twist, the twist comes with essence of wild and remote and heaps of unusual characters. Will Dean’s descriptions plunged me into Gavrik at Midsommar, adding a somewhat fevered dimension to the plot. The occasional little explanations for those of us who don’t live in Sweden were really helpful. Black River is a dream of a read for me, assured and bold it certainly kept me on my toes, and went straight onto my list for Liz Robinson picks of the month. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
A thoughtfully intricate and fascinating novel which tells two stories in a most unusual way. Yoel Blum, grandfather and famous Israeli author, travels to Amsterdam and finds that everything he thought he knew about himself has been turned on its head. Setting forth into the history of his family and the Jewish community within Amsterdam during World War Two, Yoel Blum begins to understand himself and his relationships. This isn't a loud or boisterous tale, yet the clarity is piercing. The detail of the underground networks hiding Jewish children in the Second World War is full of impact. Emuna Elon has the most beautiful way with words, her descriptions took me by the hand and led me into their very midst. There are no speech marks or indications of changing time frames, however I never felt out of place. The translation from Hebrew has been completed with great skill by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, this is a novel to read slowly, to experience, to become a part of. House on Endless Waters is a beautifully eloquent family mystery highlighting human tragedy and resilience.
Inspiring, gorgeous, powerful. The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a beautifully written story brimming with guts and determination. When Fred meets Chrissie in 1927 a love flickers into being, the memory of their time together remains with them through the challenging years ahead. This may be described as a love story between two people, it is also a love story about St Kilda, Scotland’s first World Heritage Site. Elisabeth Gifford has used fictional characters in a real setting, with the abandonment of St Kilda and the Second World War adding an incredibly vivid framework to the story. Taking place over forty years, the novel actually starts in 1940 with Fred as a prisoner of war, plotting escape. From here we move backwards and forwards in time, in such a way that the words continued to flow into my awareness and created an intricate patchwork of knowledge and understanding. This love feels real, there is an inner core of strength, hope, and resilience on offer that really spoke to me. I rather fell in love with The Lost Lights of St Kilda, it joins my Liz Robinson picks of the month and comes as highly recommended by me.
Both heart warming and achy, how gorgeously unpredictable and wonderful is this! Secrets spill and emotions spin when best friends Alice and Ed fly to Italy to find out the truth about her mother. I think I stepped into this novel expecting a relationship story, I also found a beautifully balanced and convincing tale of family mystery and intrigue. Catherine Isaac gradually completed the intricate jigsaw surrounding Alice and Ed, ensuring my attention was well and truly snared while also allowing me to enjoy the gentle unravelling of the story. Italy unveils its charm as another tale travels alongside Alice and Ed’s journey, revealing hidden thoughts and feelings. I love it when I read a book and have absolutely no idea where the ending is going to take me. I ranged from apprehensive to enchanted and inspired, while an overall feeling of hope kept me company throughout. I absolutely adored the unexpected and delightful Messy, Wonderful Us and so was compelled to choose it as a Liz Robinson pick of the month.
Just that little bit different (in fact strikingly different), Mexico Street challenges preconceptions and society issues, ensuring a full-on fabulous read. German public prosecutor Chastity is back, this time investigating a series of arson attacks that lead to the death of a man linked to criminal gangs. One thing to note straightaway is that I really feel you do need to have read the others in the Chastity Riley series to fully enjoy this one, otherwise too much would be unexplained and you would have to sprint like heck to keep up. Start with Blue Night, followed by Beton Rouge, both equally readable and also translated with surety by Rachel Ward. As usual Simone Buchholz snared my attention from the get-go. The words stormed my senses, falling like a sword and I found myself on full alert. Short, sharp, shocks of chapters hit, with the chapter headings almost creating their own story. Mexico Street, full of sparks and quirks, is 227 pages of wonderful. Adding to the series beautifully, I just had to include it as one of my Liz picks of the month.
You really couldn’t pack any more action into this captivating and thoroughly entertaining novel. I’ve been in on the Orphan X series from the beginning and it’s a must-read series for me. Evan Smoak, former government assassin codenamed Orphan X, now known as the Nowhere Man, takes on one last mission. This is the fifth book in what has been an outstanding series so far, will it be the last? As usual, the first chapter hits hard and keeps running, I was on high alert throughout and in the back of my mind I was wondering just how it was all going to end. There are some lovely light notes in the form of Dog, and the interaction with Joey adds some zing. The plot keeps expanding, and I was almost out of breath trying to keep up with Evan. Into The Fire by Gregg Hurwitz is just as enthrallingly readable as the rest of the series has been, earning it one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
A scaldingly intimate, powerful, and actually rather beautiful autobiography where the author reflects on her relationships and love. Lucy Fry is a journalist and currently training to be a psychotherapist, here she tells her story which includes her mental health, polyamorous relationship, and parenthood. It is pointed out that the truth is always someone’s story, but this just feels so incredibly heartfelt and rawly honest. It is as though she has reached inside herself, split open and poured out her innermost feelings and thoughts; and yet the way she writes ensured that I didn’t ever, ever feel as though I was intruding. She examines the hidden, concealed, and mysterious side of love, and as I read, I thought… of course, I see, yes! Easier Ways to Say I Love You is unflinching and intense, yet incredibly thoughtful and warm, it touched my heart, and opened my mind, in fact, I rather fell in love with this book.
In what is promising to be an assured series, Deadland sits as a gripping, fabulous read in its own right. Two 17 year old lads end up in a whole heap of trouble when they steal a mobile phone, meanwhile DS Alexandra Cupidi returns to investigate a severed limb, but without the rest of the body is there actually a murder to investigate? The first in this DS Alexandra Cupidi Investigation series by William Shaw is Salt Lane, with the standalone The Birdwatcher taking place before, but also linking to the series. So there are a couple of recommended stops to make before potentially embarking on Deadland. I just slipped straight into the storyline, I immediately felt at home, there was a fresh feeling of reality and I didn’t question, just read. DS Cupidi is a really strong lead, the relationship with her daughter adding a contrasting note of tension. There is a wonderful balance between the investigations taking place, and the story of Benjamin and Joseph, the links starting to tighten as the story progresses. Dungeness thrusts itself into the story, the social aspects substantial and compelling. Deadland is an absolutely fascinating read, one that I highly recommend and I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
Intelligent and thrilling with a fierce bite attached, this is a highly recommended read. As DI Zigic and DS Ferreira investigate the murder of a doctor from an all-female detention centre, a violent criminal is released on a technicality, he has a grudge against police, and they know he will strike again. Entering an established series out of sync can be bewildering, so it something I don’t often enjoy doing. This though, can most definitely be read as a standalone novel, and of course, I now want to go back and read the rest of the Zigic and Ferreira series! Within a few pages, I was not only invested in the characters, I felt as though I knew them. I thoroughly enjoyed being alongside the team as they worked. Eva Dolan faces society issues and problems head-on and this feels incredibly readable while also being whip-smart. Between Two Evils is an eloquent and gripping read with assured attitude, winning it one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fisherman, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too.
This high-octane, smart, whip-sharp novel is one heck of a reality and fantasy clash. It perhaps shouldn’t work, but it does, it really really does and has popped itself on my list of favourite reads. Meet Vern, he is currently hiding out in a Louisiana swamp, he doesn’t trust anyone, loves his vodka, has a thing for Flashdance, oh, and he’s a dragon. Having lived a few thousand years he really doesn’t need the escalating feud between Squib Moreau and crooked Officer Hooke to spoil his peace and quiet. This is the first novel for adults from the bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series, Eoin Colfer. I feel as though Highfire has been waiting for me, to welcome it to my bookshelves. The balance between the different genres is beautifully done. Different emotions skittered through me as I read, there’s violence aplenty, and some wicked smirks waiting to be found too. Highly entertaining and exciting, Highfire is my kind of book, in fact if you could marry books, I’d be Mrs Highfire in no time!
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.