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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.
A blistering, deep and provocative novel containing moments of heartbreaking emotion and poignant humour. Fran leaves the city and returns to her childhood home in Australia to take care of her Dad. Memories rush back in, but then a devastating bush fire takes hold. The plot and location are as different as different can be when compared to her previous book Worst Case Scenario (a LoveReading Star Book), however I could still feel the distinctive style of Helen FitzGerald. She could plonk her next story on Mars and I would be desperate to read it, this is a writer that as a reader, I would follow anywhere. I just want to mention the stunning cover while I’m here, you’ll find out about it after you’ve finished reading the book, just take a good look before you start. The first chapter hits hard, straight into the middle of chaos, the impact was huge. Set over ten days, we travel with Fran as she returns to Ash Mountain, then back and forwards in time, dropping into her memories before marching on towards the fire. The intimacy of Fran’s life and searing shock of the fire made me shiver and flinch. This is 211 pages of truly fabulous writing, and an all-consuming read. Ash Mountain buffeted my thoughts and smashed my emotions, but oh my, it will be a book I will never forget. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book, I really can’t praise it highly enough.
A smart, thoughtful, intriguing crime novel. DI Helen Birch starts to dig into what should be a simple case, but finds far more than she bargained for. I absolutely adore this series, for me it contains one of the more realistic characters in the modern book world of policing. The first novel in the series All The Hidden Truths, was shortlisted for the 2019 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and won the McIlvanney Debut Prize. Here we are at the third book in, and see DI Helen Birch in all her glory, flaws and all, but she doesn’t become a caricature, when I’m reading, she exists. Edinburgh sings, and the investigation sits nicely alongside Helen’s personal life, with certain parts crowding and affecting her thoughts. Claire Askew gets inside the small things, makes them count, she also handles the more difficult subjects contained here with compassion and empathy. The ending is a corker, and slides nicely into place. Cover Your Tracks continues a great crime series, and it’s one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
A remarkable, fascinating, and harrowing insight into the leaders of a doomed network of antifascists based in Germany during the Second World War. Although written in the present tense this is not a fictional account. Norman Ohler has combined his: “skills as a storyteller with the responsibility of the historian” to create this powerful book which has been translated by Tim Mohr and Marshall Yarbrough. There is a Memorial to the German Resistance in Berlin, with a room housing information found over decades of research by a descendent of one of the group; it is full of letters, photos, files, diaries, and interrogation transcripts which have been used here. In the summer of 1935 Harro Schulze-Boyson and Libertas Haas-Heye met, they went on to lead a resistance group and a jigsaw of their backgrounds, history, beliefs, and what made them so willing to put their lives at risk, begins to piece together. The photos added even more of an emotional connection, I found myself drawn in, trying to see into the minds of this remarkable pair. I want to thank Norman Ohler, The Infiltrators is an important burning slice of history that must never be forgotten. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, all I can say is that I truly believe you should read this book.
This Liz Pick of the Month, is a thrilling yet thoughtful, highly charged read. Criminal psychologist Cyrus delves into the past of Evie, who was found hiding in a secret room after a murder six years ago. It’s the last thing Evie wants, as if Cyrus discovers the truth, death will soon start to hunt her down. This book follows on from Good Girl, Bad Girl (a particular favourite of mine), and boy is it shaping up to be an absolute belter of a series. If you haven’t yet read the first, you most definitely need to before starting here, as the development of the relationship between Cyrus and Evie is crucial. They both tell us their own stories in alternating short punchy chapters. This is a read where I was head down and totally absorbed. Evie as per the previous book, drew me in and I was desperate (like Cyrus) to find out what had happened to her. Michael Robotham deals with the crimes that are uncovered with consideration and compassion, yet we are left in no doubt as to their nature. I was on high alert throughout and the ending struck with an unexpected blow. When She Was Good comes out swinging after the fabulous first book in the series, and I can highly recommend it (just make sure you read Good Girl, Bad Girl first).
An absolutely fascinating and all-consuming read. Step into the past, and look to our future. Ross Barnett shows us some of the mammals that used to call Britain home but have since disappeared from our landscape. He features ten species that are extinct in the UK (and sometimes world), from the Sabretooth Cat, to Grey Wolves. He also discusses whether we could see some of these animals returning. I really enjoyed the tone set by the author. He is a palaeontologist with a PhD in Zoology and specialises in “seeking, analysing and interpreting ancient DNA”. Do take a look at the author section, he clearly knows his stuff, and discusses his thoughts with a straightforward, engaging, and often humorous way. He set my awareness buzzing by stating that we (humans) are usually the reason for extinction, “we can never appreciate what we are losing, even as we are losing it”, “lifespans are so short in comparison to the timescale of the effects that humans have”. Sobering indeed, yet this isn’t an exploration of doom and gloom. It is instead, a celebration of these animals, and an enticing look at what we could have. Backing his thoughts are case studies, beautiful photos, pictures, poetry, and quotations. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month, The Missing Lynx is a really special book I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views. Mma Ramotswe is troubled by a strange smell in her van, her new neighbour causes concern, and a distant cousin asks for help. Can you believe that we are now at book twenty-one in this evocative series which began with The No:1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998? Do you have a favourite, I think this could well be mine…though as with all good series that create a world for you to inhabit, the latest usually becomes your most treasured! There is a graceful ease to the words of Alexander McCall Smith, he is so gently yet evocatively descriptive and as soon as I started to read a sense of ease enveloped me. The pace slows, the small things matter, and Mma Ramotswe is just glorious. How to Raise an Elephant really is the most delightful read, and it deserves to be included as a LoveReading Star Book.
Hold on to your breath as this bang up-to-date riveting thriller dives head first into a murky sinister world and doesn’t come up for air. London journalist Lydia is sent a video clip of a possible murder taking place on a train. Dealer in information Michael has links to the male being attacked, but both the victim and witness have disappeared. What a fascinating pair of main characters Rod Reynolds has created. They and the storyline feel so entirely real, I wouldn’t have been surprised to read an update of this story in the papers. Power and cold hard money act as motivating factors, with information the hook that connects Lydia and Michael. The tension rises with each chapter and while an electrifying ride, there is a sharp thoughtful edge that penetrates the pages. I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Red City, astute and dynamic, the ending arrives with a punch. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month as I really want to fly the flag for this book.
Our July 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A completely divine and ultimately uplifting debut, I cried, I smiled, I laughed, I loved it. With the best intentions Andrew has told a fib which has grown to surround and become a part of him, his life is then thrown up in the air when he meets Peggy. Ahh, Andrew, I admit to completely falling for this shy, kind, thoughtful man. The first few pages had me smiling, humour finely balancing and holding hands with poignancy. Richard Roper has developed the most fabulous characters and one heck of an emotional setting, which he handles with beautiful sensitivity. As the story developed, I hoped, oh how I hoped for a happy ending but I really couldn’t tell what the final outcome was going to be. With heartache tempered by gentle good humour Something To Live For casts the warmest of glows. I have no doubt that it will be topping my favourite reads of the year. We adore this quirky must-read and have chosen it to sit as a Debut of the Month, Liz Pick, and LoveReading Star Book!
A fascinating, bold and beautiful historical novel, chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. Beginning in 1943 after liberated Italy has declared war on Nazi Germany, Contessa Sofia de’Corsi begins to help the resistance. The timeline of Italy during World War Two at the beginning of the book, helps set and centre the scene. If you have read Dinah Jefferies previous novels then you will discover a change in direction. You still have the historical aspect and thoughtful relationship tale, however we move continents to Europe, specifically Tuscany in Italy. The normally vibrant descriptive detailing of the sights, smells and sounds of countries within Asia reshapes to take in the daring Italian resistance. I could picture the walled village, countryside, and Florence, with the action scenes moving in vivid colour across the page. If you follow Dinah on social media then you will see some fabulous photos of some the trips she took and locations that inspired her. The Tuscan Contessa is another compelling, eloquent read from Dinah Jefferies that I can recommend.
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.
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 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 serious 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.
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!
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.