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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.
Gosh, this is a unique, riveting, gloriously written short novel. 17 year old Silvie and her parents are on an experimental archaeological dig site in Northumberland. Her controlling father keeps a tight rein on Silvie, yet as she experiences the freedom of the other students, her life closes in around her. Sarah Moss has created an absolutely chilling first chapter, the feeling remained with me throughout the book and I found myself on high alert. There aren’t many chapters, there are no speech marks, it is one continuous train of Silvie’s thoughts. Without realising I slipped into her mind space, almost became Silvie as her intimate thoughts merged with mine. A claustrophobic feeling settles over the pages, as each word is read, emotions intensify and fear sinks, this really is clever writing indeed. Ghost Wall may be short in length, due to the feelings it evokes, it actually feels as though it is an immense read. This fabulous, provocative and powerful book comes as highly recommended from me, it also sits as one of my picks of the month.
A seriously fabulous, gritty, and whip-cracking humour filled read. Mary Shields is a menopausal probation officer on the edge, when a murderer is released into her care events soon spiral out of control. The first line smacked me in the face, I half flinched, half blurted with laughter. Just a note of warning, while I discovered a smirk lurking on nearly every page, some may see the humour as warped. It is the type of dark humour typical of anyone who has worked in some seriously difficult situations, where if you didn’t laugh you’d cry. Helen Fitzgerald is the author of the BBC TV series The Cry, and previously worked as a criminal justice social worker. Her knowledge shines through, I didn’t stop, I didn’t question, I simply sank into the deep murky depths of the story and believed. When I reached the oh so beautiful end I wanted to leap to my feet and give Helen Fitzgerald a standing ovation. I absolutely adored Worst Case Scenario, this is short, sharp storytelling at its very best, which has earned it a place as one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading star book.
A striking and compelling family drama where the past takes a ferocious bite into the present. The House on the Edge of the Cliff explores relationships, how they can alter, move with fluidity, ever-changing almost without realisation. The house in question sits on the edge of a cliff in France, a character in its own right, a sanctuary, utterly bewitching, and yet full of history, of memories. When Grace was 16 an event occurred which has affected and remained with her ever since, when the past suddenly rears its head, danger beckons. We first meet Grace in the present and within the first few pages, I became as hooked as a hooked thing can be. Heightened, in fact, frantic emotions dance across the page and left me feeling breathless. Time then begins a slide backwards, explaining just enough, setting more questions and encouraging more thoughts to flow. Carol Drinkwater writes with captivating eloquence, I find her books so wonderfully readable, I just slip down into the welcoming pages and enjoy. Full of secrets, tense moments, gorgeous descriptions, and emotional interplay, The House on the Edge of the Cliff is a truly beautiful read and one of my picks of the month.
If you were to ask me to recommend a crime fiction series, this is it, this is the one. Sarah Hilary has the ability to write with such beautiful, quiet clarity even when the words scream and pound at your thoughts. ‘Never Be Broken’ is the sixth in the D.I. Marnie Rome series, do go back and start at the beginning if you come to this recommendation for the first time, the books have to be read in order, just simply to make the most of every thought, every word. Sarah Hilary’s debut ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ won the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year, and I have hunted down every one in the series since. The pain and torment at the centre of London society, the stabbings, the gangs, sit at the centre of ‘Never Be Broken’. The first few pages focus on ‘now’, fiercely kicking me right in the centre of my feelings, vividly bruising me before chapter one then returns to 48 hours earlier. This is intense, startling storytelling, it feels… it feels real, as though this is happening right now. ‘Never Be Broken’ may be fiction, you could think it is fact, it hurts, it shocks, it reads so beautifully it just has to be one of my picks of the month.
In a truly beautiful reading experience, encounter the footnotes of a time long ago, meet people capable of committing murder, of holding a stinging need for vengeance, of feeling deep abiding love and friendship. If you see the term fantasy and usually turn away, please don’t, instead choose to step inside and feel the connection to the Italian Renaissance, allow the people to become known, experience their emotions, appreciate the eloquence of the writing. I adore the work of Guy Gavriel Kay, and have done since I was a teenager, epic in scale, intimate in focus, these are books that have allowed me to step outside of myself and experience a different world, though one that feels recognisably ours. You can read this as a standalone, however if you have read some of his other novels, then the land in which this is set will call to you, and there are moments of awareness as you look around and feel the landscape, architecture and even at one point the half-forgotten presence of an age-old entity. I can recommend ‘A Brightness Long Ago’ with my heart and soul, it really is wonderful and so sits as one of my picks of the month.
This is a totally unique and breathtaking introduction to what lies beneath us, to the earth below our feet. Let this very special and beautiful book take you by the hand and lead you through the sunlit fields to the place where the underland begins, a place most human thoughts shy from in fear and confusion. This is a sequel to The Old Ways, yet you can begin here without concern, you can trust and join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the underland. I will admit that I am in love with the writing, the words, the vision that allows you to see and feel in darkness. I haven’t ever considered our deep connection to this stunning underworld in the way you are encouraged to here. Robert Macfarlane meets and shares experiences with people who have chosen to explore, to look beyond the obvious. I absolutely adored how much he shares, how accessible Underland is, his words reached out and connected with my thoughts and feelings, altering, reshaping, transforming. While there is plenty to fear for our future, all the time there are humans with this amount of love for our natural world, there is also hope. Underland is one of my picks of the month, and also one of our star books - it is quite simply stunning.
A beautifully powerful read that sits in darkness, not an all-consuming menacing murk, but one with pinpricks of light that can be found and felt if you open yourself to the discovery. Stella McKeever is working on her final radio show, she is encouraging listeners to divulge their secrets and waiting another call from a man who claims he knows who murdered the pregnant woman in the city three weeks previously, but should some secrets stay secret? There are times when I think it might be slightly distracting to label a book with one specific genre and for me this is one of them. I know Call Me Star Girl is a psychological thriller, it certainly does thrill, it also made me feel a whole host of other emotions too. Louise Beech excels in writing about people, at their very best, very worst, and everything in between, so I’d rather not pop this book into a pigeon hole but let it fly. Each chapter is headed by a name, and either ‘then’, ‘now’ or ‘with’. I quickly settled into the story while getting to know the characters, they became entirely real to me as I explored the how and why of who they were. While suspicion cut through my thoughts, unexpected slices of deep, aching surprise were served, and there is one particular moment that will stay with me for a very long time. Call Me Star Girl explored my feelings, touched my heart, and is one of my picks of the month, it is a truly glorious read.
Razor-sharp, focused and absolutely fabulous, Critical Incidents is the first in what promises to be a stunning new series by Lucie Whitehouse. Detective Inspector Robin Lyons has been dismissed from the Met, turned down a proposal, and is heading back to her Mum and Dad in Birmingham with her daughter Lennie. Home isn’t necessarily a sanctuary when Robin starts to investigate a shocking crime and violence creeps ever closer. Keep You Close was one of our Books of the Year in 2016, so I had high hopes for Critical Incidents and it certainly lived up to expectations. I sat and read non-stop, just gobbling up the pages. There is an addictive quality to the writing, pithy, witty, stinging sentences walk hand in hand with compassion and emotion. The ending has left me wanting more, so I already can’t wait for the next in the series. Critical Incidents is escapism at its very best, it is also provocative, eloquent and extremely rewarding, earning itself a pick of the month from me.
Wakenhyrst is a glorious darkly gothic feast of a read, and I really had no option other than to choose it as one of my picks of the month. Folklore and superstition are bound up in the Fens, Maud Steame has grown up there, surrounded by gossip, rumours and terrible secrets, will releasing her story set her free? Michelle Paver excels in quietly setting fear loose and disquiet scurrying free. Simply and beautifully descriptive, words leave the page and settle together to gradually create an entire picture. I found myself hooked, then completely snared as Maud’s life unfolds over 60 years revealing the very essence of her being. I feel deeply connected to Maud, and she continues to exist in my thoughts. Wakenhyrst is a fascinating, deeply emotional, and surprisingly beautiful read, I highly recommend stepping inside and setting your feelings free to explore.
I was excited (of the jumping up and down variety) when Forever and a Day appeared in my letterbox, I am a HUGE 007 fan and can announce that this novel perfectly slots into place. The Ian Fleming Estate and Ian Fleming Publications asked Anthony Horowitz to continue the Bond series in 2015 with Trigger Mortis, after he had so successfully stepped into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Now comes Bond as the new boy on the block, Forever and A Day is the prequel to Casino Royale and original Ian Fleming material appears. This is how James Bond came into being as an agent and he does so in spectacular style. The first sentence is a humdinger, I was immediately on board and continued to read with pure enjoyment. Anthony Horowitz skilfully sets up the world of Bond, balancing the established with his own style quite beautifully. If you are a lover of the original series, I can vouch for this book, if you have only watched the films, I can vouch for this book. Forever and a Day is an exciting action-packed adventure of a read, it exceeded my (already high) expectations, earning it one of my picks of the month.
A smirky, fabulously quirky, poignant novel and an absolute joy to read. It is 1980, Lizzie is 18, she starts a new job working for a dentist, moves into her own flat, and thinks she may have got herself a boyfriend (but isn’t entirely sure). Lizzie is a total delight, her courage, spirit and pithy observations mix into a heady cocktail alongside her apprehension and doubt. The other characters are beautifully realised in their own right, every utterance perfectly placed, it is difficult to pick just one out as when I called them forward in my mind, they clambered over each in a riot of energy. Nina Stibbe excels in the small, in fact the incy wincy details that are so beautifully observed you didn’t know they were missing until you read them, and could see and feel the entire picture. The understanding of human frailty and poignancy of human absurdity is so wonderfully explored. There is something compelling about the writing that lodged in my mind, and took up residence in my heart. I snorted (yes actually snorted) out loud with laughter and while heartache and break is never far away, thoroughly loved every word of Reasons To Be Cheerful which earns it one of my picks of the month… it’s just gorgeous!
I was completely and utterly consumed by this debut, it slowly took hold, crept into my thoughts, drew me in, and then refused to let me go. I really didn’t want to stop reading, and even now Cora Burns enters my mind and stops for a while. Cora Burns born in gaol and raised in a workhouse, finds herself in gaol once again before a scientist takes her on as a servant, just what exactly is his current experiment? The story starts in savage darkness, then spins forward in time before rolling between 1865, 1874 and 1885, slowly answering questions yet creating more. Carolyn Kirby has created the most deeply felt and amazing character in Cora (to me she isn’t a character but as real as real can be). There were times when I almost didn’t want to read her story, I wanted to shut my eyes, hum, and put my hands to my ears, and yet I simply couldn’t stop, the words haunted me, called to me, devoured me. The Conviction of Cora Burns enthralling, fascinating and so incredibly worthwhile, developed into the most unexpectedly fierce and beautiful read (I think you will understand if you step between the pages), and so just has to be one of my picks 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.