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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.
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.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
Goosebumps still compete in a race down my arms when I think about The Snakes, it is remarkable, truly remarkable, so please just trust me when I say this is a must-read. Bea and Dan rent out their flat so they can travel, stopping off at her brother’s hotel in France on route. When Bea’s parents unexpectedly visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea has kept them at arms length and refused their financial help all of these years, surely it can’t hurt to get to know them? Sadie Jones is a master storyteller, apparently simple sentences gang together to create a slicing tension. There is a purity to the writing, even though the very darkest of human attributes are so wonderfully and tellingly observed as the tale unfolds. This isn’t a comfortable read, but gosh it’s compelling, I sat and read it in one heady afternoon. I felt on high alert, my mind unclouded as I tasted, tested, scrutinised both the thoughts of the characters, and my own. ‘The Snakes’ is powerful and provocative, not in a shouty, boastful way, it slid into my mind, creating and filling secret spaces, and when I reached the last few pages, and read the final words, I just stopped and sat in wondering heart-hammering silence. This is one of my picks of the month, in fact I already know that The Snakes will be one of my picks of the year.
An incredibly raw, at times difficult to read, quite gobsmacking debut. Cherry made me flinch, both physically and mentally, at times I had to look away and think of something else, yet the words continued to call to me. The author Nico Walker, as of 2019, is still in prison in the USA, he served as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD started to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction. This story centres on a narrator who serves as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD starts to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction (yes the same tale as the author). Let me be clear, this is a novel, yet the voice of the author is clearly heard, this is his story and he stamps his words, his very being on every single page. Hammer hard, quick firing sentences (with some choice language attached) shoot off of the page. There were times when I really didn’t like the narator, some of his life choices are difficult to understand, yet that is the whole point. The story turns full circle from the prologue, creating what feels like a never ending loop. This book made me ache, it often physically hurt to soak up the words, yet I would read it all again tomorrow, and so Cherry has to be one of my picks of the month.
Step into another world, just on the edge of existence, a fairy tale if you will, but somehow sharper, more vivid, and quite startling as it draws on folklore and oh so human qualities and reactions. On a remote island called Neverness exists a village, we hear the story of the villagers, separate, together, living with and alongside a spellbinding natural world. The author Zoe Gilbert was the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award and this is her debut novel. Each chapter is a story in its own right, yet each leads to the next and the next to make one complete tale. This is a book that tested, pushed and pulled me, as it speared my attention and hurled it aloft. I felt, really felt so many emotions, from deep aching sadness, to bounding wonder, through to discovering warm love in unexpected places. Zoe Gilbert has created a place apart, simple, wild, and stunningly beautifully yet be warned, it has a ferocious bite. If you look, really focus straight ahead, then take your thoughts to the corner of your eye and feel there, just behind you, you may just see a glimpse of Neverness. Or you could settle down, and allow Zoe Gilbert to guide you into a breathtaking world. Folk is one of my picks of the month and I have fallen rather deeply in love with 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.