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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.
So, so incredibly good, now that I have finished, I actually feel bereft. This book called to me, the cover design is divine, the synopsis gave me chills, and when I started, well, it was a non-stop absolute feast of a read. Tom hadn’t heard of the Whisper Man, he didn’t know about the murder of five young boys. Tom just wanted a new start, but then his son starts to hear whispering at his bedroom window. The prologue sent shivers coursing down my arms, it is followed by short, enthralling chapters that pushed and pulled at my emotions. Chapters change focus with no introduction, however the writing is such that they immediately connected and fell into place. I entered a mind space that made me feel entirely uncomfortable, yet set my thoughts on a different path. This is clever, beautifully compassionate writing by Alex North. While the tension reaches almost unbearable levels, there is a heartfelt balance of empathy and thoughtfulness that packs a huge punch. ‘The Whisper Man’ has left a lingering ache, it is an emotionally beautiful and terrifying read. I’ve chosen it as a LoveReading star read and one of my books of the month. I’m telling everyone I know - this is a must-read!
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.
This moving, thoughtful, and expressive historical novel walked into my heart with deep empathy, and more than a hint of fantasy. Set during the Second World War, between 1941 and 1944, The World We Knew explores the nature of war, anti-Semitism, and what people can become when faced with the hardest of choices. When Hanni Kohn approaches her rabbi to help save her 12 year old daughter from the Nazi regime, assistance comes from the least likely of places. The first chapter, stark, urgent, and compelling was so intense I almost stopped breathing. As the chapter came to a close I sat for a moment in contemplative silence. I simply adored how Alice Hoffman balances the fantasy element of the novel, it feels as though a truth has been sent free. I disappeared into the words, and took to my heart that survival isn’t just a matter of life or death. One word of advice, you may need to have tissues close to hand, I cried at the beauty of the ending. The World That We Knew is not only one of my picks of the month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
A captivating and absolutely thrilling historical tale that sits as a perfect sequel to the first in the series The Ashes of London. Please do start with the first book, it is a stunning read and sets the characters and scene so beautifully. After the Great Fire of London a court is established to judge the cases of discord between landlords and tenants. Suspicious deaths appear to link to the Fire Court, and as James and Cat attempt to find answers, their individual stories become more closely intertwined. After the drama and sheer visual spectacle of the first book, I did wonder how on earth the series would continue, and it is safe to say with great aplomb. The intricate plot immediately wormed its way into my head, slicing, enthralling, and sharply focused. There is one particularly unexpected and shocking moment that quite literally stopped my whole being, I sat in for a moment in silence before continuing, desperate to know more. Will you feel the same, will the words travel from the page, trap your feelings and hurl your thoughts in the air? This is a series that could run and run, The King’s Evil is already calling to me and quite simply can’t arrive quickly enough. The Fire Court has become part of a must-read series for me, it is highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
A twisty, intriguing, 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!
A fascinating and thought-provoking debut novel where the author focuses on the intimate lives of a family, which in turn opens up the Frankfurt Trials after the Second World War. Set in 1963 Germany, Eva Bruhn is hired as a translator for a war crimes trial, as she learns more about the war, her thoughts expand and she begins to question her parents and examine her childhood. Told in four parts, there are no chapters and I found myself constantly on edge and alert as events, characters and time moved backwards and forwards. The story takes its time to develop, allowing access to the family dynamics and Eva’s transition to understanding. Author Annette Hess is a successful screenwriter (which shows), in her note at the end she thanks the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt where she researched the first Auschwitz trial. She directly quoted from a number of participants at the trial, and merged other statements, so bringing an incredible feeling of reality to a compelling novel. Originally published in German, the translator Elisabeth Lauffer talks of her sense of responsibility to do justice to the story, to translate faithfully and thoughtfully the testimonies of Auschwitz survivors. This is an incredibly moving novel, it examines pack mentality and highlights how quickly humanity can collectively move on, while individual memories are left forever scarred. For a number of reasons The German House isn’t an easy read, it is powerful though, and I have chosen it as a Liz Robinson pick of the month.
If ever there was a book to fall completely in love with, this is it. Grace Atherton keeps certain parts of her deeply buried from everyone, yet it is the revelation of a joint secret that causes her life as she knows it to stop, how can she possibly restart it again? The first few sentences told me I was in for a real treat, I was intrigued, delighted in the style of writing, and then the end of first chapter… it was completely unexpected and caused my stomach to squirm. While this is a book to read with joy, it isn’t a gooey ride, it made me flinch, question and delve into thoughts. Anstey Harris has conjured such beautiful descriptions, they created a fully realised and vivid picture in my mind. Music and friendship pay a hugely important part in this book, the joy of each deeply embedded in the page, the words releasing themselves into my soul. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about cellos and violins, yet somehow I felt as though I did, I understood, I felt, I loved each instrument. I absolutely adore The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, it is completely magical and I suspect that each time I read it (it is a book to return to), a slightly different story will await me. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
Oh, this is almost too gorgeous for words, thoughtful and full of emotion, it’s a simply wonderful story that connected to my heart and soul. Cate Morris has no option other than to leave everything she knows and move to Hatters with her son Leo, will they be welcomed with open arms? Anstey Harris writes with beautiful eloquence, her debut novel The Truths of Triumphs of Grace Atherton was one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, Where we Belong is too. I was completely charmed by the first sentence, settled in with joy and then the end of chapter one caused me to take a deep breath. This is emotionally intelligent writing and perfectly timed reveals of information lay in wait. Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World is just lovely, do I want to go there? Yes I most certainly do, so was captivated to learn that it is based on a real location. Where We Belong bewitched me with its secrets and beauty, Anstey Harris really is the most wonderful storyteller and I salute her.
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.
There are times when someone suggests you make a discovery, a finding that fills your heart and makes it ache. Award-winning Jackie Morris does exactly that here as she introduces the reader, not only to The House Without Windows, but also the author behind the tale. Barbara Newhall Follett was twelve when this, her first novel was published. Described as a child prodigy, Barbara was born in 1914, and had published two books before she was fourteen, just before Christmas in 1939 she walked out of her home and was never seen again. As I read Jackie’s beautiful introduction opening a window into Barbara’s life, a shiver darted down my arms leaving goosebumps in its wake. It isn’t often that an introduction makes me cry, yet this one did. CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal award winner Jackie also illustrates the story, each illustration accompanying the tale with grace and beauty. The story sits and flourishes in nature, there is an innocence and joy in the natural world that encourages you to see with fresh eyes. The childlike glee, the longing to escape, the connection with the wilderness... when sitting alongside the introduction, adds an extra dimension to this touching story. The House Without Windows has claimed a piece of my heart, and I’ve chosen this little treasure as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month.
The perfect book, and present for any crime fiction lovers out there. Packed with information, this was first published ten years ago, and has just been updated. The foreword by Ian Rankin delves into the reputation of the crime novel and what he thinks makes it so popular. Barry Forshaw is a leading crime fiction and film expert, he edits Crime Time, writes for newspapers, broadcasts, chairs events, and has written a number of books about crime fiction. He begins with his thoughts on the direction crime fiction will take, the origins of the crime novel, and a few chosen classics before moving on to his selection ‘of the best in crime writing from the last century or so, organised by subject (or subgenre)’. From amateur investigators, to cops, private eyes, crime and society, cosy crime, and psychopaths and serial killers, the different categories in crime is simply huge. How on earth did Barry Forshaw manage it, it must have turned his brain inside out! The first thing I did was to turn to some of my much loved crime authors in the indexes to see where they were. Screen adaptations are also included, along with notes, thoughts, profiles, and favourite books or best introductions to the work of an author. At the end you will find an index of titles, authors and directors. Crime Fiction A Reader’s Guide can be summed up as a must-read for crime fiction lovers.
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.