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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.
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!
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 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.
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.
A truly gorgeous and inspiring read, it may well make your heart ache, but also fill with love too. Ruth and her son DJ are struggling to find a home in Dublin when Dr O’Grady and his dog Bette Davis come into their lives. Several very current issues, including homelessness, are explored. I’d rather let you enter the tale without filling in too much detail, as this feels like a journey to be undertaken without preconceived ideas. I love Carmel Harrington’s writing, as I have said before, she deals with provocative issues with thoughtful consideration. The story slowly and beautifully comes together, the words opened my heart and mind, and encouraged me to explore and consider. I fell in love with the characters, I’ve welcomed them into my thoughts and they remain, keeping me company. The note from the author at the end is fascinating, particularly when she explains the background to, and research she made for the book. A Thousand Roads Home is a lovely, compelling, very readable tale (with a perfect title) and I have chosen it as one my picks of the month.
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.
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.