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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 of her favourites. All are highly recommended and come with Liz's seal of approval.
An unsettling and absorbing psychological thriller, set within a street that just seethes with the awareness of past events. Leah and Jake move to the basement flat of a large house, just as the owner, Anton, is released from prison 19 years after being convicted of murdering his wife in their home. As Anton and Leah tentatively move towards friendship, will the past come to haunt the present? This is a read that pounced from the very first page. The author combination really works for me, Paul Perry and Karen Gillece excel in balancing a believable plot with multifaceted characters, while ramping up the tension. Layer upon layer of delightfully chilling intrigue highlighted the unknown. Questions built up in my mind, ensuring I was successfully kept on tenterhooks throughout. Come A Little Closer is a properly riveting read, it crept into mind spaces I didn’t even know I had, and I just had to choose it as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month.
What a gorgeously emotional and heart-warming read this is. Two women linked by an event that occurred eight years ago, find themselves at the centre of storm that could change their worlds forever, both will fight for what they believe in. The first chapter slams with impact. Oh Dani Atkins, you really know how to make me cry! In the very best possible way of course, with a heart full of emotion and feeling and wonder. The words reached inside me, made me ponder, and truly affected me. The characters are so engaging, the ups and downs so accessible. This is a relationship story with real personality, yes there is some anguish along the way, there is also plenty of hope, love, and feel-good too. I’ve chosen this as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. If you choose to read A Million Dreams, and I really hope you do, I’ll just leave this here… have some tissues close to hand.
My heart is full of love for this darkly beautiful and mind-twisting novel. Set in the time of Elizabeth I, a curse given in anguish and hate is set to run amok. At birth Beau is burdened with great beauty and is due to be the cause of the death of his father, while unrelated to the curse, Randa is born a mix of beast and human. And, so begins a story of the greatest highs and the lowest lows, of revenge and hope, love and despair. The first sentence sucked me in, and I was held in thrall throughout. This is a completely gorgeous blend of Shakespearean drama, the very darkest of fairy tales, and the simply wonderful pen of Wray Delaney. I felt a reassuring half-formed recognition as I read, yet at the same time, a prickle of awareness that I was an explorer, charting an entirely new world. I highly recommend The Beauty of the Wolf to anyone who hungers for a bite of difference, with a more than a twist of glorious darkness. I have chosen this as both a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book, it’s fierce, it’s wonderful, I adored it.
This is what a reading experience is all about, Ness touches, tests, pushes, strokes, inspires, and I have given this little book my heart. I have hesitated about explaining the background to Ness, but have decided that to know doesn’t unduly shape thoughts. Orford Ness in Suffolk is a shingle island which is constantly changing due to the sea and weather. It is the site of an abandoned military base where research included nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. The author and illustrator know this place, and have created a powerful lyrical read where nature takes steps to stop a crime against the world. It is a wonderful heady mix of novella and poetry-prose, a fantasy creation of word and illustration that took up lodging in my mind. A hagstone, which allows a veiled glimpse to the future or past, sits centre stage throughout the book, the illustrations by Stanley Donwood allowing a viewing station, a pause, before the next taste of action. The words by Robert Macfarlane sing, they just beg to be spoken, to be heard. As I spoke the words, I had the feeling that I was setting them free, and at the final few pages a shiver of emotion skittered down my arms. Ness is a beautiful yet fierce and frightening call, containing a warning that we should be shrieking from the rooftops. I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
This is an absolute belter of a novel. Awaiting you is a stunning, murderous mix of Eastern European folklore and a serial killer, set during 1935 in rural Czechoslovakia. Psychiatrist Dr Viktor Kosarek takes up a position in Hrad Orlu Asylum for the criminally insane to study the ‘Devil’s Six’, while in Prague, a serial killer is announced. The page and a half prologue sets the novel up brilliantly, the last sentence, so starkly delivered, chilled me to the bone. My mind entered the most vividly real locations, I slipped through the streets of Prague and flinched as I entered the Castle. Craig Russell crosses several genres and balances a number of themes seamlessly, which I just adored. My thoughts pushed and pulled at my emotions as they balanced together on a cliff edge. The Devil Aspect, is a dark, haunting whopper of a story and it set my imagination on fire. So good, it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and just had to be one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
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!
Just as special and completely lovely as you would expect. Veronica Henry’s novels are must-reads for me. I set aside plenty of reading time, then overindulged in one sitting and felt full to overbrimming with book love by the time I finished. After the death of their adored Great Uncle, cousins Tabitha and Georgia inherit Dragonfly Farm alongside a completely unknown third party. What secrets will be unearthed as they hunt for answers, and will the farm remain intact? Veronica Henry has created characters that become known and loved within a short space of time. Even if on the page for moments, each sings with colourful, vivid intensity. The storyline flows beautifully, easy to follow, yet delightfully dynamic and compelling. I felt a connection with, and cared about the farm and everyone linked to it. The past comes to visit every now and then, filling in the jigsaw puzzle of secrets. A Home From Home is an absolute treat of a read and I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
Crime and mystery aficionado Maxim Jakubowski has gathered 17 short stories from an oh so talented bunch of writers for your reading pleasure. In his introduction, Maxim explains that each author has offered: “a brand new story to celebrate the genre, irrespective of theme, period, or style… every one came up trumps with a tale that epitomises their storytelling talent”. Shall I tease you by saying a new Jack Reacher story features, or let you know that authors from the US, UK, France and Israel have contributed? I love anthologies and just adored Invisible Blood. I threw caution to the wind, let the book open where it wanted, and jumped in. I found and adored the stories from some of my favourite authors. I met a couple of new writers, whose words really connected, and left me wanting more. I particularly love a satisfying short story, there really is nothing like that intense burst of gratifying pleasure. So, if you need a crime and mystery fix, look no further, as Maxim himself says: “we are experiencing a Golden Age of crime and mystery writing”. Invisible Blood slips so easily into being one of my picks of the month, I was absolutely wowed by it!
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.
It is time to celebrate a new and truly fabulous Stephen King novel. Children with special gifts such as telepathy and telekinesis are being abducted from across the USA, then they are tested, exploited, and kept prisoner. Is there any hope left for the kids incarcerated in the Institute? I opened the first page, settled in, and just read… isn’t it wonderful when you can do that? When you so implicitly trust the author, trust that they are going to take you on amazing journey? Stephen King has written the most readable and electrifying tale here, I didn’t doubt for one second that any of this wasn’t true, wasn’t possible, wasn’t happening right now. I just inhaled the words, fully immersed myself in the story, and squirmed on the edge of my seat as the ending hurtled towards me. The Institute knocked my socks off, it is a thrilling, chilling ride, and sits not only as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, but one of our LoveReading Star Books too.
I must confess that I exclaimed with delight when I saw All Good Things for the first time. It is fabulously described as “a treasury of images to uplift the spirits and reawaken wonder”. The size is perfect, the cover divinely enticing, and it just beckoned me in. I simply sank into the pages of the most beautiful images of art from around the world and through time. You may already have heard of, or indeed follow Stephen Ellcock on social media. Over the last ten years he has shared his images with the world. And we have taken them to our heart. Here he “explores our world and the human response to it one realm at a time”, and so we visit various realms from ‘The Face of the Water’, through to ‘The Human Realm’ and ‘Gods and Monsters’. The images and their explanations sit patiently, just waiting for you to turn the page. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it is gorgeous. September Publishing has created a little masterpiece, and it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and one of my picks of the month. All Good Things is a treasure of a treasury and would make the most perfect gift (but make sure you keep a copy for yourself!).
Oh, what a truly beautiful read this is, though do prepare for your heart to ache, weep, and possibly even break. For the last ten years, Oliver Loving has been lying in a hospital bed, paralysed and non-communicative, is he trapped in his own mind, can a new test release him? Everyone wants answers, they also want to know what happened ten years ago, on the night of the school dance in Bliss, Texas… and what caused the tragedy that took place there. The story focusses on Oliver, his mother Eve, and brother Charlie, and how one event has trapped them, has maimed them all. Stefan Merrill Block writes so thoughtfully, an almost gentle lyrical quality caresses the pages, yet he encourages searching questions, for you to travel deeper, to look further. This is an emotional read, the writing touched me, deep inside my heart, and a part of Oliver Loving will remain there. Almost otherworldly, yet raw and true and full of heart, Oliver Loving is profoundly moving, and captivating, I highly recommend stepping inside the pages, and becoming one with the story. Oliver Loving is one of my picks of the month.
Oh my, must-read needs to be stamped all over this book as it is 188 pages of simply wonderful storytelling, with each short chapter building to create a cohesive, biting, beautiful whole. Set in Romania in the 1970’s, Alina and her husband find themselves confronted by the secret service when her brother-in-law defects, can the hidden old folk ways be the answer to their problems? While this is a truly stunning read, it isn’t always comfortable or easy, there were occasions when I really flinched, took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, but each time I was drawn back in as I also smirked, laughed, felt wonder and had moments of real discovery. The first chapter sent my thoughts scuttling and seeking answers, did I believe, did I understand? Sophie van Llewyn is an award-winning flash fiction author, each chapter of ‘Bottled Goods’ is short, could almost exist in its own right, yet remove one and the entire story would fracture. The ending is utterly perfect, and had me sitting in contemplative silence. I want to shout about Bottled Goods from the rooftops, I adored this thought-provoking unique novella and have chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
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.
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.
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.
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.