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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.
With vivid action-packed scenes this is a wonderful adrenaline rush of a political thriller. Russia is blamed when cyber attacks hit at the heart of Washington, D.C. and Hayley Chill is faced with trying to avert World War Three. Yes, you could step in here and read this as a standalone, but my advice is to start with Deep State, which is one of my books of the year from 2020. This is just as readable, just as addictive, and just as fabulous, I read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and then continued the moment I woke up. It felt as though there was more of an introduction to this story and as a British reader, once the prologue had finished kicking off, I appreciated the slower pace at the start to get to grips with the political and intelligence community. Having said that, slower doesn’t mean quiet, and it quickly turned into a full on the throttle riotous ride. I loved that Chris Hauty continues with the snapshots of walk-on characters, miniature stories summarising lives to be played out. He has the ability to transfer words into images, full-on scenes that felt as though I was a part of the action. The story has a few well-aimed kicks lying in wait, and even though I was alert and ready, didn’t expect the story to head in the final direction it did. Savage Road continues the Hayley Chill series in fine style, and comes with a whopping thumbs up from me as a Liz Pick of the Month.
What a gloriously dark and thrilling treat of a read this is! If I’m not careful I will go into exclamation mark overdrive as I adored every single moment spent with this novel, from the cover on the outside to the content within. Silhouette artist Agnes believes that her clients are being murdered, in an attempt to find answers she asks spirit medium Pearl to make contact with the dead. Victorian Bath is the setting with a dramatic and shadowy atmosphere that oozes from the pages. The characters are beautifully constructed, I found myself investing in their every word and move. The plot is fascinating, the uncanny elements thrilling, and yet it all feels so convincing, so vividly real. And oh, that ending, it gave me goosebumps in the best possible way! If you delight in a deeply satisfying story containing elements of the supernatural then this is the book for you. Slithering between thoughts into the darkest of places The Shape of Darkness is an eloquent, mesmerising gothic tale and one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
A powerful, provocative and quite wonderful modern literary fairy tale, but if you enter expecting ‘happily ever after’ you’ll be sorely disappointed. Rather than sugar and spice and all things nice, you’ll instead find a novel brimming with exquisitely sharp and pointed attitude. Thirteen and a half years after Cinderella married the man of her dreams and she’s had enough, she wants out. The prologue pierces love, and binds hate, firmly setting the tone, yet wicked humour and gentle observations also tickle the page. The echoes of well known fairy tales make themselves felt, adding to the enchantment. There is much to take delight in, yet beware, all magic is paid for and you’ll need to be on the look out for hidden snares. I adore the tale that runs alongside the main story, of the two mice that accompanied Cinderella and live in a world circling through an entire civilisation. How easy it is to view what you want to see, rather than what is actually there. As the fairy tale splinters and a shimmer of reality breaks through, I found my thoughts tossed high in the air, and where they will land, I still don’t know. So bright, so clever, and thought-provoking this just had to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month. I danced through the deep dark magic of The Charmed Wife, long live the fairy tale that lives beyond 'happily ever after'.
Our January 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. A complete joy of a debut, bright, observational and incredibly intimate, this book has lodged itself in my heart. Take twelve independent yet linked stories over twelve months about people who are connected to a London park community. The focus changes with each month, allowing individual stories to shine, yet they add up to a vibrantly wonderful whole. Gemma Reeves is beautifully eloquent, she has the ability with a few words, to give you admittance to someone’s soul. While she creates penetrating access to each person, there isn’t always a conclusion, instead life carries on, suggesting potential pathways. I fell in love with this powerfully blended infusion of life. The variety of characters, in age, personality, and beliefs crackle with energy. A new character might wander in for a few moments and then star in the next tale. Some connections may be obvious and linger, others lightly touch before moving on. The stories themselves tug at heartstrings and encourage thoughts to roam, the ending is simply divine and brought tears to my eyes. Thought-provoking and emotionally intelligent, Victoria Park slips with glorious ease onto our LoveReading Star Books list and is a Liz Pick of the Month, it really is very special indeed.
An absolute whammy of a read, and a must for anyone who enjoys a smart, fast-paced, hugely entertaining blast of speculative fiction. When Jimmy agrees to smuggle data in his headspace, he really didn’t expect it to start talking to him. Honey the bioform bear needs to make contact with an entity on Mars, and Jimmy finds himself an unwitting accessory. While you could definitely read this as a standalone, I really do recommend reading Dogs of War, in which Honey also appears, as an introduction to this fabulous bioform world. Arthur C Clarke Award winning Adrian Tchaikovsky has successfully combined weighty, thought-provoking moments, with a Trump-like baddie, full-on action and smirky humour. And oh, how I smirked, Jimmy acts as a beautifully timed foil to the powerfully intense Honey. This is one of those books where you can just throw yourself and abandon yourself to a fabulous story, knowing you will be entertained throughout. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Bear Head comes with a colossal thumbs up from me.
A simply gorgeous and emotional tale about love and all the different forms it can take. Jack and Clare have the chance to learn that leaving love behind can potentially allow it back into your heart. Just one thing to note, while this is a relationship tale, it comes with an edge so be prepared for some thought-provoking themes. The characters in A Thing Called Love make mistakes, find themselves on unexpected paths as thoughts alter and grow, and really put my feelings through the wringer! Jack, Clare, and Grace entered so fully into my heart that I truly cared about them, while certain other characters got so far into my head, that they evoked other strong feelings! I love how Nell Carter writes and she is on my list of favourite authors (under a different name). She has the ability to encourage feelings to falter, fall, and soar, all while writing with beautiful compassion. Plus she has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of what it is to be human. A Thing Called Love is a truly lovely novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend as a Liz Pick of the Month.
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
Excuse me while I rave about this book, it’s so different, so powerful, so fabulous that I’m experiencing reading elation after finishing it. When Wolf Willeford meets Mrs Death, he becomes her scribe and travels with her to view humanity as it circulates from life to death. A renowned performance poet, this is Salena Godden’s debut novel. In 2018 a BBC Radio 4 documentary was broadcast as it followed the novel as it was written over twelve months. Containing poetry, chants, commentary, recollections, moments in time, and all within the most wonderful story, this is a recognisable yet totally unique take on death. Her words entered my thoughts and made me see, search, examine, they entered my heart and made me feel. Small intimate and intricate moments sit alongside huge stories that are all linked by death. My feelings span from humour to heartbreak, from darkness to light, and all the while the story flows with strength and beauty. This is a reading experience that I won’t forget and I just had to choose it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month and of course a LoveReading Star Book. Celebrating life and opening up questions on how we view death, Mrs Death Misses Death is a wake-up call of a book that I will be recommending far and wide.
A sparkling bright and entertaining contemporary romance, and just to make you smile even more there’s a rescue dog who shares (steals) the limelight. When Margot and Will meet and both fall in love with Blossom at the rescue centre, they reluctantly agree to share custody. Sarra Manning has the most wonderfully light touch, she adds notes of sunshine to proceedings even when darkness threatens. With poo bags, dog treats, and increasingly bad behaviour Blossom is an absolute delight. Margot or Will head each chapter with each given equal billing, they feel entirely relatable, flaws and all. The background characters add colour and vibrancy to an already lovely novel. This really is the perfect read for anyone wanting to escape from reality for a while. So, wrap yourself up in the comforting embrace of an uplifting modern romance and sit back and relax with Rescue Me.
Oooh, juicy and gossipy sliding into captivating and provocative, this is such an entertaining read! An £18 million lottery win fractures 15 year old friendships, alters family relationships, and changes lives forever. Adele Parks really does know how to tell a story, and she has the ability to shine a light into the darkest recesses of what it is to be human. Two plot lines run side by side, the sinister side of greed is examined in both, and as the story unfolds the links become clear. They aren’t always the most likeable bunch, I do so love it when a character (deliberately) gets under my skin and annoys the heck out of me! There’s nothing like a goodly burst of indignation or side-eye towards the more frustrating members of this cast! With surprises and revelations galore, Just My Luck is an absolute romp of a read, and I just had to add it as a Liz Pick of the Month.
Click to read our Q&A with Mark Adlington A book to fall totally and irretrievably in love with, Lion is full of the most gorgeous paintings, drawings, and sketches, and is absolutely stunning. The lion, an apex predator, is surely one of the most beautiful sights you can see. When I was 19 I found myself in Kenya, eyes wide, mouth open as I watched a lioness and three cubs at a water hole. It is something that is as clear to me now as it was then, so, when I saw this book was going to be published, I was first in the LoveReading queue. Here we journey together with Mark Adlington as he studies lions in East and Southern Africa. The foreword by the winner of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa and Co-Founder and Director of Operations at the Big Life Foundation, Richard Bonham, is effusive in its praise of Mark Adlington. It comes with a warning, that lions do not make good neighbours, and “where humans and wildlife compete, wildlife will surely lose”. However all is not: “doom and gloom… in the Amboseli ecosystem, by 2003 there were only 25 lions left… today, things have changed and the population has clawed itself back to over 200”. Mark has painted the progeny of the lions this programme has saved, and they appear in this dazzlingly impressive book. Mark describes meeting Richard and his wife Tara as a miracle: “I found myself invited to stay ‘in the most beautiful part of Kenya’ by a total stranger on the strength of a little sketch of a lion cub posted on instagram”. Mark also allows us access to his sketchbook musings (oh, the tortoise!), and finishes by saying that a world without the lion is unimaginable. What then follows is page after page of the most beautiful artwork, and this is where my mouth dropped open. Each piece is so full of character and movement, so vibrantly alive, that it brought tears to my eyes. The art is allowed to shine, no page numbers or captions to distract, you can simply sink into the beauty of the lion. So, Lion is a book to take pride of place on your bookshelves, a book to return to and open with wonder, to sit with eyes wide and heart open, to adore. Undoubtedly one of my personal books of the year, Lion just had to join our LoveReading Star Books and is of course one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
This spellbinding little book contains a mix of 25 traditional and new Icelandic Folk Tales. Picture Iceland, and a mesmerising image is released, it’s the land of ice and snow, mountains, volcanoes, northern lights, tradition, sagas, and the perfect place for trolls, elves, and ghosts to reside. Hjorleifur Helgi Stefansson lives on the family farm, and grew up with his grandparents close by, saying: “They were born in the old time, in the old country, and they gave me, in my upbringing, a glimpse of another way of thinking and living. Their focus was on people and tradition”. He spends time in Scotland on the storytelling circuit and states that: “I proudly hold the title ‘Pet Viking’. These are tales that are told in the most simple yet vivid way, it was almost as though I could close my eyes and hear them being told. Folk tales often hold warnings, encourage integrity and morality, and of course contain delightfully scary supernatural elements. These tales have the traditional elements stitched into each page and are accompanied by illustrations by Sandstrom Fahlstrom. I’ve included Icelandic Folk Tales as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make a fabulous stocking filler for anyone who loves the art of storytelling.
Take one articulate, impassioned environmental journalist with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, add honesty, humour, and some fascinating travels stories and you have an inspirational book in your hands. Jeremy Hance is an award-winning journalist with a job that means he has to travel to some of the most remote countries in the world. Each time he begins a journey he is joined by OCD (Jeremy has named Steve), and depression (Malachi) which makes for an interesting trip. We first join Jeremy in 2017 en route to Jakarta as he struggles to cope with the journey, we then travel back to 2006 when his love for travel and the environment really began. His honesty is refreshing and uplifting, I smiled, laughed, and winced on occasion as I travelled to some truly wonderful places. And then he invited me to feel his sorrow at the loss of nature across this world that we are a part of: “There are things in the world we’ve take advantage of for our ten thousands years of civilisation: a stable climate, a rich biodiverse white of wildlife, healthy oceans, and a deep connection to other forms of life. We’re risking all of these now.” He also sees the good, the possibilities: “… in reality, we’re all just human. And every day we can choose kindness or cruelty. We can choose to be brave or ambivalent”. And then he introduces hope: “Leave nature alone and it will flourish. Help it along a little, and it will come back all the faster and richer. Life is tenacious. Life will find a way, but we first have to leave it a path.” And so I travelled the world with Jeremy as he faced his fear every single day, and I found it inspiring, and fascinating in equal measure. Baggage: Confessions of a Globe-Trotting Hypochondriac is a wonderfully readable, engaging, and rewarding read, that I have chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month.
There is a decidedly unique and expressive tone to this beautifully written crime novel. Set on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, The Coral Bride is the sequel to fabulous We Were the Salt of the Sea and forms part of the Detective Morales Series. What at first is treated as a missing person enquiry turns bleakly sinister after an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift. A chilling first chapter set my thoughts whirling and it took me a little while to settle. I most definitely felt as though I was in a different country, sometimes almost, another world entirely. Roxanne Bouchard conveys the mystical loneliness of the ocean with the charm of the small coastal towns, and it blends into a mysterious, perfumed and heady tale. She and translator David Warriner have created the silences, trips, and hesitations that appear in real conversations. These are words that sank into my thoughts and as I read, I felt as though I was caught up the depths of the tale. Snippets of viewpoints from others slip-slapped into my awareness, while occasional moments of smirky lightness added texture. This is an author to remember and a truly worthwhile series that I can recommend introducing yourself to. The Coral Bride transports you to an ocean community, sets thoughts adrift, and creates exquisite tension. A wonderful read, and so it slips straight into my monthly Liz Picks.
Exquisitely weaving fact and fiction this heart-rending yet fascinating historical novel is set during a time of clandestine opposition to the Nazis. Chief of the Abwehr, spymaster Wilhelm Canaris, creates an almost mythical figure when he recruits a young man and calls him Cesare. The story centres around Canaris, Erik (Cesare) and Lisa, the woman who effectively set Erik on his course. Using the real-life Canaris ensured my mind almost played tricks on me, and at times I struggled to remember that this was fiction, as it felt all too real. Jerome Charyn successfully highlights the contradictory nature of Canaris, this is the man who suggested the yellow Star of David in 1935 to identify Jews, but by 1939 and the outbreak of war began attempts to undermine the Nazi regime. There is a raw, almost brutal quality to the all-consuming storyline. Yet this is intoxicatingly readable and the central relationships encouraged me on to the finish. By the end I was mentally shattered, this most certainly isn’t an easy read, but it is enthralling. This novel encouraged me to research the history of Admiral Canaris, to consider the nature of good and evil and how it combines when contained within human nature. Cesare is haunting, traumatic, and yet I wholeheartedly recommend, and include it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Deceptively simple, and simply lovely, this thoroughly modern yet ancient fairy tale both stings and enchants with its themes of superstition and prejudice. Edith is being forced to marry the village butcher, when in fact she loves and waits for the shepherd to return to her. When the snow falls, Edith stops speaking and listens in her silence as the village begins to change. Sally Gardener (who also wrote The Beauty of the Wolf and An Almond for A Parrot as Wray Delaney) has the most gentle, yet fierce and evocative way with words. I would read one of her novels, no matter what the genre, but she really does excel when magic touches realism. A crystal clear purity spills from the pages while the richly fulfilling storyline heads towards its conclusion. You may well find that a little piece of your heart breaks, yet there is so much to fall in love with in this striking tale. I’ve chosen The Snow Song as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it’s a book that sits perfectly as winter approaches.
Our December 2020 Book Club Recommendation Set in a future that feels as though it really could be just around the corner, this eloquent, intense, and chilling novel merges literary psychological thriller with dystopian apocalyptic fiction. A family from New York rent a luxurious and peaceful getaway, when the owners of the house return in a panic due to a power outage in the city which has also knocked out the TV and internet at the home, an uneasy truce settles. Whilst huge in scope, this is actually an achingly intimate novel and it creates an atmosphere that slid into my thoughts and thoroughly ruffled my equilibrium. Rumaan Alam sets the scene with a thoroughness that is almost poetic as he points out the ridiculous and highlights the irrelevant. The characters are almost touchable, awkward moments hum with intensity, points are made, thoughts shuffle. This LoveReading Star Book doesn’t shriek or clamour, answers lie hidden, which somehow makes the story even more unnerving. Touching family, race, and human nature in the most precarious of moments, Leave The World Behind is an incredibly penetrating and surprising read.
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.