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Informative, candid and trusted, book reviews by our own book experts are unique to Lovereading. But within our loyal members and browsers of Lovereading are also prolific readers with years of experience and a real passion for sharing their love of books. So, we decided to invite them to join the Lovereading Reader Review Panel. All the titles in this category have been selected and reviewed by our own Lovereading editorial experts but also reviewed by members of our Reader Review Panel, a panel of book lovers across the UK.
From the author of the divinely dark The Binding and several acclaimed novels for young adults, Bridget Collins’s The Betrayals murmurs with menace and the mystery of the grand jeu, an arcane intellectual game that melds music, maths, poetry and philosophy. The novel’s world - at once familiar and strange - is conjured with crystalline clarity and populated by a cast of distinctly charismatic characters. Set in an unnamed disintegrating European country in the 1930s, the story begins when thirty-two-year-old Leo is removed from his post as Minister for Culture and exiled to his former academy, the exclusive Montverre. Here the nation’s cleverest are schooled in the art of the grand jeu, and here Leo is forced to face tragedy from his past as he forms an unsettling connection with the academy’s new female Magister Ludi. Part homage to Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, this boasts a compellingly jolting plot that will keep readers on their toes, and a delicious dénouement - it’s a delight for lovers of literary conundrums. Find out more about Bridget Collins in our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' blog!
Set within the viciously violent reign of Jack the Ripper this is a historical crime novel with real attitude. When Susannah reads newspaper reports detailing a number of ferocious murders, she fears her new husband may be involved as he has been disappearing at night and returning bloodied and secretive. Goodness what a premise this is! While blood-soaked and brutally descriptive, it feels convincing and authentic rather than glorified and salacious. Clare Whitfield doesn’t hold back, but I felt she looked beyond the obvious violence with thoughtful consideration. Not only does she explore the Jack the Ripper case with this novel, she also highlights violence against women, abject poverty, and prejudice. Through the novel we are shown a glimpse of other lives, a connection begins to form before deliberately slicing away again to the main story. This is one of those books where there is no perfect shining light of a character to attach yourself to, life is a struggle, at times a battle, just to survive. Compelling, thought-provoking, and powerful, People of Abandoned Character has been chosen as a LoveReading Debut of the Month.
Well! This is an absolute corker of a debut, different and intelligent, it wormed its way into my thoughts and then proceeded to hunt them down. Narrator Jane tells of her friendship with Marnie, and the seven lies that change that friendship forever. This is Jane’s chance to be honest, and if she had told the truth to start with, Marnie’s husband might still be alive. The introduction to each lie hits with hammer hard precision, there are truths waiting ready to trip you up. Elizabeth Kay has the ability to blur lines, and I found myself stopping, questioning, considering my thoughts. She quite simply made me look at things in a different way. I write notes as I read, and these were peppered with ‘Crikey!’, ‘Blimey!’, and an awful lot of exclamation marks! Provocative, thoughtful, and so very clever, Seven Lies deserves to be a huge hit. A debut of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, Seven Lies comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me.
A gobble-it-up fiery and intense yet thoughtful debut novel about family, betrayal, and witchcraft. Opening the pathway to a fabulous historical fantasy series this calls out as a must-read for young adults. Set during the civil war in 17th century England, 15 year old Evey has to flee with her little sister Dill when her mother is murdered. As with all good young adult novels, it is perfectly easy to slide into and really enjoy as an adult too, particularly with the wonderful cover drawing you in. Touching history, it flies into fantasy, as author Finbar Hawkins examines the meaning of witch. Evey is a complex character and as she tells her own story she has the ability of self-reflection, even if she doesn’t always like what she sees. Witch is a read that fair on crackles with energy, it also encourages thoughts to both consider and soar and deservedly sits as one of our LoveReading debuts of the month.
Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
A cracking and class-act of a crime novel stuffed full of atmosphere and detail which skilfully sits alongside a truckload of tension. Journalist Martin Scarsden plans on a new start in Port Silver, Australia. On arrival he finds his childhood friend murdered, and his partner is number one suspect. While this could be read as a standalone novel, I recommend starting with Scrublands, Chris Hammer’s debut novel which won The Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy New Blood Award in 2019. The author has been a journalist for over 25 years and I feel his knowledge is anchored in this tale. This is a satisfyingly long read which sets a quite wonderful scene before the story really takes off. Australia sings and Port Silver becomes a known town, with a map planting the locations firmly in mind. I sank in and only came up for air a couple of times. I feel this a beautifully balanced novel, the storyline, setting, characters, and potential for the next book all smoothly combining into one effortlessly compelling read. Silver just has to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, it is a vibrant, sweeping, fabulous read.
A thoughtful, stirring, and compassionate historical novel set during World War Two. Simone, the daughter of a Belgian First World War hero is best friends with Hava from a devout Jewish family, together they flee the advancing Nazi army in 1940. Inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members in Belgium, this is essentially a tale of what should be an uncomplicated friendship sitting within one of the most complex and horrifying times in world history. Author Christopher de Vinck introduced the reasons behind this book before Simone’s prologue slammed into my contemplations. Each chapter epigraph includes excerpts and memories that really do spread chills. It is interesting to note that those unattributed are from the author’s grandfather who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery and was in the Belgian Resistance before being captured. Christopher de Vinck brings the girls to vibrant life by noting the small things that make each of us unique. He doesn’t sit in judgement, he releases the horror and emotion of the full story, with lost innocence spearing awareness and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.
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.
Twisty-turny and oh-so provocative, this is the type of book that will stick a sneaky foot out to trip you up. Spend five days in Hinton Hollow as it welcomes home Detective Sergeant Pace, who is being followed by Evil (yes, that’s right, Evil). Wait until you can give Hinton Hollow your full attention, because it deserves it. The town starts with a population of 5,120, what will it be by the end? Narrated by Evil, you are warned right at the very beginning that you can walk away and not read further. If you continue you may feel uncomfortable, start to self-reflect, even flinch, but remember, you were warned! Is this part of a series - well, there are now three books featuring Detective Sergeant Pace, but each reads equally well as a standalone. Having said that, I recommend starting with Good Samaritans and following it with Nothing Important Happened Today before starting here. As always with Will Carver, I couldn’t begin to guess how it would end, so didn’t even try, I just enjoyed the ride. If you like something just a little different then Hinton Hollow Death Trip is an original, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining read.
Razor-sharp tightrope time with this belter of a read, it is as dramatic and different as it is fabulous. Discover two books in one novel as true crime is enveloped by breathtaking storytelling. Read Eve Black’s memoir as she searches for the man who murdered the rest of her family 20 years ago. Sitting by its side is the story of the killer Jim Doyle as he reads the book and fears he will be unmasked. This has such a clever premise, Catherine Ryan Howard ensures that this is one of the few instances where knowing the identity of the killer actually adds to the intensity and drama. The change from one book to the other doesn’t jar in the slightest, each embraces and calls to the other and the transition is seamless. The tension increases until it is fairly reverberating through the pages. I let myself be carried away in the story, and don’t forget, this is a story, and it works because there is no sneaking a peek at the end! The Nothing Man is a blast of pure reading entertainment, and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Nothing Man.
Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.
So beautifully written you can just slip into this gentle wander through Botswana alongside the kind and astute investigations of Mma Ramotswe. During a quiet patch at the agency, Precious has friends in need and Charlie is placed in a difficult position. If you haven’t read any of this much loved series, do start at the beginning with the aptly named The No:1 Ladies Detective Agency. We are now at the twentieth novel and the absolute charm of these books is in getting to know the characters (Mma Makutsi is a personal favourite). Alexander McCall Smith excels in creating a light yet warm atmosphere where he quietly looks at complex issues. Human nature in all its wonder is examined with mellow observations and compassionate wit sitting alongside the vivid heat of Botswana as it waits for rain. To The Land Of Long Lost Friends is a lovely, affectionate read and a fine addition to this celebrated series. Find out more about Alexander McCall Smith in our Book Chat blog post.
Real Reviews from Real Passionate Readers
Since its inception Lovereading has taken a different approach to book reviews relying uniquely on the selection and review of books by editorial experts, all of whom have had many years of experience working within the book trade. They know what makes a good read whatever the genre and actually read the whole book before telling you what they think - radical we know, but sometimes old fashioned ways are the best.
In 2012 however, to complement our expert reviews and human-based Like-for-Like comparisons we decided to invite Lovereading members to join the newly created Lovereading Reader Review Panel. It has been a massive success.
We've now attracted over 1000 and 100's of books have now been read and reviewed by them. Many of them have their own book blogs and help us to spread the word of mouth on a book they've enjoyed. Panel members put themselves forward to read and review a book that we have advance copies of and their reviews are then loaded onto the site and complement those of our own Lovereading editorial experts. We're even now receiving feedback from visitors to Lovereading that the 'Reader Review Panel' reviews are as valued as those of our own Lovereading book experts!
With that in mind we thought it would be very helpful to everyone if we created a category and put all the books that have also been reviewed by some of our Reader Review Panel members, in one easy to find place.
Here are a few testimonials from some of our 'Reader Review Panel' members:
If I can ever do another review for you, it would be my pleasure. Thanks again Josephine S
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to review for Lovereading, it's a great site Lindsay H
Thanks for sending me another fantastic book to review! Emily W
The book reviewing has been a real treat, thank you for a wonderful experience. Tracey U
Just click on any title in this category and you will, in addition to the review from one of Lovereading's editorial experts also see a link through to reviews by members of our Reader Review Panel.