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.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | In a nutshell: the unforgettable story of a girl with no memory. Can there ever have been a heroine like Flora Banks? She’s 17 when the book opens, but an accident aged 10 has left her with no short term memory. Then a secret kiss on the beach – with her only friend’s boyfriend – lodges in her mind. Inspired, she sets off alone to follow him, a heart-stopping journey that takes her deep into the Arctic landscapes of Norway, scribbled messages she writes to herself on her arms her only reassurance or guide. Flora does find out the truth about the boy and about herself, but she needs all her courage. A unique mix, part coming-of-age, part psychological thriller, with an almost fairy-tale setting, this is a story that readers will want to read more than once, and one they will want to share with friends too. Unforgettable!
May 2018 Book of the Month A tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller in which nothing is as it seems, every truth might be a lie, and the past looms ever larger over the present, The Old You is a nail-bitingly modern slice of domestic noir. The Old You by Louise Voss A clever, gripping and thrilling tale that just demands to be read in one sitting. Lynn’s husband Ed has been diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a rare form of progressive dementia. As their world is turned upside down, odd things start to happen, and the past begins to cause waves in the present, causing Lynn to question her life and the man she married. Louise Voss writes with a cunning pen, snippets or huge wallops of information are slowly revealed, encouraging suspicion and turning thoughts on their head. I found my mind constantly ticking over and questioning everything. Lynn tells her own story, creating an immediate connection, yet it takes a while to get to know her, to understand her. ‘The Old You’ is a surprising, stimulating read, just be careful that it doesn’t lull you into false sense of security!
May 2018 Book of the Month Deliciously and thrillingly creepy, The Craftsman is an intensely gripping, superb read. Thirty years ago Larry Glassbrook confessed and was imprisoned for a series of child murders. Florence Lovelady was at the beginning of her career when she was involved in the case, now Larry is dead, however hauntingly similar events start to surface. The first chapter has huge impact, a mystifying and unexpected blast hit me full on, and then gently faded into the background. Set in two time frames, with thirty years between them, the story is brisk, and I loved the fact that you are expected to keep up. Sharon Bolton balances the knife edge between reality and extraordinary with a beautiful subtlety. This is just so, so readable, once in, I didn’t want to stop, and found myself reading into the small hours, be warned though, reading at night doubles the chill factor. As I raced through the final few chapters, I almost didn’t want the journey to end, yet the last few words sent the most delightful icy goosebumps snaking down my arms. I highly recommend stepping inside the pages, just give yourself up to the glory of the The Craftsman... this I have no doubt, will be one of my favourite reads of the year.
May 2018 Book of the Month An intimate, beautifully told, occasionally rambunctious tale set in 17th century England. Ursula Flight was born at an inauspicious time, she tells her own highly entertaining, yet poignant tale from birth. Ursula bounded from the page into wondrous life, I could feel her emotions, her wild, kind, impetuous nature spoke to me. Anna-Marie Crowhurst has created a vibrant, stunning setting for Ursula, the countryside of her childhood is so beautifully imagined, I found myself looking around, smelling, touching, feeling. Ursula’s own writing is scattered through the novel, her thoughts, letters and plays allow direct contact with her, as when she writes she is free, and unencumbered by the morals of the time. I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of disquiet as I read, one part of me was in the present, living life with Ursula, the other part was wondering what would become of this spirited young woman. A blistering darkness slices through ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ taking its turn in the orbiting dance of life alongside the colour and passion, which creates a truly wonderful captivating read, and I loved it.
April 2018 Book of the Month “It’s a bit weird,” says Danny to James and indeed it is. Here are two thirty-six year old single young men who were once rival star scholars at an elite public boarding school now damaged. Danny was the scholarship student from a council estate, James an upper-class lad from wealthy parents. Both have sunk into a pit. How they got there and are desperately trying to climb out makes for a sensitive and highly compulsive read. Danny suffered loss and has been unable to get over the trauma, James had an “incident” which has left him brain damaged, he is now looked after by his restrictive parents. James is inadvertently responsible for Danny quitting his job and so hits upon the idea of being able to get away from his parents by having Danny look after him. A bit weird indeed. I truly loved this book, unusual for Mike Gayle and very special indeed.
April 2018 Book of the Month The nostalgic memoir of a young man, eldest of fourteen, growing up in 40s Wednesbury. The heartbreaking true account of his son struggling to come to terms with his father's dementia. A tribute to the unbreakable bond between father and son. 'At once a touching tribute to a beloved music-loving dad with Alzheimer’s and a poignant portrait of the love between a father and son, this written-from-the-heart memoir will warm the soul, and undoubtedly further the author’s magnificent endeavour to raise awareness of this devastating disease. Simon McDermott’s cherished dad, Ted, was born in the Black Country in 1936 and always loved singing. In his early twenties, following National Service, Ted seized an opportunity to air his voice publicly by becoming an announcer for Walsall Football Club, which provided him with plenty of opportunities to entertain the crowd, while coming up with ideas to draw more women to matches. Also enjoying stints as a Butlin’s redcoat and singing in clubs up and down the country, Ted never lost his love of music - not after settling down and working in a factory, and not after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. In fact, as Simon discovered during drives to calm his dad’s angry outbursts, singing has the power to bring back the old Ted. And so Simon posted a clip of his dad, the clip went viral and now, one single and full-length album later, Simon and Ted have raised over £150,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society. Peppered with moving and amusing family anecdotes from all stages of Ted’s life, and suffused in love and light through even the most harrowing moments, this heart-wrenchingly honest memoir is powerfully compelling, and should offer succour to others in similar situations.'
May 2018 Debut of the Month Our narrator Jasper is thirteen years old. He has synaesthesia which means he hears sounds, voices etc as colours and recognises individual by those colours and not by any physical appearances. We spend nearly a hundred pages learning about the disadvantages of such a condition becoming aware of many of the lad’s traits which are similar to autism. He lives in a confused world misinterpreting interactions and events and “blowing up” in panic attacks. It makes for harrowing reading. A couple of years ago his mother died and shortly after her his grandmother. His father finds the boy difficult to deal with. Now something has happened. Jasper thinks he has killed his neighbour Bee. Jasper is a very unreliable narrator. To discover what happened he has to recreate the colours of the last day of Bee’s life and try to match them to the events of that day. He spends a lot of time surmising and then painting naturally in those colours. The investigating police officer, “Rusty Chrome Orange” is a saint who eventually the boy learns to trust, but the poor lad is suspicious of everyone else, even at one time, his father. How it all works is naturally steeped in colour. Interesting.
The explosive new thriller from Sarah Pinborough, author of the NUMBER ONE Sunday Times bestseller Behind Her Eyes. Lisa has a sixteen-year old daughter Ava. They are close. She has one good friend, a work colleague, Marilyn. These three are our narrators with a few media and legal commentaries interwoven between them. It is a tale that shifts back and forth in time. Lisa has a dreadful secret that emerges when Ava saves a toddler’s life and the press move in. Ava then turns against her mother and we, the reader, get some of Lisa’s horrific childhood along with a whole lot of red herrings. The novel is full of nasty things happening to defenceless people. With false leads and trails with many twists and turns to keep you guessing, it has a pretty dramatic plot – very disturbing.
The acclaimed history of the rise of the Nazis based on fascinating first-hand accounts. One of the Daily Telegraph's Best Books of 2017; A Guardian `Readers' Choice' Best Book of 2017; Without the benefit of hindsight, how do you interpret what's right in front of your eyes?; Based on fascinating firsthand accounts, this illuminating book asks what it was like to travel in the Third Reich during the interwar era. Was it possible to know what was really going on? Was it possible for a visiting outsider “to grasp the essence of National Socialism”? The accounts of a multitude of travellers are surveyed - ordinary tourists, academics and athletes, alongside royalty, celebrities and creative types like Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Their experiences and responses are recounted in all their intriguing variation - bewilderment, obliviousness, internal outrage, scholarly outrage. I found the chapter on African American academic and Germanophile Professor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois particularly engrossing. Du Bois visited Germany in 1936 seeking to study race prejudice, but the organisation that commissioned his trip instead permitted him to investigate education and industry. He returned to report the “vindictive cruelty” of the “campaign against the Jews” and, while he experienced no “personal insult or discrimination” himself, he posited the view that matters might be different “if there were any number of Negroes in Germany”. Spritely in tone, and finely researched, this is an engaging must-read for those with an interest in German history, and in social history per se. It might also serve as a cautionary tale to pay closer attention to the world around us. ~ Joanne Owen
It begins with a nursery rhyme. Nineteen minutes later you die... The sixth gripping thriller in Lars Kepler's internationally bestselling series featuring Joona Linna. Perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. A hard-hitting rocket of a ride, if you’re squeamish, you may well be peeking between your fingers as you read. Superintendent Saga Bauer enlists the help of Joona Lina, who is serving time in prison, in order stop to a killer named the Rabbit Hunter. The authors are a well established, internationally best-selling writing duo, they seemlessly blend their skills into a story that blasts with fury and intensity. This is the sixth in the series, and if you’ve not come across Lars Kepler before, I would advise you start at the beginning with ‘The Hypnotist’, purely because it’s such a cracking series. I love the feeling of danger and menace that stalks the policing team themselves, who is to be trusted, who will survive, my heart was in my mouth on more than one occasion. As a nursery rhyme plays, the killer stalks his prey, violent, creepy and addictive, the tension in ‘The Rabbit Hunter’ sky-rockets through to the utterly gripping conclusion… and left me wanting more. ~ Liz Robinson
Norway rewards travellers with an enticing mix of tradition and modernity, from spectacular natural wonders to super-cool urban hubs, and this 300+ page guidebook covers all aspects of this dramatic destination. There are excellent insights into history - Ice Age origins, Vikings, Kings and Christianity - plus inspiring area-by-area information that will help you plan the perfect trip, with detailed maps of all major cities and sights, among them Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Svalbard. The thorough features on fjords, folklore and ‘Wild Norway’ are particularly fascinating, and the coverage of nature is first class. Included in the guide is a free app with travel tips and practical information which is regularly updated - find out more. Further Fiction Reading Recommendations: Hunger by Knut Hamsun Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson In the Darkness by Karin Fossum The Sun by Jo Nesbø Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen
Award-winning Frances Hardinge is spellbinding is this hugely entertaining and dramatic Victorian thriller. When Faith’s father dies suddenly she knows she must try to find out exactly what he was hiding in the local caves she had recently visited with him. Discovering the extraordinary Lie Tree which thrives off hearing lies and, in turn, reveals secrets long kept hidden Faith begins to uncover a web of secrets and mysteries that will change her view of the world forever. Faith is a feisty heroine whose courage combined with a determination that girls can be brave and resolute leads to the exposure of much dishonesty and many deceptions. ~ Julia Eccleshare. WINNER of the 2015 COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR and Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016. Winner of the UKLA 2016 Book Award in the 12 - 16 year old category. The Lie Tree is only the second children’s book to take the overall Costa Book of the Year prize, and the first since Philip Pullman won with The Amber Spyglass in 2001. James Heneage, chair of the final judges, said: “Part horror, part detective, part historical, this is a fantastic story with great central characters and narrative tension. It’s not only a fabulous children’s book but a book that readers of all ages will love."
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | In a nutshell: tense, super-suspenseful novel based on harrowing real life events After the Fire was inspired by the Waco siege in Texas 1993 when 82 members of the Branch Davidian sect and four US government agents died in a fire fight after a long siege. It’s not a fictionalised version, but Hill imagines life in the camp and as a survivor. Moonbeam, his central character, is beginning to doubt the teaching of Father John and to comprehend the methods he uses to control his followers. A survivor, she’s being coaxed to tell the story of the events that led up to that deadly confrontation with ‘The Authorities’. The tension rarely abates, and Hill makes readers empathise with Moonbeam’s confusion and fear. He also makes us desperate to discover the secrets she’s keeping, and long for her to achieve the freedom that’s always been denied. One of the most gripping and suspenseful books you’ll read all year.
Deceptively clever and utterly compelling, this beautifully written little book will continue to haunt your thoughts long after you've finished it. Set in Montreal, the world of Bilodo the postman is a simple one, but he regularly sneaks a peek into other peoples worlds by reading their handwritten letters; events take a darker turn as he deviates from voyeur into an obsessive usurper. The author uses Japanese haiku and tanka poetry to allow Bilodo to converse with the woman of his dreams; exquisite clusters of words will snag your attention and demand that you re-read them. This is essentially a book of love, of what might have been and of what could still come… One of our Books of the Year 2014. Selected as a BBC Radio 2 Book Club title in September 2014.
April 2018 Book of the Month Want to cook ridiculously good plant-based food from scratch but have no idea where to start? With over 140 incredibly easy and outrageously tasty all plants meals, BOSH! The Cookbook will be your guide. “Simple recipes. Amazing food. All plants.” This smart vegan cookbook from the creators of the “biggest plant-based online channel in the world” does exactly what it says on the tin, except the last thing your shopping list needs is a tin - the 140 recipes are 100% fresh in every way. Fresh food, fresh approach, fresh results. Covering everything from creative Quick Eats (creamy carbonara, pad Thai), Big Eats (mushroom and Guinness pie, rogan Bosh!) and Showpieces (jerk jackfruit and plantain pizza, the Big Bosh! Roast), to decadent drinks (easy almond Baileys, Salted caramel espresso Martini), this no-fuss cookbook will convert even the most committed carnivore to appreciating and devouring a vegan diet. The ingredients are easy to come by, the recipes easy-to-follow, and the results are fabulous – filling, flavoursome, and packed with hearty goodness. I can’t wait to work my way through each and every recipe. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 Category Winner for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award June 2017 Debut of the Month. It is the standard reply when people ask, “How are you?” ....you say “I’m fine.” Well, Eleanor is most definitely not fine and has not been since she was 10 years old. Shifted from one foster home to another, she does eventually go to university where she ends up in an abusive relationship. On graduation she gets a job in the accounts department of a graphic designer and there she is when we meet her, aged 31 and desperately lonely. Eleanor is on the spectrum with her life overshadowed by some dreadful childhood tragedy which has left her face badly scarred. She keeps her head down at work and spends the weekends with two bottles of vodka. She speaks to her mother on the telephone on a Wednesday and dreads the call. We are uncertain as to whether her mother is in prison or an asylum. Life ticks by until her works’ computer needs attention and enter one geeky IT man. How he and others break down her barriers is beautifully done. Very slowly we learn more about Eleanor and her past. Very slowly a future develops but once the geek (Raymond) arrives the novel is by no means slow. It becomes a page-turning, compulsive read of great charm.
February 2018 Book of the Month. A deliciously readable, entertaining and enjoyable novel from Katie Fforde. Fran leaves her life behind for a dilapidated farm in the Cotswolds, she has just one year to make it a success. I always rub my hands with glee when I pick up Katie Fforde’s new novels, I create some ‘me time’, and settle down to relax and sink into the pages. ‘A Country Escape’ flows so beautifully I forgot myself and where I was, I just became at one with the book and immersed myself completely in Fran’s world. Katie Fforde has a wonderfully light touch, I always feel I am in trusted hands, all of her characters are fascinating, relatable, and (mostly!) likeable. A Country Escape is quite simply, captivating, charming, and an absolute delight.
A dynamic, dramatic, and deliciously entertaining tale exposing friendship flaws, secrets and lies. Sophie, Emily, Amy, and Melissa go away for a weekend break once a year, and we see how their lives change for both better and worse between 1997 and 2012. These are women who make mistakes, occasionally get it wrong as well as right, and rely on their friends for advice, help, and love. Helen Warner allows direct access to the holidays, the rest of the year remains either hidden or briefly reviewed, ensuring the story just whizzes along. The movement through the years allows you to quickly form a relationship with these women, it also raises questions, and suspicions. While I found myself occasionally tutting and frustrated, I also celebrated, smiled and laughed, and then in the next moment my heart ached for them. ‘The Story of Our Lives’ is so readable, it beckons you in, and then gathers you up in an intimate, weaving dance of friendship… what a fascinating, lovely read this is.
April 2018 Book of the Month Oh wow, this is a slicing, chilling, whammy of a read that has left me reeling. In 2015 an actress is abducted, the case has all the hallmarks of a murderer who was locked up in Broadmoor ten years previously, then a body appearing to link to the abduction and murders is found in Sweden. The second in the 'Roy and Castells' series continues with sharp, fast-paced drama. I really do recommend starting at the beginning with the fabulous ‘Block 46’, you need to get to know the characters, as to try to step into the middle of the storyline would be almost impossible. The translation is spot on, at no time did I stop to consider this originated in a different language. Set in two countries, and two storylines, with one story steadily advancing through the years, I found myself on full alert and at times racing to keep up. There are sections that are so horrifyingly descriptive they are almost impossible to read, yet the story is so gripping, it is impossible not to. Johana Gustawsson delivers morsel upon morsel of information, and stomach-churning shivers raced down my body. An inkling of what is happening zipped into my thoughts, however I couldn’t have even begun to imagine the final outcome. ‘Keeper’ isn’t an easy read, it isn’t meant to be, it is thought-provoking, challenging, and an absolute knock-out…I’m still in shock - highly recommended.
April 2018 Book of the Month | Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: Alleged alien encounter inspired by true events | An utterly absorbing novel based on the real-life phenomenon of a group of Zimbabwean schoolchildren claiming to have experienced an extra-terrestrial encounter. With over fifty children asserting that they saw the same spaceship, and the same evil-eyed aliens, American psychiatrists have come to investigate. It could be a form of mass hysteria, but why are all the accounts and depictions so completely identical? How could so many kids tell the exact same lie for so long, and why would they lie? Alongside being gripped by the uniquely mysterious event at the heart of the novel, I was bowled over by the author’s mastery of multiple narratives. The intertwined lives of six young people affected by the encounter are explored in all their brutal complexities, and the novel’s real-life origins will surely draw in more reluctant readers. Magnetic, haunting, and richly rewarding.
Manon Bradshaw of Missing, Presumed is back only she is now pregnant, attached to the Cambridgeshire police but working on cold cases until a murder occurs close to the school her adopted son attends. He is arrested for it. He is 12-years old. Written in alternative chapters between herself and a man who was once her junior, DS Davy Walker and a good friend, we follow the detail of police procedure over thirty-two days, straddling Christmas. Davy gives us the detail, Manon the family drama, spotted in between is the odd narrative from a few suspects, and others involved. It is both riveting and fascinating. Manon’s adopted son is black, so lots of problems in Cambridgeshire. Manon shares a house with her single mum sister and the girl’s autistic (although no-one says so), 2-year old toddler, Solomon. The boy’s father reappears and wants contact with his son which complicates the story, a story full of twists. Great stuff.
What happens when all the personal information held by tech companies is no longer private? What happens when this code of ethics is broken? When everyone in your world - in the world – can know all your secrets? This thoroughly thought-provoking novel addresses such questions - and more - as it explores the all-encompassing impact of recent, emerging and conjectured future technology through a haunting and powerfully personal account of one woman’s life. It’s 1997 and, at the tender age of 17, Laura Bow has created a basic artificial intelligence, which she names Organon after a Kate Bush lyric. Organon begins life as Laura’s imaginary friend. This creation is her outlet, a vent, a means of dealing with the loss of her father who vanished when she was seven. As Laura grows older and gains more experiences and memories, for a time working at the tech company her father founded and sold shortly before he disappeared, so Organon grows with her. Much like a skilled human personal assistant, it informs and supports Laura through her life, managing what she needs to be aware of, filtering out the superfluous, and anticipating her needs. But, as new technologies are developed and companies create intelligences with far less morality programmed into them than Organon, millions of personal and political secrets are unleashed and the world is sent reeling to the brink of breakdown. Shifting forward in decades from 1997, the cleverly-spun narrative spans Laura’s entire life, from the early years of dial-up Internet, to a speculative future that serves as something of a wake-up call. Taking in artificial intelligence, human intelligence, love, loss, and meaningful memories, this novel might make you reflect on how much time you spend online, and what you do and disclose there. Above all, this is an absorbing story about humanity, making moral choices and living your best life with love and ethics.
April 2018 Book of the Month 'A gloriously uplifting story about love in all its forms from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author of The Reading Group and Things I Want My Daughters to Know.' This author has certainly not lost her touch despite it being six years since her last book. This is warm, affectionate, engaging and insightful. Well written with well portrayed characters who interconnect with each other in a tale that grabs your interest from the first chapters and holds it to the satisfying final page. The story revolves around two women, young pregnant Tess who has just left her boyfriend and gone home to mum, and middle-aged Gigi who has just left her husband and needs to sort her life out. Her three kids have grown up and her marriage is stale. The person Tess loves most in her family is her grandmother Iris who is slipping away in a home. The same home houses Gigi’s father-in-law. Here then is a wonderful multi-generational cast. Mix them together, plus Gigi’s family, and you get a tale of real depth and emotion. The letters of the title are from Iris’ brother during and just after World War II plus some from her grandfather from the same period. They are poignant and affect Tess greatly. A wonderful read, highly recommended.
April 2018 Book of the Month A heart-wrenching and powerful YA story about friendship and finding yourself from award-winning, bestselling author, Gayle Forman The story is told over the course of one day with flash backs to the past to help us engage with the characters and understand what has brought them to this place and this moment in time. Through Harun we learn to understand love through his own loss and fears. The love he feels is alien and not acceptable within the society he lives in. He is ashamed, obsessed and utterly lost. Freya is a star in the making but is following a difficult path and is torn between the need for adoration and the ‘friends’ and sense of belonging she fears she will lose if she can no longer sing. Her lack of self-love is evident as she fears losing her voice will mean losing her place in the world and the acceptance she craves. Nathaniel is a tortured soul and his sadness pours from the pages as we slowly discover the tragedy that has driven him to New York. Each character is suffering their own pain and yet when they are brought together they find the strength to try a different path. But is friendship enough to heal the pain of the past? This is a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves. Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age take that will fill you with hope, love and courage.
March 2018 Book of the Month What a beautifully written, captivating, and soulful read this is. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly transferred, begins to investigate the death of a women found in fishing nets out at sea. Catherine Day leaves Montreal for a remote fishing village, looking for answers about her birth mother. The Gaspe Peninsula sits centre stage in the story, remote, set apart, and yet intimately connected to the sea. I immediately fell headlong into the story, the seamless translation encourages the words to join together, creating a vividly stunning picture. Catherine tells her own tale, having such personal access allows a connection, yet she still feels hidden from view. Other peoples thoughts tumble freely over the pages, yet they belong, they anchor the story. I felt that the author Roxanne Bouchard has a profound connection to the sea, she loves it, respects it, yet the immense power simmers, occasionally rages in the background. I quite simply adored ‘We Were the Salt of the Sea’, refreshingly different, unpredictable, yet deeply rich and touching, it became a part of me.
March 2018 Book of the Month “To believe, to obey, to fight” is the new prayer of Mussolini’s Italy in 1936. We are in Fosso, a town in the rural district of Veneto on the fertile plains where food is plentiful until the Germans and then the partisans help themselves. Maria, our protagonist, helps run the local grocer with her husband Achille, until he is imprisoned for black-marketeering. She needs to keep her family of 5 children alive and safe until her husband is released… or not. She will do anything to protect and fight for her children, anything to keep them safe, fed and alive. Coming from a large family herself she is not afraid of hard work. So we live with her through the war to the 1950s, through times of dreadful hardship and fear to new beginnings. Laced with the feel of Italy, its food, traditions and scenic splendour, this is a very fine novel indeed. Stylish and beautifully archaic in its writing, it has a hypnotic quality, difficult to draw yourself away from. Highly recommended.
Sarah and Phil have a healthy 17 year old boy, James, and a severely disabled, mute, wheelchair-bound 14 year old daughter, Lauren. A chance glance at a medical report alerts Phil to Lauren's blood-type and he wonders how it fits with his and Sarah's. A genetic test reveals her not to be their daughter. Now all sorts of different authorities step in, their birth-daughter is found and the other family informed: a divorced mother, Anne, with a single child, Rosie. The first half of the tale is in dual narrative from Sarah and Phil's point of view, the second in four voices adding Anne and Rosie to the mix. You can imagine the emotional turmoil that ensues, the terrible choices, the complex reactions and the dilemma of not knowing what is best for whom. It delves into family values, marriage, trust, love and loyalty. The whole unthinkable situation is powerfully explored. A very accomplished first novel. Highly recommended.
April 2018 Debut of the Month | In a Nutshell: Falling Angels | Rising Hope | Falling in Love Compelling magic realist debut in which a fallen angel named Teacake helps heal a teen girl’s grief. Across the world angel-like Beings are falling from the sky. Their winged bodies seep golden blood on impact with the earth, and then they die. In the aftermath of the first sightings, the world exploded in an apocalyptic frenzy, yielding religious cults and angel-exploiting money-makers. Alongside this, Jaya is also dealing with a personal apocalypse – the sudden death of her mother. While Jaya struggles with her guilt-ridden grief, and with losing contact with Leah, the best friend who might also have been her girlfriend, she’s also irritated by her dad’s fanatical angel-chasing. But, as things turn out, it’s Jaya who’s there when an angel falls, and, for the first time, this angel survives. Angels don’t exist in Jaya’s mum’s Hindi religion so she pushes aside any thoughts that this is somehow a sign. But amidst the frenzy of the Edinburgh festival and the aggressive fanaticism of the Standing Fallen cult, Jaya does everything she can to protect this shimmering rose-gold Being from harm. The angels are never explained, or fully understood, but that isn’t necessary, for this isn’t about hard scientific facts, this is about matters of the soul. It’s a charming debut, radiant with humanity and heart.
March 2018 Book of the Month I am William Lee: brute; liar, and graveside thief. But you will know me by another name. A fiery, emphatic and intense glimpse into the missing years of Heathcliff. Leaving Wuthering Heights and naming himself William Lee, Heathcliff travels through the north of England, revenge forming on his mind. If you haven’t read ‘Wuthering Heights’ there is no need to look away, this could be the entrance to that fascinating world. I do feel you need to be aware that obscenities crop up, in fact sometimes litter the pages, and while this may put people off, I would advise looking beyond the surface to what lies beneath. The book opens with anger and deep rooted pain, William’s thoughts flare into being, the searing honesty and heat almost made me flinch. Michael Stewart allows William’s innermost being to spill onto the pages, William is so matter of fact about pain and suffering, about the world around him, the stark reality of the times seared their way onto my soul. And then there are the descriptions, the beautiful, eloquent descriptions of the countryside, the rural life, the old words. While rage, hurt and confusion swirl in a maelstrom of emotion, tenderness, love, and compassion lie waiting, biding their time. Yes ‘Ill Will’ is provocative, it is a disturbing, striking read, yet also strangely beautiful, and personally, I loved it.
March 2018 Debut of the Month The first in the ‘DI Meg Dalton Thriller’ series is an addictive, absolute treat of a read. Meg recently moved forces and is now based in Derbyshire, she is thrown in the deep end when a lawyer is found dead in a cave and a sinister game of cat and mouse is initiated. ‘The Devil’s Dice’ was shortlisted for the 2016 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award (for unpublished writers), so my expectations were high, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The first few pages set my thoughts fluttering, and throughout this tale a ghostly shadow hovers over the pages. Roz Watkins allows humour to enter at just the right moments, and has created a fabulous main lead. While Meg does have her fair share of problems, and a certain vulnerability too, she really grew on me. As I read, I set my mind free, to delve into the pages, to ponder, to speculate. The Devil’s Dice’ is just so readable, this is a thoroughly modern tale with a teasing strange connection to the past, and a towering cliff hanger of an ending… hopefully there will be many more stories to come.
March 2018 Book of the Month A tale in three parts and dual-narrative. Part one gives you the before and after Layla disappeared, part two when her lover Finn is haunted by her and part three, obviously enough, the conclusion. The narrative is in alternating chapters, one side, annoyingly, in italics. The time frame; twelve years, the plot; terrific. Finn, aged 28, falls heavily for Layla but on returning from a skiing trip in France she disappears. Years later her sister, Ellen, enters Finn’s life and rescues him from his despair. They have a gentle, solid, comfortable relationship which develops into love and eventually a proposal of marriage. Then things start to go wrong and part two seriously changes gear giving us a very unstable narrator and escalating tension. Part three turns the whole thing on its head again, drawing us at a hell of a pace to a conclusion that you only see coming as those final chapters unfold. This is compulsive stuff, a one-sitting read, so give it space.
Just gorgeous. I do love a feel-good read, add biting realism and aching intensity, and you have a winner in your hands. Ella and Henry have a deep and loving connection to Cornwall, when their grandmother dies the past throws up new possibilities, not all however, are welcome. Fern Britton writes so beautifully about Cornwall, the warmth and love is felt, bringing the houses and villages to life. The story is set in three main time frames which allows you to properly meet and get to know the three generations who walk through the pages. None of the characters are perfect, which is perfect, as they feel relatable, touchable, real. There is an exotic addition, which adds an extra glow, and as the story comes to its conclusion I had my fingers and toes crossed for a joyful ending. Coming Home is a truly lovely read, deeply rich and emotional, it is easy to sink into, easy to become a part of, and warmed the cockles of my heart.
Uplifting and delightful, The Year That Changed Everything is another gorgeous read from Cathy Kelly. Three women have three milestone birthdays on the same day, they don’t know each other, yet a featherlight connection binds them together. In one day, the day of their birthdays, a bombshell shatters the life Callie knew, Sam’s waters break but she might not be ready for motherhood, while Ginger is forced to reconsider who she wants to be. These women aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, yet they are just so likeable and relatable I would be more than happy to be their friend... to hug, to console, to cheer them on. I just adore Cathy Kelly’s books, she writes with a lovely warmth and kindness, beautifully engages with women across the years, and doesn’t shy away from reality. I found myself sinking into a delicious story that wrapped itself around me, and even with heart-ache along the way, The Year That Changed Everything is ultimately a captivating, enjoyable, feel-good read.
March 2018 Debut of the Month Just gorgeous… this is an emotional and quite, quite beautiful read. After a particularly traumatic time at home, 13 year old Sal and her younger sister Peppa escape into the wilds of Scotland. Sal has spent a long time preparing, the wilderness beckons them, can they survive on their own? Sal tells their story, the first chapter is so clever, I started to realise what had been happening, and then a few carefully chosen, yet almost casually thrown away words, sent a shockwave running through me. I could clearly hear Sal’s voice, she is so individual and distinctive, her words entered my mind and expanded, filling my heart. Mick Kitson encourages the Scottish countryside to sing with intensity, while you can hear Sal, you can see and feel the clean and natural space she and Peppa find themselves in. Kindness flows from unexpected places, and love is behind every word shared by Sal, even in the darkness. Simple, beautiful, provocative yet touching, this is an outstanding debut, and a read I will return to again and again. Highly recommended.
The brand-new feel-good story from bestseller Veronica Henry - a perfect mix of family, friends and delicious food. So absolutely and completely gorgeous in every way! I do look forward to the latest Veronica Henry, I fairly danced with glee when ‘A Family Recipe’ arrived. Number 11 Lark Hill, Bath sits centre stage in this story, set during the Second World War and 2017. The house connects two tales, two women and the people they love. I read this in one sitting, once started, I quite simply didn’t want to stop. Jilly and Laura became known and loved, each and every character pops with intensity, fully realised, touchable, real. Veronica Henry has such a beautiful touch, she paints an entire world, deeply rich and vibrant, bringing to life thoughts, emotions, heart-ache, joy. I stepped though the pages into Bath, wandered the streets, travelled back in time, and salivating, I even looked up the food market to see if I could visit! I know I say this every time, but each new novel becomes my favourite by Veronica Henry, that is her gift, and ‘A Family Recipe’ most certainly continues that tradition.
Terrific, a two-sitting read if you can give it the space. Twin sisters, chalk and cheese; Callie, the narrator, plain and ordinary, Tilda, beautiful, ambitious and a successful actress. Tilda falls for an OCD controlling hedge-fund manager Felix, very rich. The book opens with Felix’s funeral and then we race through 211 pages finding out how and why he died but we are still a hundred pages from the end. So, does this then become a police procedural tale? No. It follows Callie trying to unearth what really happened, contrary to what the police believed. From the start she has worried about Felix’s influence over Tilda. She becomes active on an internet site, controllingmen.com where she corresponds with a couple of women whose advice she finds useful. Then she meets them, tries to help them and now the book becomes complicated and truly compulsive through to its unpredictable end. Highly recommended. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
April 2018 Debut of the Month Ahh, this is just so, so lovely… a debut that made me smile, weep, and smile some more. Rosemary is 86, she has lived in Brixton all her life, watching as Brixton has changed a building at a time, from fruit and veg shops to trendy bars. 26 year old journalist Kate is surrounded by people, yet feels completely and utterly alone, when the local lido is threatened by closure, an alliance and unexpected friendship is formed. Libby Page has a lovely quick-witted, gently quirky writing style, surprising me with observations and unexpected detail (adored the fox!). I loved travelling through memories, getting to know Rosemary and Kate, and seeing the small snapshots of the lives they touch. While it is a truly beautiful read, part of the beauty is in the emotion I felt, pain and heartache is embraced, hugged, soothed. ‘The Lido’ is a deliciously warm and entertaining slice of wonderful, and I absolutely adored it.
In a Nutshell: Intense exposé of extreme misogyny and male privilege An unflinching novel about brutally toxic masculinity, male collusion and how justice systems and society at large are still appallingly rigged against women. Life is tough for Ellie and her dad in their decrepit ghost town. Ellie’s mom ran out on them when she was still a baby, she’s cripplingly lonely and her dad never fulfilled his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Convinced – and told by her peers - that she’s ugly, Ellie’s dream is “to be pretty. That’s part of what makes a girl,” she remarks. “Girls who are pretty are likeable. Pretty is power.” So when privileged Caleb tells her she’s pretty, she craves him, even though she also “hated how he made me feel uncomfortable”. His attention legitimises and comforts her, even when he dumps her, even when he’s humiliates her. And then it’s too late. He and his family are monstrous, and Ellie can’t escape. The brotherhood of abuse portrayed here will sicken and shock, while your heart will ache for Ellie, for her dad, and for the love and friendships she deserved to enjoy. Relentlessly raw and unusually framed, this is perhaps best recommended for fans of crime fiction with conscience. Bold in its bleakness, this steers well clear of any kind of happy-ever-after Hollywood ending. In real life baddies don’t always get what they had coming. In real life not everyone has a best friend to turn to. On a positive note, this might just enrage to the point of inspiring readers to take a stand on issues of systemic misogyny, and it makes a strong case for the need to take time to truly get to know people, to find friends you can open up to.
March 2018 Book of the Month Oh my, this is a fascinating, darkly powerful novel with biting attitude, set in Victorian Edinburgh. In the laboratory above a newly opened pharmacy, a wonder-drug is created, as the pharmacist experiments, his wife of six months discovers a world she couldn’t have imagined. Kindness and love sit at the very heart of this novel, however light can be so easily doused, and a bleak and twisted shadow menaces the pages. This may be a blistering Victorian drama, yet the characters feel so very real, their thoughts and feelings could easily be exposed today. Vanessa Tait writes with a provocative, combative pen, my mind flinched, my heart ached, and yet hope existed within the very centre of my being. Raw, elemental and disturbing, The Pharmacist’s Wife is an entirely captivating, enthralling read - highly recommended.
In a Nutshell: Anarchy, Justice, Heroes versus Villains Hot on the heels of Wonder Woman, and timely with Black Panther’s rapturous big screen release, this kick-ass superhero adventure abounds in extravagant Good versus Evil battles and high-octane action. In a society that’s experienced dystopian destruction, the Renegades represent goodness to most people. While the Anarchists had “cared only for change”, the super-powered Renegades emerged from the Age of Anarchy as harbingers of justice and hope. But Nova isn’t most people. Her uncle was the revolutionary leader Ace Anarchy. “Maybe Ace was really a villain. Or maybe he was a visionary. Maybe there’s not much of a difference,” Nova muses but, either way, she has reason to hate the Renegades, and she’s set on revenge. But, as she gets in deeper, even raw revenge turns out to be anything but simple. Her journey is exhilaratingly entertaining and evoked in awesome detail, with plenty of plot twists and personal dilemmas to keep the pulse racing and the pages turning.
An absorbing, fresh, and ultimately incredibly satisfying police procedural and start to a new series. DI Maya Rahman and DS Dan Maguire investigate the murder of a Head Teacher at an East London School, another murder plunges the investigators into a race against time before the killer strikes again and the already tense community lose all faith. Short snappy chapters and rapid moves between time frames and characters kept me vigilant and alert to changes. I found the chapter headings helpful, and at no time was I left floundering, the writing kept me firmly in touch with the storyline. Vicky Newham is a psychologist and has taught in East London, her connection to the social issues in the novel feel authentic and tangible, I could feel the emotion, the confusion, the fear. Snippets of information, both about the case and Maya and Dan are gradually released, and the story emerges fully realised, strong, and bursting with energy. ‘Turn a Blind Eye’ is a cracking debut, with a bold sharp edge, and I look forward to the next in the series.
In a nutshell: girl loves boy/supernatural bounty hunter | When star-crossed lovers Zoe and the boy she nicknames X meet the circumstances are hardly promising: stranded in a blizzard Zoe has fallen into the hands of a psychotic murderer and X, there in his capacity as supernatural bounty hunter responsible for dragging wicked souls to Hell, saves her. When Zoe persuades him to let the man go, her fate and X’s intertwine but as the plot unfolds, we begin to realise that maybe they were part of a bigger story all along. Sassy, fast-talking Zoe is a hugely appealing heroine and X amply supplies in smouldering good looks and romantic anguish what he sometimes lacks in characterisation. It all builds to a terrific climax and this can-they-can’t they-be-together romance is definitely hot. This is one to recommend to fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and readers will also enjoy The Diabolic by S J Kincaid and Frostblood by Elly Blake.
An endurance challenge in the Outer Hebrides takes a nightmarish turn when contestants discover exactly what it will take to win the multi-million-pound prize. When everything's at stake, trust is everything ... and for this group of friends, it's falling apart. Lovereading Comment to follow.
April 2018 Debut of the Month Oh my word, this is an eyebrow raising, mouth openingly good read. A contemporary tale about three women, muddling and battling their way through this world as best they can. Emotional growing pains can occur at any age, life doesn't run smoothly, and these three women hold out the hand of friendship to all of us. We see and feel deeply hidden thoughts, witness shockingly embarrassing moments, and I found myself wincing at their pain, snorting with laughter, and cheering them on. Dawn O’Porter has written a stonkingly good read, I stayed up well past my bedtime into the early hours in order to finish it in one sitting. My feelings went into free fall and occasionally tied themselves up in knots as I read. ‘The Cows’ slams with impact, slaps adversity in the face, and offers supportive understanding in our modern world. Highly recommended!
Just gorgeous, this is a story to shine a light in the darkness, even in moments of despair. Constantinople in 1921 is a confusing, often frightening place to be, in the first few pages, two reports from 1918, perfectly sum up the two opposing sides, each report almost interchangeable. Nur’s house is in the hands of the British and being used as a hospital, she finds her thoughts on the occupiers altering and conflicted when she takes an orphan in her care to be treated by George Munroe. Five separate yet entwined stories exist side by side, different time frames ensure the past spears the present, while the future whispers to the past. Lucy Foley has developed a beautiful writing style, the vivid colour stamps its impression on the pages, conjuring taste, touch, smells and sounds, as well as creating a feast for your eyes. As the book began to come to a close, it felt as though two trains were on an inevitable collision course. The sweeping horror of war and occupation, both momentous and insidious, is clearly felt, yet it is the intimate, the individual connections, that were the highlight of this read for me. ‘Last Letter from Istanbul’ caresses, sparks and skewers thoughts and feelings, it is a truly penetrating and captivating read - highly recommended.
In a Nutshell: Martian odyssey meets classic quest Ingeniously inventive, involving and wildly witty, this thrilling finale of the Lora Trilogy is sci-fi, but not as you know it… Having suffered and survived the perils of the inhospitable Martian prairie, Lora and Peter must find the Ancient Heart of Mars. But, as Toaster, Lora’s walking, talking sunbed, remarks, “Going to meet these so-called Ancient Ones might be the most hazardous adventure we have embarked on yet.” Toaster’s certainly right on that front, and he might also hold the key to saving them. This flamboyant fusion of science fiction and classic adventure contains more sparks and surprises than a box of fireworks. It’s a rousing epic underpinned by playfulness, and a drive to do the right thing in even the most difficult of circumstances. It’s also a genuine, 100%-certified crossover that will delight a vast spectrum of readers.
A captivating and convincing novel set during the Second World War, based on archived documents and letters, detailing the relationship between married US General Eisenhower and his driver Kay Summersby. In 1942 the two meet, and Eisenhower quickly places Kay at the heart of his team, as rumours spread, they become ever closer. The lines between fact and fiction blurred as I read, the relationship felt substantial, real, and before my eyes I witnessed Kay supporting Eisenhower as he made critical decisions about the war. James MacManus creates an intimate, penetrating story, yet the huge arena of war dominates, highlighting the connection between the two. Clear and precise, everyday life is set before you, and small in-depth details encourage a vivid picture to emerge. Ike and Kay focuses on an intriguing relationship, a relationship that was tolerated, even encouraged in order to get the job done, oh what a fascinating tale it is.
The brilliant, irresistible and gorgeously romantic new novel from Jenny McLachlan, the breakout star of young, laugh-out-loud teen fiction. Annie is a teenager. She’s feisty, passionate about life and her independence, doesn’t want to depend on anyone oh and she has cerebral palsy. For the first time ever she is stepping out in life on her own terms as she begins college. No mum, no learning support assistant – just Annie. And that’s exactly how she likes it. So it’s a slight inconvenience when she meets Fab, a young polish student who she sits next to in class. Fab is different. He is full of zest for life, good natured, kind, a little unusual, and has taken an instant shine to Annie. Of course they don’t hit it off straight away due to a misunderstanding but he has a certain charm that she soon finds hard to resist and I must admit to thinking how everyone could do with a Fab in their life. Truly, Wildly, Deeply is a Wuthering Heights fuelled love story that will sweep you away. Warm, strong, likeable characters and a girl who has battled prejudice and for the right be seen for the girl she is rather than her disability. Fab was wonderful; a lovely, unique teenager who is drawn to Annie and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the both of them and following their journey as they slowly discovered that life is a whole lot brighter with each other. A story about love, friendship and that there is more to a person that what you see on the outside and also, just as importantly, that you can be part of something special without losing your identity.
With fascinating features on everything from yaks and the yeti to World Heritage Sites, this 300+ page book offers excellent insight into all Nepal has to offer both intrepid explorers and culture-minded travellers. The in-depth regional coverage is extensive, providing insider guidance around Kathmandu, Patan, the road to Tibet, the Everest region, and more, including the remote west. Throughout, the photography is absolutely stunning, with fabulous images of evocative street scenes and awe-inspiring natural landscapes. And, if you’re planning to climb Everest or to embark on similarly adventurous exploits, the free eBook provides the same invaluable content digitally, so you can leave the print book back at base camp! Included in the guide is a free app with travel tips and practical information which is regularly updated - find out more. Further Reading Recommendations: Mountains Painted with Turmeric by Lil Bahadur Chettri Nothing to Declare by Rabi Thapa
A truly gripping and compelling novel exploring the fascinating life of Joan of Kent, as she grew from a wilful child to a shrewd and capable woman, through to the time her son became Richard II. Joan tells her own story, creating a delicious intimacy, we meet her in 1340, when she secretly marries at the age of 12, an inconceivable age, yet this is a woman who proves again and again that she knows her own mind. The awareness of the lines between fact and fiction blurred as I read, and I found myself escaping into and just thoroughly enjoying this novel. By the end I was so enamoured with Joan, I was left with a hunger for more information about her life beyond the end of the book. Anne O’Brien chooses some extraordinary and intriguing women from history to place within her tales and ‘The Shadow Queen’ more than lives up to expectations, what a splendid read this is.
If you're looking for a fresh, addictive police procedural with characters who spring into vivid life, then look no further than Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed. It's Steiner's first venture into the crime genre - her debut, Homecoming, was more literary - and it follows the efforts of DS Manon Bradshaw, a single woman in her late 30s, who is trying to get a handle on the case of the missing Edith Hind. Edith, a Cambridge post-grad, was dropped home by a friend to the house she shares with her boyfriend; the next day, he returns to find the door open, coats scattered, blood on the floor. Manon knows she has hours to find Edith before the hunt will switch to one for a body, rather than a missing person, but the time slips away and Edith can't be found. Steiner follows the case from various perspectives - Manon's, her colleagues, Edith's mother - using the effect to build a compelling, thrilling crime novel which I thoroughly recommend. March 2016 Book of the Month.
February 2018 Book of the Month. Another joyful hug of a read from Katie Fforde, what more could you want, than to settle down with her latest book! Philly, Lorna and Anthea, all wonderful ladies, in various stages of their lives, sit centre stage in this delightful story. Set in a friendly community, with a garden to restore, will love pay a fleeting visit or settle in for a longer stay? As to be expected, the three main characters are surrounded by a lovely cast of friends, as life throws gravel, pebbles, and socking great boulders in their path. Katie Fforde has the wonderful ability to put a smile on my face, and I feel re-energised and ready to face the world again when I finish her lovely tales. To be honest, her stories speak for themselves, I really only need to tell you that the latest Katie Fforde is out, and it’s the warm and very charming ‘A Secret Garden’. Click here to read an exclusive interview with Katie Fforde by Mary Hogarth.
A story about identity, courage and searching for the truth of who you are. This book made me cry, it made me feel, it made me think and it made me want to read on. Emma Young brings us a whole new take on the issue of identity and body image. The idea of waking up with a completely different body was incredibly thought provoking, from looking at a different face in the mirror to discovering new freckles, the shape of your knuckles and the fall of your hair. After years of being trapped in a body slowly dying of a nerve disease, Rosa is offered an experimental brain transplant and given the chance to live. Yet as she struggles to come to terms with her new body she begins to question who she is and if she even deserves this healthy, able body when the girl who it belonged to is dead. She is told very little about her donor Sylvia, yet she knows she was young, pretty and a girl who seemingly had everything to live for and yet whose body has given her, Rosa, the chance to live. Soon Rosa becomes obsessed with finding out more about Sylvia and who she was. As Rosa embarks on a journey to discover who Sylvia was, can she find a way to rediscover and accept herself? ~ Shelley Fallows - You can also find Shelley here. Perfect for fans of Extraordinary Means, Faceless and The Art of Being Normal.
March 2018 Book of the Month Take an old house on the edge of a remote Scottish island, place an American artist running away from her marriage in it. She finds an old journal from 1869 written by Ailsa whose husband dabbled in the occult and used her as an ‘instrument’ in his experiments. He was drowned at sea and she gave birth to a child thirteen months after she last saw him. Scandal, rumour and gossip abound when both mother and child die in mysterious circumstances. So now our present day tale unfolds and what a tale it is. This is Dennis Wheatley/Wicker Man/Stephen King territory, wonderful stuff, not for the feint-hearted. Our American woman blames jet lag, then alcohol, then hormones for her strange, erotic ‘dreams’. Slowly we are drawn into an ancient mystery, locals resenting infiltrators, or real horror … we know not and we turn the pages compulsively to discover all we can. Highly recommended. Lovers of historical fiction will know the author as S J Parris, a creator of Bruno the sixteenth century spy, this is her first book under this name.
Oh my word! This is knock-out of a read, punchy and raw, it made me flinch and yet I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop reading. If you haven’t yet read ‘Ragdoll’, do start there, mostly because it’s truly fabulous, but also because it’s the beginning of the ‘Fawkes and Baxter’ trilogy and you don’t want to lose out on any part of this story. ‘Hangman’ starts with the most intriguing prologue, I read it twice to let it sink in. It’s 18 months since the conclusion of the Ragdoll Murders for Baxter, a new chilling and gruesome killing spree begins, targeting both New York City and London, and Emily finds herself with two new partners. My advice is to set plenty of time aside, as once I started reading, I couldn’t bear to put this book down for a single second, and I read late into the night in order to finish. I find Daniel Cole’s writing compulsive, it makes me sit up and take note, I was on high alert at all times, buzzing with anticipation. The humour has a definite dark tone, yet it is there, and a welcome addition as an avalanche of horror descends. I wasn’t sure if Daniel Cole could live up to my expectations, he actually manages to exceed them, as ‘Hangman’ stands defiant, mind-blowing, striking… joining ‘Ragdoll’ as most definite must-reads.
In a Nutshell: Centuries-old sisters wreak revenge An ancient curse haunts a contemporary town, with a seventeen-year-old heroine at the very heart of its darkness. Two centuries ago, three sisters accused of witchcraft were drowned as punishment for their alleged sorcery. And every year, the sisters rise from the waters to inhabit the bodies of three local girls, set on seducing and drowning boys in revenge. This annual act of vengeance has become something of a macabre tourist attraction, with hundreds of visitors descending on the insular town of Sparrow ahead of the sisters’ return. 18 year-old Bo is among them this year, but he’s not Sparrow’s usual kind of tourist, as Penny discovers. But then Penny’s not your usual kind of local, either. She’s an outsider who lives with her grief-stricken, fortuneteller mom on an island off Sparrow. When Bo and Penny’s lives collide on the night the sisters rise from the depths, a thrillingly lyrical tale unfolds and crashes to a pulse-quickening crescendo as an age-old tempest of emotional turmoil plays out against the wild winds of a Pacific storm. Weaving folkloric elements into a contemporary setting is no easy feat, and here this has been accomplished with panache - the writing is as beguiling as the Swan sisters themselves and makes for an exhilarating devour-in-one-sitting reading experience.
In a Nutshell: Hearty hope-filled ode to food-love, self-love and living out loud As energising as a super food salad, as satisfying and nourishing as your favourite home-cooked meal, this delectable novel about feeling comfortable in your own skin has been prepared with sisterly love and comes served on a bed of inspiration. Meet your new favourite character, Bluebelle, also known as BB, or Big Bones. She’s a one-woman carnival of confidence and style. She likes “being big. Because there’s something of me. I feel wholesome, there alive”, but she’s super-aware of all the double-standards around size and gender. While it’s OK for boys to “want to seem big”, in contrast “it seems the world wants us girls to be tiny and petite and taken care of. What’s all that about?” BB becomes further entangled in this web of weight obsession when a nurse tells her to lose weight and keep a food diary. She gets on with her life - working in a coffee shop, exchanging top bantz with her adventurous sister, and writing the diary - until a family misfortune throws her off-course. How BB handles this situation will truly make your heart sing. Stuffed with lashings of laugh-out-loud loveliness (just wait until you read about Bum Tills...), relatable real-life truths and love in all its complicated, dizzying forms (food-love, friend-love, sisterly-love, boy-love, self-love), this is, quite simply, the best YA book about self-esteem and body image I’ve ever read.
In a Nutshell: Resilience, retaliation and world-changing undercover work in Nazi Germany Stinging with drama, action and, above all, a relentless sense of urgency, this ruthlessly remarkable debut sees an indomitable Jewess go undercover. When Sarah’s mother is shot dead, there’s no time for sentimentality, no time to grieve. Sarah must press on, “keep moving”, for her survival depends on it. She joins forces with the Captain, a man she discovers is part of the resistance against the Nazis, and Sarah will spy for him. To this end, she adopts a new identity. She becomes Ursula Haller, the “good little dumb National Socialist Monster”. The Captain secures her a place at a school attended by the daughters of top Nazis, and here she must befriend Elsa, whose father is a leading scientist. The conditions at the school are repugnantly cruel, but Sarah is sharp and strong beyond her fifteen years. Though her childhood was curtailed by her actress mother, and then by the Nazis, she’s defiantly resilient, and infiltrates the grand home and secret lab of a top SS scientist. Compelling and quick-paced, the writing - like Sarah’s character - is indelibly raw, and this is a fiercely gripping read. A message from the author; "Through Sarah’s fictional adventures I want to illuminate this time and make it real for the reader. I want them to understand that history, to interrogate it and then question the events of today. Nobody should ever say “this couldn’t happen now” because it can and it does. As the philosopher George Santayana said, “ those who cannot remember the pastare condemned to repeat it.” Read more from Matt Killeen here.
March 2018 Book of the Month | In a nutshell: gripping YA thriller | Two damaged young people are the central characters in this gripping novel. Rev, who lives with his adopted parents, still bears the scars inflicted by his abusive father, and fears that he may one day meet the man again or, even worse, turn into him. Em’s homelife is toxic, her parents argue all the time and her mother often attacks Em too. She takes refuge online, but that space stops feeling safe when one of the vile trolls who target her (mostly for being female) tracks her down in real life. Em and Rev meet and become friends, but the tension and dangers to both mount. The suspense is maintained throughout, and Em and Rev are compelling characters. Some scenes will upset readers but it’s a powerful exploration of abuse and recovery. Holly Goldberg Sloan writes equally well about this topic in her YA novel I’ll Be There.
In a Nutshell: Young carers learn to live for today Tender in both name and tone, this involving debut tackles tough themes with heart-wrenching honesty. Marty’s mum struggles to get out of bed, while for Marty it’s the going to bed that’s the problem, “because that’s when the thinking starts… Give me the mornings anytime. Give me the light”. Marty’s life was on track until his dad died, but he’s now all but dropped out of school and is terrified of what might happen if the social workers knew how ill his mum has become. But it’s the social workers who give him a leaflet about a young carers group, which is where he meets Daisy… Daisy has problems of her own. Her beloved brother Harry has debilitating muscular dystrophy. During one young carers meeting, Daisy is passionate about wanting to see the world, which seems impossible to Marty. His world is poorer and smaller. It’s confined to his estate and revolves around his mum. But, while they come from different worlds, they’re united by that fact that they both feel powerless when it comes to what matters most. Daisy can’t make Harry well, and Marty can’t bring back his dad or fix his mum. Consequently, they find solace - and more - in each other. Honest on the realities of mental illness, grief and how it feels to be a teen carer, this truly touching read shines a bright light of love and hope through Daisy and Marty’s darkest days.
Longlisted for the UKLA 2018 Book Award | In a Nutshell: how to hope for the best even when you’ve been through the worst | Susin Nielsen puts her protagonists through the most terrible situations, but always manages to keep the tone of her novels light, positive and ultimately uplifting. Teenager Petula’s little sister died in tragic circumstances and the effect on the family has been shattering: her parents are both coping in their own way, but growing further apart, while Petula sees danger and threats in everything. Because of her terrible anxiety she’s been signed up to a youth art therapy group which is where she meets Jacob. Jacob has his own tragedy to deal with, but his arrival changes the dynamics of the group and helps all the different members to move on in one way or another. He and Petula become a couple, but there’s a growing realisation for her and readers that he’s not been completely honest. Readers will be gripped by Petula’s story and the way she tells it; Nielsen gives her a totally authentic teen voice, loaded with cynicism, sarcasm, humour and flashes of hope. Recommended for readers who enjoy Nielsen’s poignant, sensitive novels is I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane. *** Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Take the quiz & find out! OptimistsQuiz.com
In a Nutshell: Time-travel, tyranny and tension This suspenseful sequel to Movers takes readers on an exhilarating time-travel trip as Patrick tries to return to his own time to save his family’s fate. In 2083, overcrowded and ailing planet Earth is home to two types of people, Movers and Non-Movers, and Movers like Pat possess the ability to bring their Shadow – a person from the future to whom they’re connected – to their own time. But Pat has been has been lurched forward 300 years into an unfamiliar future by Bo, his own Shadow. On finding himself in 2383, Pat is tormented by fears for his family: “anything could have happened to the people I love. It’s the not-knowing that’s driving me crazy”. Now he and Bo are occupying the same time “neither of us can move the other”, yet Pat must return to his family, and so they set off on a terrifying quest through a dangerous and dynamically-depicted dystopian world. While the concept is pretty complex, the writing is clear and thrillingly fast-paced, and this comes recommended for younger teen fans of sci-fi and dystopian fiction.
In a Nutshell: It takes courage for the show to go on Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on. Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”. Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top.
Sail Away is a light-hearted Mystery set aboard a cruise ship written by actress and author Celia Imrie. Suzy the once famous actress is struggling to find work and accepts a role in a suspiciously amateur production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ with a small acting troupe that leaves her stranded in Zurich with her bank balanced cleaned out, with a job on a cruise ship her only option. Meanwhile, Amanda is preparing to downsize. As the removal van is pulling away from her new home, disaster! The purchase of her new flat has fallen through. Her two fully grown children can’t see past the end of their own noses to help offer any kind of support, leaving Amanda homeless. Thankfully a resolution is found but there is a delay of a few weeks before Amanda can move in, the perfect amount of time to (rightfully, in my opinion) spend some of the money set aside for her children from the sale on a holiday until she has somewhere to live. The stories of these two strangers become intertwined on the Blue Mermaid, a cruise ship that is larger than a small town, with just as many people on board. In an Oscar Wilde-esque case of mistaken identity takes place with a more serious crime and mystery undertone. The plot contains a number of twists and turns which leaves you guessing all of the particular nuances until the very end. The cruise ship is filled with a variety of nice and not so nice characters in order to diversify the story and offer some extra detail. In all, I enjoyed the book and would recommend. ~ Charlotte Walker
My goodness me did these two have a passion, a chemistry that burned so bright it was painful to behold. They, Lucy and Gabe, met on 11 September 2001 in New York as the world changed and so did their lives. We follow them through Lucy’s conversation with Gabe over thirteen years as each has a dream that needs to be fulfilled, a dream of doing something important in the world. Together or separately they know not but follow that dream they must. We discover a lot about Lucy’s life, little about Gabe’s except when it crosses Lucy’s. She marries Darren, has two children, is happy and loves him. But there are many types of love and the one that burns for Gabe is wild fire and will not die. This is extraordinarily romantic, the stuff that goose bumps are made of and a joy to read. Evocative, moving and intense it is a very impressive work. The author has written several children’s book, this is her first adult novel. If you like Jill Santopolo you might also like to read books by Lisa Jewell, Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls.
Real Reviews from Real Passionate Readers
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