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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.
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
This intelligent, beautifully eloquent and powerful crime novel thoroughly provoked my feelings, and still remains in my thoughts. Mickey Fitzpatrick is a police officer patrolling the area she grew up in. Kensington in Philadelphia is known for drugs and sex workers, when a killer arrives on the streets, Mickey prays that her little sister doesn’t become a victim. The author Liz Moore has an intimate knowledge of the real Kensington, she has interviewed the people drawn there by drugs, written non fiction, and completed community work, she obviously cares a great deal for this neighbourhood and its people. Her novel set in Kensington has been a long time in the coming, she wanted to: “do this world justice”, to: “fairly represent”. As I started to read, the ‘list’ stopped me in my tracks, I read it again, pondered, and then moved on to the first two pages which hit my mind with a wallop and gave it a good shake. Mickey narrates her story, she is so clear, sharp, on point, and I could see, feel, taste her words. Kensington, Mickey and her family flooded my mind in short, fierce, expressive chapters of ‘then’ and ‘now’. I felt a connection to emotions, to this story, it truly spoke to me. I feel this novel will be one that I regularly return to, and I’ll take away something a little different each time. Long Bright River is a stunning read, it aches with poignant, vivid intensity and I absolutely loved it. There is no other option for me, than to choose it as a LoveReading Star Book, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
An intriguing and altogether thrilling tale that played games in my mind and twisted my thoughts. A man with no memory is found on a Norfolk beach, neuropsychiatrist Dr Emma Lewis is asked to assess him. Emma, however, has secrets… and Norfolk is the very last place that she wants to be. The prologue focussed my attention and stayed with me throughout. As chapter one and day one started, followed by chapter two and day six, I realised that an unsettled feeling would also be keeping me company. Time slides forwards from each of these two chapters, the jagged sequence leaving my emotions hanging as the following chapter sped away again. Catherine Steadman allowed me to see, feel, and experience, her descriptions vivid in their intensity. As suggestions whispered and cajoled, the story eventually overtook and whipped them into shape. If you like to be kept on your reading toes then Mr Nobody could just be the very book for you.
Set between 1917 and 1940, taking in the two World Wars and all the social and political upheaval between them, this intimate and thoughtfully told novel focuses on two women. A mother at 19, Alice is forced to give her up her baby, and that baby, adopted and living life miles away, grows up knowing she is different. As the two women live their lives, their two individual stories begin to intertwine. Rachel Hore shows immense compassion in her writing as this story about family, love, loss and hope travels through the decades. I found myself immersed in the story, hoping and willing for happiness to step into the end of the tale. Peppered with notes from history, the years between the wars were bright and alive in my mind. Simply, almost gently told, as bitingly fierce and emotional subjects are handled with sensitivity, The Love Child is a beautifully poignant and hopeful novel.
Pretty Unhealthy is written in a personal and chatty style to educate, inform and entertain. When heart surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp was diagnosed with high blood pressure, she began to look more closely at not just her own lifestyle but what being healthy really means. In modern society, health and beauty have become intertwined, with people’s looks and size being (falsely) seen as an indication of their overall physical and mental health. This book wades through the barrage of health information reaching us on a daily basis via books, websites, blogs, social media posts and magazines/newspapers. How do we know what to believe? How much of this often-conflicting information is based on actual science and written by qualified experts, rather than the popular so-called ‘wellness experts’? And is it really making us healthier – or just more miserable? Dr Stamp covers various contemporary topics, including diet fads, exercise trends, body positivity & body image and weight bias. This isn’t a diet manual – it’s about how to get back a healthy relationship with food and exercise, concentrating on how we feel rather than how we look. This book won’t tell you what to eat and drink – that has to be your decision – but it will tell you how to be in control of your own choices, rather than be influenced by the pseudoscience, false hope and ‘magic bullets’ around you. I ended the book thinking about my lifestyle and what I enjoy and how, above all, it’s important to be kind to myself. Can’t get better messages than that.
If books were friends (and more than a few are) then I feel as though I have met the most wonderfully quirky forever friend. Gravity is the Thing is a complete joy of a book, and one that refuses to be pigeonholed into a genre. Abi, a Sydney cafe owner, has been invited to attend a retreat to learn the truth about ‘The Guidebook’, chapters have been arriving since she was a teen, and have kept her company in the darkest of times. The book floats between 1990 and 2010, and as Abi opens up her life, she revisits, examines, and searches for answers. Jaclyn Moriarty writes with the most beautiful eloquence, sharp pointed observations sit alongside the tightest of warm hugs. I wanted to meander, to wander, to eke out my reading time, and yet hoover up the words and the feelings they created in one heady go. I contemplated loss and grief, I smiled, laughed, and believed… oh how I believed! Gravity is the Thing is different (in the best possible way), and I predict that this will be one of my favourite books of the year. So, as well as being one of our Books of the Month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. It really is that gorgeous!
Thirty-year-old Shalini has lived a privileged life, but one beset by uncertainty. She was her erratic mother’s “little beast” and is struggling to come to terms with her tragic death. Adrift from work and the wider world, Shalini journeys to find Bashir, a travelling salesman she and her mother befriended through her childhood, tentatively hoping this will provide some understanding of her mother’s death. As Shalini’s journey unfolds in the present, a second narrative reveals her past with raw poignancy. On the road, Shalini’s faltering need to belong somewhere is revealed through her romantic imaginings of being part of a stranger’s family. And then, in Bashir’s remote Himalayan village, she becomes caught in a complex political situation, with the tangled conflict between her heart and conscience made powerfully palpable. While she feels “I had chosen this place, these people, this life, with its secrets and its violence, it’s hardness and its beauty”, Shalini recognises that she’s thrown Bashir’s family “into disarray with my invasion and my probing questions”. The writing is so exquisitely magnetic that I struggled to draw myself away from it, especially as Shalini’s story rose to an unexpected, pulse-quickening climax. This is the rare kind of novel that lingers long in the heart and mind, like a dream one feels compelled to return to.
A different, emotionally beautiful and rewarding debut about love, hope, and all the strange little things that come together to make up a family. Augusta and Parfait, born on different continents into different worlds, both want to leave everything behind but does that ever solve anything? What a first sentence! Those few words stayed with me throughout the entire book, sitting, waiting, every now and then tapping me on the shoulder to say hello. I so love how this story unfolds, two separate tales, are they on a collision course or destined to remain forever apart? Joanna Glen has set intricate strands from the past coiling and twisting together through to the present to create a feeling of tension and mystery. While undeniably and wonderfully quirky, there is a real sense of warmth here, even when your heart may feel as though it is about to crack in two. As I read I found myself filling up with love for The Other Half of Augusta Hope. It has been chosen as a Debut of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book too, as it really is that gorgeous!
Offering a deep and abiding connection with nature and our landscape around us, this winter journal really is the most poignant yet uplifting, and emotionally observant read. Horatio Clare explains in his prologue that he is embracing winter, in order to raise a torch against depression. Declaring that “I will not lose touch with nature”, he says he wants to stop turning inwards, and start looking outwards. What follows is a journal that starts on the 16 October and travels through winter into early Spring. With a gift for seeing what others may have missed, for expressing and painting with words, Horatio Clare is able to take the reader by the hand and share the memory with us too. As he battles the darkness to be found in winter, he sends out a blazing light. I adored the snippets of new-found (for me) information, including that in Welsh lore dragons thrive as green woodpeckers. I have since seen a green woodpecker in their low, darting, rolling flight with completely new eyes! The Light in the Dark is so eloquently descriptive and beautiful, emotional goosebumps kept me company as I read, and oh, that ending! Highly recommended, this just had to feature as one of our Star Books.
A stark, fierce, and fascinating start to what promises to be a rewarding trilogy. The Swords of Silence is set in Japan during 1626 as the Shogun slams shut the door to outside influences. If Father Joaquim Martinez and the village he tends, fail to renounce their religion, they face a hideous death. It took a little time for me to settle into the names, the time, the land, however I was soon gripped by the story on offer. The dedication at the beginning states that between 1614 and 1643 the Shogun executed almost 5,000 Christians. Shaun Curry writes with a simplicity that to be quite honest, feels necessary in the bloodshed that follows. He doesn’t revel in the gore, instead quite matter-of-factly describes incidents that somehow feel all the more real. I have to say that I have rather fallen for Master Watanabe and do hope that he makes a reappearance in the trilogy! Exploring a time and place from long ago, The Swords of Silence took me with picture sharp clarity into a compelling story.
Huge, in fact, huger than huge klaxon alert as Cecelia Ahern has written a sequel to her truly wonderful debut, P.S. I Love You. It’s been seven years since Gerry died, and after Holly talks about his letters in a podcast, a group approaches her asking for help. I adore Cecelia Ahern’s writing, it just speaks to, and connects with my entire being. Confession time, I didn’t write any notes as I read, I just read for the pure pleasure of it. Which in itself, really makes a statement doesn’t it? Holly is honest, and entirely human as she initially tries to distance herself from the group. This is an older Holly, an altered Holly, she has moved on while Gerry and the letters have remained anchored in time. The other characters are absolutely fascinating, I grew to care about the group members and fell completely in love with Ginika. After reaching the end I found myself reflecting, the writing not only entered my heart, it also still sits in my thoughts. Postscript is just as brilliant, just as emotional, just as gorgeous, as P.S., and while linking so effectively to the past, grows into a truly beautiful novel in its own unique right.
Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.
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.