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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.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
Oh what a beautiful all-consuming dream of a ride this is. Set in Moscow, a young woman finds herself at the centre of a battle for both humanity and a deep hidden magic. The Winter of the Witch is the third in the ‘Winternight’ trilogy, however, I confess that this was my first read of the three. I would most definitely recommend starting at the beginning with The Bear and the Nightingale as I’m now desperate to experience the wonder of the rest of the story, though it’s worth noting that the writing is so good, I immediately felt completely at home. I fell entranced into the pages and within the first few chapters I was so at one with the sense of place and characters, I actually cried at a heart-stopping moment. While the feel of a deep dark fairy tale washes over the pages, Katherine Arden creates a vivid realist bite and also encouraged me to connect as deeply with the more challenging characters as the more loveable ones. The Winter of the Witch is a fascinating, engaging, quite glorious read and I absolutely adored it. Highly recommended.
A group of Bristolian sixth-formers experience a whole lot more than the thrills and chills of the ski-slopes they’re expecting when one of their party discovers a trail of blood in their lodge. For outcast Charlie this trip was supposed to be a break from his troubled homelife, but he and his peers are now up to their necks in a gruesome, gory nightmare. Matters take a monstrous, mythical turn after ski instructor Hanna tells the students a tale “about things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night”… The action is jumpy, the writing sparse and direct, with plenty of unexpected twists to keep readers on the edge of their seats alongside the characters’ varied backstories. An accomplished debut for fans of atmospheric horror.
A sweeping saga set between 1884 and 1889 packed-full of the trials, endeavours, and love interests of five families. This is the start of a new series, and Barbara Taylor Bradford has introduced the different characters quite beautifully. The story glides from London, to Kent, Hull and Paris creating a fascinating full background in which it sits. From the up and coming Falconers to the Trevalians who head a private bank, fine threads connect the characters together, slowly creating a rich tapestry. This isn’t a book to rush through, it’s one to savour, to sink into and become at one with the story. Take time to introduce yourself to each individual, to understand them and where they sit in the story. Allow the highs and lows to fill your thoughts, to lift your heart, and be ready to console your feelings. Master of his Fate is a rather lovely and enjoyable opening to what promises to be a compelling new series.
Thirty very different pieces about extraordinary women, keenly observed and astute. They cover the spectrum from triumphant to pathetic, sad to humerous, surprising to surreal. There is the woman who unravels, another who grows wings, one who secretly paints her grass green, one talks to ducks, one slips through a timeless crack and another is put on a shelf. Some will irritate, others make you laugh or cry. Do not read too many together else you will lose the flavour. I would believe it to be a good bedside book, read two or three a night and take the next day pondering and digesting them before the next batch. I also believe it would make an excellent Christmas present for any woman any age.
The name Kamal Ahmed wasn’t familiar to me when I was first introduced to this book. It should have been. In my defence, I would argue that, as I watch little television, I may be forgiven. The case against me, however, would certainly point out that since one of my favourite programmes is BBC News – where Kamal has, since 2016, regularly appeared in his role as Economics Editor – I really ought to have recognised him. Hopefully, I will be forgiven. Kamal Ahmed is a first generation descendent of a Sudanese immigrant father. I am third generation, through my grandmother’s family who come from South Africa – they were Xhosa and, I learned many years ago, from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela. And so, it was with an ever-increasing sense of déjà vu that I became absorbed by this book. Through a series of personal anecdotes, political comment and astute observations, The Life and Times of a Very British Man makes a compelling case for a new debate about what is it to be British, what makes us who we are and how we view those we consider to be ‘others’. I don’t use the word ‘absorbed’ lightly. Kamal is a talented writer, something apparent from the very first pages. He uses language skilfully, not so much to impress, but to present his arguments logically and passionately. He is perceptive, reasoning and persuasive. And he is absolutely right as he asks the reader to consider what it is that makes us British? Kamal Ahmed. Not a terribly British name is it? That antithesis is, perhaps, something that makes the title of this work so germane. What is it to be British? To quote the author, he likes National Trust Houses, the Specials, Victoria sponge cake and double-cooked chips. What is it that makes us feel British? At times disturbing, at times amusing, The Life and Times of a Very British Man asks searching questions about us, our country and our attitude to change. One day I hope to meet Kamal Ahmed and explain to him how, as I reached the end of this book, I realised a complete stranger had become a friend. I hope it does the same for you. I recommend it.
Ahh, what a lovely, engaging read this is, there is also an edge to be found too, which makes it particularly relatable. Katie has made running away from difficult times an art form, now she is settled on the Dorset coast with her four-year-old son, she is determined to stay put. A Gift from the Comfort Good Café forms part of the 'Comfort Food Café' series of books, it reads quite beautifully as a standalone, yet you will recognise the other characters and of course the café if you’re already a fan. I would love to pay a visit to Budbury, to sit down to tea and toast in the café and allow the energy of the characters as they go about their daily business to surround me. Debbie Johnson has given Katie a really strong voice, while Katie has her vulnerabilities, it’s wonderful to see her confidence grow. The romance is of course as delicious as the cake on offer and a light sparkling sense of fun bounces from the pages. All in all a quite gorgeous and beautifully comforting read. Featured in the LoveReading Christmas Gift Guide.
Offering comfort, convenience, dazzling destinations, excellent entertainment options, fine food, and even adventure (for those so inclined!), it’s no wonder that cruising is an increasingly popular holiday choice, and this seminal book - now in its thirty-fourth year of continuous printing - is the only guide cruise-goers need. It’s the world’s most authoritative and longest-running guide to cruising and cruise ships, written by the world’s foremost independent authority in this field.
An absolute wow of a relationship tale, gloriously beautiful yet it may well have broken my heart. Ben travels to Africa and volunteers at a lion reserve, as we remain with him in the present, we also look back to his past, where he meets Andrew, who keeps a Wish Box. When Louise writes it feels touchable, even if I have not experienced the emotions she describes I can feel them deep inside me. I remained in every moment, moving with the words, the feelings, knowing I was heading into unchartered territory, yet unable to pause, to stop reading. Another story heads each chapter, linking Ben and Andrew, yet creating a separate connection. As I neared the ending, I will admit to sobbing, the story hit me low in my stomach, unexpected, yet as true and real and felt as could be. Louise Beech has done it again, this will most definitely be on my list of favourite reads of the year. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a relationship tale with a difference, it is tender, gripping, eloquent, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.
Hippie is a spiritual journey of self-discovery. This autobiographical account of Paulo Coelho’s nomadic past is written in the third person as if it’s fiction, with the author drawing upon his own experiences on the hippie trail in the 1970s. The book focuses on a young Brazilian, Paulo, and his Dutch companion, Karla, who are travelling on a Magic Bus heading to Kathmandu, trying to define their place in the world. The author also gives voices to other characters, reflecting the diversity of those looking for adventure, spiritual enlightenment or an alternative lifestyle with few restrictions. At times, Hippie reads like a literary travelogue through Europe towards Nepal, with its vivid descriptions of people, places and cultures, evoking a great sense of place. And at other times, it reads like a guidebook of self-exploration. This is a book about liberation and freedom, set at a time where there was no political correctness to stifle people’s thoughts, actions and choices. Hippie is a nostalgic look at the drug-fuelled hippie culture, but also a snapshot of past memories that have shaped the author’s writing and outlook on life. Certainly an intriguing read.
A delightfully warm and easy to sink into romance. Becky returns home to the Yorkshire Dales, wanting to fit back into the local community she and a group of villagers decide a Christmas Pantomime may just save the local village hall. This is the second in the ‘Love in the Dales’ series, and yet my first by Mary Jane Baker. I found it to be a perfect standalone read though I have no doubt that the first book A Bicycle Made For Two would have introduced me to several of the characters. Becky embraces village life, the age range of the villagers from young Pip through to grandparents with attitude ensures an all-encompassing hug. There are some wonderfully larger than life supporting characters who certainly encouraged several smirks to come forth and there are enough pantomime innuendos to please the most devilish of dames! I could see where The Perfect Fit was heading, and that was the joy of the read, as it was comforting, supportive, and highly entertaining. Featured in the LoveReading Christmas Gift Guide.
An entirely charming, fascinating murder mystery set in the Golden Age Twenties. The Cairo Brief is the fourth in the simply fabulous 'Poppy Denby Investigates’ series. Poppy is invited to attend a country house for the auction of an Egyptian mask… murder, curses and general skulduggery await her keen investigative skills. While this could potentially be read as a standalone, I do recommend starting at the beginning of the series with the wonderful The Jazz Files which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Endeavour Historical Dagger Award. Fictional characters mingle quite beautifully with historical figures such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Howard Carter and Emmeline Pankhurst. I adore Poppy, she’s intelligent, progressive, and knows her own mind. Fiona Veitch Smith’s descriptive detailing is just gorgeous, the dresses sparkle, the cars zip (or putter) along, and historical facts pepper and blend in with the storyline. Just perfect if you love to visit a bygone era, The Cairo Brief is a teasingly delicious and wonderfully readable mystery.
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.