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All relationships have their ups and downs, whether it’s struggles with a partner or difficulties in the family. Our Relationship Stories section shows the unique features of relationships in gloriously written technicolour.
A thoughtful, comical, thoroughly entertaining relationship story with a difference. Kelly is an introverted perfectionist, she is also a leading robotics engineer. When she feels overwhelming pressure from her family to find a date for her sister’s wedding, it makes complete sense to build her own boyfriend… doesn’t it? I instantly fell into the pages, this is such a delightfully readable tale, made all the more refreshing by Kelly’s family and friends. If this were a film, it would be billed as an offbeat Hollywood romcom. It borders on the quirky (perhaps more than borders with a robot as the romantic interest!). The chaos surrounding Kelly’s decision snowballs, creating smirks, and also intrigue, how on earth was she going to rescue the situation? While Sarah Archer embraces fantastical, she also focuses on legitimate thoughts and feelings, creating a wonderful and original balance. How to Build A Boyfriend From Scratch is a positive, smile-filled, engaging read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A beautifully charming, amusing, and gentle read, visiting with great empathy and grace occasional cloudy darkness. Library volunteer Martha Storm is a quietly helpful, book-loving hoarder. When she finds a mysterious book relating to her past, Martha begins to see the possibilities life can offer. I have used the word quirky previously for Phaedra Patrick’s writing and it again popped into my mind for ‘The Library of Lost and Found’. This is an author who explores different, cheers on quiet, and celebrates the unique properties to be found in each of us. The words sang to me, I gathered them up and hugged every single one as they arrived in my mind. I adored this read, my heart filled with love for the characters as I smiled and felt heart-ache alongside them. Other magical stories can be found within the pages, they arrive and make a considerate, thoughtful point. ‘The Library of Lost and Found’ is there waiting for anyone who has ever felt a little lost or lonely, it is a wonderful read and I have chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
Life, love, wiping slates clean. When life hands her death, a 43-year-old woman sets the record straight with people she’s close to, with wildly unexpected results - and plot twists aplenty. “Why do we only appreciate what we’ve got when it’s put at risk?” This question simmers at the heart of this breezily written book that sees a woman deal with a diagnosis of terminal illness with a certain calmness. While there’s nothing Jennifer can do about her prognosis, she can do something to confront deep-rooted niggles about problematic romantic and familial relationships. And so after enjoying of an early act of wild abandon - an uncharacteristic event that will surely put smiles on readers’ faces - she sends letters to people who’ve hurt her. Letters that reveal all the things she should have said to her philandering ex-husband, to her self-centred sister, and to her flaky former boyfriend. Their responses lay bare their regrets and love, but also highlight their own failings and insecurities, before a succession of sweeping twists lead Jennifer to understatedly muse that it’s “funny how the worst thing to happen can end up being the best thing.” Prompting “what would you do...?” questions of the reader, this entertaining debut weaves in universal truths about the value of honesty and living life to the full to stave off future regrets, and will be enjoyed by fans of Jenny Colgan, Jill Mansell, Cathy Kelly and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Cleverly and playfully-formed, this is a sophisticated, thought-provoking novel of love, heartbreak and second chances. Eugene and Tatiana are 27 and 24. They’re both unsettled by a fortuitous encounter on the Paris Metro ten years after they last met, and the significance of the moment is made potently clear when the omniscient narrator interjects, “Look how shaken they are to see each other again. Look at their eyes”. Throughout, the all-knowing narrator directs readers’ responses in this way, introducing episodes with foreshadowing commentaries that tell us what to watch out for. It’s the narrator who announces “it’s time to go back about ten years into the past, back where it all began.” And so we’re presented with the origin of their connection, when Tatiana was a self-conscious bookish fourteen-year-old, and Eugene was the enigmatic, pessimistic seventeen-year-old friend of her older sister’s boyfriend. The narrative slips between the frisson of their re-acquaintance and the tragedy that struck their teenage years. In some ways, reading this is like observing an intense play. In others, it’s like being granted access to Eugene and Tatiana’s innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires through their impassioned soliloquies. In every way, it’s a unique and emotionally honest portrait of the grip and ache of young love.
Gosh, just stunning! For me, this is the very definition of a must-read… eloquent, absorbing, absolutely fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. I thought The Last Hours (which you really do need to read first) was exquisitely engaging and satisfying, and I enjoyed The Turn of Midnight just as much, perhaps even more as the characters were known to me, beloved by me. Lady Anne and educated serf Thaddeus have joined forces to prevent the Black Death from decimating their community. As they attempt to secure the independence of Develish however, trouble continues to haunt them, to hunt them down. Maps and a summary of the people, places and events from The Last Hours ensured I was able to step straight into the story. Minette Walters has the most beautiful voice, my soul became at one with the words. I sank so fully into the story that I was surprised at the end of each chapter when I suddenly came to and became aware of my surroundings. The time, the place are vibrantly alive, I could touch kindness, smell bitterness, taste fear. Please, please, please let there be more! The Turn of Midnight is a powerful, gripping read, and yes I am gushing most effusively over it, that’s because it really is rather wonderful and I highly recommend buying yourself a copy.
I absolutely adored this very special, surprising and exquisitely written novel focusing on the period between the First and Second World Wars. In 1925 Selina Lomax regularly appears in the papers as she and her friends attend parties and live life to the full. When Selina meets struggling artist Lawrence Weston her life changes beyond all recognition. I entered ‘The Glittering Hour’ expecting the beautiful relationship tale that I found. However I also left having experienced so, so much more. Iona Grey has created sentences that caught and transported me with their stunning descriptions. The story slinks through time and space, effortlessly revealing links from the past that become present in the future. As I read, moments of understanding speared my awareness and left me reeling. I felt joy, tenderness, aching sadness, and I cried, really, really cried at the beauty in front of me. I wield my highly recommended stamp of approval all over The Glittering Hour, it really is the most wonderfully heartfelt and meaningful read, and so sits as a LoveReading star book.
If you’ve been following this fabulously enjoyable series by Lindsey Kelk, then just to let you know that this is the eighth and last book about Angela. While you could read ‘I Heart Hawaii’ as a standalone, you will have so much more fun if you join Angela and her friends at the beginning with 'I Heart New York’. Jenny invites Angela on a press trip to Hawaii, as is normal, chaos and havoc accompany them. Our leading lady is gorgeously relatable, even though she lives a covetable life. Part of her charm, as well as her huge heart, is her tendency to stumble from one mess to another. Her friends and family are a gorgeously readable bunch, even the one or two who could charitably be described as frightful. ‘I Heart’ is an entertaining series from start to end, and I smiled, smirked and ahh’d my way through this engaging, toasty-warm read.
Beautifully and deliciously foreboding, this is an eloquent, thrilling treat. Iris and Silas meet as construction begins for the Great Exhibition in 1850, for one it is an experience soon forgotten, for the other the beginning of a dangerous obsession. Members of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood gather, their ideals and connection to the Arts and Crafts movement are fascinating to observe, particularly when compared to the logic and occupation of Silas. The Doll Factory won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018, and it is easy to see why it was immediately snapped up, the storyline while disturbing is enthralling and the descriptive detailing exquisite. Elizabeth MacNeal allows us intimate access to the thoughts and feelings of both Iris and Silas, opening a doorway to the potential and possible future of the story which succeeds in increasing the tension to almost unbearable levels. I felt a duty of care to both parties, wanting to warn, to ease, to prevent harm. As the story gathered me in and opened my eyes, I felt a shiver of chills gathering, forcing goosebumps down my arms. There is a darkness of the gothic variety to be found with The Doll Factory, it is also incredibly rewarding and comes with a highly recommended stamp from me.
Life Expands' is the perfect read if you are planning a trip of a lifetime or if you already experienced this amazing adventure. If you haven't been on a journey like this it will give you a great taste of the highs and lows, the new friends yet to make and the beauty in the world. This is a brilliant read that will lure anyone to go travelling around the globe. Through some tough and hilarious stories, we get drawn into the emotions that travel brings from finding someone to love and working to do true good in the world. This is one of the best books that I have read that shows what modern day travel is really like. An ideal book to buy anyone who loves to travel or just the idea of travelling even if it’s just from a comfy chair and a good cup of coffee. Tracey Thomas, A LoveReading Ambassador
After a brief introduction by Carole Matthews into the book’s background, narrator Emma Powell introduces us to the main character Molly Baker – an ex-teacher who now runs a farm for children with specific needs. Or in Molly’s own words, the farm is open to ‘bewildered, damaged and troubled animals and humans’. The book is written (and therefore narrated) in the first person. I felt as though I was listening to a good friend chatting about her life – her run-down farm, her difficult childhood and her lovable animals. It all seemed very personal, especially as Molly is funny and witty, down to earth and full of heart. She describes everything around her so well that I could visualise it, including ‘clouds drifting across the blue sky’. Hope Farm is filled with animals, from naughty goats and angry sheep to the diva alpacas – and for me, the animals are the main stars of the show. The supporting human cast felt very real too, especially moody teenage tearaway Luke who is grieving for his mother and craving his celebrity father’s attention. Happiness for Beginners would make an enjoyable holiday read, with its satisfying happy ending. The chapters are short – most range from around three minutes to 10 minutes, so they are easy to fit into a busy (or lazy) spring or summer’s day. As expected, there is plenty of romance alongside heart-warming moments and amusing animal antics. There’s also a farm at risk of demolition to provide land for a high-speed train line. If you’re having a bad day and need a book to give you a hug, this is definitely one for you!
Twenty-three-year-old Mona is a messed-up, one-of-a-kind character who gives out needles to drug addicts and makes ends meet by cleaning. After falling for an older addict she names Mr Disgusting, who proceeds to give her the runaround and break her heart, Mona heads to New Mexico where she sets up her Bees Knees Housekeeping business (“Clean Like You’ve Never Seen, Honey!”) while navigating the rocky fall-out from her abusive childhood. Here she meets a bunch of fellow oddballs, among them do-gooding New Agers “Yoko and Yoko” and her psychic client, Betty, who lives in a “casino pink” trailer. Mono is a meticulous cleaner with a talent for uncovering her clients’ dirty secrets. She’s also given to outlandish fantasies and speculation, an irrepressible force who tries to lives by her own rules, such as “never watching a period drama unless she was on her period”, as she quips. At once a vivid portrait of outcasts’ lives and messy attempts to lay ghosts to rest, this is an outrageous, funny, moving debut. While Mona’s voice is often hilarious, her story is underpinned by deep-rooted damage, but she’s never one to wallow in self-pity. Like Mona, the writing speaks on its own terms -it’s sparky, irreverent, switchblade-sharp and punch-packingly original.
A hilarious, groundbreaking young adult novel for anyone who's ever called themselves a feminist . . . and anyone who hasn't. For fans of Louise O'Neill, Holly Bourne and Amy Schumer. Izzy O'Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by . . . Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician's son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off - but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It's the Exact Opposite of Okay. Bitingly funny and shockingly relevant, The Exact Opposite of Okay is a bold, brave and necessary read. For readers of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Doing It by Hannah Witton and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.
What a lovely, charming, friendly read this is, an enticing ‘will they, won’t they’ romance is equally matched by the story of animals in need and children requiring an alternative learning environment. Molly Baker runs her beloved farm as a school, when a new student arrives, Molly’s life is turned thoroughly upside down and in to a roundabout spin. I adored the explanation at the beginning of the novel by Carole Matthews that Hope Farm is based on the real Animal Antiks Farm. The first sentence had me chortling and I settled further down into the comfort of my sofa to enjoy the read. Molly tells her own story, I could really hear her voice and her personality shines through. Can I say that the animals very nearly steal the show for me, having had a downright grumpy (read that as flesh tearing vampire) rescue cat myself, their individual quirks made me smile. ‘Happiness for Beginners’ is entertaining, heart-warming and ever so readable, I raced through in one sitting and enjoyed every second.
The past has a habit of tracking us down. And tripping us up. When Kate was twenty-two, she had an intense and passionate affair with a married man, Callum, which ended in heartbreak. Kate thought she'd never get over it. Seventeen years later, life has moved on - Kate, now a successful actress, is living in London, married to Matt and mother to little Tallulah. Meanwhile Callum and his wife Belinda are happy together, living in Edinburgh and watching their kids grow up. The past, it would seem, is well and truly behind them all. But then Kate meets Callum again. And they are faced with a choice: to walk away from each other . . . or to risk finding out what might have been. Second chances are a rare gift in life. But that doesn't mean they should always be taken . . .
Thirty-eight-year-old Nicole Adams has given up on finding love. The single mother focuses on the two things she cherishes most—her sixteen-year-old son Justin and her art—while relying on the support of her friends Mike and Jamie and her loyal sister Caroline. When she convinces a prominent Los Angeles museum to feature a large-scale installation of her ceramics work, she thinks her life has finally turned a corner. Then Justin brings a girl, Daniela, home to spend the night. Daniela’s angry parents have thrown her out of the house because she’s pregnant with Justin’s child. Shattered, Nicole takes Daniela in and by doing so is drawn into the inner circle of Daniela’s family and a frightening world of deceit and violence. Nicole struggles to keep life going as normal. Forced to deal with people she doesn’t trust or like, fearful for the future of both her son and the grandchild they’re expecting, Nicole wonders if she can do what she tells Justin to do: always have faith in yourself and do the right thing.
A darkly glamorous tale of hedonism, shifting social sands and coming-of-age crises - think The Great Gatsby in colonial Kenya. Fourteen-year-old Theo’s first impressions of his new life in East Africa - a world away from England - encapsulates this novel’s intoxicating sense of place: “Across the bay was Zanzibar...a stretch of brilliant white sand dotted with palms and matched by the whitewashed palace and fort at its edge. To the left I could see an Indian banyan tree, alive with vervet monkeys, and behind that, the shaded labyrinthine streets of Stone Town.” And then: “Kenya was the Africa I’d dreamed of”. Soon after his family’s arrival, with his father appointed new Director of the railway, Theo fatefully meets twenty-something good-timers Freddie (Lord Hamilton) and Sylvie (introduced by Freddie as an “unsuitable woman”). Described by Sylvie as “absurdly handsome”, Theo is drawn into the decadent world of their notorious Happy Valley set. Against a backdrop of fluctuating politics, he finds himself caught in a web of compromising personal conundrums, while younger sister Maud comes to identify more with the colonised population than with her own colonial class. Steeped in exhilarating atmosphere, coming-of-age conflicts, and historical intrigue, and boasting brilliant characterisation, this is an exquisitely entertaining showstopper of a story, best read while reclining with a comely cocktail to hand.
“There are some things that shape every minute of forever”, and seventeen-year-old Lexi knows that more than most. Five years ago her life was thrown into turmoil by her older brother’s horrific actions, actions that left her traumatised, stigmatised and excruciatingly conflicted: “How do you condemn your own brother?” Now Lexi’s goal is to “survive a full school year - 180 days - hiding behind a new name, new home, new persona”, this time living with her aunt. Seeing as her “history always finds a way to suffocate everyone in its path,” Lexi fears getting close to anyone, but she strikes up a friendship with Ryan who’s also “wrapped in secrets”, and then embarks on a magnificent romance with Marcus, who shares her experience of being an outcast. I loved the powerfully positive portrayal of both Marcus and Ryan - it was refreshing to encounter such compassionate, non-judgmental, luminously 3D teen boy characters. The novel is brilliant in its portrayal of relatable real-life, coming-of-age universals - fitting in, standing out, anxieties, friendships, falling in love - within the context of Lexi’s agonising situation. Her story is impressively honest in its portrayal of life’s darknesses, and also shot-through with heart and hope as she finds friends she can truly trust, and her own inner strength to survive.
Another insightful and compassionate free verse novel from the queen of this increasingly admired form, this time exploring the transformative relationship between an abused runaway teenager and an elderly lady with dementia. Allison has grown up “stepping on eggshells” to circumvent her father’s violence. While she often wonders whether his behaviour was “all my fault”, one of his outbursts compels her to run away. With nowhere to go, she finds sanctuary in the house of an elderly woman called Marla. Marla has dementia and thinks Allison is Toffee, her best friend from childhood. After spending some time in Marla’s company, Allison decides to “stop correcting her… I like the idea of being sweet and hard, a girl with a name for people to chew on.” Moreover, in meeting Marla, Allison has found an unlikely kindred spirit: “I am not who I say I am. Marla isn’t who she thinks she is… Here, in this house, I am so much happier than I have ever been”. Returning the favour, Allison enriches Marla’s life – she listens, she indulges Marla’s desire to dance - while Marla’s carer and son show no real regard for her happiness, as if she’s beyond life, which makes Allison’s attentiveness all the more heart warming. Both vulnerable, they find strength through each other. With incredibly moving insight, Marla says of Allison’s dad, “none of it was about you. It was about him. It’s always about him. Surely you know that.” The writing is compellingly fluid, flowing freely between Allison’s precarious present and the tragic, abusive circumstances that sent her careering down this path. While fleeting, the impact of their time together is monumental, and I felt privileged to have spent time in their company.
THE EXTRAORDINARY NEW NOVEL FROM THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long you hold on to them . . . When Gracie Burton stumbles upon an advertisement for a week-long cookery course in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, she cannot resist, and ploughs her life savings into the trip. Her only family - daughter Carina and granddaughter Anastasia - are hesitant about what has prompted this seemingly random venture. But they have no sense of Gracie's past; of what could possibly be calling her to Italy. They have no idea that Gracie is harbouring the secret of an extraordinary life that preceded them . . . Bestselling author, Santa Montefiore, returns with an unforgettable tale of love lost and rediscovered, set across the beautiful landscape of Italy
From the award-winning poet and playwright behind Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall is an epic story and a lyrical exploration of pride, power and female revenge. There is something about Demi. When this boy is angry, rain clouds gather. When he cries, rivers burst their banks and the first time he takes a shot on a basketball court, the deities of the land take note. His mother, Modupe, looks on with a mixture of pride and worry. From close encounters, she knows Gods often act like men: the same fragile egos, the same unpredictable fury and the same sense of entitlement to the bodies of mortals. She will sacrifice everything to protect her son, but she knows the Gods will one day tire of sports fans, their fickle allegiances and misdirected prayers. When that moment comes, it won’t matter how special he is. Only the women in Demi’s life, the mothers, daughters and Goddesses, will stand between him and a lightning bolt.
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly enjoyable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear. The Missing Sister is rich and expressive, it swept me up, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
A fascinating and truly memorable read concentrating on one family, with the centre of the story resting in East Germany. Two families join, with the marriage of Margret and Hans in the 1960’s. They as children, and both sets of parents lived through the Second World War. The repercussions from that time deeply affect all, with the story finishing in 1992, a few years after the fall of the wall. The opening note, before the novel begins was for me necessary and interesting. It charts the rise of the Nazi party and how all opposition was forcibly removed. It describes how after the war, as part of the Eastern bloc, industry was centralised and agriculture state controlled with workers housing being heavily subsidised. Defection was high and the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, with East and West Germany eventually reunified in 1990. Anne Richter focuses on just a few characters, their thoughts and feelings clamour from the page and show the wider world around them. The story grows, becomes clearer as the focal point moves from one person to the next. This is such an incredibly intimate novel, my understanding altered as I read, as events became clear. I always know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a novel when I want to research the history and time it is set in. I just want to say that the translation is excellent, with a glossary of terms and literary references also available. ‘Distant Signs’ set my thoughts thrumming, it is so intruiging, compelling and beautifully readable too.
Suffused in the exuberance of a yellow-jersey-wearing cyclist freewheeling down the Champs-Élysées with a bottle of Champagne, this wildly witty novel tells of three fine young women who rise above body-shaming bullies to become Queens of the Mountain. Likened to Jean-Paul Sartre - “squinty old man, atrociously ugly” – Mireille has been voted one of the ugliest girls in her school in the cruel “Pig Pageant” Facebook poll, but she’s not going to take this lying down. Rather, she seeks out the two other “Little Piglettes”, Astrid and Hakima, and they strike up sisterly bond. Sometimes fate conspires in fortuitous ways and here the girls realise that key aspects of their lives will conflate at the president’s Élysée Palace party. Quite simply, the Three Little Piglettes must go to the ball and so they embark on a voyage à vélo to Paris, funding their trip by selling homemade saucisson. First covered by local news, their journey goes viral, which sees them enveloped in a peloton of national interest. What an inspired, amusing, enchanting ride this is.
Oh I did enjoy this read, it was totally unexpected and sincerely lovely, as while I adored (and still adore) visiting the Narnia of C.S. Lewis, I had absolutely no idea of the truly fascinating love story that existed between him and Joy Davidman. The author introduces this novel with a note to the reader, inviting you to meet Joy Davidman, to explore her courage, and wonder at the woman who corresponded with Lewis before leaving America to make his world her home. Patti Callahan has obviously spent a huge amount of time in research, and that really comes across, as I read I felt, really felt that I was listening to Joy tell her own story. She is written in such a way that I could hear her, feel her pain, explore her hope, her commitment, she bares her soul and I rather fell in love her and her writing. Religion plays an important part, both of them found Christianity later in life, both were constantly testing and examining their faith, if like me you are a non-believer, please do not turn away, yes it is hugely important, yet approached with the most considered hand by Patti Callahan. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and oh how that resonates here, Becoming Mrs Lewis is a beautiful, engaging, eloquent read and highly recommended.
A striking and compelling family drama where the past takes a ferocious bite into the present. The House on the Edge of the Cliff explores relationships, how they can alter, move with fluidity, ever-changing almost without realisation. The house in question sits on the edge of a cliff in France, a character in its own right, a sanctuary, utterly bewitching, and yet full of history, of memories. When Grace was 16 an event occurred which has affected and remained with her ever since, when the past suddenly rears its head, danger beckons. We first meet Grace in the present and within the first few pages, I became as hooked as a hooked thing can be. Heightened, in fact, frantic emotions dance across the page and left me feeling breathless. Time then begins a slide backwards, explaining just enough, setting more questions and encouraging more thoughts to flow. Carol Drinkwater writes with captivating eloquence, I find her books so wonderfully readable, I just slip down into the welcoming pages and enjoy. Full of secrets, tense moments, gorgeous descriptions, and emotional interplay, The House on the Edge of the Cliff is a truly beautiful read and one of my picks of the month.
Eighteen-year-old Birdie is fanatical about mystery and crime fiction, a world in which she immersed herself while being brought up by her strict grandparents following the death of her mom. Birdie’s perception of detectives reveals much about her own aspirations and personality: “Detectives were cool, calm, and capable. They were usually loners, helping people from a distance...underdogs that people miscalculated.” Now, following the death of her gran and with the support of her mom’s fabulously flamboyant best friend, Birdie tries to find her own way in the world by taking a summer job as a night clerk at a glamorous historic hotel. It’s here that she forms a swoon-some, life-changing relationship with Daniel, the hotel’s handsome, hearing-impaired night driver, as they try to solve a real-life mystery involving a guest. Then, alongside the edge-of-your-seat twists and turns of their investigation, and their fast-blossoming, fated romance, it turns out that Daniel is harbouring secrets of his own. Underpinned by relatable real-life complications and curveballs aplenty, this engaging feast of young adult fiction fizzes with multiple mysteries and the jittery joys of first love. Head here to discover the author’s previous novels, which come equally recommended for their compassionate championing of offbeat, authentic young adult characters.
An atmospheric, stormy beauty of a read which made me positively ache for the characters. As Frances lies on her deathbed she revisits the summer of 1969 when she met Cara and Peter at an abandoned country house, as the summer progresses vulnerabilities are highlighted and tragedy strikes. Claire Fuller peels open the lives of the characters with exquisite care. Feelings spin and slice across the page, freedom, isolation, menace all tumbling together in an uncertain dance. The house is a hugely important part of the tale, creating a setting that alternates between forsaken and decadent. Whenever the story left Lyntons, whether to the village beyond or the Frances of now, I felt an easing of pressure, I was able to relax muscles sitting in tense anticipation. ‘Bitter Orange’ sets a chilling yet poignant stage and allows access to the memories of the past, the emotions are touchable, the ending so perfect it hurt. Featured in Episode 5 of the LoveReading Podcast
An absolutely delightful story ready and waiting to wrap you up in a delicious blanket of warming feel-good. Ellie thinks she is happy, assumes she is happy, but a present from a harp-making stranger heralds change. Oh I did enjoy this story, told in alternate chapters by Ellie and Dan, I settled myself into a comfy spot and stayed there until I had finished. Dan introduces himself in the most simple and beautiful way, he is able to see through clutter to the heart of things and I have to admit to rather falling in love with him. Hazel Prior doesn’t spell things out for you, instead I felt that I was able to explore and encouraged to contemplate. The descriptions of Exmoor, nature, and colour are particularly special, and I now find myself taking the time to look properly, to really see, to feel, to smile. Ellie and the Harp Maker is truly lovely and rather special, if you feel like a hug, then read this book!
Beautifully and deliciously foreboding, this is an eloquent, thrilling treat of a read. Iris and Silas meet as construction begins for the Great Exhibition in 1850, for one it is an experience soon forgotten, for the other the beginning of a dangerous obsession. Members of the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood gather, their ideals and connection to the Arts and Crafts movement fascinating to observe, particularly when compared to the logic and occupation of Silas. The Doll Factory won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018, and it is easy to see why it was immediately snapped up, the storyline while disturbing is enthralling and the descriptive detailing exquisite. Elizabeth MacNeal allows us intimate access to the thoughts and feelings of both Iris and Silas, opening a doorway to the potential and possible future of the story which succeeds in increasing the tension to almost unbearable levels. I felt a duty of care to both parties, wanting to warn, to ease, to prevent harm. As the story gathered me in and opened my eyes, I felt a shiver of chills gathering, forcing goosebumps down my arms. There is a darkness of the gothic variety to be found with The Doll Factory, it is also the most incredibly rewarding read and comes with a highly recommended stamp from me.
Jack King - one of the most authentic and charming characters to have stepped off a YA page - and his best-friends-since-childhood Franny and Jillian are on the brink of a new chapter in their lives, picking out colleges, planning their careers, while having fun hanging out. And then Jack meets Kate at a party and falls for her big-time. They’re soul-mates who bond over their love of cereal until, all too soon, Kate dies. But this tragic event turns out to be the beginning of their story, for Kate’s death flips Jack back in time and he meets her again, as if for the first time, with Kate sensing that she knows him from somewhere: “The way you look at me. Like we’ve been doing it our whole lives.” Jack sets about trying to change the course of history, firstly so Kate doesn’t die, and then also to swerve bad stuff away from his friends. But, in classic time travel tradition, this has dangerous effects. Cue Jack wryly referencing Back to the Future and Groundhog Day while up to his neck in serious complications. Take away the pulse-quickening time travel element and you’d still have a novel heated by much heart and humour. With it, this is a firework of urgent, impactful YA fiction, a book that’s ablaze with tough choices and all kinds of love. Throughout there’s a whole lot of heart-melting cuteness - the trio’s friendship, the sweet relationship between Franny and Jillian, Jack’s parents’ perfect marriage. The plot progression and developments revealed through the various play-outs of the past are brain-flippingly smart, with twists wending through to Jack’s desperate need for “one more re-set to undo this tragedy”. Reader, I cried on the bus.
The thrilling new romance from E L James, author of the phenomenal #1 bestselling Fifty Shades trilogy London, 2019. Life has been easy for Maxim Trevelyan. With his good looks, aristocratic connections, and money, he's never had to work and he's rarely slept alone. But all that changes when tragedy strikes and Maxim inherits his family's noble title, wealth, and estates, and all the responsibility that entails. It's a role he's not prepared for and one that he struggles to face. But his biggest challenge is fighting his desire for an unexpected, enigmatic young woman who's recently arrived in England, possessing little more than a dangerous and troublesome past. Reticent, beautiful, and musically gifted, she's an alluring mystery, and Maxim's longing for her deepens into a passion that he's never experienced and dares not name. Just who is Alessia Demachi? Can Maxim protect her from the malevolence that threatens her? And what will she do when she learns that he's been hiding secrets of his own? From the heart of London through wild, rural Cornwall to the bleak, forbidding beauty of the Balkans, The Mister is a roller-coaster ride of danger and desire that leaves the reader breathless to the very last page.
You don’t have to be a Mummy to read this, or in fact to absolutely adore it. I am not a member of the Mummy club, yet I laughed hard, I smirked, I felt the pain, and the love too. This is set over a year in the life of frustrated mum Ellen, who has an eleven and a nine year old (oh and a husband and dog who convincingly add to the chaos). I would imagine there will be parents breathing a huge sigh of relief as they think, ‘I’m glad it’s not just me’. Just in case you aren’t keen, yes there is a fair bit of swearing, including some fantastically imaginative pairing of words that I definitely want to remember. Gill Sims keeps the tone light and bright, yet the pressure of balancing work and children can definitely be felt. I feel as though Ellen could be my friend, I could hear her voice as clearly as anything as I read. I actually could have been on the phone to Ellen, with her offloading her woes (while I tried unsuccessfully to stop snorting with laughter). I simply raced through ‘Why Mummy Swears’, it is a knockout read, great fun, full of empathy, and highly entertaining.
One ex. One wedding. One little white lie. When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend's wedding, she couldn't be happier. There are just three problems... 1) Sam's ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man. 2) His new girlfriend is pregnant. 3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn't (see points 1 and 2 above) So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her... and hires a professional to do the job. As the wedding draws closer, gorgeous actor Jake Porter plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam's not sure if Jake is acting anymore...
Ahh, what a lovely, generous, enjoyable read this is. Rachel finds it increasingly difficult to make a living on her family farm, with the support of friends, locals, and a particularly lovely neighbour called Tom, can Rachel and her Mum find a way to keep Primrose Farm? Caroline Roberts has a beautifully light touch, she explores difficult emotions and balances the tale with love and laughter too. The different generations knit together perfectly, from gorgeous 5 year old Maisy through to Granny Ruth, each woman (and girl) an integral part of the storyline. The romance doesn’t smother the tale, it sits as an engaging sweet treat alongside friendship and family. If you seek an escape from your own reality, and want to snuggle down with a helping of delicious romance then look no further, Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is ready to greet you.
The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”. Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters. According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Confessions of Frannie Langton.
Forthright, funny Ayesha harbours dreams of being a poet and occasionally performs at a literary lounge, but her ambitions are somewhat hampered by her new teaching job and familial pressure to get married, a pressure that’s intensified by her stunning younger cousin’s countless marriage proposals. But Ayesha is adamant that she doesn’t want an arranged marriage, even if it means she might be doomed to spinsterhood. Then, courtesy of her best friend and a conference at her mosque, a few twists of fate throw Ayesha into contact with hyper-critical, conservative Khalid, who dresses like a time-traveller from several centuries ago and is utterly under his wealthy mother’s control. Cue much friction, farcical funniness and genuine soul-searching as Ayesha and Khalid embark on complex, intersecting journeys of discovery. Alongside serving up a sparkling love story, this debut also tackles meaty issues, from the rampant islamophobia of Khaled’s abhorrent boss, to the sexism Ayesha stands up to. Indeed, the criss-crossing sub-plots - both gritty and comic - keep the pages turning, and make this a treat for fans of romance with extra bite.
The Moon Sister is the fifth epic story in the Seven Sisters series by the international number one bestseller Lucinda Riley. After the death of her father - Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe - Tiggy D'Apliese , trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves; caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird. Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gipsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain . . . In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to `La Candela' the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation. From the Scottish Highlands and Spain, to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja she begins to embrace her own talent for healing. But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird, and Charlie . . . The Moon Sister follows The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister and The Pearl Sister.
First Rhyme Mum is an entertaining journey through pregnancy and early motherhood - it made me laugh and reminisce. There are 40 poems in the book - all are fun, relatable and (mainly) humorous, covering wide-ranging topics that you wouldn’t usually expect to find in poetic form, such as needing a wee, a mother’s ‘baby brain’, the job description of motherhood, night shifts and ‘to-do lists’. The poems contain acute observations of everyday life and are varied and very well written, combining simple words to create powerful imagery. I could sense the emotion behind each poem - the excitement yet worry of the 40 weeks of pregnancy and the exhaustion and elation once baby arrives, all bound together by a mother’s love. I was particularly impressed by how the author fits so much descriptive language into each poem while still ensuring that each one manages to give a sense of rhythm and rhyme (even if this doesn’t always match exactly). It reminded me of some of Pam Ayres’s poems, with its sense of humour and laugh-out-loud moments. The book is easy to dip in and out of - each poem is short enough to slot into a few minutes during a busy day. It’s a lovely gift for new parents to remind them that they’re not alone and that others are going through the same emotional ups and downs. It also has wider-ranging appeal, as it reminded me of my own pregnancy experiences and made me chuckle as I recalled stories of early parenthood (my children are now in their mid to late teens). My only regret is that the book ended too soon, but fortunately there are more books on their way.
Absolutely and completely adorable, this all-embracing story will break, mend, and fill hearts with warmth, humour and love. Lana is bitter after her break-up and pours her angst into her new book, while much-admired author Nancy often finds dementia leaves her in a confusing world. Jack acts as a matchmaker with Lana and Nancy and they find their lives forever altered. The main characters light up the story, Nancy, in particular, has taken up residence in my heart and soul. Sophie Jenkins has the most beautiful light and thoughtful touch, little bits of heartache sit right next door to gulps of laughter, while gorgeous literary snippets and references sprinkle the pages. Sophie Jenkins has created a relationship tale for book lovers of all kinds, for people who love hope and even need hope in their lives. I raise my glass to The Forgotten Guide to Happiness and what really matters in this world… love, in all its different shapes and sizes.
Oh my, must-read needs to be stamped all over this book as it is 188 pages of simply wonderful storytelling, with each short chapter building to create a cohesive, biting, beautiful whole. Set in Romania in the 1970’s, Alina and her husband find themselves confronted by the secret service when her brother-in-law defects, can the hidden old folk ways be the answer to their problems? While this is a truly stunning read, it isn’t always comfortable or easy, there were occasions when I really flinched, took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, but each time I was drawn back in as I also smirked, laughed, felt wonder and had moments of real discovery. The first chapter sent my thoughts scuttling and seeking answers, did I believe, did I understand? Sophie van Llewyn is an award-winning flash fiction author, each chapter of ‘Bottled Goods’ is short, could almost exist in its own right, yet remove one and the entire story would fracture. The ending is utterly perfect, and had me sitting in contemplative silence. I want to shout about Bottled Goods from the rooftops, I adored this thought-provoking unique novella and have chosen it as one of my picks of the month.
Makes the World Go Around
More than just romance, Relationship Stories can really strike a chord with us, at every stage of life. Just like relationships themselves, these books and there authors come in all shapes, sizes, atmospheres and aspirations. So, if something was missing from your last relationship read … we’ll help you find it in your next one! Here you’ll find the warm and the wise (Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Rosamunde Pilcher), the deliciously sexy (Jilly Cooper, Veronica Henry), the humourous and honest (Nick Hornby), the insightful (Joanna Trollope) and the … Perhaps, though you’re looking for a new relationship? Why not try our’ Author Like for Like’ tool or make a date with our Book of the Month recommendations and find your perfect match … for now, at least!
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