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Each week our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this week’s faves…
Written by counsellor, psychotherapist and clinical tutor Gill Frost, The Girls Within relates the moving case study of Vivian, a woman struggling with the impact of extreme childhood trauma. The tough subject is handled with extraordinary compassion, and written in a compellingly clear, warm style that will engage laypeople and psychotherapy professionals alike. While Vivian’s childhood experiences and resulting adulthood disorders are affectingly harrowing, the restorative twelve-year relationship between patient and therapist brings waves of joy. After a horrific childhood, Vivian went on to a nursing career with no signs of trauma until she and her husband began couple therapy. It was then Vivian first spoke of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse she suffered as a child, and began to experience flashbacks, seizures and dissociative identity disorder (DID). As the author explains, “Dissociating is something we all do at times when we are feeling uncomfortable or in pain, either physically or emotionally… in order to relieve the discomfort we would otherwise experience”, but in extreme cases like Vivian’s, “dissociation can evolve into dissociative identity disorder (DID).” This tells the story of two girls living within Vivian: six-year-old Little Vivvi (whose drawings are featured in the book) and teenage Izzy, and of the innovative therapies that spoke to Vivian during therapy, most notably Advanced Integrative Therapy, a form of “energy psychology” that holistically links body and mind, and draws on traditional knowledge like chakras. The twelve-year connection between patient and therapist recounted here is a complex, looping, juddering rollercoaster ride; a journey readers will feel deeply invested in, and much compassion for.
Beginning with an address to Anansi, the trickster story teller god of African folklore, (“Anansi, your four gifts raised to nyame granted you no power over the stories I tell”), Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me is a one-of-a-kind reading experience. K’s story will break your heart, and heal it. And Owusu’s writing will leave you stunned - it’s that unique, that honest, that impactful. K is a working-class boy born to Ghanaian parents in Tottenham. Fostered as a child, he’s relocated to an unfamiliar rural environment, where there are woods and fields instead of flats and video shops. When he returns to London at the age of eleven, the city has become alien to him - and his birth parents have too. Once again K must re-find himself. Piece himself together, and perhaps find friendship and love along with his identity. Told through K’s fragmented memories, this is an exceptional coming-of-age story that lingers long in the soul. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Fast and furious yet complex and intricate, discover a faceless, handless corpse, and a missing child case in this twisty and fascinating investigation. It’s always good to find a new series isn’t it, but if you weren’t aware, this is actually the 19th Temperance Brennan novel. And yet, and yet… I truly do think you can start here, I was completely comfortable stepping in without the back story, and while you may choose to read it as a standalone, believe me, you will probably want to go and hunt down the first 18 after you’ve finished! Author Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, the TV series Bones is based on her work and novels. She obviously knows her stuff, and that comes through in spades, this feels like a proper investigation, with all the leg work that involves. Temperance is fabulous, thoughts spill from her, fast, yet to the point. The plot spins from intrigue to conspiracy, it’s oh so smart and I simply revelled in the story. A Conspiracy of Bones whips into thoughts, forthright and sharp, this is an entertaining and rewarding read.
Discover the most romantic of Christmas treats in this lovely relationship and friendship story. Eco consultants Hannah and Noah spend the run-up to Christmas working at a beautiful hotel in Cornwall. When a storm cuts the village off, they join the community, enjoy scrumptious food, and find themselves on a ghost hunt. If you’ve already read the other books in the Cornish Cream Tea series then you’ll meet some very familiar faces. If this is all new to you though, you can quite happily start here (and then catch up on the other stories). Fresh and modern, yet told with a gentle warmth, I found myself sinking into this delightful tale. Each of the four parts in this novel almost make a story in their own right, when read together they form a will-they won’t-they huggable romance. Cressida McLaughlin writes with genuine affection for this setting and group of characters. From mischievous dogs to runaway Christmas puddings, there is a smile to be found within the pages. The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas is an enchanting addition to this series, and it simply glows with festive spirit.
An emotionally powerful and riveting family drama, combining razor-sharp suspense and the meaning of forgiveness. Claudia Winters, along with her mother and daughter, leave their old life far behind them but as they begin to settle into a new community, the past isn’t as far away as they had hoped. Susan Lewis has written over 40 novels, they are always so readable, she really is the most wonderfully consistent writer. If you have read any of her previous books, you will rediscover a couple of your favourite characters have returned. The joy here though, is that if this your first foray, there is no need to feel disconcerted as you need no prior knowledge. I simply allowed myself to fall into pages and the main storyline swirled beautifully around Claudia, Marcy, and Jasmine. Occasional letters appeared through the novel and sliced through the harmony that was beginning to build. Not knowing when the letters were written ensured that tension increased and remained as the tale developed. As information was released, my thoughts turned in a new direction and the meaning of the title became clear. Full of love and compassion, Forgive Me is a thoughtfully observed and truly satisfying novel.
A fabulously entertaining absolute romp of a murder mystery set in 1940’s New York. Famous private detective Lillian Pentecost, and her assistant Willowjean Parker are hired to track down the murderer of a wealthy young widow who was bludgeoned to death with a crystal ball at a seance. This is the debut novel and first in the Pentecost and Parker series from Stephen Spotswood, who is an award-winning playwright, journalist, and theatre educator. He quite obviously knows how to tell one heck of a captivating story, and this sits somewhere between hard-boiled and cosy! The first sentence is a corker, and sets up Willowjean (Will) as the most engaging and one-of-a-kind narrator. This is very much a character-led story, the feeling of the time is created with dialogue, which snaps and crackles with energy. Both Lillian and Will are fascinating characters, with more than a few tricks hidden up their sleeves. With a locked-room mystery, wonderfully diverse central characters, and a cracking storyline, Fortune Favours the Dead is a dream of a read and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.