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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…
Bold, provocative and thought-provoking, this is the fifth of the Six Stories series, however you can actually read Deity as a standalone. Scott King investigates the rumours and accusations against a pop star after his death. Each novel stands as an individual tale, though of course reading the first book, Six Stories, sets the scene beautifully and there are links to be found through the series. When I start a new Six Stories, it always takes a moment for me to settle in again, to sink into the differences that makes this series such a refreshing read. I almost feel that the transition from my reality to the beat of the story is a necessary one. It helps cement the voices I hear in my head and feel in my thoughts as I read. The individual characters appear with Scott King’s comments and asides, and allow you to ponder, to piece together your own understanding. The darkness within comes from the subject matter and the chilling folklore that weaves and wields its magic. I thoroughly enjoy this smart and thoughtful series, and Deity joins the ranks, standing as a linking but separate tale. So, a round of applause for Matt Wesolowski please.
Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles. Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood. The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera. This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners. The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too. The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture. A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy.
An intelligent, brooding yet vibrant crime thriller debut that just thrums with atmosphere. Investigative psychologist Philip Taiwo walks straight into trouble when he is hired to investigate the brutal crowd murder of three students known as the Okiri Three in Nigeria. It is an absolute thrill to be in at the start of a new series that promises so much. Femi Kayode has created a relatable and likeable main character who is quickly out of his depth, and Philip tells his own tale. The setting was brought so vividly to life I found myself wide-eyed as I looked around and soaked up the sense of place. I could reach out and touch, could feel Nigeria and it’s history. Another story sits alongside Philip’s, it’s intense and provocative, it felt as though it was hunting down the main tale, ready to attack. While Philip investigates, the link to his home life allows a further connection and understanding of his background. There are a number of other characters that I sincerely hope will make a return and I am already excitedly waiting for the next book in this series. Lightseekers is a smart, action-packed and intriguing read. I want to shout about this one, so it’s not only a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s also a LoveReading Star Book too.
A sparkling bright and entertaining contemporary romance, and just to make you smile even more there’s a rescue dog who shares (steals) the limelight. When Margot and Will meet and both fall in love with Blossom at the rescue centre, they reluctantly agree to share custody. Sarra Manning has the most wonderfully light touch, she adds notes of sunshine to proceedings even when darkness threatens. With poo bags, dog treats, and increasingly bad behaviour Blossom is an absolute delight. Margot or Will head each chapter with each given equal billing, they feel entirely relatable, flaws and all. The background characters add colour and vibrancy to an already lovely novel. This really is the perfect read for anyone wanting to escape from reality for a while. So, wrap yourself up in the comforting embrace of an uplifting modern romance and sit back and relax with Rescue Me.
Sequel to The Fragility of Bodies, Sergio Olguin’s The Foreign Girls is loaded with edgy cliff-hangers, underpinned by an exposure of femicide and political corruption, and propelled by the fearless drive of a headstrong, bourbon-drinking investigative journalist. Seeking rest and recuperation after the brutal events of The Fragility of Bodies, Verónica Rosenthal is taking time out in her cousin’s isolated, upscale property when she befriends a pair of foreign female tourists and winds up having sex with one of them. Tragedy strikes when the young women are murdered at a swanky party and Verónica determines to find out whodunit. With their bodies discovered next to burned-out candles and a dead animal - perhaps pointing to a religious ritual - the first suspect is a local Umbanda priest, but when Verónica uncovers connections to government and the wealthy elite, a lethal cat and mouse game cranks up as she’s pursued by vengeful adversaries from her past and the present. Laying bare the vicious ways women are abused as pawns in conflicts between criminals, this is a full-on white-knuckle ride of a thriller.
An affectionate, heartfelt, uplifting novel about the wonders of friendship and having a dream. Spend a full day at the 24-hour Cafe in London, meet the staff, and the customers too, sit for a while, observe, enjoy. I adored Libby Page’s first novel The Lido, rest assured this is equally as gorgeous, and a truly lovely, lovely read. The story unfolds beautifully, starting at midnight we meet Hannah and Mona, friends, flatmates, and waitresses who will be working double shifts to cover the 24 hours. Stella’s cafe is a little community in its own right, small stories are contained within, with perfectly observed characters entering and exiting the cafe. I felt so invested in all of them, yet it is the two waiting staff who really touched me. As Hannah’s shift comes to an end and Mona’s starts, this simple, yet full and rich story opens up and flies. The 24-Hour Cafe is full of compassion and warmth, yet it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life. It has been chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month because it celebrates friendship and dreams in the best possible way. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.