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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…
A blistering, gripping, and absolutely fascinating novel. Set aside plenty of quality time as I was consumed, and read it all in one heady, breathtaking go. It’s based on the true story of Nancy Wake, named by the Gestapo as The White Mouse, as she evaded their capture by slipping through check points in France during The Second World War. It is almost impossible to comprehend the wartime life of Nancy, it feels as though all of it is brilliant but astonishing fiction. Darby Kealey and Imogen Robertson have created a living, breathing, headstrong woman and I shook my head in wonder and shock at some of her escapades. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes and at times appears somewhat gung-ho, with no apparent regard for the safety of herself or her team, yet this woman was quite simply incredible. The authors have made changes to timelines and invented some episodes which they fully explain in the Historical Notes. A major film production is underway, and I recommend reading the book just as soon as you can (before the film) as it is fabulous. Nancy Wake has entered my heart, and we just had to choose Liberation as a LoveReading Star Book.
A thought-provoking relationship tale with an edge. The relationships on offer here explore the nature of family, friends and colleagues, as well as love. While revenge headlines, this is a novel that focuses on empathy and compassion. Surgeon Rachel finds her world is turned upside down when she is targeted by a vengeful mother. This is very much a novel of two halves with author S. L. Russell ensuring tension kept intrigue company before leaving speculation and hope to take their place. The story grew on me, as did Rachel, and I felt this was a very deliberate decision taken by the author. There is an element of faith in this novel, I am not at all religious and was quite content and interested by the direction it took. The Healing Knife really is the most perfectly chosen title for a stimulating and thoughtful novel.
Quirky, provocative, and fabulous, these short stories highlight everyday normality and yet firmly shake the roots of your thoughts. Hannah Vincent is a novelist and playwright, I first came across her writing in 2014 when I read Alarm Girl, which I can still clearly remember (bearing in mind just how many books I read, it shows you how powerful her writing is). Although these short stories might leave you with more questions than answers they are actually perfectly formed. Sweary, occasionally shouty, definitely challenging, the mundane is examined, and experienced in a completely different way. She-Clown and Other Stories is a really interesting and decidedly different collection of 16 stories that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
A captivating, intricate and thoroughly satisfying thriller. Reporter Rebecca Connolly returns to investigate the murders of two men, one found at the site of the Battle of Culloden in Highland dress, the other in a graveyard in Redcoat uniform. If you haven’t yet read the first in the Rebecca Connolly Thriller series Thunder Bay, please do, as it fully sets the scene for Rebecca. More characters are introduced, most noticeable among them a prominent Inverness crime family and a far-right group, adding to the intrigue and creating some seriously fascinating layers. Douglas Skelton set my mind ticking over in the background as the story weaved its magic and gathered me in. An unknown child speaks on occasion, the voice creating a discordant and unsettling note that grows in intensity. Looking back after finishing, it felt as though the ending was inevitable, and yet I had absolutely no idea where it was heading as I read and that is down to the skill of the writer. With an artful plot and crammed full of captivating characters, The Blood Is Still is a compelling and cracking read.
With its finely-evoked Haiti setting and interlacing of one woman’s search for her grandchild with another’s search for her absent mother, Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez, author of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and The Kabul Beauty School, comes heartily recommended for fans of thought-provoking family dramas. Estranged from her mum, Alice, and her poisonously controlling stepdad Jim, who’ve established a mission on Haiti - Charlie has been living with grandmother Bea for the past year. When psychic Bea dreams that something isn’t right with Alice, Charlie reluctantly agrees to travel to the island to check she’s OK. At the airport they meet Lizbeth, a widow who’s learned that she might have a grandchild on Haiti, where her son - also deceased - worked for an NGO. The novel really finds its flow when the three women set foot on the island and search for Lizbeth’s grandchild together, with Charlie additionally trying to find her mother, and perhaps also the strength to forgive her. Alongside the women’s personal quests, truths about Haitian history, culture and post-earthquake poverty are revealed through Mackenson, their driver, translator and all-round fountain of knowledge and help. His calm voice cuts through misconceptions about the island, exposing the debilitating effects of negligent international aid practices and ignorant “white saviours”. As a pacy race against time plays out in Port-au-Prince, Bea’s encounters with a flirtatious Frenchman and the bond she forms with Mambo Michèle, a Voudou priestess, deliver delightful moments of energy and light.
A thoughtful, sometimes emotionally painful, yet unforgettable medical memoir I feel everyone should read. Our expectations of our medical and emergency teams are high, we trust, we rely, we hope. When a best-selling novelist, with the most beautiful way with words, tells the story of her time as a junior doctor, you just have to sit up and listen. Each chapter begins with thoughts from different people and roles within the medical profession. Joanna Cannon opens her arms wide and lets you in to her story, her way with words ensures you can see a full and vivid picture. Heartbreakingly honest, we see how she is overstretched, twanging like elastic that is on the point of completely fraying. A number of times her words resonated so strongly, they gave me goose-bumps. She not only made me look with different eyes at our medical practitioners, she also made me think about my own thoughts and words. I don’t think I will ever forget her “we each measure words with different scales”. Breaking and Mending is one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book... I smiled, I cried, afterwards I sat and hugged it!