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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…
I always do so enjoy sinking into the latest Pam Rhodes, I can almost feel myself unwinding as the story unfolds. This is the first in a trilogy set in and around Hope Hall, administrator Kath is the all important cog in the wheel that keeps the hall at the centre of the community. All the trials and tribulations that face us can be found here, yet there is always hope waiting just around the corner. There is such a sense of community on offer, and at times I felt as though I was reading about my own village. In just a few words Pam Rhodes introduces all the characters, and I could imagine exactly who they were, I could hear the gossip, see the hugs, feel the support. There are smiles a plenty to be found, even during the sadness that sometimes visits the pages. With a gentle fondness Springtime at Hope Hall showcases the centre of a town, the heart of a community, and rather lovely it is too.
Set aside plenty of quality time, as once I started, this was a read in one beautiful, heartrending, fully immersive sitting for me. When Elissa is abducted, her hopes of escape flame into being after Elijah finds her hidden in the heart of Memory Wood. A truly fabulous opening sets the scene, I felt as though I knew Elijah, his very being is stamped on the pages, and yet there is so much that remains unknown. Knowing the abduction was coming set my heart pounding and added to the tension rather than dispersing it. While the seven days of the story slide backwards and forwards in part one, I was completely confident and very much in every moment. In part one chapters are headed by the day, and one of the characters, while in part two you know exactly when you are. Sam Lloyd’s words were so in tune and belonging to each child that I almost didn’t need to know who was heading the chapter. I was on edge and uncertain as to the outcome throughout, as the ending hurtled towards me I gasped and felt utterly consumed. The Memory Wood is one of those novels that I almost wanted to read from behind a cushion, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Chosen as a LoveReading star book, this is a must-read for me.
Awash with atmosphere, passion and suspense, this first novel in a new series by the mistress of popular historical fiction is an immersive, entertaining, feminist-spirited feast. Impoverished midwife and herbalist healer Alinor goes to a graveyard on Midsummer Eve wondering if she might find the ghost of her missing abusive husband. Instead she encounters James, a wealthy, handsome man who will change the course of her life. With England in the throes of civil war, James is a fugitive and Alinor puts herself at risk to take him across the dangerous marsh to his place of sanctuary. James cannot comprehend meeting “a woman like you in a place like this”, words that ignite Alinor’s heart and soul through her otherwise bleak existence: “I am bound as a tenant to a neglectful lord and I cannot leave. I am wife to a vanished man and cannot marry, and I am sister to the ferryman and he will never carry me across to the mainland and set me free”. While helping James does lift Alinor from the mire, the tongues of local gossip women and bawdy men are set wagging, threatening her very existence and her daughter’s shot at a new life, and wise Alinor knows only too well that “no woman is innocent… Everything is our fault: sin and death are at our door, from now to Judgment Day”. The love story and evocation of time and place are utterly enthralling but, most of all, this is a dazzlingly compelling portrait of a complex, dignified woman standing strong and proud against the cruel confines of her class and sex.
This is a psychological thriller with real attitude, in fact, it might even be described as feisty. Meg and her daughter Grace are a true part of their community, the whole town is in shock when Meg is murdered and Grace discovered to be missing. Grace has been ill for years and may only have days to live without her medication, two local people desperate to save her, begin to investigate. This novel was inspired by the true life story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard in the USA, can I suggest (insist!) that you don’t look it up until you’ve finished the book, I was very patient and I’m so glad that I waited! Each chapter either focuses on investigative journalist Jon, or neighbour Cara, and their individual tales open the storyline into a widescreen panorama. My thoughts sped in one direction and then another as I read, focusing on the small, the intimate, burrowing into the minds of the characters. Emily Elgar tells this intricate tale with assurance, suggesting, introducing, opening information for our reading minds to analyse. Grace is Gone is fascinating and thrilling tale, it becomes all the more haunting when you realise it's based on a true story.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fisherman, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too.