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Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 | April 2017 Debut of the Month. Here is a woman, Mary, who desperately needs something and even we, the reader, are not entirely sure what. She has just split with a long-term boyfriend, Mark, the final bitter row being over commitment and not wanting a child. The next door neighbours have a toddler and a new baby girl. Mary babysits and forms an attachment with the baby which becomes complicated when the child is dumped on her later. It is the age old dilemma; no she does not want a child ... but then maybe she does. A magnificent dog fox appears in her overgrown garden, an area that backs onto a bit of scrub land. There are passages when we become aware of his thoughts and so eventually discover he is mourning his vixen. We are in East London. Mary develops an friendship with the fox, as indeed does he with her, or so we are led to believe. But again is he real or is she suffering from some delusion, edging on a mental breakdown? Is the fox a symbol for a need to care, nurture, protect, belong, or is he actually there? This is fascinating stuff. A tale of obsession which is unsettling, powerful and hypnotic. An original debut. I was fascinated to learn that there are ten thousand foxes roaming London.
A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets...One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society. As she takes her fiance's hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl's life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: 'I promised I would save you.' The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.
'Okay listen up everyone,' I said, zipping up my high visibility jacket. 'It will be most effective to comb the local area by taking a village each.' I told my team as I traced my finger across the map. My experience as a former copper was invaluable for our search. We weren't looking for a missing person though - we had a dog to find. Any pet owner knows the agonising panic when their beloved furry family member goes missing, but Tom Watkins, former policeman turned pet detective, is on hand to reunite our animal companions with their owners.
As is the case with so many good Irish literary novels, this is poignant, breathtaking and very sad. Following three stories told in three different voices that do eventually come together, it covers the years 1901 to 1941 through the tales of Jewish Lithuathian immigrants bound for New York who inadvertently disembark in Cork (sounds like New York) in Ireland. Ruth is eight years old. The second story is Shem’s who is mute, struck so at his Bar Mitzvah. When we meet him he is eighteen. His is the saddest story of all for his life is irrevocably changed by a misinterpretation of circumstances. The third story is set today where Aisling, an Irish Catholic in love with a Jew, has a huge dilemma. Can she make the ultimate sacrifice and convert to Judaism? She is given a book by her prospective inlaws that outlines the path she must take. It belonged to another and she seeks out the original owners with much then being revealed to us, the reader. It is not an easy read but it is certainly an impressive one. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Told by many voices, some wise, some wicked, this is the story of a close community under unbearable strain. What is the breaking point where neighbours and even sisters will turn against each other? The older people remember the Great Plague of 1348, an unimaginable horror that decimated Europe, England and the village of Porlock. Now Porlock is threatened once again, but is this natural disease God’s will or the curse of a witch? A mother of lost sons, a religious fanatic, a dwarf ex-jester, a lonely noble woman and others each tell their side of this harrowing story. Charm and sensitivity run throughout the narrative making this a frighteningly believable story. Medieval Porlock is skilfully evoked and some of the landmarks of the story are still visible today. A moving and disturbing tale of humanity pushed to the edge of society and beyond collapses. Those who fear the fashionable modern ‘zombie apocalypse’ would do well to read this and remember that the past also held life-changing horrors. Exciting, enthralling, enticing, disturbing and enjoyable, this is a wonderful read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Click here to view a Reading Guide for The Plague Charmer.
In a small advertising agency in Soho, Catrin Cole writes snappy lines for Vida Elastic and So-Bee-Fee gravy browning. But the nation is in peril, all skills are transferable and there's a place in the war effort for those who have a knack with words. Catrin is conscripted into the world of propaganda films.
In alternating chapters headed “Before” and “After” and narrated by both Heather and Edie, this is one truly compulsive read. Menace hangs over the whole thing. “Before” was seventeen years ago when the girls became friends and some dreadful mystery occurred. “After” is the present, they had lost touch and are now reunited where some equally dark secret hovers. All parts of the many mysteries are drip fed to us in tantalising drops. Who, in this obsessive friendship, is good, who bad? One of them is certainly manipulative and suffocating but it is the other who appears to be the betrayer. So we swing back and forth as each mystery gets darker and the atmosphere grows deeper but still we do not know what happened all those years ago. Its major fault is that it is over all too soon! Highly recommended.
An edgy, astute, robustly dynamic tale, taking snapshots of a life and allowing them to parade provocatively in front of you. Andrea is nearly 40, she doesn't have children, or a partner, she continuously battles expectations and other peoples judgement. Andrea opens windows into her world, with time not running concurrently, we slide backwards and forwards in an almost chaotic but incredibly powerful way. At first I wasn't sure what to make of Andrea, she can be abrasive and fatalistic, yet as I got to know her, any initial concerns about her, altered to being concerned for her, to caring about her. Jami Attenberg somehow encouraged hidden voices and thoughts skulking in a sealed shut wardrobe in my own mind to open the door and let themselves be heard. Her writing is incredible powerful, there is a beguiling sense of freedom and candour skimming the pages. Prodding, slashing, hammering at your awareness, ‘All Grown Up’ is a mesmerising tale, it’s short yet contains a lifetime of living. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a letter from Jami Attenberg about this book.
April 2017 Debut of the Month. A clever, convincing, and unexpected tale. 13 year old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom eight years ago, her sister, mother and father, have been unable to move past that dreadful night, however a shock wave hits, blasting them all back into the present. Different names head up the chapters, different tales are told, only Mum speaks in the first person, creating a direct connection to her thoughts and feelings. Amy Gentry writes with a devious pen, things aren’t necessarily hidden, yet a cage of acceptance and preconception bends emotions and rattles ideas, just what is the truth? Even if you expect some of what is hurtling towards you, the writing still ensures that surprises lie in wait, ready to stop you in your tracks. Compelling and achingly satisfying, ‘Good As Gone’ thoroughly provokes, and flings endings and beginnings on their head. ~ Liz Robinson
April 2017 Debut of the Month. An emotional, heart-stopping, and mesmerising debut novel. 34 year old retired banker and burgeoning artist Barry from New York, and 28 year old just-married Parisian architect Sophie, are the sole survivors of a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Stranded on a small uninhabited island, with only themselves and a small survival kit for company, can they withstand the trials that nature and the universe hurls at them? Chapter one was an unexpected and intriguing start, setting questions hovering in my mind, before I was propelled straight into the middle of a boiling, seething mass of water. Dane Huckelbridge’s clear, strong writing planted me firmly on the island, I witnessed shock, awe, and fear, laughter blurted out of me, I looked up at the sky, discovered joy, counted the days, felt hearts flutter. ‘Castle of Water’ is a gorgeous, captivating, surprising novel, one that storms your senses, yet encourages whispers of thoughts to escape your mind, and I absolutely loved it. ~ Liz Robinson
May 2017 Book of the Month. A striking thriller from an established US author and Golden Globe award winner of the Fargo TV series scriptwriter. When a private aircraft returning from a wealthy holiday hideout plunges into the sea off New York and there are only two survivors: the young son of a powerful media mogul and a painter with a troubled past, speculation grows rife as to true story behind the tragedy, because of the presence on board of the TV network head and a wealthy banker who was about to be indicted for fraud. Accident or sabotage? The mystery behind the accident is not just the only theme of the novel, but also the way the American media moves. Through flashbacks to the various passengers in the days leading up to the crash, a tangled network unfolds, making this a complex and meditative examination of both the corridors of power and the affective ties that bind the two unlikely survivors. Ambitious and rewarding. ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Just stunning! A novel that surprises, seduces, and impresses. A private plane crashes into the ocean on a trip back to New York. Struggling artist Scott Burroughs not only survives, he also rescues 4 year old JJ, the son of the family who chartered the jet. This novel tells the story of each person on the plane, the investigation after the crash and focuses on Scott, is he a hero or villain? The writing dances across the characters, floating yet somehow reaching into their innermost depths and revealing hidden thoughts, desires and feelings. Noah Hawley takes us backwards and forwards in time, the writing is strangely beautiful, even when in the depths of the nightmare, the descriptive detailing has the ability to caress your senses. I found myself spinning unexpectedly as the focus changed direction, ensuring I was on high alert, seeking and grasping for answers. Occasionally, outside of each individual story, little jolting snapshots can be found, that sow both seeds of disquiet and empathy. ‘Before the Fall’ is a striking and completely captivating read, do I recommend it, yes, yes, yes…wholeheartedly! ~ Liz Robinson
April 2017 NewGen Debut of the Month. In a Nutshell: Fighting for Justice | Black Lives Matter | Stunning, vital wake-up call of a novel about racism, social inequality and not giving up told through the eyes of an incredible, unforgettable sixteen-year-old. Starr straddles two very different worlds. She has one foot in Garden Heights, a rough neighbourhood ruled by gangs, guns and dealers, and the other in an exclusive school with an overwhelmingly wealthy white student population. One night she’s at a party when gunshots are fired and Khalil, her friend since childhood, takes her to his car for safety. Khalil is unarmed and poses no threat, but he’s shot dead by an officer right in front of her. It will take a lot of courage to speak to the police, and to face the media who choose to highlight that Khalil was a “suspected drug dealer”, while omitting to mention that he was unarmed. But, with their neighbourhood under curfew and a tank on the streets, Starr risks going public. Danger escalates as the hearing approaches (and beyond), but Starr isn’t about to give up fighting for Khalil, and for what’s right. Alongside the intense struggles and conflicts faced by Starr’s family and community, there are some truly heart-melting moments between Starr and her white boyfriend Chris (their shared love of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is super cute), and also between Starr and her parents. Complex, gripping, stirring and so, so important – I can’t recommend this remarkable debut enough. ~ Joanne Owen
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eBooks have at last come of age and although you have been able to see if an eBook is available on a title by title basis on Lovereading for a while now, we also wanted to create a special section which features all of our eBook recommended reads.
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