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Looking to try something new? Check out our Debuts of the Month selection. You never know, one might become your favourite new author and a special discovery!
I was completely and utterly consumed by this debut, it slowly took hold, crept into my thoughts, drew me in, and then refused to let me go. I really didn’t want to stop reading, and even now Cora Burns enters my mind and stops for a while. Cora Burns born in gaol and raised in a workhouse, finds herself in gaol once again before a scientist takes her on as a servant, just what exactly is his current experiment? The story starts in savage darkness, then spins forward in time before rolling between 1865, 1874 and 1885, slowly answering questions yet creating more. Carolyn Kirby has created the most deeply felt and amazing character in Cora (to me she isn’t a character but as real as real can be). There were times when I almost didn’t want to read her story, I wanted to shut my eyes, hum, and put my hands to my ears, and yet I simply couldn’t stop, the words haunted me, called to me, devoured me. The Conviction of Cora Burns enthralling, fascinating and so incredibly worthwhile, developed into the most unexpectedly fierce and beautiful read (I think you will understand if you step between the pages), and so just has to be one of my picks of the month.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
An incredibly raw, at times difficult to read, quite gobsmacking debut. Cherry made me flinch, both physically and mentally, at times I had to look away and think of something else, yet the words continued to call to me. The author Nico Walker, as of 2019, is still in prison in the USA, he served as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD started to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction. This story centres on a narrator who serves as an army medic in Iraq, and returning home with severe PTSD starts to rob banks to pay for his drug addiction (yes the same tale as the author). Let me be clear, this is a novel, yet the voice of the author is clearly heard, this is his story and he stamps his words, his very being on every single page. Hammer hard, quick firing sentences (with some choice language attached) shoot off of the page. There were times when I really didn’t like the narator, some of his life choices are difficult to understand, yet that is the whole point. The story turns full circle from the prologue, creating what feels like a never ending loop. This book made me ache, it often physically hurt to soak up the words, yet I would read it all again tomorrow, and so Cherry has to be one of my picks of the month.
An eye-opening novel that feels like a blistering, witty, understanding-of-self travel diary, and an insight into 19 year old Erin’s soul. Erin travels around the top of the globe to Alaska, as she wants to burst the image of the rugged male explorer. I saw the synopsis for The Word For Woman is Wilderness and just had to read it as I’ve been to Alaska, and read various books set there, including Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, based on the true story of a traveler who died while trying to live off the land. Erin has read the same books, feels the same pull by the wilderness, and she has been written so beautifully by Abi Andrews that she slipped into a state of reality in my mind. I adored travelling with Erin, she took me to familiar and sometimes entirely unexpected places. It took me a little while to settle in and feel the words, the pace, the tone. I was surprised by her observations, so pithy, so huge, so spot on, it feels at times as though her thoughts have been bottled, shaken, and then explode out of her. The Word for Woman is Wilderness is a beautifully surprising, clever, startling novel and I adored it.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
This is the first of a trilogy and therefore must, of course, set the scene for those to come. It is about a cult that uses a beautiful old house on a Swedish island as its centre. The leader is Oswald, naturally unbelievably charismatic. Our heroine is Sofia, a sad lost girl suffering from a broken relationship and looking for a purpose in life. An obvious recruit. Oswald asks her to set up his library, an enticing offer. All goes well until winter sets in and brings the fog of the title. It also makes prisoners of those on the island. Then things get spooky. This is a long, slow read with little action but if you are interested in cults then you will find it fascinating.
Even in wartime the customer comes first at Marlow's department store. It's 1941 and young Lily Collins is starting work in Midlands department store Marlow's, whose gleaming facade has fascinated her since childhood. As the air raid sirens blare, Lily learns the ropes from her sophisticated boss Miss Frobisher alongside shy fellow junior Gladys. But her burgeoning friendship with young salesman Jim draws her into a swirl of secrets within the store. And with the war progressing to crisis point, Cedric Marlow and his staff must battle nightly bombings and the absence of loved ones to keep going. From a former writer of The Archers comes a novel that weaves together a powerful sense of community and a vivid evocation of a time when every man, woman and child was doing their bit.
Just gorgeous… this is an emotional and quite, quite beautiful read. After a particularly traumatic time at home, 13 year old Sal and her younger sister Peppa escape into the wilds of Scotland. Sal has spent a long time preparing, the wilderness beckons them, can they survive on their own? Sal tells their story, the first chapter is so clever, I started to realise what had been happening, and then a few carefully chosen, yet almost casually thrown away words, sent a shockwave running through me. I could clearly hear Sal’s voice, she is so individual and distinctive, her words entered my mind and expanded, filling my heart. Mick Kitson encourages the Scottish countryside to sing with intensity, while you can hear Sal, you can see and feel the clean and natural space she and Peppa find themselves in. Kindness flows from unexpected places, and love is behind every word shared by Sal, even in the darkness. Simple, beautiful, provocative yet touching, this is an outstanding debut, and a read I will return to again and again. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
An intimate, beautifully told, occasionally rambunctious tale set in 17th century England. Ursula Flight was born at an inauspicious time, she tells her own highly entertaining, yet poignant tale from birth. Ursula bounded from the page into wondrous life, I could feel her emotions, her wild, kind, impetuous nature spoke to me. Anna-Marie Crowhurst has created a vibrant, stunning setting for Ursula, the countryside of her childhood is so beautifully imagined, I found myself looking around, smelling, touching, feeling. Ursula’s own writing is scattered through the novel, her thoughts, letters and plays allow direct contact with her, as when she writes she is free, and unencumbered by the morals of the time. I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of disquiet as I read, one part of me was in the present, living life with Ursula, the other part was wondering what would become of this spirited young woman. A blistering darkness slices through ‘The Illumination of Ursula Flight’ taking its turn in the orbiting dance of life alongside the colour and passion, which creates a truly wonderful captivating read, and I loved it.
“Big sisters look after little sisters,” declares the mother of the two sisters at the centre of this fiercely enthralling novel and that’s taken to the extreme when big sister Korede helps little sister Ayoola dispose the body of the boyfriend she’s murdered. And not for the first time either. Femi is the third boyfriend to be killed by beautiful, untouchable Ayoola, and Korede can’t not come to her aid. “I am the older sister – I am responsible for Ayoola. That’s how it has always been. Ayoola would break a glass, and I would receive the blame for giving her the drink”. The writing is razor sharp, courtesy of Korede’s wry narration. She’s a mistress of observation and insight, all-seeing, all-knowing and - so it seems – all-loyal to her self-serving little sister. Ablaze with dark humour and strident originality, this wickedly explosive debut heralds the arrival of a smart new voice in contemporary fiction.
How to Retrain Your Appetite provides a ‘no nonsense’ approach to weight loss, based on science and psychology. Most diet books concentrate on what you should and shouldn’t eat and are filled with recipes and meal plans. How to Retrain Your Appetite takes a very different approach. This book isn’t about denying yourself the foods you love but concentrates on controlling your appetite, so you learn to eat only when you’re hungry and savour every mouthful. The science is explained simply and clearly, with plenty of self-help tips, real-life case studies and checklists, creating an interactive, practical workbook. This book isn’t a quick fix solution. It takes time to ditch unhelpful eating habits that have become a natural part of your daily life. Instead, it’s a book to read slowly, one step at a time, identifying your current habits, exploring why you eat when you’re not hungry and working out how to change your eating routine. This is also a book to read again and again, digesting the information until it becomes a natural part of your day. How to Retrain Your Appetite provides a fascinating insight into hunger, self-control and emotional eating – and could potentially help you to achieve permanent weight loss.
What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.
Fabulous First-time Fiction
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