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This is where you will find stunning books from literary masters past and present. Literary fiction doesn’t just mean good or valued, as brilliant writing can be found in any genre. These are serious stories with high artistic qualities that strike at the heart of what it is to be human.
A hugely entertaining and thrilling debut that feels as though a blockbuster film is playing out in front of you. Twin sisters Iris and Summer may look identical, but their personalities are a world apart. When Summer asks Iris for help sailing their yacht across the Indian Ocean, Iris has the opportunity to create the life she has always envied her sister. Oh my, where to start! Well, this would make the perfect summer read, as you gallop through, just remember to savour the journey. Rose Carlyle has created a thriller that sits right on the edge of unbelievable. She takes you into secrets and lies, and throws in a humdinger of a plot. As Iris revealed her story, as the tension increased, I found my feelings hesitating, then changing. Iris has the most distinct voice, she is brutally honest, and allows access to the thoughts most wouldn’t allow to surface. As such, she isn’t always likeable, but boy is she captivating. The setting is vibrant, the family drama is dramatic, in other words The Girl in the Mirror is a vivid and entirely stimulating read.
An office worker who has no one to eat lunch with enrolls in a course that builds confidence about eating alone. A man with a pathological fear of bedbugs offers up his body to save his building from infestation. A time capsule in Seoul is dug up hundreds of years before it was intended to be unearthed. A vending machine repairman finds himself trapped in a shrinking motel during a never-ending snowstorm. In these and other indelible short stories, contemporary South Korean author Yun Ko-eun conjures up slightly off-kilter worlds tucked away in the corners of everyday life. Her fiction is bursting with images that toe the line between realism and the fantastic. Throughout Table for One, comedy and an element of the surreal are interwoven with the hopelessness and loneliness that pervades the protagonists' decidedly mundane lives. Yun's stories focus on solitary city dwellers, and her eccentric, often dreamlike humor highlights their sense of isolation. Mixing quirky and melancholy commentary on densely packed urban life, she calls attention to the toll of rapid industrialization and the displacement of traditional culture. Acquainting the English-speaking audience with one of South Korea's breakout young writers, Table for One presents a parade of misfortunes that speak to all readers in their unconventional universality.
Though The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers is Emily Critchley’s debut novel for adult readers (Notes on My Family was her widely acclaimed debut for young adults), it’s an accomplished, powerful, mesmerising story that explores a seventeen-year-old’s embroilment in an abusive relationship with an older man. Shifting between two timelines, it’s also a potent coming-of-age novel, and a fascinating portrait of a mother-daughter bond. The steady, measured style coupled with the present tense immediacy creates tremendous tension. There’s a sense that something is simmering. In Nell’s past, which we enter in 1983, she and her artist mother Alice move from London to her deceased Grandma’s rural cottage. Everything is new and different, not least because this is the first time Nell attends school, where she experiences a succession of awakenings as her world opens up. Here she realises that not everyone is the same, that boy and girls are “very different.” After a nasty falling out with the group of wealthy, sneaky girls she’s fallen with, Nell experiences the worst of school relationships: “Girls sneak up on one another with whispered words and turned shoulders. Girls work slowly, stripping away the thin layers of self-esteem.” And then, after her harrowing first experience of sex, Nell loses all hope for her future, concluding that “her life is no different to anyone else’s and she hates herself for ever thinking it might be.” The narrative shifts back and forth between Nell’s school days and 2003. At 17, she’s moved to Brighton vaguely hoping to start a new life. She’s still bookish and thoughtful, but has never found her way. Her life here begins in a bookshop, for she “needs somewhere safe to think about what comes next, to reflect on her first night in the city.” She starts dating Scott, who’s more than ten years her senior, and it’s not long before instances of coercive control escalate. Worse follows. Much worse. And though Nell is aware that “there was something wrong with her life, she had no idea how to change it.” Reaching out to her mother helps, though, and light and hope glimmers through the fog of Nell’s life as a young adult.
It begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother's former care-giver, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances, at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an activist he fell in love with four years earlier while living in Delhi, bringing with it the stirring of distant memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for the funeral, so begins a passage into the soul of an island devastated by violence. Written with precision and grace, A Passage North is a poignant memorial for the missing and the dead, and a luminous meditation on time, consciousness, and the lasting imprint of the connections we make with others.
A gorgeously simple yet heartbreakingly complex debut that strays into magic realism and explores the meaning of family. Tito and his grandmother probe the magic of family bonds, as they grow older, their struggle to keep loved ones close takes its toll. Fairlight Moderns are little gems of books, small and compact, beautiful inside and out, each story packs a punch. J T Torres writes with a compassionate and thoughtful yet penetrating and provocative pen. A chain reaction of emotions ran through me as I joined Tito and his Nana and echoes of Cuba slid into Florida and Alaska. It feels as though the magic of Taking Flight will release a totally different experience to each person who steps between the pages. While readers always take a part of themselves into a book, here that piece of me stayed within it. With a devastating delicacy, Taking Flight delves into the intricate complexities of family, migration, and mental health and has been chosen as one of our Debuts of the Month.
Amusing yet poignant, uplifting yet sharply pointed, this is a very contemporary look at a woman spiralling out of control in an effort to keep up appearances. When Tom is made redundant and says the family will have to live off of their savings until he gets a new job, Faiza panics, she has secretly spent all of their money and is determined that Tom won’t find out. Faiza is warm and engaging, I felt as though I was sitting by her side and she was telling me her story. While there were times I winced and was frustrated by her actions, I also cheered her on and if I could, would have given her the hugest of huge hugs. A truly exquisite balance is maintained throughout this novel, Aliya Alif-Afzal writes with wit, perception, and emotional integrity. While sitting as a wonderfully readable and entertaining novel, this is a smart take on some of the problems faced in our society. Would I Lie To You is an engaging and moving debut, it’s also a little bit feisty, I loved it!
The most wonderful, funny, and engaging novel, Woman of a Certain Rage simply danced into my hands and I read with true glee. Eliza has hit middle age and the menopause, as she navigates all that her hormones throw at her, can she rediscover the joys of her youth? I wanted to wriggle with excitement when I heard that this was Fiona Walker taking a writing step in a new direction as Georgie Hall. I completely understand why she is using a different name, as she says on her site: “I don’t want to mislead readers into expecting a big-cast Walker romp”. I genuinely feel as though I have been waiting for this novel, she takes the menopause years and runs with it, with laughter, warmth, and most of all empathy. She explores family life with teens and parents while maintaining a career, a relationship and home-life while the menopause is on the rampage. She made me snort with laughter on a number of occasions, and I frequently exclaimed as I recognised and related with different scenarios. While the midlife years and all the trials and tribulations that come with it sit centre stage, this is a book that can be read right through the age groups. All hail Georgie Hall as she uncovers the menopause with wit and honesty, excuse me while I find a few rooftops to camp out and shout from. Beautifully readable and laugh-out-loud funny, Woman of a Certain Rage is a LoveReading Star Book with attitude.
Our July 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This deliciously quirky, amusing and sharply-pointed debut novel slowly wormed its way into my heart and soul. Anxiety is plaguing Gilda, who also has death on her mind, she unexpectedly finds herself in a new job, fending off unwanted attention from men while keeping her girlfriend secret, and investigating a suspicious death. Emily Austin writes with such honesty and empathy, I found her words burrowed their way into my mind before reaching beyond thought, to feelings. It took me a while to get to know and warm to Gilda, she borders on awkward as she tells her story. I gradually found myself getting closer and closer to this fragile yet thoughtful and beautiful woman. The plot weaves a unique magic as it ranges from mystery to family drama to relationship story. The humour is pithy and smart, the observations can sting yet are compassionate, and the descriptions simply sing. I really have fallen in love with this book, and can’t wait to see what comes next from Emily Austin, she is a writer I will be looking out for. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a compelling, provocative, and beautiful LoveReading Star Book.
Though complex, subtle, and rich in history and myth, Violet Kupersmith's Build Your House Around My Body makes an instantly potent impression. Her writing is at once measured and vivid, infused with the elemental power of Vietnamese folklore, and with the histories, fates and desires of its protagonists. Following the lives of two fearless women who both went missing (though decades apart - one in 1986, the other in 2011), and who both seek revenge, Build Your House Around My Body is hauntingly poetic, playful, and a puzzle, of sorts. A multi-layered Russian doll of a story with magic realist elements - ghosts, time travel, snake monsters. Indeed, the whole novel might be described as a coiled serpent that spirals and springs when you least expect it. Despite their very different backgrounds, the women are bound by the past, and by ancestors and ghosts. It’s a mystery, a mythic epic, a slippery history that defies classification, and I loved it.
Modern life, the real and vibrantly emotional side of modern life, is on show in this truly lovely and big-hearted novel that I simply adored. A small London community sits centre stage as the residents move about their business and inside and out of each others homes. While the focus remains on Juliet, Liam and their son Charlie, this is a wider look at navigating family and friendships. Everyone is Still Alive is bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink's first novel, and what an eloquently beautiful read it is. The setting is a relatively affluent suburban street that welcomes you in and feels like home. With huge compassion, themes concentrate on the more difficult side of life in our modern world, including grief, anxiety, and envy. I also walked with humour, encouragement and affection, and balanced that exquisite tightrope of emotions that people experience each day. This wonderful novel feels like a celebration, a hand held out in support and in love, and I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. Powerful yet gently soothing, Everyone is Still Alive is a novel that gives a warm embrace as it slips into emotions and makes them sing.
Clever, compelling and kaleidoscopic, Chris Beckett’s multi-time-framed Tomorrow explores the elusiveness of finding meaning and fulfilment, though it defies reduction to a simple “this story is about...” description. Focussed on a novelist, the novel shifts in time and settings, from middle-class discussions of social justice in the city, to their retreat to a remote riverside Eden to write “the real book”. The hope this will happen is “the only handle I have on being me,” the writer confesses. After authoring several novels and a successful memoir about their experience of being held captive by revolutionaries, they dread the thought of returning to the city not having done so, though a friend worries they’re “chasing a mirage”. Another of the novel’s themes is how we construct barriers to implementing our long-held plans so we never try, and therefore never fail. The narrative skips to the writer’s period in captivity, and to a perilous journey of escape through a jungle dripping with dangerous, outlandish creatures and plants, with plenty of wry musings on literature along the way, such as the “distinction between stories that make you feel more alive and stories that just pass the time by tapping, like a fruit machine does, into your infantile need for resolution.” Thought-provoking, and slotting together like a brilliantly devised puzzle, Tomorrow falls firmly into the former camp.
WINNER OF THE CWA CRIME IN TRANSLATION DAGGER Yona has been stuck behind a desk for years working as a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel company specialising in package holidays to destinations ravaged by disaster. When a senior colleague touches her inappropriately she tries to complain, and in an attempt to bury her allegations, the company make her an attractive proposition: a free ticket for one of their most sought-after trips, to the desert island of Mui. She accepts the offer and travels to the remote island, where the major attraction is a supposedly-dramatic sinkhole. When the customers who've paid a premium for the trip begin to get frustrated, Yona realises that the company has dangerous plans to fabricate an environmental catastrophe to make the trip more interesting, but when she tries to raise the alarm, she discovers she has put her own life in danger.
Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited first work of fiction - at once hilarious, delicious, and brutal - is the always surprising, sometimes shocking new novel based on his Academy Award-winning film. RICK DALTON - Once he had his own TV series, but now Rick's a washed-up villain-of-the week drowning his sorrows in whiskey sours. Will a phone call from Rome save his fate or seal it? CLIFF BOOTH - Rick's stunt double, and the most infamous man on any movie set because he's the only one there who might have gotten away with murder... SHARON TATE - She left Texas to chase a movie-star dream, and found it. Sharon's salad days are now spent on Cielo Drive, high in the Hollywood Hills. CHARLES MANSON - The ex-con's got a bunch of zonked-out hippies thinking he's their spiritual leader, but he'd trade it all to be a rock 'n' roll star. HOLLYWOOD 1969 - YOU SHOULDA BEEN THERE
Weaving between complex social issues, this is a powerful, tense, and striking second novel by Rachel Edwards. When Etta turns to online gambling her entire life begins to crumble, she is willing to do anything to stop her world from imploding. Rachel Edward’s wonderfully captivating debut Darling was a LoveReading Star Book which concentrated on the new wife and young daughter of a man as they each fought for his love and attention. Lucky is entirely different in plot, yet a strong central character again sits to the fore. Etta can be stubborn (determined), manipulative (smart), she’s also addicted (lost and confused), kind, thoughtful, and loving. I found her frustrating and appealing in equal measures which lead to me forming a complex yet fascinating relationship with her character. Suspense kept me company throughout this novel, at times I almost read between my fingers as I waited to see what Etta would do next. I explored online gambling, migration, identity, race, and relationship traps and pitfalls all on top of a plot that that had me edging along a towering clifftop of tension. Rachel Edwards has created an intriguing and compelling main character, a cracking plot and sub-plot which collide to create the most fabulous ending. Lucky is an intriguing, smart, and thought-provoking novel I can highly recommend.
From the exceptional author of Black Rock, Amanda Smyth’s Fortune is an absolute dazzler. Set in 1920s Trinidad, and based on real-life events, the novel is founded on exquisite storytelling. It’s measured in style, and panoramic in impact - though the writing is so finely accomplished its influence swells over time as the novel charts a universal story of desire and ambition, of love and lust, of all-but impossible battles with the external forces of nature. I relished every sentence, every considered word, every beat of a plot that pulses to the varied rhythms of its characters’ unsettled hearts. What’s more, it captures a nation on the cusp of monumental change - Trinidad’s earth-shattering shift to oil from its struggling sugar and cocoa industries. A chance encounter between handsome, charismatic Eddie Wade and Trinidadian business man Tito (lately down on his luck) leads them to hatch a plan to make their fortunes in oil. And the man who holds the key to their future fortunes is Sonny Chatterjee, a superstitious farmer whose cocoa estate is failing due to the abundance of oil oozing up through his soil. Sonny is reluctant to go into the oil business with anyone, and sceptical, as is his wife (“Who really need oil? Who want it? Not me, not you. You can eat oil?”), though she’s also angered by their escalating poverty. And so the two men convince Sonny, and they’re granted a lease to drill his land for a year. The very first meeting between Eddie and Tito’s wife Ada is charged with electricity. She’s a beautiful enigma, he’s like no one she’s never met, “he could have fallen out of the sky.” As the oil project progresses, the men battle sickness and set-backs until the black gold starts surging, as does the yearning between Ada and Eddie. Though ignorant of this, Tito unwittingly makes a premonitory statement, of sorts: “Ada has fire in her. A woman who has fire, if you love her, she’ll warm up your heart.” To which Eddie replies, “If you don’t she’ll burn down your house.” Tito laughs, “That’s exactly right, Eddie. She’ll burn down your house.” The way Ada and Eddie’s relationship buds from fascination, to lustful tension, to overwhelming desire, is exquisite: “Ada knew something was happening to her. The world was different. The hills were greener, the sky a painting of light.” A fatal accident on a neighbouring oil site causes Sonny to want to halt the drilling and sell up, but Tito and Eddie want to drill one more well before their lease is up. Enthralling and heart-stopping to the end, Fortune is a magnificent feat of fiction.
Set in rural Australia in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s (the plot smartly slips between the decades), Lyn Yeowart’s The Silent Listener - her debut novel - is a dark and stormy psychological thriller focussed on family secrets and the search to fathom terrible truths. When Joy Henderson returns to her family’s farm to care for George, her dying dad, she’s confronted with a succession of horrendous events - both those that occur in her present, and traumatic experiences from her past. The very day after her father confesses to a horrific crime, he’s found dead with his own belt around his neck. As the narrative slips back to 1960, we learn how eleven-year-old Joy existed in utter fear of her father. An abusive bully who forced her to declare herself a “lazy, good-for-nothing sinner”. A brute who scarred her for life - psychologically and physically, for Joy has been left with “thick red strips of raised flesh creeping over the top of her shoulder and under her loose bra strap, wrapping themselves around the top of her arm like the tentacles of a red octopus.” This description is representative of the author’s taut, evocative style. Then there’s the Constable investigating George’s death - Alex Shepherd, a man still haunted by an unsolved case of a missing girl from 1960, and now deeply engrained in this new case, and the Henderson family’s secrets. As Joy and Shepherd talk, Joy is struck by a sickening thought: “The bastard killed himself so that you’d think I killed him. So I’d go to jail for murdering him. It was the ultimate punishment for disobeying him.” Shepherd isn’t sure what to believe, but his instincts lead him back to that unsolved case of the missing child. Exploring coercive control, violence, abuse and revenge with edgy levels of tension through potentially unreliable narrators, this is a satisfyingly suspenseful gothic thriller.
Having written advertising commercials and marketing copy for decades before trying fiction, Alka Joshi launched her fiction career with the stellar debut The Henna Artist and instantly became a phenomenon. Much admired by Reese Witherspoon, it became a bestseller for its multi-sensory depiction of superstition, class and tradition in 1950’s Indian society and introduced readers to a superb cast of credible and highly engaging characters. Joshi’s latest, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur shows that the author has had no ‘difficult second novel’ issues as from page one we are immersed in Joshi’s trademark sense of place and launched straight into a tale of disaster and deception. A sequel to her debut that works very well indeed as a stand-alone novel, Joshi seamlessly weaves some of the characters we first met in The Henna Artist with new cast members that are so well drawn we can feel their hopes, dreams and fears, and there are plenty of all, in every chapter. What Joshi does so well is to conjure a strong sense of setting with her adept use of the sights, sounds and smells of the locations she sets her story in. If ever a book had ‘scratch and sniff’ potential this is it. In her interview with LoveReading LitFest, Joshi was asked how she writes and she explained that she conjures chapters visually, like a film director, and then transcribes what she has ‘seen’ onto the page. For a fully immersive, take-you-to-another-place read, Jaipur and Shimla in the hands of Alka Joshi is a must.
Moth is absolutely gorgeous. Fair warning, it broke my heart, but is still completely and utterly gorgeous! Partition in India slices the country through its soul, one liberal family find themselves adrift and battling for survival. Set in 1940’s Delhi this story focuses on family, and in particular women as the world around them boils with political unrest and danger. The beauty and pain of the prologue turned my thoughts inside out, I had to stop for a moment before carrying on. The awareness of the prologue stayed with me as I continued to read, consume, feel. This is Melody Razak’s debut novel and was written on long train journeys across India. Here she takes an intimate story set in an epic, huge moment in history, and makes it feel real. Snippets and slices of all emotions are brought together to form the most wonderfully told story that highlights the tragedy that falls. Her writing caught me, lulled me, shocked me, seduced me. She writes with huge compassion, the smallest of details weave together to form a vivid and vibrant tapestry of life. It is all too easy to imagine this happening anywhere in the world, yet among all the pain is strength and hope. The moments of calm, love, humour, sharing, and kindness all combine to ensure that you can still feel delight among the pain. Oh, and I must just mention the stunning cover too, it matches the beauty within. Moth, so exquisitely emotional, powerful, and harrowing, will be one of my favourite books of the year, it is so special, I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
When Mark is 15 a freak accident changes his life forever. He was the golden boy. He was admired by all who knew him. The accident casts Mark adrift for a decade, until he meets Sadie, someone who could put his life back together again. But a chance meeting with someone from his past is set to unmoor Mark again, driven by his need to heal the wounds from his past once and for all. I found the characterisation in this book to be very descriptive. I liked that ‘The Darlings’ showed how a traumatic incident during Mark’s childhood had a huge impact on his adult life and future relationships. I loved this book, in fact I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I had become a part of the character’s lives and I found myself getting quite attached to them as the story went on. I recommend ‘The Darlings’ highly and I will definitely be looking out for more of Angela’s books.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE AND THE NEW YORK POST Tina wants to feel Indian. Really Indian. Not Indian in the sense of going to yoga in Brooklyn. She wants to know the real India - only whenever she visits, people take her to bars and restaurants and boutiques that could be anywhere in the world. So she jumps at the change to get to know the country when she heads to Delhi for her glamorous cousin Shefali's week-long wedding, with her best friend, her parents and her mother's all-American boyfriend in tow. Navigating a world of Delhi playboys, models, dating agencies for widows, and wedding guests with personal bodyguards, Tina is determined to have an authentic Indian experience. Now if only someone would tell her what that was...
'The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories' is a collection of 14 thoughtful and thought-provoking short stories by David Joseph. Previously published as a poet, the author's lyrical prose flows effortlessly throughout the book. Set in a series of Spanish and Portuguese cities, characters of differing ages, gender and origins reveal their joy, grief, regret or sadness through extraordinary events in their otherwise ordinary lives. Many of these stories are outstanding but, for me, particularly so is 'The Cleanest Alimentación in Spain'. It tells of 18 year old Jorge, a second generation Chinese immigrant, who works in the family convenience store at weekends to give his mother a break. One quiet Sunday afternoon, four yobs enter the shop intent on making trouble. Although powerfully built, Jorge keeps his cool as they sweep tins from the stacked shelves, laughing and jeering all the while. Thinking of the long and proud histories of their two countries, he stands firm as the louts walk off with their loot, which he pays for from his own money to prevent his mother finding out. We learn of his love for a Spanish student in his class, the dream of being with her, the burden of prejudice but the hope she gives him for Spain, for the future, for himself. This moving collection is a must-read...compelling, sincere, incisive and keenly observed. The backdrop of the Iberian peninsula is magnificently evocative, so much so that the reader is transported to the sun and sites there, which is just what is needed when, at the moment, it's so difficult to actually travel in person. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
A MESMERIZING BREAK-OUT CRIME THRILLER FULL OF BREATHTAKING TWISTS Nic always hated clubbing. She only went out that night because she’d promised a friend. She wakes up, naked and bound in an abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere. Dappled light comes in through a dirty window. Her body is covered in cuts. Across the room her friend groans in pain. A shadow passes the window. He’s back. He picks up a knife. He begins to cut her friend. In that moment of bloody frenzy, Nic wrenches free and runs. She’s finally safe. But this is just the beginning. Detectives Asha Harvey and Aaron Birch arrive at the scene hours later. There is no body, there is no sign of the killer. It’s as if it never happened. YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW IT ENDS? THINK AGAIN. Fans of Lynda La Plante, Tana French, Patricia Gibney, Brian McGilloway and Helen H. Durrant will devour this electrifying crime thriller by one of Northern Ireland’s newest talents.
When I first heard of ‘I Escape Through You’ by Mike Arnold it sounded like a story of the right person at the wrong time. However this book is more than that. Taking a more intimate look at mental health, and how people leap into relationships in order to try to fix themselves as opposed to working to fix themselves before entering a happy and healthy relationship. Told in just over 100 pages, the author manages to draw us into the intimate lives of Megan and Lucas in relatively few words. This a very well-written book, with an eloquent and fluid writing style that flows from reflections to setting the scene to Lucas’ inner thoughts. It’s interesting to hear this style of story from a male perspective, and I was interested in what he had to say from the very first page. Looking at modern challenges for relationships, from meeting online to long-distance and family pressures to more challenging issues of mental health breakdowns and self harm. This book is a brilliant story about people, how they connect, how they love and how that love and connection changes over time. I wanted to read this in one sitting and I would highly recommend this title. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
AN ADDICTIVE MUST-READ WHODUNNIT FROM THE NEWEST TALENT IN CRIME FICTION A new life. A new town. A dead body. Andrea “Andi” Silvers needs a fresh start. Once a star reporter, she’s been dumped by her lover and by the paper they both worked at. Andi moves to the tiny fishing village of Coffin Cove, on the Vancouver coast, where she lands a job at the local Gazette. Expecting bake sales and unpaid parking tickets to be the biggest news items, she quickly discovers the small town holds dark secrets. Two sea lions wash up on the shore. They’ve been shot dead. Activists point the finger at local fishermen. Then things get far worse . . . A dead body turns up. How does it all relate to a fifteen-year-old girl’s tragic death twenty years ago? The girl was found drowned with her arms and legs tied together. The deeper Andi digs, the more dirt she finds. Discover a web of murder and mystery laced with humour and a thread of romance in this fast-paced whodunnit set on the gorgeous coast of Western Canada. Fans of Joy Ellis, L.J. Ross, Peter Robinson, Thomas King, Louise Penny and Shari Lapena will devour this mesmerizing debut crime thriller.
A Netflix Original Series! Welcome back to Virgin River with the book that started it all… Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included. When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving—the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning. But a tiny baby abandoned on a front porch changes her plans…and former marine Jack Sheridan cements them into place.
Ekuah is in an up-and-down, back-and-forth relationship with Dee. It’s not perfect, but it feels enough for her . . . that’s until Dee ghosts her. Bruised and heartbroken, Ekuah does her best to get on with her life and eventually meets Jay, a man who might just be the one to win her heart. That is, of course, when Dee reappears in her life… The protagonist in this tale is very young but her emotions are real and the tricky relationship she has with her parents is every bit as important as the romantic ones. I was impressed by the depth and authenticity that came through the pages, a fantastic read. Selected by Dorothy Koomson, Our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.
Best Friends Lyla, Maku and Theresa have a rock-solid friendship – it’s the other relationships in their lives that cause them heartache. When ambitious Theresa moves back to Accra with her husband, she doesn’t realise it’s going to show up the cracks in her relationship, and also make her friends look more closely at their lives. This drama is full of twists and turns some of them heartstopping, others heart-rending, all of them brilliantly played out and realistic. If you’re a fan of female-centered dramas, this is one for you. Selected by Dorothy Koomson, Our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.
‘The Die is Cast’ is an adventurous story about the supposed identity and whereabouts of the Dish of Christ. This is the first book in the Lady Jane and the Last Supper Dish Series that sets the wheels in motion for four different stories to collide, each centred around revealing the truth about the Christ’s Last Supper Dish. This quest is filled with mystery and intrigue, using history, myth and imagination. I found the plot very well written, the book, in the prologue the atmosphere of panic and loss of hope during the fall of Constantinople is well conveyed, and also sets up the mystery to be investigated in the modern narratives. I liked this layout, letting the reader in on parts of what really happened before being introduced to the characters that will be involved in investigating. Each storyline comes with it’s own motive, with the Dish of Christ meaning something different to each of the characters. Ray Cozart and Natalie Ashbrook, are looking for a way to revitalise their careers and their relationship. Jane Whitaker loves adventure and in her search must face her family’s problems. Professor Adam Burke looks for academic acclaim and a way to get ahead of a rival. The Order of Andronicus, the descendent of the original Keepers must overcome their centuries of resent and work quickly to protect their secrets from others, as some within their own ranks seek to sabotage their efforts. A grand quest filled with adventure, twists and humour travels alongside multiple storylines about people. This is a story about traditions, relationships, families and how private resentments can hold you back as much as it is about the hunt for a sacred relic. I liked the multi-faceted nature of the narrative and getting to know all of the characters. This is a well written story to sink into and enjoy and I look forward to seeing what’s to come in the rest of the series. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A deeply layered, emotional and compelling novel that examines and contemplates family relationships. A terminal cancer diagnosis results in reflection for Anne and her daughter Sigrid. This is award-winning Helga Flatland’s fifth book, and her second to be published in English, it was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers Award and topped the bestseller lists there. Her first English translation A Modern Family which was a number-one bestseller in Norway is another beautifully written book I can highly recommend. Both books have been translated by Rosie Hedger, and it is superbly done, you can feel Norway and the differences, yet an exquisite connection to the story makes you a part of the words. Anne and Sigrid narrate, the chapters aren’t headed yet each character’s voice is distinctive and any momentary hesitation between chapters soon clears. This joining of voices yet fragmentation of thoughts as the voices change, helps not hinders as it establishes the tone, the feeling of these women. Helga Flatland is a writer who is able to directly touch innermost thoughts and set them free to explore. She knows how to display the raw yet real side of what it is to be human. Using small slices of humour to break tension, she allows emotions to form, alter, sway. The ending, that engaging eloquent ending, sent goosebumps skimming down my arms. One Last Time is a beautiful meaningful expressive read and I truly loved it.
Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay or Should We Go is an of-the-moment novel if ever there was one. With whip-smart dialogue and thought-provoking internal monologues cutting to the core of its characters, it tackles the topic of ageing through a playfully inventive structure involving twelve parallel universes and two principle protagonists who’ve made a suicide pact. Should We Stay or Should We Go boasts a smart concept that’s been cleverly executed - think Life After Life meets Sliding Doors delivered in Shriver’s distinctive style. After watching her father’s demise during ten years of Alzheimer’s, Kay struggles to cry for him when he dies: “I feel absolutely nothing… I feel as if he’s been dead for years.” Both fifty-something NHS medical professionals, Kay and her husband, Cyril, move to discussing everything from the nature of memory to universal social care. They’ve seen far too many of their patients suffer like Kay’s dad and their discussion leads Cyril to propose they agree to a suicide pact to avoid a similar fate - they will kill themselves on turning eighty. Of course, when that time comes, they must confront their decision. Each chapter serves up an alternate ending for the couple, with the likes of the ethics of suicide, cryogenic preservation, and ageing cures explored along the way. By turns amusing, moving and provocative, it examines the biggest of questions through personal detail, and will surely provoke thought as to how readers themselves wish to bow out.
The irresistible new standalone novel from No. 1 bestselling author Sophie Kinsella. I love you . . . but what if I can't love your life? Ava is sick of online dating. She's always trusted her own instincts over an algorithm, anyway, and she wants a break from it all. So when she signs up to a semi-silent, anonymous writing retreat in glorious Italy, love is the last thing on her mind. Until she meets a handsome stranger. . . All she knows is that he's funny, he's kind and - she soon learns - he's great in bed. He's equally smitten, and after a whirlwind, intoxicating affair, they pledge their love without even knowing each other's real names. But when they return home, reality hits. They're both driven mad by each other's weird quirks and annoying habits, from his eccentric, naked-sauna-loving family to her terribly behaved, shirt-shredding dog. As disaster follows disaster, it seems that while they love each other, they just can't love each other's lives. Can they overcome their differences to find one life, together?
Sarah always thought of herself and her husband, Tom, as good people. But that was before their son Freddy came home saying he'd done something terrible. Begging them not to tell the police. Soon Sarah and Tom must find out just how far they are willing to push themselves, and their marriage, to protect their only child... As the lies build up and Sarah is presented with the perfect opportunity to get Freddy off the hook, she is faced with a terrifying decision... Save her son... or save herself?
It’s little wonder that Russell Banks has won major awards for his subtle, seductive novels, and Foregone - the author’s first new novel for a decade - also deserves a place among prize-winners. It features famous left-leaning Canadian American documentary filmmaker, Leonard Fife. He’s in his late-seventies and dying of cancer, with a live-in Haitian nurse and attentive wife. The book opens with Fife wondering why he’s agreed to be filmed for a final interview to discuss his life and work. His nurse reminds him it’s “because he’s famous for something to do with cinema, and famous people are required to make interviews”. In the ensuing interview, after the irritation of the production team setting-up (a team led by his former star-pupil), Fife makes a long, dark, unexpected confession, with the plot cleverly switching camera angles from Fife to those who are filming him - a smart device, effectively realised. Taking in the history of US draft evaders who fled to Canada to escape serving in Vietnam (of which Fife was one of sixty-thousand), and written entirely in the present tense, Banks’s style is haunting, meditative and gripping, with its protagonist’s personal revelations striking compelling rhythmic, resonant beats.
Our June 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Heady, rich and evocative, and while a reimagining of Great Expectations, this debut stands as a unique and startling read in its own right. As a child, orphaned Kit finds the world of his Uncle and Aunt an enticing place to be, as he grows older he discovers that all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Gill Darling travels through three decades from the 1970’s, creating the most spelling-binding novel. She doesn’t flinch from the harsher side of life, and while building an enchanting world, exposes vulnerability, selfishness, and excess. The characters feel as real as can be, with a tapestry of traits they ensured my feelings moved through the gamut of emotions. While I knew this was inspired by Great Expectations before I started, I entered and read it as Erringby, completely absorbed and only looking between the two when I had turned the last page. I found growing up with Kit at times disturbing, while at others I relished his adventures, and the ending sent little goose pimples skittering down my arms. When I finish reading I always return to the cover again to see with new eyes, and oh what a gorgeously expressive and clever creation it is! Thoughtful and loving, yet passionate and provocative, Erringby is a truly striking coming-of-age novel and a deserves its place as a LoveReading Star Book.
The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma's funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for -- not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land... yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled. The narrator's eye shifts and blinks: moving fluidly between characters, flying into their dreams; deliciously lethal in its observation. And as the country moves from old deep divisions to its new so-called fairer society, the lost promise of more than just one family hovers behind the novel's title. In this story of a diminished family, sharp and tender emotional truths hit home. Confident, deft and quietly powerful, The Promise is literary fiction at its finest.
I WAS BORN TO BE A WANDERER From the night she is rescued as a baby out of the flames of a sinking ship; to the day she joins a pair of daredevil pilots looping and diving over the rugged forests of her childhood, to the thrill of flying Spitfires during the war, the life of Marian Graves has always been marked by a lust for freedom and danger. In 1950, she embarks on the great circle flight, circumnavigating the globe. It is Marian's life dream and her final journey, before she disappears without a trace. Half a century later, Hadley Baxter, a brilliant, troubled Hollywood starlet is irresistibly drawn to play Marian Graves, a role that will lead her to probe the deepest mysteries of the vanished pilot's life. An enthralling journey over oceans and continents and a drama of exhilarating power, GREAT CIRCLE is perfect for book clubs and fans of William Boyd and Donna Tartt.
In the dying days of the American Civil War, newly freed brothers Landry and Prentiss find themselves cast into the world without a penny to their names. Forced to hide out in the woods near their former Georgia plantation, they're soon discovered by the land's owner, George Walker, a man still reeling from the loss of his son in the war. When the brothers begin to live and work on George's farm, the tentative bonds of trust and union begin to blossom between the strangers. But this sanctuary survives on a knife's edge, and it isn't long before the inhabitants of the nearby town of Old Ox react with fury at the alliances being formed only a few miles away . . .
With its sweeping digressions into the past and reflections on the nature of memory, Proust's oceanic novel In Search of Lost Time looms over twentieth-century literature as one of the greatest, yet most endlessly challenging, literary experiences. Influencing writers like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and even anticipating Albert Einstein in its philosophical explorations of space and time, In Search of Lost Time is a monumental achievement and reading it is a rite of passage for any serious lover of literature. Now, in what renowned translator Arthur Goldhammer says might be likened to a piano reduction of an orchestral score, the French illustrator Stephane Heuet re-presents Proust in graphic form for anyone who has always dreamed of reading him but was put off by the sheer magnitude of the undertaking. This New York Times best-selling graphic adaptation reveals the fundamental architecture of Proust's work while displaying a remarkable fidelity to his language as well as the novel's themes of time, art, and the elusiveness of memory. As Goldhammer writes in his introduction, The reader new to Proust must attend closely, even in this compressed rendering, to the novel's circling rhythms and abrupt cross-cuts between different places and times. But this necessary attentiveness is abetted and facilitated by the compactness of the graphic format. In this first volume, Swann's Way, the narrator Marcel, an aspiring writer, recalls his childhood when-in a now-immortal moment in literature-the taste of a madeleine cake dipped in tea unleashes a torrent of memories about his family's country home in the town of Combray. Here, Heuet and Goldhammer use Proust's own famously rich and labyrinthine sentences and discerning observations to render Combray like never before. From the water lilies of the Vivonne to the steeple and stained glass of the town church, Proust's language provides the blueprint for Heuet's illustrations. Heuet and Goldhammer also capture Proust's humor, wit, and sometimes scathing portrayals of Combray's many memorable inhabitants, like the lovelorn Charles Swann and the object of his affection and torment, Odette de Crecy; Swann's daughter, Gilberte; local aristocrat the Duchesse de Guermantes; the narrator's uncle Adolphe; and the hypochondriac Aunt Leonie. Including a Proust family tree, a glossary of terms, and a map of Paris, this graphic adaptation is a surprising and useful companion piece to Proust's masterpiece for both the initiated and those seeking an introduction.
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
Quirky yet insightful, bright yet wistful, amusing yet emotional… this is one heck of a thought-provoking and stimulating debut. When Rachel is told ‘everything happens for a reason’ after her son Luke is stillborn, she begins to search for proof, certain she is to blame. This is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, instead it straddles several, and actually stands quite rightly on its own two feet. Author Katie Allen is a journalist, and this story is deeply personal and painful to her, she said on twitter that after her baby died one person texted back: “everything happens for a reason”, and she had grappled with that ever since. Grief is a lonely and isolating place to be, yet this novel, while eye-opening, is also inclusive and encouraging. Letting her feelings out in a series of emails, Rachel is incredibly engaging, she took my hand and welcomed me into the pages. I quite honestly had no idea where this book was going to to take me, I didn’t try to guess and remained firmly in the the presence of the words as they entered my thoughts. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book, Everything Happens for a Reason is full of contradictions that fuse into the most surprising, moving, and beautiful novel.
A beautifully poignant, thought-provoking and special novel that really does travel to the heart of what it is to be human. 20 year old Sebastian knows exactly what he wants, his hormones are raging and he is desperate for sex however his autism limits his ability to meet girls. When Sebastian’s mother Veronica contacts escort Violetta, the lives of all three change forever. The novel focuses on the three main characters, each is vividly realised and I positively ached for and adored all three. Their individual stories weave through and under and around each other, the short chapters tying them together, creating one whole tale. Louise Beech often crosses genres in her novels, and has explored crime through to relationship stories. Her particular skill, on display in all of her novels, is allowing us to connect and sink in to what it means to be human, she takes us below the surface, below the obvious, and allows us to explore. My emotions sang throughout this novel, I balanced the exquisite tightrope that swings from the pages, stepped out, and fell in love with the words, the feelings they evoked. The title is absolutely perfect, and when I had finished, I just sat pondering its meaning. The Author’s Note at the end shows just how connected Louise is to this story, how she was inspired by her experience of autism as ‘an outsider’ and she also talks about #OwnVoices. This is How we are Human is bold and provocative, thoughtful and warmhearted, and I declare it is completely gorgeous!
Leonardo Padura’s Detective Mario Conde crime novels form the basis of Netflix’s Four Seasons in Havana and, after becoming utterly involved in The Transparency of Time (the ninth and final book in the series), it’s clear to see the appeal for producers. Padura’s writing balances a playful spirit of intellectualism with his distinct observations of people, place and time. Multi-layered, and rich with insights into Cuba’s history and current climate, The Transparency of Time sees Mario Conde become immersed in a centuries-old occult mystery. With his sixtieth birthday on the horizon, he ponders his shifting identity (“Didn’t they start calling Hemingway “Old Man” a few years before his suicide at sixty-one? What about Trotsky? Wasn’t he, at sixty, known as the Old Man when Ramón Mercader split his head in two with a Stalinist and proletarian blow from an ice ax?”) and decides “he had reason enough to avoid so much as aspiring to the category of Old Man”. Rather, “he was, at best, going to become an old fart.” That decided, Conde needs a new case to get stuck into and his need is answered when Bobby, a former high school classmate implores him to find a stolen Black Madonna statue that belonged to his grandmother. A vehement follower of Santeria, an African-Cuban religion that fuses Catholicism with West African Yoruba spiritism, Bobby is desperate: “She’s powerful! Truly powerful!.. You’re my only hope. And you have to help me, right? For old times’ sake?” Conde helps, of course, and with him readers are led on a complex journey through occult history, back to the Crusades as he works to ascertain the provenance of the statue, with interwoven episodes from the Spanish Civil War. At once entertaining and challenging, Padura is a writer with distinct style and scope.
A smart, contemporary, entertaining look at friendships and what it is to be a mother in the social media age of perfection. While glamorous and celebrated social media celebrity Cassie fights to remain relevant, anxious new mum Beth finds herself on the road to viral stardom. This is the debut of lawyer Nicole Kennedy, and it was written during her third pregnancy. She has the ability to capture the big little things that really matter, writing with a light yet provocative, and warm yet witty pen. The main characters induced feelings that swung between affection and disapproval, while sitting in among the supporting cast are some truly cackle inducing creations. Social media stands to the fore, the plot weaves in and out of the need to display perfection and how damaging that can be. While undoubtedly amusing, Everything’s Perfect is also thought-provoking too, making for a gleefully readable novel.
There is often something extra-affecting about novels that have their roots in real life events and Unbreak Your Heart is no exception. Seven-year-old Jake has spent much of his short life in hospitals receiving treatment for a life threatening heart condition and is absolutely determined not to leave his single dad, Simon, to live alone, resolute in his ambition to find Simon someone to love and to love him. His hopes for his father are equally mirrored by Simon’s love and hopes for his son and the sacrifices he makes to ensure that Jake’s life is as good as it can be. Into this mix Marsh introduces us to the wonderful Beth, who moves into the cottage next door and who changes Simon and Jake’s lives forever. Inspired by the courage of Katie’s daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate and who underwent seven operations in eight years, Marsh’s latest is an extraordinary story about, hope, love, yes of course, but also of courage. It also about the redemptive and healing power of friends and family, how persistence pays off and above all a reminder that even in the darkest times of pain and difficulty, the light does shine through and can transform broken hearts. Marsh is always at her best when depicting the dynamics of close personal relationships and has a talent for crafting completely addictive stories that are both heart-wrenching and life-affirming without veering into schmaltz. That Unbreak Your Heart is also perfectly seasoned with some beautifully weighted moments of humorous relief merely adds to the pleasure of this transformative tale.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for A Room Made of Leaves. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
‘Ever Rest’ by Roz Morris is a beautifully well-written story that focuses on the after effects of the loss of a larger than life character. Rock musician Ashten dies on a mountain climbing expedition and his fiancée, bandmates and bodyguard have been left with a hole in their lives that has never been healed as twenty years on as the past is continually dragged back up each time a body is recovered. We learn more about Elza, Hugo, Steve and Robert, their history and connection to The Ashbirds and the paths their lives have taken since the band’s abrupt end. We see them struggle to get their lives back together while the spectre of Ash, and renown in general prevents them from finding complete normalcy. The thing that struck me the most in this narrative is how it handles the theme of fame. Someone, or a group of people can be very famous, known around the world even for a single thing or for the briefest time, and yet that single accomplishment can both haunt and define every other aspect of their lives. And if that period of fame ended in tragedy, then feelings of loss and grief seem destined to be ever present. In some ways it reminded me of documentaries and stories prevalent at the moment in recent celebrity history - breakdowns or struggles of reinvention, unsympathetic media portrayal and fans wanting to relive the single highest moment. I think the author did a great job in emphasising that there’s more to people than that. And each character in the book is filled out and made three dimensional flawlessly. I really enjoyed learning about each character, and while I found myself drawn to Elza’s story the most, I found it easy to settle into learning more about Robert, Hugo and Steve when it was their time to share their story. I think that ‘Ever Rest’ is an endearing story of loss, grief and acceptance in a unique setting of rock-star fame. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
What a devastatingly honest - and brilliant - book this is. Its portrayal of grief and the absurdity of death - the bizarre, unfathomable fact that someone just isn’t there anymore - are simply incredible. Earth-shatteringly raw and resonant, it’s a book that will break your heart and heal it. Set in Tasmania and London, Gill and Gabe are thousands of miles from their son, Dougie, when they’re told he’s drowned in a caving accident in England. They rush to London, deciding to keep Dougie’s death from their daughter Sylvie, who’s seriously ill with anorexia, and leaving their adorable youngest child, Teddy in the care of a close friend and his equally adorable grandfather Papabee, who has dementia. In England, chef and food writer Gill can’t face viewing her son’s body, can’t face the fact of Dougie’s death and so she returns to Tasmania, keeping up the pretence that he’s still alive by writing letters from him to Sylvie - it becomes an obsession. In England, Gabe obsesses over every excruciating detail of Dougie’s death, both of them distracting themselves from the truth. In contrast, Teddy is working to uncover the truth of Sylvie’s illness, believing she’ll get well if he can work out when it began - his love and steadfast determination to save his sister are incredibly touching, and I cannot praise the authentic, tender representation of his relationship with granddad Papabee enough. Inseparable, they have their own “TeddyandPapabee” collective noun. Teddy also perfectly expresses brutal truths about death and grief with piercing honesty: “When Dougie went into that little box, I thought the main bit of his dying was finished. I was wrong. Nobody tells you that being dead just keeps on going… he’s dead every day.” Similarly, in her haunting monologues, Sylvie reveals brutal truths about her anorexia. Peppered with Gill’s heart-breaking recipes (Mediterranean vegetable soup for the day you land in England to collect your son’s body; Roast beetroot salad for the week after your son’s post-mortem results are released), the story reels and swerves to a truly edge-of-your-seat, hold-your-breath conclusion. While the family’s pain and grief always tangible, the buds of healing are too. What a book.
Wearing its warm heart and uplifting messages on its sleeve, Uzma Jalaluddin’s Hana Khan Carries On is a highly readable romance about staying true to your principles - even when that means risking your future. Riffing on You’ve Got Mail, and exuding the same feel-good vibe of forging a positive path through hardship as the author’s debut, Ayesha at Last, this is a cute and charismatic read with a powerful portrayal of a community rallying round to stand up to racists. Twenty-four-year-old Hana Khan is a Toronto-born, South Asian Muslim who interns at a radio station, helps out in her family’s dwindling restaurant on the Golden Crescent and hosts a podcast “to ask questions, without worrying who might be listening and judging”. Through her podcast Hana strikes up an adorable anonymous friendship with one of her listeners, to whom she turns for advice about her worries, particularity those around her family’s restaurant when a flashy competitor rocks up and threatens to put them out of business. While Hana’s family is at the heart of her life, she’s chosen to follow her own path, not unlike her charismatic aunt, “a woman ahead of her time” who “hadn’t been afraid to make bold decisions and carry them out.” Evoking her aunt’s spirit comes to the fore when Hana’s put in an impossible situation at her radio station - an exciting opportunity to work on a show with a fellow intern sours when they’re pushed into “perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Brown people and Muslims”. To handle this, Hana must heed her aunt’s advice: “Find your principles and see your story through to the end, no matter what.” Alongside worries about work and the restaurant, Hana is attacked by racists before a baseball game, and then comes a hate-fuelled attack on the Golden Crescent. Throughout, the sense of unity and generosity in her community is a joy - it serves as such a wonderful support network. Hana is persistent, tenacious and, as the title states, “carries on” to forge a bright future - on her own terms, according to her principles, with an unexpected someone at her side. Fun and thought-provoking, this serves up a sweet slice of romance with a side of real-life grit.
Gentle, mysterious, and incredibly evocative, this is a novel to read slowly and absorb. After realising no-one attended the funeral of garden designer Nina Lawrence in 1978, archivist Lottie begins to investigate her life and death. The story flows between Lottie finding her feet in Rome, and excerpts from Nina’s notebook. While the two women sit centre stage, it is actually Rome that struts forward to earn the title of lead character. Elizabeth Buchan has brought this wondrous city to life, the social history, the small intricate details that make a place touchable and breathable all flow from the page. We are allowed an almost immediate connection with Lottie, while Nina remains enigmatically detached. Information about Nina is slowly revealed and I sat back and observed her life unfolding. Quietly cultivated reveals keep a soft tension thrumming through the novel. I rather liked the fact that I didn’t know every intimate detail. While the ending enfolds and divulges answers, not everything was resolved and I was left still pondering, still thinking, still wondering. Two Women in Rome is an atmospheric, truly lovely read, with a deep mystery at its heart.
Relive the sensuality, the romance, and the drama of Fifty Shades Freed - the love story that enthralled millions of readers around the world - through the thoughts, reflections, and dreams of Christian Grey. E L James revisits the world of Fifty Shades with a deeper new take on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the globe. You are cordially invited to the wedding of the decade, when Christian Grey will make Anastasia Steele his wife. But is he really husband material? His dad is unsure, his brother wants to organise one helluva bachelor party, and his fiancee won't vow to obey . . . And marriage brings its own challenges. Their passion for each other burns hotter and deeper than ever, but Ana's defiant spirit continues to stir Christian's darkest fears and tests his need for control. As old rivalries and resentments endanger them both, one misjudgement threatens to tear them apart. Can Christian overcome the nightmares of his childhood and the torments of his youth, and save himself? And once he's discovered the truth of his origins, can he find forgiveness and accept Ana's unconditional love? Can Christian finally be freed?
Whip-smart, incisive and incredibly gripping, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl presents a powerful exposé of publishing’s unpleasant underbelly - the elitism, nepotism, poor pay, and petty power-play some senior editors exert over their assistants. Think The Devil Wear Prada with edge - its young editor protagonist wants to publish writers whose voices matter. It’s a world of white gatekeepers, white privilege, with displays of (cue tiny violin) white affront when poor behaviour is called out. And all this is done through twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers, the only Black employee at New York’s prestigious Wagner Books publishing house. After feeling isolated and exhausted by the everyday micro-aggressions of her workplace, Nella is delighted when Hazel, the “Other Black Girl”, starts working next to her - until Nella starts receiving threatening notes telling her to leave the company, while having to deal with increasingly problematic office politics. Though the novel is set in the publishing world, it will resonate with anyone, for example, who’s doubted the authenticity of their workplace’s commitment to diversity. In Nella’s case, she was part of Wagner Books’ diversity group, but company interest soon waned, with no one really getting the point, or understanding why representation matters - why it matters to get it right. The brutal reality of the company’s lip service attitude to equality and representation is exposed when Nella speaks out about a white male author’s offensively clichéd portrayal of a Black female character. When he (cue another tiny violin) gets upset, feeling accused of racism, she’s expected to apologise. Never mind about his lazy, dubious characterisation - the poor man’s feelings have been hurt, goddammit! That this is nothing new is revealed through the interwoven story of Kendra Rae, Nella’s editorial heroine who blazed inspirational trails before her - but what happened to Kendra after editing a huge bestseller, she wonders? It turns out that as Nella faced a backlash after (gently) calling out her author’s caricature, Kendra’s “sin” was also telling it like it is, being “someone who rejected what was expected of her as a Black woman in a predominantly white industry.” Chiming with wit and vital commentary, this debut is a thrilling feat of fiction, with twists that are impossible to see coming.
As the first in what is setting itself up as an epic magic realism series, this captivating debut thrills with a fabulous cast, intriguing plot and fascinating exploration of magic. Anna is just about to turn 16, her Aunt is arranging a ceremony to bind her magic but when Anna meets Effie and Attis she begins to question everything she has known. The main characters are teenagers on the brink of adulthood, due to the content I would say this is balanced between a read for older teens, and adults. Cari Thomas has made the magic in Threadneedle feel age-old and real, and while the teenagers release themselves to the wilds of experimentation, dangerous undercurrents swirl through the book. The characters are vibrant and relatable, even when throwing spells around. Abuse and bullying run as a theme alongside the fantasy element, and are explored with empathy and compassion. As I read, I believed, even though this is a new take on magic, it immediately settled in my thoughts. This is such a beautifully easy yet all-consuming read, I swam in its depths before coming up for air and back to reality. The ending sets itself up nicely for the next in the series. Threadneedle, the first in the Language of Magic is just wonderful, I wish it all the very best as it deserves to fly.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CWA GOLD DAGGER AWARD She's a murderer. Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees - why else would his dead body be found in her shed? So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial. Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn't fit in then, and she doesn't fit in now. That day is such a blur, she can't remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important... She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder. And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself. So she must fight. Against the odds. For her life. Beautifully written about prejudice, loneliness and fighting spirit, this new book by Nicci French is shocking, twisty and utterly compelling.
Shalini Bolands’ My Little Girl is a riveting family-centred psychological page-turner that will have thriller fans on the edge of their seats. As whodunits go, it presents an intense tangle of threads for readers to follow as those threads take multiple unexpected turns. “Don’t get angry. Don’t get angry. Don’t panic. Stay calm. It will all be fine. It will be okay. Kids wander off all the time and their parents find them.” So reasons Claire Nolan when her mother-in-law, Jill, tells her that her daughter, Beatrice, has gone missing at the fair. Claire tries not to panic, tries not to think the worst, but she’s upset, and angry too - her husband was supposed to be with them, and he knows how forgetful Jill is, that they can’t trust her to care for Beatrice alone. As she drives to the fair, Claire’s stream of consciousness, first-person narrative captures the panic of her worst nightmare situation in all its intensity. Then the action switches to Jill’s account of events. “What a mess. How did this happen? Why did I take that call from Laurel? Is this really my fault? Surely not.” The fact that the story is told from multiple points of view adds to the suspense and intensity of the horrifying whodunit guessing game. As Claire’s world implodes, her doubts and paranoia escalate - stories aren’t adding up, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. Gripping stuff, and highly readable too. Purchase My Little Girl from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
A tense and concerningly believable read, ‘Queentide’ by Donna Fisher is a dystopian fiction about women. Set in 2026 Australia (in the near future but not futuristic-feeling), authoritarianism is rife and women are fast losing their voice in the maelstrom of patriarchal outrage. In a sort of exacerbated truth, 2020 pandemic lockdowns led to an increase of domestic abuse reports, and a society that, instead of resolving these cases, turned the blame on women, leading to an escalation in harassment and prejudice. As I read I saw the modern world we live in now but twisted, as though perceived in a carnival mirror. The writing in this book is brilliant. The radio broadcast with Kathleen Rae had my blood boiling and the characterisation of slippery, manipulative politicians and media outlets were all so well crafted and believable. I enjoyed reading as Lillith grows in strength and confidence, and I was intrigued and daunted by Insley’s more aggressive path. There are plenty of strong female characters, with their own backstories, flaws and views that helped to demonstrate a realistic variety of feminist perspectives. Amongst the agenda of Queentide, and as with any brilliant story focusing on people, individual beliefs cause conflicts about what the end goal is, and the means to achieve it. Will Queentide be able to remain united? Will their plans make a positive difference or lead to a direct role reversal? An evocative merging of political thriller and dystopian fiction, ‘Queentide’ has claws. It is a gripping read with grit, heart and good intentions and I’d highly recommend it. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
With bleak and evocative imagery, ‘Line’ by Niall Bourke, is a short yet intriguing read that I think would be perfect for fans of ‘1984’ and books that fall into the literary/dystopian fiction genre. The eponymous Line is everything to Willard and his girlfriend Nyla, with generations and generations of families being born, living and dying waiting to reach some unknown and possible better destination. There are strict rules that must be obeyed with brutal almost ritualistic punishments for anyone who breaks the rules or that attempts to skip the line. In the beginning I found it easy to draw parallels and see a commentary on immigration, that with this more dystopian setting reminded me of ‘The Wall’ by John Lanchester. As the story progressed I saw similarities between Willard and Nyla’s path and Julia and Winston’s storyline in ‘1984’. As the plot develops ‘Line’ also includes a commentary on corporations and their power. I liked the way that ‘Line’ develops. Avoiding spoilers as much as possible, I started to read thinking that the book was one thing, and as more details were revealed I understood that the scope of the book was much larger than I would have predicted. I found the writing succinct, with enough detail to expose the harsh realities of the line and the journeys beyond while encouraging you to get to know the characters. I liked the excerpts throughout the book that helped to explain the wider world and add exposition and context, this reminded me of the book in ‘1984’ and I feel it benefitted the overall story, allowing ‘Line’ to be the short and powerful read it is and removing the need for Willard and Nyla (and by default the reader) to spend time and pages searching for information. A brilliant read for fans of literary, speculative and dystopian fiction, one that I would highly recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Amabssador
Poignant, powerful and pacey, Ellie Midwood’s The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz tells the remarkable true story of Mala Zimetbaum, a woman who did the all-but-impossible when she escaped Auschwitz with her Resistance fighter lover. It’s an extraordinary tale of courage and heroism in the face of impossible odds and excruciating circumstances - a tale told with much compassion in The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz. It’s autumn 1943 and “Edek had had enough. The grim realization of it dawned on him along with the first slanting rays of the sunset bleeding red atop the barracks’ roofs as he watched SS Officer Brück stomp repeatedly on an inmate’s head with the steel-lined sole of his tall jackboot.” This brutally arresting opening is typical of the book’s style - incisive, and physically impactful. A veteran of the camp, Edek is a political prisoner and resistance fighter – and he’s long been determined to escape. Meanwhile, Belgian-born Mala is at Birkenau Women’s Camp, where she works as a “runner in charge of delivering SS orders and official documents from one block to another.” As such, she “no longer had anything to fear from the wardens or the Kapos. An official armband with an insignia of a Läuferin on her left bicep, civilian clothes and dark-blond hair pulled into a bun instantly distinguished her from the general camp population.” But having been through the horrors of arriving at camp (“First, they took her freedom. Then, they took her hair”), and feeling disgust for the utter lack of humanity, she - like Edek - has resolved to regain her freedom. In the meantime, she uses her position to save lives. When they meet, Mala comes to believe in Edek’s escape plan, comes to believe that there might be light through these darkest of days - and through love. Shot-through with tremendous tension and compassion, this comes recommended for readers who enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Purchase The Girl Who Escaped Auschwitz from: Amazon - Currently 99p Apple Kobo Google
Comic, characterful, and driven by a cast of larger-than-life characters, Shaun Hand’s The Sadness of the King George is as strongly flavoured as the kind of salt and vinegar crisps a person might purchase in The King George. Our unnamed (and decidedly awkward) 20-year-old narrator’s life revolves around the pub - pulling pints, killing time, in the company of the pub’s many regulars. If only he could find confidence, find a life for himself, find a girlfriend even. Trouble is, even when these possibilities present themselves, it’s not a given that he can summon the strength of character to bring them to fruition. Pacey, packed with authentic West Midlands dialect, and shot-through with bitter-sweetness, this comes recommended for readers who like their comedy irreverent, and their fiction funny and driven by flawed characters they can root for. Check out our guest blog post '10 Favourite Drinking Scenes in Books' by author of The Sadness of The King George Shaun Patrick Hand.
Like the very best short stories, Wandeka Gayle’s Motherland and Other Stories are multi-layered, long-lingering, and delivered in a deceptively simple style - vivid vignettes of life from varied corners of the globe with lasting impact that grows over time and draws you back. Many of the tales take turns down unexpected paths - purposeful detours and changes of direction that reveal new truths. Others present intimate, intense portraits of their protagonist’s complex relationship to home (Jamaica). All of them exude elegance and insights into the human condition. In my book, that’s pretty much short story perfection. Though distinct, the twelve stories are united by the courage of their protagonists, and an exploration of what it is to be black in white worlds. In Motherland we meet compassionate Roxanne, who moved from Jamaica and works in a London care home. She encounters racism, but strikes a bond with an elderly writer resident. Then there’s Ayo in Finding Joy, who leaves Jamaica to study in Louisiana and finds agency through personal upheavals “in this foreign place.” Each story, and each woman’s experiences, had me utterly in their thrall.
All twenty-two of the short stories included in Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw’s stunning Caribbean-set Stick No Bills are rich in atmosphere and thought-provoking observational detail. Cutting to the core of their characters’ states and situations, lingering long, and possessing the power of a Siren’s call to draw readers back for multiple readings, these stories are masterworks of the form. Vibrant with humanity and emotional ambiguities and truths, each story is a finely drawn vignette. The author’s characterisation is first-class; her painterly observations and details of place and psychological states profoundly affecting. Take 'Killing Time', for example, in which a young Trinidadian woman coins the term “lostfulness” to describe her uncertain state of being and relinquishes her dream of becoming a writer - the ending made my heart flip. Some of the stories are only a few paragraphs long, and yet these too bear tremendous power. 82, for example, unpacks an entire existence in its chain of 82 words. In these shortest pieces, Walcott-Hackshaw conveys the feeling of existing within particular moments with brilliant dynamism - fleeting flashes of thought, or poignant reflection, or anticipation of what will come next. The eponymous story, 'Stick No Bills', is an exquisite example of this, capturing as it does the cycle of life and motherhood as a woman ponders the imminent departures of her daughter and mother with heart-aching precision, and all prompted by observing a “stick no bills” notice on an ice factory she first saw during her childhood. While the stories exude multiple moods, together they form an exquisite whole, united by finely-threaded themes of family, loss, the passing of time, ponderings on the past, and possible futures.
One Left Alive, the first in a new series by Helen Phifer, is a pacey, chilling psychological thriller driven by personality and a creeping sense of time running out. Rookie Detective Morgan Brookes is well and truly thrown in at the deep end when she’s called to a suicide scene. Though new to this, she feels bolstered “as the adrenalin kicked in. She hadn’t attended a suicide on her own before, but she had been to several when she was completing her training and in company with a more experienced officer. She was ready for this.” Ready or not, she’s first on the scene and takes charge. Too late to save the woman hanging from a tree in her front garden, Morgan realises that there’s more to this than initially meets the eye when the woman’s husband and daughters are found in the basement - at least one of her daughters is still alive. This fragile girl drives Morgan to do whatever it takes to solve the case, with added layers of intrigue and suspense coming courtesy of another body, and a case from the past. Fans of in-your-face thrillers will surely take satisfaction from trying to figure out the case alongside Morgan. The writing is bluntly impactful, with short to-the-point sentences, but evocative with it, and the tension escalates as it becomes clear that Morgan must make progress before someone comes for the girl. Purchase One Left Alive from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
‘22 Stories Falling Up: A Novel’ by David Lawrence is a mystery steeped in technology and science fiction. In a world where technology is now able to merge with human consciousness, Emily and co-worker Phillip are on a quest to discover what happened in a secret project they were involved in. Left with few memories and feelings of distance and concern with no cause, the pair are eager to learn what happened in the Virtual Design project they signed up for, and why it was stopped. There’s lots of science fiction themes throughout this book. The advancement of technology, the AIs and interactions between people and technology are incredibly inventive and detailed, but not so detailed as to go over my head as I read. I like the idea of the party and Phillips and Emily’s journey taking place in a tower block, and their progression through the building almost like layers of encryption, requiring passing through before the truth and their memories are revealed. Aside from the technical aspects of Virtual Design, and the secret project, there’s other subtle science-fiction nods such as Emily’s apparent psychic abilities. These are referenced at the start and towards the end but I wonder whether these could be utilised a little more. The plot gets into full swing fairly quickly and the reader learns more about Phillip and Emily, their work, their relationship and the project as the story progresses. I did find at the start however that I would have liked a little bit more exposition, or something to help me form more of a connection with the main characters before the part got underway. I understand that more is meant to be revealed as the plot opens up but I personally feel I was missing an initial connection that made me care about finding the information out. I also still have questions about Phillip and Emily’s perspective. I felt I needed a bit more of an explanation about why they each perceived certain characters as different sexes, for example. This is a surreal story, which plays on the flaws we have as humans while presenting a technologically advanced quest for truth. Even though I was left with questions, it is a story I enjoyed and pondered over while I wasn’t reading. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Fast-paced and rippling with revelations, Samantha Hayes’s Date Night is a creepy page-turner for readers who like their thrillers unexpected - recommended for fans of Gone Girl. On the face of it, Libby seems to have it all - a husband, daughter, and expanding catering business. But disquieting truths lurk beneath the façade, beginning with the note left under her windscreen wipers. “Sean is having an affair,” it reads. Unsettled, Libby refuses to believe it, but doubts niggle and she confronts him. Then, on returning from a disastrous attempt at a reconciliatory dinner, they find their daughter alone - the babysitter has vanished and it’s not long before Libby stands accused of her murder. When she’s arrested, Libby’s shock and outraged disbelief are palpable: “This is me! I want to scream. Just me! I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a best friend. Aged thirty-nine with a four-year-old child, a husband, my own business, a stepson and a cat. I’ve got good friends, I’m well liked, I do Pilates and pay my taxes on time.” With shocking twists aplenty, and a dual timeline adding layers of intrigue, Date Night is written in an easily readable style, with lots of domestic detail as Libby is caught in a terrible web, wondering if anyone will believe her, as readers wonder who’s telling the truth. Purchase Date Night from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
Friends forever is a difficult promise to keep... Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may. After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt - there's simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep.... Packed with all the heart and empathy that made Ruth's name as a screenwriter and now author, Us Three is a funny, moving and uplifting novel about life's complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all. Prepare to meet characters you'll feel you've known all your life - prepare to meet Us Three.
Kathleen is eighty years old. After a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. She's not having any of it. What she craves - needs - is adventure. Liza is drowning under the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza dream of a solo break of her own. Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can't get her life together. But she knows something has to change. When Martha sees Kathleen's advert for a driver and companion to take an epic road trip across America, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. Travelling with a stranger? No problem. She's not the world's best driver, but it couldn't be worse than living with her parents again. And anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be? As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it's never too late for adventure...
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer. So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman's noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Written in its unforgettable protagonist’s captivating Trinidadian voice, Lisa-Allen Agostini’s The Bread the Devil Knead is an exceptionally immersive read that resonates with the heart-wrenching rawness of a women’s lifelong abuse at the hands of men, and the seeds of her future liberation. Every perfectly-placed word, every perfectly-formed sentence rings with truth and strikes deep. Port of Spain boutique manager Alethea is about to turn forty. Thankfully, though, there’s one thing she can count on, “and that is my looks. I going on forty but you would never know it, because every morning and night God spare life I does cleanse and tone and moisturise from head to foot.” But while she has her looks and is philosophical about reaching this life landmark (“is just a number and the face you does see staring back at you in the mirror not as important as the memories in the mind behind it”), the trouble with Alethea is that “most of the memories was bad”, while her present-day life sees her frequently abused by her partner. She finds some solace in the arms of her boss, though, and in books: “This is how I does see the world: by reading books. I does go to London, Hong Kong, Siberia, even, when I read a book. I does meet all kind of people. Learn all kinds of words. Live all kinds of lives. Thank God for books.” Then, when her adopted brother, now a priest, returns after decades away, she begins to take a new path as secrets are laid bare and ways through a dark and tangled forest come to light. Through Alethea’s complex, damaged character Agostini lays bare complex, potent truths about sexual and violent abuse, racism and colourism. Mixed race and light of skin, she’s subjected to prejudice: “because my skin light colour they feel like I feel I better than them. That is bullshit”, and “People in this island does always surprise to know it have poor white people, but though we skin was light and we hair was straight we wasn’t really white and we didn’t have a penny to we name.” And she also sees that “even after Independence, after Black Power, after all that. Is still a kind of racial, colour-conscious place where people who look like me does get through” while darker skinned people “doesn’t get one shit.” Raw and achingly beautiful, this really is remarkable.
Sometimes it's easy to fall between the cracks... At 3.04pm on a hot, sticky day in June, Bess finds out that she's pregnant. She could tell her social worker Henry, but he's useless. She should tell her foster mother, Lisa, but she won't understand. She really ought to tell Boy, but she hasn't spoken to him in weeks. Bess knows more than anyone that love doesn't come without conditions. But this isn't a love story...
A really intelligent, intimate, and ultimately human story awaits in this fabulous crime novel. Within a few months, Rob is due for release from an open prison in Brixton, when he meets a woman while out on day release, he is determined to hide his background from her yet there are desperate secrets on both sides. This is such a beautifully written novel from Lottie Moggach, for a dark novel it is vibrant, almost visual in effect. It feels real, as though this could be happening somewhere close by, right now. There was an immediate sense of place when I started to read, the run of Brixton Hill from the prison to the charity shop where Rob works comes alive. I felt a palpable connection to the characters, even those just appearing for a few pages. The suspense is exquisitely handled, while the atmosphere of the prison keeps pace with the turmoil in Rob’s mind. As the story neared its conclusion the heightened tension pulsated from the page through to my fingertips. Brixton Hill is an absolute gem, and is both a Liz Pick of the Month and Star Book too. Loved it, I really really loved it.
With the most wonderful blend of stark and sharp plot lines mixed with richly descriptive detailing this is a beautifully readable novel. It stands independently outside of genres as it slips into mystery, family drama, and relationship tales, and covers nearly one hundred years. A Highland shepherd disappears, years later his family still have questions and start to search within their family for answers. A eulogy sits at the very beginning, setting the mystery element in stone yet opening a door to intrigue. Numbered signs sit among the chapters, allowing a personal insight into the shepherd himself. The chapters are short and there is a large cast of characters but I didn’t ever lose my way. The majority of the novel sees two main characters spilling thoughts and feelings, which encourages a closer connection. Merryn Glover has an evocative pen, the descriptions sing, the sense of place flowed into my awareness and I found I couldn’t stop reading. Of Stone and Sky is an unexpected novel, echoing the past and asking questions of the future, it really is a truly lovely read.
This is beautiful indeed, yet darkly intimate and almost claustrophobic in its intensity. 15 year old Natasha foretells tragedy when lights appear above her seaside town. As she tells the story of her past some 30 years later, she is still consumed by the events that occurred. I love Rachel Donohue’s writing, it is so haunting and powerful, she turns a spotlight on the shadow of things that sit in the background and brings them to the fore. Her first novel The Temple House Vanishing is on the surface very different, yet her assured and elegant eloquence is stamped over both books. I started to read The Beauty of Impossible Things and within a few sentences found myself intrigued and then consumed. I could taste Natasha’s words, they landed as a visual dance in my mind. There is an ageless quality to this storyline, even though it is set in the modern day. It felt as though the trappings of being different is a story that has and will be repeated again and again through history. Rich, close, and heavy with feeling, The Beauty of Impossible Things opens thoughts and sets them free. Rachel Donohue is our Putting Author in the Picture feature for May 2021. Click here to read our Q&A with her.
What an elegant, edge-of-your-seat triumph this is. Set near the ocean in 1980s San Francisco, Vendela Vida’s We Run the Tides explores the coming-of-age experiences of thirteen-year-old Eulabee and her best friend Maria Fabiola, an enigmatic, attractive, gets-whatever-she-wants kind of girl. They stride affluent Sea Cliff with supreme confidence - the streets are theirs, the world is theirs, and nothing can stop them: “We want to want. We want to love. We want to want love. We are on the precipice of having real boyfriends, of making out with them. We know this.” While walking to their elite girls’ school with other friends, they witness something disturbing. Or so Maria and the rest of the girls claim. Eulabee insists it didn’t happen - to her friends, and the police. Then, in the aftermath of this disagreement that sees Eulabee ostracised, Maria goes missing, prompting an outpouring of anxiety in the neighbourhood as the police investigate her suspected kidnapping. And so an intense entanglement - and unravelling - begins. The potency of teenage female friendship is masterfully evoked - tightly knotted, holding powerful sway, but also quick to fray. And Eulabee’s offbeat voice is mesmeric, authentic and often amusing, notably during the toe-curling account of her first sexual experience. Unique, unexpected, affecting and funny - you couldn’t ask for much more from a novel, and reading this has pushed the rest of Vendela Vida’s novels to the top of my must-read list.
From its arresting opening (“The child gushed out from twixt Vern’s legs ragged and smelling of salt. Slight, he was, and feeble as a promise”), Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is an exquisite fusion of folkloric atmosphere and raw human experience. Through the eyes of unforgettable, invincible Vern, and in luminously commanding language, Solomon explores racism, religion, misogyny and motherhood with magnificent boldness. Fifteen-year-old Vern’s firstborn arrived in the world without his mother’s albinism and his father’s “yellow-bonedness”. His skin was “dark-dark, and Vern found it hard to believe that the African ancestry that begat such a hue had ever once been disrupted by whiteness.” And then comes his twin - two brothers, Howling and Feral, born in the woods beyond the Blessed Acres of Cain compound that Vern fled two months ago. With origins in the Black Power movement, the religious community’s survivalist ethos stands her in good stead for a life in the wild - “she always had a way of getting what she needed from the earth”. Years pass and Vern tells her now-toddler sons about Cainland’s history, about the “white doctors who came in the night to rob Black People for medical experimentation” as she notices strange shifts in her body - it heals from terrible burns and rotting infections. “A side effect of the poison they’d been giving her giving her since birth” she thinks, soon deciding they must leave the woods. This unfamiliar outside world “increased Howling’s surliness and transformed Feral’s sweet curiosity into spirited adventurousness”, and the trio attract as much bewildered attention as the world bewilders them. As Vern’s sickness intensifies so too does the creeping sense of pursuit, and rising love and lusts, to create a bizarre and beautiful book that’s entirely unbridled by convention.
It's 2008, and the Celtic Tiger has left devastation in its wake. Brothers Hart and Cormac Black are waking up to a very different Ireland - one that widens the chasm between them and brings their beloved father to his knees. Facing a devastating choice that risks their livelihood, if not their lives, their biggest danger comes when there is nothing to lose. A sharp snapshot of a family and a nation suddenly unmoored, this epic-in-miniature explores cowardice and sacrifice, faith rewarded and abandoned, the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we resist. Hilarious, poignant and utterly fresh, The Wild Laughter cements Caoilinn Hughes' position as one of Ireland's most audacious, nuanced and insightful young writers.
From the acclaimed author of the Outline trilogy, a fable of human destiny and decline, enacted in a closed system of intimate, fractured relationships. A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape. Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, Second Place is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.
Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. She and her sisters-in-law, married to three brothers in a single ceremony, spend their days hard at work in the family's 'china room', sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk. Spiralling around Mehar's story is that of a young man who in 1999 travels from England to the now-deserted farm, its 'china room' locked and barred. In enforced flight from the traumas of his adolescence - his experiences of addiction, racism, and estrangement from the culture of his birth - he spends a summer in painful contemplation and recovery, before finally finding the strength to return 'home'.
‘Presence, the Play’ is a lyrical story of the stage interwoven with a tale of spirituality. Script, An Estillyen monk and brother in their Sacred Order of Storytellers has an accident on the opening night of his play, ‘Presence’, leaving him in a coma, and working his way through mystical adventures in a dream-like world. I found this novel highly descriptive and it is clear through the references to many famous literary works that the author is either very well read or conducted extensive research for this novel. There are references throughout and a list at the back of the book with all of the literary titles quoted. I understand and can agree with the connection made between ‘Presence’ and C.S Lewis in the synopsis, as we travel with Script through a strange and mystical other world that, much like Narnia, has religious connotations at its heart. ‘Presence’ is an interesting story with plenty of drama throughout that encourages the reader to celebrate the power of stories, as well as take the time to be “present” in the world around us, a pertinent theme and lesson in today’s ever increasing social media age. An entertaining and well-written novel with a cast of brilliant characters that focuses on the importance of the arts Leading by example with brilliant storytelling, adventure and plenty to ponder over. I think that this book would have a wide appeal and I would definitely recommend it. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Beautifully-written, smoothly-readable, and waltzing with elegance and the intrigue of espionage, Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s The Lantern Boats is an accomplished work of historical fiction. Melding criss-crossing personal stories with the bigger-picture political climate of occupied Japan, it’s rich in details of time and place, with swathes of charisma that make single-sitting readings all but impossible to resist. Adding to the intrigue, the book’s characters are based on real people. The novel opens with an evocative scene describing the swell of the Sumida River illuminated by paper lanterns in a ritual for the dead, of which there are many as a result of the US firebombing raids that ended six years ago. Then we meet Kamiya Jun, a young war orphan with nothing - “no home, no family, no documents, no identity.” Being invisible makes him ideal spy material, and so he’s tasked by the Americans to spy on Vida Vidanto, a beautiful Japanese poet they suspect of being a communist spy. Meanwhile, part-Japanese, part-Scottish Elly Ruskin feels compelled to spy on Vida herself - she suspects her journalist husband, Fergus, of having an affair with the poet, and all while they’re in the process of adopting a child. The worlds of spy and spied-on intermesh powerfully when Fergus finds Vida’s strangled body, and then follows a gripping quick-fire succession of secrets unveiled, a tragic casualty, and hopeful beginnings.
Helen Stancey’s Relative Secrets is a highly readable story for readers who like to get lost in the drama and intrigue of other people’s relatable lives. Told in a straightforward style, with domestic detail and emotional ups and downs to heighten engagement, three generations of women are at the heart of this saga of family secrets. It’s set in 1999 and follows the family from the 1920s through to the millennium. The eldest of the women, Mary, is in a care home, her mind deteriorating. During a visit from grand-daughter Lucy, Mary makes strange statements that arouse Lucy’s curiosity. She tries to put them out of mind - until she finds a locket while clearing out Mary’s former room. Not wanting to upset her mother (not with her father gone, her elder brother away, and her little brother misbehaving), Lucy takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the mystery - risking discovering truths that might unsettle the very foundations of their family. The drama builds slowly at first - there’s a considered, unhurried build-up, with lots of family backstory delivered before the revelations come. Then tension builds as Lucy delves deeper, and the questions keep coming - not merely what the secret is, but why it was covered-up. And, a question with universal resonance - is it sometimes better to simply let things be?
DISCOVER ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CRIME THRILLERS YOU'LL READ THIS YEAR Detective Sara Hirst has moved from London to Norfolk Police’s Serious Crimes Unit. Under the brooding skies of North Norfolk, Sara faces her toughest case yet and finds that great beauty sometimes conceals great violence. Too many secrets. Too much pain. Too many leads. Dawn breaks as a dog-walker finds a dead body, half-naked and wrapped tightly in an old groundsheet. Sara is first on the scene. Who is the victim? And who will be next? Sara must take on some of Britain’s most wanted criminals if she’s to find out the truth. This crackling, twisty thriller set within the mysterious beauty of the east coast will have you flying through the pages right till the gripping end. Fans of Joy Ellis, J.M. Dalgliesh, Matt Brolly, Rachel Lynch and Angela Marsons, get ready for your next favourite detective.
Potently timely, Diana McCaulay’s Daylight Come is a Caribbean-set masterwork of speculative fiction that explores humanity and avenues of hope in the devastating wake of climate change. It’s 2084. The island of Bajacu is under the ruthless rule of the Domins. While “dawn used to be hopeful,” the inhabitants are now “on the run from the day” as a result of the sun’s scorching strength forcing people to sleep by day and work by night. In the cooler mountains, the Toplander elites protect themselves in a hidden refuge, while Sorrel and her mother Bibi are struggling Lowlanders. On her fourteenth birthday, Sorrel makes a promise: “one day, she would find a place where it was possible to sleep in the dark and go outside all day when it was light.” Sick of their precarious, close-to-starving existence, and having heard of the Tribals, people in the island’s interior who’ve found ways of sustaining themselves and surviving the attacks of feral animals, Sorrel persuades her mother to head for higher ground. Bibi’s narrative reveals the environmental changes that led to this situation - the escalating global effects of “melting ice, swirling snowstorms, cities swallowed by earthquakes”. Closer to home, “the crops began failing and the fruit trees stopped bearing.” Human fertility declined too, resulting in fertile women falling prey to Domin men. During their gruelling journey, Sorrel, the girl who came into the world as the sun rose, the girl whose birth was “daylight come,” is rescued by a young Tribal woman. The Tribals have made a life for themselves in the cooler highlands, where breadfruit and coconuts still grow, where water is plentiful - bounties Sorrel has never known. Mother and daughter are taken to the Tribal elder who will decide if they can stay but, at 45, Bibi is too old. Blamed for the state of the world, and a seen as a drain, older people have no value in this society. The elemental beauty of Bibi and Sorrel’s bond is a powerful thread - how Bibi knows her daughter bone-deep and makes the most profound sacrifice for her. Sisterhood is central too, as seen through the tribe of resourceful women coming together in a society in which men and women are deeply divided. And it’s women who devise and lead the courageous, perilous act that may forge a more hopeful future. Gritty, moving, and startlingly plausible, this exceptional novel delivers an extraordinarily powerful perspective on pertinent problems facing humankind right now (hunger, environmental ruination, deep social inequalities), but beams of hope burn through the bleakness.