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Literary Fiction

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.

June 2021 Featured Books

The Die Is Cast

The Die Is Cast

Author: Heights & Woodhouse Format: Ebook Release Date: 30/06/2021

‘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

Indie Books We Love
One Last Time

One Last Time

Author: Helga Flatland Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

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.

Star Books
Should We Stay or Should We Go

Should We Stay or Should We Go

Author: Lionel Shriver Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
THE SILENT LISTENER

THE SILENT LISTENER

Author: Lyn Yeowart Format: Ebook Release Date: 24/06/2021

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.

Debut Books of the Month
Foregone

Foregone

Author: Russell Banks Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/06/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
Erringby

Erringby

Author: Gill Darling Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/06/2021

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.

Star Books
Fragile

Fragile

Author: Sarah Hilary Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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.

Star Books
Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

Author: Katie Allen Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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.  

Star Books
This is How we are Human

This is How we are Human

Author: Louise Beech Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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!

Star Books
The Transparency of Time

The Transparency of Time

Author: Leonardo Padura Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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.

Everything's Perfect

Everything's Perfect

Author: Nicole Kennedy Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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.

Debut Books of the Month
Unbreak Your Heart

Unbreak Your Heart

Author: Katie Marsh Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/06/2021

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.

A Room Made of Leaves

A Room Made of Leaves

Author: Kate Grenville Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

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.

Star Books
Ever Rest

Ever Rest

Author: Roz Morris Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

‘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

Indie Books We Love
The Cookbook of Common Prayer

The Cookbook of Common Prayer

Author: Francesca Haig Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

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.

Books of the Month
Hana Khan Carries on

Hana Khan Carries on

Author: Uzma Jalaluddin Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/06/2021

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.

Books of the Month
Two Women in Rome

Two Women in Rome

Author: Elizabeth Buchan Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/06/2021

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.

Books of the Month
Freed

Freed

Author: E. L. James Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2021

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?

The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl

Author: Zakiya Dalila Harris Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2021

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.

Debut Books of the Month
Threadneedle

Threadneedle

Author: Cari Thomas Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/05/2021

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.

Debut Books of the Month
House of Correction

House of Correction

Author: Nicci French Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

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.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
My Little Girl

My Little Girl

Author: Shalini Boland Format: Ebook Release Date: 22/04/2021

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

Queentide

Queentide

Author: Donna Fisher Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/04/2021

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 

Indie Books We Love
KNIFE EDGE

KNIFE EDGE

Author: Kerry Buchanan Format: Ebook Release Date: 15/04/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
COFFIN COVE

COFFIN COVE

Author: Jackie Elliott Format: Ebook Release Date: 08/04/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
Line

Line

Author: Niall Bourke Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/04/2021

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

Indie Books We Love
 The Girl Who Escaped From Auschwitz

The Girl Who Escaped From Auschwitz

Author: Ellie Midwood Format: Ebook Release Date: 05/03/2021

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

eBooks of the Month
The Sadness of The King George

The Sadness of The King George

Author: Shaun Hand Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/02/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
Motherland and Other Stories

Motherland and Other Stories

Author: Wandeka Gayle Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/11/2020

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.

Star Books
Stick No Bills

Stick No Bills

Author: Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/10/2020

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.

Star Books
One Left Alive

One Left Alive

Author: Helen Phifer Format: Ebook Release Date: 01/09/2020

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

22 Stories Falling Up: A Novel

Author: David Lawrence Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/09/2019

‘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

Indie Books We Love
Date Night

Date Night

Author: Samantha Hayes Format: Ebook Release Date: 16/08/2019

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

eBooks of the Month

May 2021 Featured Books

Us Three

Us Three

Author: Ruth Jones Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

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.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Summer Seekers

The Summer Seekers

Author: Sarah Morgan Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

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...

The Bread the Devil Knead

The Bread the Devil Knead

Author: Lisa Allen-Agostini Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/05/2021

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.

Star Books
Careless

Careless

Author: Kirsty Capes Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/05/2021

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...

Brixton Hill

Brixton Hill

Author: Lottie Moggach Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/05/2021

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.

Star Books
Of Stone and Sky

Of Stone and Sky

Author: Merryn Glover Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

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.

Books of the Month
The Beauty of Impossible Things

The Beauty of Impossible Things

Author: Rachel Donohue Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

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.

We Run the Tides

We Run the Tides

Author: Vendela Vida Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

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. 

Books of the Month
Sorrowland

Sorrowland

Author: Rivers Solomon Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/05/2021

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.

Star Books
Presence, the Play

Presence, the Play

Author: William Jefferson Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2021

‘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

Indie Books We Love
The Lantern Boats

The Lantern Boats

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/04/2021

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.

Books of the Month
Relative Secrets

Relative Secrets

Author: Helen Stancey Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/03/2021

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?

eBooks of the Month
Into Deadly Storms

Into Deadly Storms

Author: Judi Daykin Format: Ebook Release Date: 18/03/2021

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.

eBooks of the Month
Daylight Come

Daylight Come

Author: Diana McCaulay Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2020

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.

Star Books

April 2021 Featured Books

Twilight of Innocence

Twilight of Innocence

Author: I R Craig Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/12/2021

‘Twilight of Innocence’ is a mystery that follows a resourceful vigilante grandfather a hero-figure pilot and fiery investigative journalist looking to uncover and derail a child sex traffic ring.  The mystery around Andreas in the opening made me intrigued. I was eager to learn more about this mysterious man working to capture and interrogate members of the sex trafficking ring using highly specialised methods in order to release and rescue the victims. The subtle hints and brief descriptions were a brilliant introduction to this character, conveying his age and experience briefly, while keeping the quest front and center. As I read I wanted to learn more about this shadow-y figure’s mission as well as more about his past and what he’s had to do in the past in order to acquire his interrogation skills.  I was less enamoured with Rebecca and Jon as we are introduced to them, I think the repartee between them, at the end of the contentious flight from Scotland as an example, could have been a bit snappier in my opinion, but I was interested in learning more about both characters and their motives as well as their inevitable connection. Their story and relationship within this dark mystery reminded me a little bit of Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, and so I was keen to learn more about how they would merge with the Taken style storyline set up with Andreas.  This is an interesting and entertaining read that feels like it will have widespread appeal to fans of mysteries, thrillers and action books. There is a dark subject matter at its core but there’s plenty of twists, turns and details throughout that keep you entertained. Action packed and thrilling this is a book I would definitely recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador 

Indie Books We Love
Small Pleasures

Small Pleasures

Author: Clare Chambers Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.

Star Books
Because of You

Because of You

Author: Dawn French Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight. The old millennium turns into the new. In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters. Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl. Anna leaves with empty arms. Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all. The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits. Perhaps beyond . . . Because Of You is Dawn French's stunning new novel, told with her signature humour, warmth and so much love.

Audiobooks of the Month
Shuggie Bain

Shuggie Bain

Author: Douglas Stuart Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

A heart-breaking, unforgettable and incredible story that will stay with you long after you've finished it. It is difficult to believe it's a debut as you read the travails of young Shuggie, his alcoholic mother Agnes and see inside their dysfunctional family life in 1980s working-class Glasgow. It's a powerful story with unflinching honesty that will no doubt make you cry. It shows the power of love and despite the bleak subject matter, it's incredibly tender, hopeful and oh so readable. It's a triumph.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Motion of the Body Through Space

The Motion of the Body Through Space

Author: Lionel Shriver Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

“For the last thirty-two years, you’ve not once trotted out for a run around the block. And now you tell me with a straight face that you want to run a marathon.” So begins this scathingly amusing novel that sees 64-year-old Remington - recently forced to retire early after an unsavoury employment tribunal – develop an unhealthy obsession with extreme exercise and his hideously competitive trainer, Bambi. Remington’s wife, sixty-year-old Serenata has always been a solitary exerciser (“I find large numbers of people doing the same thing in one place a little repulsive”), so the fact that her “husband had joined the mindless lookalikes of the swollen herd” comes as a shock, and an insensitive affront too, given that she was recently compelled to give up a lifetime of running after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both knees. Their spiteful bickering begins immediately, with neither party displaying themselves in a favourable light. Indeed, both characters are largely unlikeable, which makes their sniping all the more entertaining. Remington bemoans accusations of privilege, thus revealing said privilege: “I’m a little tired of being told how ‘privileged’ I am... How as a member of the ‘straight white patriarchy’ I have all the power. I’m supposedly so omnipotent, but I live in fear, less like a man than a mouse.”   After (eventually) crossing the finish line of his first marathon, Remington signs-up for a gruelling triathlon, with his farcical persistence in spite of serious incidents and injuries making this novel both hilarious and excruciatingly cringe-worthy, albeit with an unexpectedly bittersweet upshot.

Books of the Month
Dreamland

Dreamland

Author: Rosa Rankin-Gee Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Spanning twenty years, beginning four years from now, Rosa Rankin-Gee’s Dreamland is a haunting, visionary dystopian novel. Set against a bleak backdrop of escalating inequality, austerity and climate change in post-Brexit Britain, the novel feels both hyper-real and dream-like, suffused as it is in the ethereal melancholy of an abandoned seaside town and the longings of its inhabitants. Seven-year-old Chance and thirteen-year-old JD were born in London, which “was a fourth world country now. A hotbed. A timebomb waiting to go off. That, and an island for rich Russians.” And so their mother accepts a grant from a right-wing foundation for them to move to Margate at a time when droves of people are moving inland to escape the rapidly rising sea. It’s run-down, boarded-up, and subject to the hazardous consequences of climate change, from the rising sea, to the extreme heatwave that hits during their second summer. There are black-outs too, power outages, riots and looting, and then comes the Localisation Act, which grants greater autonomy to smaller regions, resulting in London isolating itself further from the rest of the country and a mass exodus from hard-hit Margate. The creeping sense of change, deterioration and desperation is palpable as Chance seeks to settle into herself, to make a life in Margate while her mother has a new baby to care for and a violent boyfriend to watch out for. And then Chance meets Francesca (Franky), and both their lives change forever thanks to a love that both sets them spinning and roots them, as the world spins out of control. Beautifully-written (the calm, crystalline language is loaded with longing), and powerfully prescient, this is a unique and captivating cautionary tale of our times.

Audiobooks of the Month
Hamnet

Hamnet

Author: Maggie O'Farrell Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.

Star Books
Sharks in the Time of Saviours

Sharks in the Time of Saviours

Author: Kawai Strong Washburn Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

In 1995 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores is saved from drowning by a shiver of sharks. His family, struggling to make ends meet amidst the collapse of the sugar cane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favour from ancient Hawaiian gods. But as time passes, this hope gives way to economic realities, forcing Nainoa and his siblings to seek salvation across the continental United States, leaving behind home and family. With a profound command of language, Washburn's powerful debut novel examines what it means to be both of a place, and a stranger in it.

Debut Books of the Month
Cold Boy's Wood

Cold Boy's Wood

Author: Carol Birch Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Subtle in style and fierce in characterisation, Carol Birch’s Cold Boy’s Wood is a haunting psychological enigma. Exploring the flux and fallibility of memory, and the effects of loneliness on the human spirit, the novel is a puzzle, of sorts, as two flawed and damaged characters are confronted with long-buried secrets when a mudslide unearths a body outside their village. Visiting his mother’s grave near the site of the mudslide, Dan observes “Ravens. The wet nose of the pregnant doe. A body returned to light. Things falling into sequence. All these things seemed significant.” Embittered, often drunk, and scared stiff by the supernatural, he’s disturbed by a sound in the darkness and locks up. Then there’s Lorna, who lives nearby in the ancient woods that have called her since she saw a strange “cold boy” here as a teenager. The boy haunts her still, along with her past, as she watches Dan, and helps him when he collapses drunk, all the while delivering a feverish internal dialogue. Both of them provoke intrigue, their lives entangle, their stories haunt and pierce to the end.

eBooks of the Month
The Legacy

The Legacy

Author: Caroline Bond Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Penetrating and emotionally intense this is a fabulously compelling family drama. Jonathan Coulter’s will simply stipulates that his three children should decide how to dispose of his estate, this causes arguments and increasing tension particularly given that no mention has been made of their mother or their father’s new partner. Caroline Bond excels in creating dramatically readable novels that delve into what it is to be human. She also writes with incredible empathy as she explores thought-provoking subjects and allows the reader to arrive at their own conclusions. There are five main characters here, they feel as real as can be, with intricate layers slowly exposed to allow us to see who they truly are. This is an incredibly intimate tale, with the majority of the novel taking place over a weekend in Scarborough. As the tale progresses and the walls close in on the discussions taking place, the few excursions that take place out of the house release tension. The focus firmly remains on the emotions that swing and swerve as grief and loss in the immediate aftermath of death is explored. A story about love and family, The Legacy really is a wonderfully stimulating read, and it’s been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
A Lonely Man

A Lonely Man

Author: Chris Power Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Telling the gripping tale of a Berlin-based writer’s appropriation of a stranger’s story, Chris Power’s A Lonely Man misdirects and seduces with a magician’s sleight of hand. Readers will teeter on the very edge of their seats as they - and the protagonist - are lured into a snare of distrust, with the novel simmering to an entirely unexpected end. Robert has moved from London to Berlin with his wife and two young daughters. While struggling to find his creative mojo, he meets drunk, charismatic, nervy Patrick. Patrick was ghost-writing a no-holds-barred book on behalf of an exiled Russian oligarch who was recently found hanged. Patrick believes it was murder, that he’s now being followed.  Robert notes early on that “he had never known when to stop” and, true to form, despite deciding he’d only meet Patrick for one drink, it doesn’t stop there. Beers, whiskeys, and more for the road flow as Patricks explains how he met the mega-rich oligarch and the high-level secrets his book was due to expose. Though Robert he felt “like he had spent the evening walking into some kind of trap” and he’s not sure if it’s true, Patrick’s story has slithered under his skin and he secretly sets about transforming it into a novel. Highly recommend for readers who like their thrillers laced with chilling intrigue, the novel operates as a kind of puzzle, raising questions around the ownership of stories, and uncertainty planted with elegant aplomb.

Debut Books of the Month
Bitterhall A Novel

Bitterhall A Novel

Author: Helen McClory Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Reeling with edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and the entangled lives, lusts and obsessions of three compelling characters involved in a unique ménage à trois (of sorts), Helen McClory’s Bitterhall is a brilliantly unnerving novel that explores the liminal blurring of inner life with outer reality. Narrated by the three characters in intense, short, tight episodes, their lives begin to unravel due to the eerie influence of a nineteenth-century diary, with matters coming to an irreversible, bewildering crescendo at a decadent Halloween party. Daniel Lightfoot’s voice opens the book, breaking the metafictional fourth wall by addressing readers direct: “I want you to love me, if I’m being honest. That’s why I start so gently, in the garden, in the present tense. A good story begins tipsily in a garden, and carries on through well-proportioned rooms in the past tense in which blood is being spilled and was spilled.” His work involves futuristic 3D printing technology that aims to “copy important rare objects from all over the world to create replicas, mostly for museums.” He wants to “keep the old things safe... To save the past, but let people in.” Another link to the past is the nineteenth-century diary he’s reading, an intriguing document written by James Lennoxlove, the ancestor of his best friend. The diary finds its way to Daniel’s new flatmate, Tom, who can’t put it down and obsesses over Lennoxlove. Both Daniel and Tom’s girlfriend Órla notice a strange shift in Tom, the extent of which is revealed though Tom’s haunted, tormented narrative, and all three accounts of the Halloween party. Laced with Daniel’s dry wit alongside the growing confusion and creeping sense of madness (“Whatever I had done, I had done with my socks on”), this shrewdly-written read rises to a gripping, question-raising climax.

The Frequency of Us

The Frequency of Us

Author: Keith Stuart Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/03/2021

If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.  

Star Books
Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

Author: Claire Fuller Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/03/2021

Our April 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. With love and family sitting centre stage, this is an emotionally intelligent and beautiful novel. Reclusive 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius find their lives in disarray when their mother dies and secrets spill forth. At LoveReading we have adored Claire Fuller’s novels since her debut Our Endless Numbered Days which won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015. I love her writing style, she has the ability to take you to known yet entirely unexpected places within the human soul and your own subconscious. Her descriptions almost hurt as they land with apparently effortless precision. This has a seemingly simple premise, yet it thoroughly provokes thoughts and contemplation. The words danced from the pages into my mind, and pieces of my heart cracked and broke away. A wonderful balance is maintained as hope is allowed to remain within touching distance. These are characters that will stay with me, this is a story that I will return to. Unsettled Ground evokes raw emotions and yet it is a thoughtfully compassionate and gorgeous read. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

Author: Claire Fuller Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/03/2021

Our April 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. With love and family sitting centre stage, this is an emotionally intelligent and beautiful novel. Reclusive 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius find their lives in disarray when their mother dies and secrets spill forth. At LoveReading we have adored Claire Fuller’s novels since her debut Our Endless Numbered Days which won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015. I love her writing style, she has the ability to take you to known yet entirely unexpected places within the human soul and your own subconscious. Her descriptions almost hurt as they land with apparently effortless precision. This has a seemingly simple premise, yet it thoroughly provokes thoughts and contemplation. The words danced from the pages into my mind, and pieces of my heart cracked and broke away. A wonderful balance is maintained as hope is allowed to remain within touching distance. These are characters that will stay with me, this is a story that I will return to. Unsettled Ground evokes raw emotions and yet it is a thoughtfully compassionate and gorgeous read. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
King of Rabbits

King of Rabbits

Author: Karla Neblett Format: Audiobook Release Date: 25/03/2021

Brought to you by Penguin. Kai lives in a mixed-race family on a rural council estate in Somerset where he and his three older sisters have three different dads, and his mum is being led into crack addiction by his petty-thief father. He idolises his dad, adores his friend Saffie and the school rabbit Flopsy, and is full of ambition to be the fastest runner in Middledown Primary. He and Saffie build a secret world of friendship in the school garden. But Kai's natural optimism, imagination and energy run up against adult behaviour he doesn't understand: his parents' on-and-off romance, his dad's increasing addiction and the limitations of poverty. Despite the people who try to look out for him, notably his loving Nanny Sheila and his big sister Leah, Kai's life drifts towards a tragedy from which it is hard for him to recover. The refuge he seeks in his love of nature, and the wild rabbits who have made their burrows in the woods, may not be refuge enough. Karla Neblett has created a vivid language that is both crafted and raw to tell a story of class, race and how our society fails working class young men.

Audiobooks of the Month
A History of What Comes Next

A History of What Comes Next

Author: Sylvain Neuvel Format: Audiobook Release Date: 04/03/2021

Imagine everything you thought you knew about human progress was wrong. What would you do? Mia is not sure what she is, but she isn't human. Smarter, stronger than her peers, all she knows are the rules: there can never be three for too long; always run, never fight. When she finds herself in Germany, 1945, she must turn the Nazi's most trusted scientist with an offer: abandon the crumbling Nazi party, escape Germany with your life, come to work for the Americans building rockets. But someone is watching her work. An enemy who's smarter, stronger, decidedly not human and prepared to do anything to retrieve something ancient that was long lost. If only she had any idea what it was . . .

Audiobooks of the Month
Running Behind Time

Running Behind Time

Author: Jan Turk Petrie Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2021

WOW! What a fabulous and enjoyable read - read it in one sitting as needed to know what happened next. A tale of time travel from 2020 to 1982 - and back again. Following the story of Tom when he meets Beth - such detail in lives during the pandemic of 2020 and lives in 1982. Don't want to give too much of the story away - can't recommended it highly enough. I have just ordered one of her other books I am so impressed.  Jayne Burton, A LoveReading Ambassador 

Indie Books We Love
Love Stories for Hectic People

Love Stories for Hectic People

Author: Catherine McNamara Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2021

‘Love Stories for Hectic People’ is a collection of short stories exploring aspects of love that aren’t necessarily the ones that are focused on most often, the sides that aren’t “happy ever after”.  Each flash fiction piece is distinct and the collection can be read from cover to cover or picked up and enjoyed in whichever order takes your fancy. The author’s writing helps to create an entire world in a few deceptively simple stories, each one felt thought through and complete to me, with the reader left at the end pondering about next steps and unspoken meaning. The perfect way to be left after a flash fiction piece in my opinion. Covering a number of aspects of relationships and sex, from the joy of it to deeper and darker issues of affairs, abortions and miscarriage. I highlight this to demonstrate the variety within these stories (as I’ve said, each have their own unique tale, setting and atmosphere) and also to mention in case any potential reader is sensitive to a particular topic.  Quick to read through with plenty to come back to and contemplate, I think that this is a great collection of flash fiction.

Indie Books We Love
Shakey's Madness: Does a Mental Disorder Reveal the

Shakey's Madness: Does a Mental Disorder Reveal the

Author: Robert Boog Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/02/2021

‘Shakey’s Madness’ is a well-researched and well rounded argument around the “real” author of ‘The First Folio’. Using academic resources including The Folger Shakespeare Library, The author sets out his hypothesis that the real author of the work currently attributed to William Shakespeare may have experienced bipolar, and this information may help us to uncover the true author of these Elizabethan plays and sonnets.  I can’t say I’ve ever particularly doubted that Shakespeare’s work was written by William Shakespeare; that is I was familiar with the theory that they were written by someone else, it had just never interested me enough to look into it. I was curious about ‘Shakey’s Madness’ as a neutral observer, and I found that the author formed his arguments in a way that was entertaining and interesting. It reminded me of a university essay, with references to academics and further sources but I found it easy to follow along with. I feel this would be an interesting read regardless of which side of this particular argument you fall.  Perhaps slightly conspiratorial in nature, and in the end left for the reader to decide if we agree with the argument put in front of us. I think that this book is an interesting one to ponder for those looking to learn more about the Oxfordian arguments as well as those looking for more evidence to support that theory. You might also learn something about the nuanced disorder of bipolar along the way. 

Lost Souls, A fictional journey through 50 years of Pink Floyd

Lost Souls, A fictional journey through 50 years of Pink Floyd

Author: Edwin Ammerlaan Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/01/2021

I found it difficult to get my head round why someone who was personally acquainted with the members of a world renowned rock band would fictionalise their experience but in 'Lost Souls. A fictional journey through 50 years of Pink Floyd' this is exactly what Dutch music journalist, Edwin Ammerlaan has done. In the foreword to the book the author sets out his reasons for it, which seem to be mainly his need to find a new slant on the history after all the many biographies and autobiographies which had gone before but I still find it a disturbing and slightly dangerous concept. Made up events and dialogues and imaginary characters are surely out of place in a book celebrating a larger than life group and their music. However, that said, the book is a fascinating and moving read. Obviously written with love and passion for the subject matter, the author conveys this to the reader in spades. It left me eager to find out more,(especially just how much of it was actually true), to listen to their music and, above all, it left me wondering how I could have lived through those times and remained largely unmoved by their influence. My loss I guess but maybe one it's not too late to redress. I would recommend this book to anyone with any degree of interest in the music scene, whether they're Floyd fans or not. The author doesn't gloss over the cut-throat nature of the business, the difficulties caused by the group's personal dynamics nor the slow nature of the maturing of the creative process to a successful sound but these are all described with honesty and empathy. It's 'another brick in the wall' of Pink Floyd knowledge. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

The Bodies That Move

The Bodies That Move

Author: Bunye Ngene Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/11/2020

Also Available as an eBook. If you thought that crossing the Mediterranean Sea or the English Channel was the most dangerous part of a refugee's journey to freedom, then you need to read this book, 'The Bodies That Move' by Bunye Ngene. The author spares no-one's feelings in chronicling the systematically inhumane treatment of the displaced by unscrupulous people traffickers and presents a powerful argument to wealthier and more stable regimes to deal with this shameful and destabilising practice with far more rigour and compassion than at present.   The story follows Nosa, a young, presentable and university-educated Nigerian, who, because of the corruption in his home country, is persuaded by a former classmate to make the journey to Europe, a better life and earning power to keep his mother and younger siblings from poverty. Though far from cheap, he borrows the money necessary to fund his passage and sets out in high hopes of reaching Italy in three weeks. His optimism however is short-lived and hunger, lack of sleep and hygiene facilities and cramped travelling conditions soon become the norm. But this is just the start of what Nosa will experience before he has even left Nigeria. The gradual wearing away of all civilised standards is shocking to read. The rape of the female travellers, the beatings, enforced work (slavery in other words), starvation and the callous abandonment of all whose 'agents' have not paved the way across the Sahara Desert or war-torn Libya become everyday occurrences, not even raising an eyebrow in the end. But Nosa is one of the 'lucky' ones, reaching the coast after three months of hell, eventually boarding an inflatable with no life jacket and being picked up by European coastguards. He has achieved his aim and gained what? Europe's record of the  treatment of refugees is nothing to write home about, quite literally. To say I enjoyed reading this book would be untrue but I'm very glad I did and I would encourage you to as well.  Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
The People of Ostrich Mountain

The People of Ostrich Mountain

Author: Ndirangu Githaiga Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/05/2020

‘The People of Ostrich Mountain’ is a story that spans generations. We first follow Wambũi as she goes to school in the backdrop of the 1950s Mau Mau war, her impressive mathematics skills and intelligence earning her a place in a prestigious boarding school and nurtured by her teacher, Eileen Atwood. The years progress and we follow Wambũi and Eileen’s lives as well as the lives of Wambũi’s children. This is the story of how an intelligent young girl and a compassionate teacher pave the way for generations of success.  I loved reading this well crafted story, each character was brought vibrantly to life and I relished spending time with each character. ‘The People of Ostrich Mountain’ is beautifully written and introduced me to Mau Mau history, a history I was unaware of until now. While navigating the serious issues such as race, gender and immigration, with each character having their own struggles and experiences, I feel the main emphasis throughout the story is on community, goodwill and humanity. This is a book you can relax into, a family and friendship story that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and would highly recommend.

Indie Books We Love
The Scoop

The Scoop

Author: Cat Walker Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/03/2020

This was a wonderful read but also a difficult title to categorise as it covers many subjects throughout its pages.The author writes with humour and realism whilst conjuring up a magical experience to take readers on. I was drawn in from the prologue and being of a similar age to the author found myself nodding in agreement at various reminiscences. The pairing of Casey and Danny as childhood friends was brilliantly observed with the way they spoke, argued, joked and cried together as they overcame often insurmountable obstacles during the journey. Like Casey I, too, was unsure how the trip would work-if it could work-with the third traveller but it added a positive poignant dimension to the story. I was in admiration of the historical paragraphs relating to each country the trio passed through but it ultimately was a way that helped break the ice between Casey and Ari. It also made for interesting reading and I felt I learned a lot! Alice was a great addition to the storyline and I was sad to see her go before the trip ended. She had been through so much for a second hand ice cream van! However by using other modes of transport other characters could then be brought in subtlety to continue the rich pattern of different cultures and languages. If you are looking for a thought-provoking read covering friendships, relationships and travel tips then look no further. An absolutely fantastic debut novel. Caroline Highy, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
Here and Now

Here and Now

Author: Santa Montefiore Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/04/2021

Faced with losing everything, all that matters is Here and Now... Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn't quite right, and it's becoming harder for people to ignore. As Marigold's condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn't matter, when there are people who will remember them for you... Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you'll read this year - from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles

Author: Jenny Colgan Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Lissa loves her job as a nurse, but recently she's been doing a better job of looking after other people than looking after herself. After a traumatic incident at work leaves her feeling overwhelmed, she agrees to swap lives with someone in a quiet village in Scotland. Cormac is restless. Just out of the army, he's desperately in need of distraction, and there's precious little of it in Kirrinfief. Maybe three months in London is just what he needs. As Lissa and Cormac warm to their new lives, emailing back and forth about anything and everything, finally things seem to be falling into place. But each of them feel there's still a piece missing. What - or who - could it be? And what if it's currently five hundred miles away?