Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to the present, here we have some fabulous reads set in the modern era. From provocative to beautiful, open your heart and mind and discover strong, believable stories that hammer at your awareness and cause thoughts to hesitate, develop, and flow.

December 2021 Featured Books

Quicksand of memory

Quicksand of memory

Author: Michael J. Malone Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

Scarred by their pasts, Jenna and Luke fall in love, brimming with hope for a rosy future. But someone has been watching, with chilling plans for revenge ... An emotive, twisty, disturbing new psychological thriller by the critically acclaimed author of A Suitable Lie and In the Absence of Miracles. Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships. Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner's young son, following a devastating tragedy. When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need. And yet, someone is watching. Someone who has been scarred by past events. Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge... Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder... 

Fall

Fall

Author: West Camel Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

When your debut novel receives an avalanche of accolades and is shortlisted for the Polari First Novel prize and the Guardian “Not The Booker Prize”, there must be some pressure for a writer as they embark on that “difficult second novel.” West Camel has spent the intervening years meeting that challenge handsomely for Fall is a beautifully conceived contemporary tale of twin-sibling rivalry between Aaron, skinny, grey haired, final resident of Marlowe Tower on the Deptford Strand Estate, designed by their architect Mother, Zöe, and his property developer brother, Clive, whose plans to turn the tower into luxury flats are being thwarted by Aaron’s refusal to sell up. Into this present day narrative, flashbacks to the boys' past introduce twin sisters Annette and Christine and hint at secrets and darkness to come as the novel develops into a deep, rich story of families and friendships with an underlying drone note of supremely well-managed tension. What really makes this a superb, deeply affecting novel is Camel’s ability to build a credible world that draws you in, page by page, and to populate it with fully drawn characters through a writing style that evokes the dark languor of early Ian McEwan. By exploring the fragile architecture of lives and the scaffolding that supports them, Camel has created a darkly evocative tale that speaks of prejudice, of fear and of the moments that come to define our futures.  Be in no doubt, this is a novel you just have to read to understand how good it is and with this second step, Camel seems set on a path to prizes.

eBooks of the Month
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

Author: Marianne Cronin Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

The One Hundred years of Lenni and Margot is so special, it’s gentle yet pointed and warmly amusing as it highlights life within sight and touching distance of death. To celebrate their joint 100 years, 17 year-old Lenni and 83 year-old Margot paint their life stories while in hospital. Singing of friendship, love, and family, we discover how they can all be found in the most unexpected of places. This is Marianne Cronin’s debut novel, and I’ve added her to my list of authors to look out for. While Lenni and Margot are the stars, the other characters add essential energy. She brings these characters to vibrant life with a few perfectly chosen words. The smallest of details matter, in fact are vital. This book is so visual, slipping backwards and forwards in time, snapshots of the years appeared like magic to paint their own picture in my mind. The pages dance with joy and hope, while being realistic about death. I laughed and I cried, yes this novel is emotional, yet it also delivers the most heart-warming hug too. A well-deserved LoveReading Star Book, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot comes with a 'must-read' label of recommendation from me.

Star Books
The Ex-Husband

The Ex-Husband

Author: Karen Hamilton Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

Greed, envy, covetousness, lust, anger - Karen Hamilton’s The Ex-Husband is an enthralling, exquisitely plotted thriller that gets to the heart of a host of base human drives, pretty much running the gamut of the seven deadly sins.  Sam and Charlotte loved the good things in life - luxury locations, jewellery, villas, yachts - but as cruise ship workers (he a croupier, she in retail and, later, events), their wages don’t bring them the lifestyle they feel they deserve. So, when Charlotte is seduced by Sam and they marry, they hatch dozens of seemingly harmless plans to relieve wealthy passengers of their money and luxury possessions. Years later, now separated and trying to move on, Charlotte’s past comes back to haunt her big style while on a new job aboard an ultra-swish private yacht in the Caribbean. The sense of closing in and conspiracy is feverishly, cleverly created as a tsunami of twists leads to a thrilling, unexpected finale. Hamilton has a huge talent for page-turning plotting, and her psychological insights are as sharp as a pair of luxury Louboutin stilettos.

Books of the Month
The Twelve Wishes of Christmas

The Twelve Wishes of Christmas

Author: Ruby Basu Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/11/2021

Fireworks of both the fractious and romantic kind flare and spark through Ruby Basu’s The Twelve Wishes of Christmas, a sure-fire treat for fans of Heidi Swain and Sarah Morgan. Feeling a telling mix of “excitement and slight sense of unease… ever since she found out she’d be spending Christmas in the quintessential small US town of Pineford”, 30-year-old Sharmila has been given a somewhat unusual gift by her late friend Thomas. First up, a free trip to spend the festive season in the picturesque place he grew up in. Secondly, as she only discovers later, the chance to inherit Thomas’ Holly House estate, should she manage to complete the list of festive tasks he’s set her. Enter Zach, Thomas’ nephew, who knows about the inheritance long before Sharmila does, and is doggedly determined to stop it from happening: “Trust me on this, Lucas. She’s an opportunist. She doesn’t know about the inheritance yet, but maybe she was disappointed all Thomas left her was this all expenses-paid trip. I bet she was expecting something more for her efforts”. Then, little by little, as Pineford glows with snow and sparkling lights, so Sharmila and Zach feel the glow of something neither of them were expecting.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/11/2021

This emotionally intelligent and perceptive novel is hand-on-heart gorgeous. Diana finds herself alone in the Galapagos during the early months of the pandemic while her surgeon boyfriend is back in New York. This is Jodi Picoult at her best, what seems like a simple tale is full of richly beautiful and provocative imaginings. The natural world, our world, sings with celebration. The torment of the pandemic echoes with heartbreak. Relationships, love, awareness of self, the focus is intimate and penetrating and yet feels immense and inclusive to all. I experienced a meaningful connection with the characters and plot, as though I was a part of this story somewhere in the world. And though I had that awareness, the author has the magical ability to open your thoughts and then send them in an entirely unexpected and breathtaking direction. I absolutely adored this book and felt as though it had been written just for me, and yet also for everyone. It connects us all in a time of uncertainty and fear. In a welcoming arms-open-wide hug, the Author’s Note from March 2021 explains her writing story during Covid-19. Charting the raw immeasurable pain of the pandemic, and yet also administering hope and love, Wish You Were Here sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month. 

Star Books
The Perfect Christmas Gift

The Perfect Christmas Gift

Author: Katie Ginger Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/11/2021

From betrayal and a broken heart, to heart-warming blossoming romance (with jingling bells on), Katie Ginger’s The Perfect Christmas Gift might just be the perfect self-gift for fans of light-hearted rom-coms. To take the lyrics of the Neighbours theme tune to the next level, this feel-good festive story reveals that neighbours can become a whole lot more than just “good friends”. Primary school teacher Bella is a huge fan of the festive season - “the excitement of the end-of-term play, posting Christmas cards into the little post box made out of cardboard in the corner of the classroom, making decorations during wet play.” Beyond the school gates, Bella adores the festive ambience of her rural Kent village, and can’t believe her good fortune to have a home in such an idyllic spot, with a devoted boyfriend at her side: “How did she get so lucky?” she muses. As the saying goes, pride (even a small dose) often comes before a fall, and Bella is in for a pretty big fall when said devoted boyfriend announces he’s leaving her for another woman. As a result, broken-hearted Bella throws herself into village life, coming up with the idea of a community Christmas giving tree, with cute single dad Nick on hand to help. While the path of Bella and Nick’s budding romance doesn’t exactly run smooth, fans of feel-good fiction are in for a readable (and sometimes rocky) ride that’s big on romance and festive fizz.

How to Kill Your Family

How to Kill Your Family

Author: Bella Mackie Format: Audiobook Release Date: 22/07/2021

Kill my family Make a claim on their fortune Get away with the above Adopt a dog Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, colleague, friend, serial killer… Grace has lost everything. And now she wants revenge. How to Kill Your Family is a fierce and addictive novel about class, family, love… and murder.

Audiobooks of the Month
Not for Human Consumption

Not for Human Consumption

Author: Craig Watson Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/05/2021

A gritty and authentic tale of life on the streets, ‘Not for Human Consumption’ by Craig Watson explores the lives of those experiencing the hardest of times. Touching on a variety of subjects from addiction to abuse, crime, poverty and debt, the life of Danny and his friends are authentically, heartbreakingly told.  This isn’t a comfortable read, with few glimmers of hope shown in a predominantly desperate situation. Even those such as Danny who manages to find work and are offered a space in a hostel can struggle to acclimatise and end up back on the streets that they’re familiar with. The characterisation throughout is detailed, the writing is descriptive and powerful. I found myself frustrated at Danny throughout for not leaving, seeing a situation clearly and looking after himself properly but also recognising the never-diminishing need to try and help someone you care for anyway. ‘Not for Human Consumption’ is about a community of people, how they survive and sometimes what’s needed to get through the day, the upsetting realisation that you can’t love someone better, and what’s needed to get yourself into a better situation.  Dealing with a grim reality of street life, this story is gritty and feels real throughout, to the point I wondered whether some of the narrative was actually true. The author doesn’t shy away from the pain in this story and that makes the story and the payoff that bit sweeter.

Indie Books We Love

November 2021 Featured Books

The Killing Hills

The Killing Hills

Author: Chris Offutt Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/11/2021

Ok, so, whaddya know about Eastern Kentucky?  Perhaps you spent some of lockdowns 1, 2 and 3 bingeing on the “Justified” box sets? Maybe you have the footstamping brilliance of the Ruby Friedman Orchestra as she sings “ In the deep, dark, hills of Eastern Kentucky, that’s the place where I trace my bloodline…” ringing in your ears? Or maybe you know of Chris Offutt and his superb storytelling?  Either way, whether through the close communities of Harlan County and their interactions with the US Marshal Service on screen or through Chris’s acclaimed short stories and novels, you will know that it is a place of hills and ‘hollers’, music and moonshine, families, feuds and fistfights and is therefore a rich setting for tales of some of America’s poorer folk. Offutt, a son of Lexington, Kentucky, whose writing career has won him fans and accolades aplenty, not to mention Guggenheim and Lannan foundation fellowships, opens his series in fictional Eldridge County with AWOL Army CID agent, Mick Hardin, his Rockash town Sheriff sister, Linda and a dead body. But such bald facts belie Offutt’s gift for straight-talking, tobacco-chewing narrative that takes you off the tarmac blacktop and along the dusty roads and fire tracks of Kentucky’s lumber and coal scented, wooded wilderness. In this world of old cabins and ancient pickup trucks, of mules and mayhem, your standing in the community is as much about who your grandparents were as the badge you wear. With wonderful descriptives of the wildlife and the people. this is fantastically stripped back, pared down storytelling with such superbly written depth and sense of place,  I’m going to call it; this is Kentucky Noir, it gleams dark, is as hard as anthracite and Offutt is its undisputed Pappy.

Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone

Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone

Author: Diana Gabaldon Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/11/2021

The author of the Sunday Times bestselling Outlander series returns with the newest novel in the epic tale. Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same. It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser's Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible. Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell's tea-kettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his own tenants are split and the war is on his doorstep. It's only a matter of time before the shooting starts. Not so far away, young William Ransom is still coming to terms with the discovery of his true father's identity - and thus his own. Lord John Grey also has reconciliations to make and dangers to meet . . . on his son's behalf, and his own. Meanwhile, the Southern Colonies blaze, and the Revolution creeps ever closer to Fraser's Ridge. And Claire, the physician, wonders how much of the blood to be spilt will belong to those she loves.

Cold Boy's Wood

Cold Boy's Wood

Author: Carol Birch Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/2021

Fusing the ghost story with sharp, psychological insight, this is a brilliant and timely novel about loneliness, buried secrets and the havoc they play on the mind from Booker-shortlisted author Carol Birch. Did you hear? Big landslip over by Ercol. Last night. The road into Gully's closed off. They found a body. Got police tape. All that stuff. They only do that for murder, don't they? Murder! A body has been uncovered in a mudslide just outside the village of Andwiston. In the pub they talk of murder, but Dan - sometime mechanic, constant drunk - is finding it hard to sift through his jumbled memories. Watching him from the dark is Lorna, a lost soul living in the woods, haunted by ghosts and a vision from her childhood: a cold boy standing alone in Gallinger's field. 

eBooks of the Month
Femlandia

Femlandia

Author: Christina Dalcher Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

In this her third dystopian thriller, Dalcher gives another chilling look into an alternative future where a woman and her daughter seek refuge in a women-only colony after the country sinks into total economic collapse. Darker than her other reads, but still female-centric and speculative, this tells the tale of widowed Miranda Reynolds and her sixteen-year-old Emma whose only hope for survival is Femlandia, a male-free colony set up decades earlier by Miranda's estranged mother.  It's another twisty turny rollercoaster ride of emotion and thought-provoking themes. It's raw, it's disturbing in places, the characters are incredibly flawed and I flew through it at pace. Pulled in from the very first few pages and hooked until the end, for me Dalcher is firmly becoming the queen of speculative fiction.

Books of the Month
The Christmas Escape

The Christmas Escape

Author: Sarah Morgan Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2021

Sarah Morgan’s trademark lightness of touch and romantic warmth are on full Christmas window display in this Lapland-set story of female friendship, and letting down your guard to find (or reaffirm) love in all its forms. The Christmas Escape features a literal escape through a family and friends fleeing to Lapland for Christmas, but it’s metaphoric too, in that most of the characters have been hiding truths about themselves. This novel tells the story of their respective journeys to happiness through honesty in a romantic snowy setting backlit by the northern lights. Christy has her heart set on enjoying the perfect Christmas in Lapland with her husband Seb, five-year-old daughter Holly, and best friend Alix. It’s a big emotional trip for her too, for they’ll be staying with her estranged aunt, and she has a whole lot of questions about why her aunt was cast from the family bosom all those years ago. But as the big trip (and big day) looms ever-closer, Christy has big concerns about her marriage, and things aren’t quite right between her and Alix either. When Christy delays her flight to try to get to the source of her and Seb’s problems, Alix accompanies Holly to Lapland with her one-time lover and now-time nemesis, ruggedly handsome Arctic explorer and academic Zac. As the story stomps on through the snowy Lapland landscape, Zac becomes a mouthpiece for life advice: “There is an element of risk involved in everything worth having”, soon reiterated by “You’re only scared of the things that are important. The things that really matter”.  Meanwhile, Seb brings Christy to self-realisation as she tries to repair her relationship with Alix. With lots of recaps of characters’ quandaries and fears in the manner of TV shows (almost like “previously on The Christmas Escape…” montages), the characters are 100% transparent to the reader, even when they’re hiding the truth from each other, which also makes it something of a scream-at-the-TV kind of read - “tell the truth! Admit you fancy him! Admit you were wrong!”, and so on, until things come together in a satisfying seasonal hug.

Audiobooks of the Month
Still Life with a Vengeance

Still Life with a Vengeance

Author: Jan Turk Petrie Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/10/2021

Eve is married to a rich and famous rock star, they live in a beautiful house with an idyllic lifestyle and possible bright and happy future with a family as the couple begin the process of adoption. But this picture-perfect life all begins to fall apart when serious accusations are levelled at Nick and his band. Eve is certain of her husband's innocence, in this matter at least. But as time passes she begins to have her doubts. ‘Still Life with a Vengeance’ by Jan Turk Petrie is a brilliant story. Part relationship story, part family drama, with the mystery of the allegations and Eve’s personal history enticing the reader to keep turning the page until they reach a resolution. Eve seemed nice, down to earth and relatable throughout the story and although the lavish lifestyle is highlighted in places there’s a human aspect to this story that is central throughout: one focusing on trust and how well you know your loved ones. I enjoyed this story and the subtle parallels between Eve’s certainty about terrible events in her own past and her doubt in her current circumstances - perhaps hinting at the truth? I found this book very easy to read and I think that it could appeal to a wide contemporary fiction audience. Overall a thoroughly entertaining read. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
Sugar

Sugar

Author: Bernice McFadden Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/09/2021

An absolute beaut of a debut which we get to enjoy thanks to Vintage, 21 years after its debut in the US. The book opens in Spring 1940 with a dead child, raped, killed and abandoned by the roadside in the small town of Bigelow, Arkansas. An event from which the family and the town would never recover. Pearl’s heart broke that day when she lost her Jude, and so did mine. We fast forward to Spring 1955 as we are introduced to Sugar who arrives in the small southern town like a storm with her red lips, in her red high heels and blond wig. She was labelled right then and there. Abandoned at birth by her mother, and raised in a brothel, Sugar has been to hell and back and comes Bigelow to settle. In spite of their differences, Sugar bonds with her god-fearing, pious next door neighbour Pearl over sweet potato pie and pain. It’s a beautifully crafted journey of love, of loss, of understanding, of friendship, of rehabilitation. It’s a reawakening, an unforgettable one of two incredible characters who you come to care for deeply and I for one cannot wait for the sequel This Bitter Earth, published in summer 2022.

Star Books
The Cracklock Saga Book 1:  Fae or Foe?

The Cracklock Saga Book 1: Fae or Foe?

Author: C A Deegan Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/09/2021

‘Fae or Foe?’ by C A Deegan is the first in the Cracklock Saga that follows a human family with extraordinary abilities. Jack Crackley works hard to help his mum make ends meet but one extraordinary day reveals the truth about his past and a host of abilities that could help his family and friends in the adventures to come. A sinister opening draws the reader in, as a young girl is left unresponsive by a mystery illness, Child Aging Illness and doctors are stumped as to the cause. The focus then shifts to Jack and a fantasy adventure ensues that I hope will tie in and provide answers about this incurable illness later in the saga. The imaginative world includes a detailed folklore and a variety of different mystical beings, this adds dimension to the fantasy adventure story and I was curious about the different creatures we encounter in this book and the possibility for other creatures in future instalments. Alongside the strong world-building, the plotline is relatable and entertaining - a young boy, new friends, recently discovered abilities and looming over the whole story are the unanswered questions about a lost loved one. This is an immersive story that shares many themes with other fantasy stories. With the atmosphere of a fairytale with edge, plenty of adventure, tension and endearing characters, the loose ends at the end of this book will have young fantasy fans eager for the next instalment. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

Love & Loss in the Time of Covid

Love & Loss in the Time of Covid

Author: Phil Dourado Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/08/2021

Overwhelmed by grief, Matthew takes to his bed until he is able to see a way to deal with the loss he’s experienced. Semi-autobiographical, ‘Love & Loss in the Time of Covid’ by Phil Dourado tells the story of a man who has lost his wife, brother and best friend all within a short space of time. Set in a time where the whole world seems to be grieving, whether it’s for the loss of a loved one or for the loss of normality as the COVID-19 pandemic hits, we see one man working through his emotions, one book at a time. With references to, and a title inspired by ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, Dourado’s book explores in detail the multi-faced thing which is love as well as the many different forms that loss and grief can take. Although sad in places, there is a sense of hope running throughout the book, as Matthew confines himself to his bed until he has read every related book he can find on grief and many more besides, an act in itself that implies determination to make some form of progress or find a solution.  ‘Love & Loss in the Time of Covid’ is an honest, vulnerable and relatable tale. One that I think will resonate with a lot of people, because of lives changed by the pandemic or the loss of a loved one for any reason. A story of reflection, grief and ultimately hope, I think. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

The Science of Broken Hearts

The Science of Broken Hearts

Author: M St David Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/08/2021

Written in first person, ‘The Science of Broken Hearts’ by M St David introduces us to Dr Hunter Newton, a physician with many home and work life complications. The re-emergence of an old flame, now terminally ill, sends Hunter's life even closer to disaster territory than ever. With a prescription drug addiction and difficulty maintaining a strictly professional relationship with his patients, does Hunter really need to invite his first love into his life as his patient tenant and maybe something more? This is an interesting work of contemporary fiction, there are relationships and family dramas throughout the plot which would allow this book to sit within those genres too. As I read I couldn’t quite figure out where the plot was taking me, the redemptive arc subtly hidden behind the focus on Deanna’s health and the spectre of Hunter’s dead brother Grayling which looms large throughout the book. Hunter as a character didn’t inspire empathy in me, but he was well constructed in his self-obsession and self-destruction and I was curious about where the plot of the story would take him. The rest of the cast of characters, although limited as we see them through Hunter’s eyes, have their own developments throughout the book while also supporting Hunter when needed. I was intrigued by this book to the end, it’s a curious tale of loss, guilt and redemption.  Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
Midnight Light

Midnight Light

Author: Michael Pace, Brian Paglinco Format: Ebook Release Date: 05/08/2021

‘Midnight Light’ by Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco is a compilation of art in two forms: a mixture of photography and poetry. Each poem is paired with an atmospheric photograph of a final resting place. As the photographs and the poems alternate I would say that this book would be best enjoyed as a hard copy, so you can appreciate them as a pair. The photographs vary in subject and composition. One is black and white, with sharp contrasts, with a single flower stark against an almost black headstone. Others are more vibrant, an angel turned away in the middle of an autumn graveyard. You can spend time on each photo, contemplating the whys and whens of each shot. There are 23 poems in all, each one of varying length, from a line to a page. I did find that I personally preferred the longer poems, 'Midnight Light' and 'Paris' were a little lost on me. Focusing on the themes of love, death and redemption there is a haunted atmosphere to each one, I feel this was intensified by their photographic companion. I thought each poem was well constructed, with an image or moment shared with the reader. As with the photographs, these are pages to turn slowly, to ponder over what happened before and what will happen after. As each piece varies in length they also vary in style, with different rhythms and pace to keep the reader engaged.

Mirrorland

Mirrorland

Author: Carole Johnstone Format: Ebook Release Date: 01/04/2021

No. 36 Westeryk Road, an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A house of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it's what lies under the house that is extraordinary - Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what? Now in her thirties, Cat receives the shocking news that her sister has disappeared. Forced to return to Edinburgh, Cat finds herself irresistibly drawn back into Mirrorland. Because El has a plan. She's left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets... A sharply crafted mystery about the power of imagination and the price of freedom, perfect for fans of Erin Kelly and Tana French. 

eBooks of the Month
The Betrayals

The Betrayals

Author: Bridget Collins Format: Audiobook Release Date: 12/11/2020

From the author of the divinely dark The Binding and several acclaimed novels for young adults, Bridget Collins’s The Betrayals murmurs with menace and the mystery of the grand jeu, an arcane intellectual game that melds music, maths, poetry and philosophy. The novel’s world - at once familiar and strange - is conjured with crystalline clarity and populated by a cast of distinctly charismatic characters. Set in an unnamed disintegrating European country in the 1930s, the story begins when thirty-two-year-old Leo is removed from his post as Minister for Culture and exiled to his former academy, the exclusive Montverre. Here the nation’s cleverest are schooled in the art of the grand jeu, and here Leo is forced to face tragedy from his past as he forms an unsettling connection with the academy’s new female Magister Ludi. Part homage to Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, this boasts a compellingly jolting plot that will keep readers on their toes, and a delicious dénouement - it’s a delight for lovers of literary conundrums. Find out more about Bridget Collins in our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' blog!

Audiobooks of the Month

October 2021 Featured Books

The Manningtree Witches

The Manningtree Witches

Author: A. K. Blakemore Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2021

WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE 2021 England, 1643. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women. Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive?

In Every Mirror She's Black

In Every Mirror She's Black

Author: Lola Akinmade Akerstrom Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/10/2021

Through the finely-nuanced narratives of three Black women from very different backgrounds, Lola Akinmade Åkerström's In Every Mirror She’s Black is a remarkable feat of fiction. Teeming with hope, desire, struggle and love, this powerful page-turner pulls no punches as its engagingly three-dimensional characters strive for better lives in a world that makes it anything but easy for them to be themselves. It also dismantles any notion of there being a monolithic Black culture, and lays bare the unjust multiple standards by which Black women are judged - and all this through dazzling story-telling that will leave readers desperate to read the author’s next novel. The three female protagonists are linked by one wealthy man - Jonny Lundin, born into one of Sweden’s most privileged families, and CEO of the country’s biggest marketing company. Bored and frustrated by work, and by the men she meets on US dating apps, award-winning marketing executive Kemi is ripe for change when Jonny invites her to become his new Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. While on a flight to woo Kemi from America to Stockholm, Jonny encounters Brittany, a former model who now works as a first-class flight attendant. Initially dismissive of Jonny’s attention, she finds herself drawn to him - he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and lavishes her with unimaginable devotion and wealth. Then there’s refugee Muna, who lost her mother and younger brother during a treacherous sea crossing, and now works as a cleaner in Jonny’s office, while dreaming of becoming an accountant and having a group of good friends. True to life, the women variously make mistakes, face excruciating decisions, and long to feel fulfilled. Their finely-drawn stories are equally as engaging as they struggle to feel at home in a city that’s supposedly egalitarian, but turns out to be rife with implicit racism, tokenism, and injurious stereotyping. Riveting, moving and stirring (with punch-packing endings you won’t see coming), In Every Mirror She’s Black is a magnificent must-read.

Debut Books of the Month
Lemon

Lemon

Author: Kwon Yeo-sun Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/10/2021

Taking in the absurdities of life, misfortune and tragedy, Kwon Yeo-sun’s Lemon is an engaging, read-in-one-sitting novella of remarkable intensity. In some regards, it’s a crime novel, but one that turns the genre on its head to create an enigmatic emotional puzzle in which a woman warped by grief engages with the person she believes killed her sister. Back in 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became called the High School Beauty Murder. There were only ever two suspects, one of whom had an alibi, while no evidence was found to convict the second, so the case was never solved. Seventeen years later, Kim Hae-on’s younger sister, Da-on, remains utterly eaten up by the murder. Her life is on hold, her mind trapped in twisted stasis. Fixated on finding out what happened to her sister, she discovers unexpected truths that strike her to the core. Told from multiple perspectives and times, the story sparks with descriptive perfection, such as this evocation of the victim: “She was very pretty, but not in a typical way. How could I describe it? Her beauty was urgent, precarious, like the piercing wail of a speeding ambulance. I could not look away”.  It also swirls with powerful undercurrents of raw emotion - desperation, regret, longing, guilt, the brutal ripples of grief. Presented in all their ludicrous complexities, such raw states are overlaid with the mundanities of everyday life. Though short, this is an intensely gripping and profound reading experience. As Lemon ponders: “Couldn’t each moment we’re living now be the meaning of life?”

Debut Books of the Month
Silverview

Silverview

Author: John le Carré Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/10/2021

Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But only a couple of months into his new career, Julian's evening is disrupted by a visitor. Edward, a Polish emigre living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, seems to know a lot about Julian's family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise. When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea . . . Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In this last complete masterwork from the greatest chronicler of our age, John le Carre asks what you owe to your country when you no longer recognise it.

Over My Dead Body

Over My Dead Body

Author: Jeffrey Archer Format: Hardback Release Date: 12/10/2021

In an age of publishing that is obsessed with sales figures, Archer’s writing statistics, 275 million copies published in 97 countries, are not only hugely impressive and utterly enviable but more importantly, hard earned and thoroughly deserved. They are the incontestable evidence that he is a supremely gifted storyteller, whose talent for narrative and character has been honed and applied many times over in the crafting of fully immersive stories that delight his armies of readers, and Over My Dead Body, is no exception. In this fourth outing for Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick (not including his appearance in the Clifton Chronicles series) we are take through various investigations that take us onboard a luxury liner and into the often murky world of art dealing, Archer deftly moves between scenes and worlds to deliver a master class in how to structure a story and populate it with characters that are instantly recognisable and wonderfully drawn. All the qualities that we have come to expect from Jeffery’s books are here; wonderful, fully drawn characters  (you are going to love James Buchanan!) the sense that he really does know of what he writes (his attention to detail when researching his books is legendary) and that he really cares about crafting his stories in an interview with him, he explained that he writes all his early drafts long hand and reworks them many, many times until everything is just right. But here’s the thing, he once told me, with tears in his eyes, just how much he appreciate his readers and how hard he works to make each story as good as he can make it, to create as enjoyable a read as possible. Over My Dead Body is no exception and is a fabulous addition to the extraordinary canon of a supreme storyteller.

eBooks of the Month
Memorial

Memorial

Author: Bryan Washington Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/10/2021

Wisely comic, soul-searchingly tender, and defiantly unsentimental, Bryan Washington’s Memorial is a brilliant bittersweet debut. Really it’s a story of many things that matter most in life, when it comes down to it - family, emotional closeness, physical closeness, the urge to break free, and the compulsion to return. It’s also about the unexpected experiences and discoveries that come in the wake of strangers being thrown together, in this case when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying as his mother is due to stay with him, and as his two-year relationship teeters into fizzling-out territory While Mike heads to Osaka, boyfriend Benson plays host to Mike’s mother in Houston. Benson’s never met straight-talking Mitsuko, but little by little they form an unlikely and profound bond. Meanwhile, after meandering memories and feeling the strange melancholia of being reunited with his dying, distant dad, Mike is transformed by his Osaka experience. Through all this richness, Memorial is an absorbing, funny, stirring achievement told in lucid, elegant style.

Star Books
Four Dervishes

Four Dervishes

Author: Hammad Rind Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2021

Four Dervishes draws on a long tradition of storytelling as it skewers issues like religious bigotry, injustice, the denial of women’s rights, and class division. Lavishly inventive, verbally rich, an exotic confection, this novel is both darkly thematic and humorously playful.

Star Books
The Nesting

The Nesting

Author: C.J. Cooke Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2021

Atmospheric, gothic, spine-chilling... The new thriller from C.J Cooke will haunt you long after you turn the last page... It was like something out of a fairytale... The grieving widower. The motherless daughters. A beautiful house in the woods. Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it's as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale. But this family has a history - and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory. Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don't make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care. But protect them from what?

Star Books
The Piano Room

The Piano Room

Author: Clio Velentza Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/09/2021

Fabulously inventive, and laced with evocative detail and intrigue, Clio Velentza’s The Piano Room boasts bite and a beautifully crafted plot. Taking inspiration from the timeless tale of Faust, this keenly accomplished debut sees an entitled young man make a deal with the devil in order to forge his own destiny, so intense is his desire to renounce the weight of his family’s musical genius. Sandor Esterhazy comes from a long line of formidably talented pianists. His family are also immensely wealthy - his father, for example, dresses in embroidered slippers, shiny tuxedoes, and soft leather gloves; the opulence and elegance of his background are tangible. Sandor, on the other hand, seems cut from a different cloth - “There was no spirit to his music: instead of rising into the air with warmth and spice, the melody clambered out of the instrument and lay on the floor like a lifeless thing.” And so Sandor decides to summon the devil himself to escape his fate. Relieved when nothing happens (“I’m such an idiot. It was all a joke. It’s all right. It’s over”), he’s overwhelmed when the devil later appears and promises, in return for his soul, that Sandor “will be free to lead the life you choose rather than the one laid out for you.” Sandor is left with a mysterious creature, Ferdi, whom he locks in his basement piano room, for a time at least. Exploring self-determination and what it is to be human with wit, delicious gothic atmosphere and a compelling sense of ennui, The Piano Room is an immersive joy.

eBooks of the Month
Once Upon A Broken Heart

Once Upon A Broken Heart

Author: Stephanie Garber Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/09/2021

The most deliciously moody, romantic, and enchanting tale awaits. Written for young adults, this is a book that will also quite happily sit on bookshelves belonging to adults too. Evangeline strikes a deal with an immortal Fate in order to stop the wedding of the man she loves and complete her own happily ever after. This particular Fate isn’t to be meddled with, and when Evangeline strikes a bargain, things don’t go according to plan. A new series by the best-selling Stephanie Garber is to be celebrated and there is a crossover from her previous Caravel trilogy (though you don’t need to have already read them). As you can probably tell by the title, there is more than a hint of fairytale contained within the pages, however, this is not the syrupy sweet kind, oh no, darkness plays its part with aplomb. The setting is fabulously enticing, the characters engaging, and the plot beautifully sets up this book as the first in the series. A Liz Pick of the Month, Once Upon A Broken Heart, is a captivating tale, perfect for lovers of romantic fantasy.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Freckles

Freckles

Author: Cecelia Ahern Format: Audiobook Release Date: 02/09/2021

The brand new, instant Sunday Times top ten novel from million-copy bestselling author Cecelia Ahern. Five people. Five chances. One woman’s search for happiness. Allegra Bird’s arms are scattered with freckles, a gift from her beloved father. But despite her nickname, Freckles has never been able to join all the dots. So when a stranger tells her that everyone is the average of the five people they spend the most time with, it opens up something deep inside. The trouble is, Freckles doesn’t know if she has five people. And if not, what does that say about her? She’s left her unconventional father and her friends behind for a bold new life in Dublin, but she’s still an outsider. Now, in a quest to understand, she must find not one but five people who shape her – and who will determine her future. Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from modern Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and of growing into your own skin.

Audiobooks of the Month
Ghosts

Ghosts

Author: Dolly Alderton Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

Nina George Dean on the surface has it all. Fantastic friends, a new home all of her own, a successful career as a food writer and a loving family. Saying that, her thirties thus far haven't been all they were cracked up to be...and so she decides to dive into online dating. This is a funny observational debut novel by Dolly Alderton, a voice we recognise from her best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love and her podcast The High Low. But it's fresh, it's so relatable, so real. We've all been through it or know someone who has - and because of that it's so heartfelt and sad and tender and true. But funny; I chuckled, laughed and nodded along on every step of Nina's journey. And it's not an easy journey as love interest Max isn't quite what she hoped he'd be with his good looks and prepackaged charm and we hope she doesn't fall hard when after two hours she "wants to touch his face which looked like it belonged to a Viking warrior". Her doting dad shows more and more signs of dementia, and her friendships drift as friends become consumed with kids, love and moving out to the 'burbs. Whatever decade you're in, this will serve as a witty warning, a reeling realisation or a magnificent memory and I can't recommend it enough. 

Star Books
little scratch

little scratch

Author: Rebecca Watson Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/01/2021

Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2021 little scratch tells the story of a day in the life of an unnamed woman, living in a lower-case world of demarcated fridge shelves and office politics; clock-watching and WhatsApp notifications. In a voice that is fiercely wry, touchingly delicate and increasingly neurotic, the protagonist relays what it takes to get through the quotidian detail of that single trajectory - from morning to night - while processing recent sexual violence. little scratch is about the coexistence of monotony with our waking, intelligent lives. It is a powerful evocation of how the external and internal aspects of our lives exist in a helix, and what it means to live out the course of a single day consumed by trauma. 

Impostor

Impostor

Author: LJ Ross Format: Audiobook Release Date: 31/10/2019

From the International Number 1 Bestselling Author of the DCI Ryan Mysteries. Impostor is the first instalment in Ross' brand new Dr Alex Gregory series, narrated by actor Hugh Dancy. After an elite criminal profiling unit is shut down amid a storm of scandal and mismanagement, only one person emerges unscathed. Forensic psychiatrist Doctor Alexander Gregory has a reputation for being able to step inside the darkest minds to uncover whatever secrets lie hidden there and, soon enough, he finds himself drawn into the murky world of murder investigation. In the beautiful hills of County Mayo, Ireland, a killer is on the loose. Panic has a stranglehold on its rural community and the Garda are running out of time. Gregory has sworn to follow a quiet life but, when the call comes, can he refuse to help their desperate search for justice? Murder and mystery are peppered with dark humour in this fast-paced thriller set amidst the spectacular Irish landscape. LJ Ross is a self-published literary sensation whose books have sold over 4 million copies in paperback, ebook and audio. We are proud to bring her work to libraries for the first time.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Witchfinder's Sister

The Witchfinder's Sister

Author: Beth Underdown Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/12/2017

Guardian: "A clever debut, with a slow burn of horror, sees the 17th-century witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins confronted by his fictional sister" Don't miss the world premiere of Beth Underdown's The Witchfinder's Sister! Playing at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch until 30 October 2021.

eBooks of the Month