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.

September 2021 Featured Books

Beautiful World, Where Are You

Beautiful World, Where Are You

Author: Sally Rooney Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/09/2021

One of literature’s brightest talents and most talked about authors of her generation, Sally Rooney follows up 2018 Waterstones Book of the Year and Costa Novel Award Winner Normal People with another sure-fire award winner. Once you get past the fact that Sally Rooney isn’t a lover of conventional punctuation (there are no speech marks in her work), you sink into this beautiful novel following the life and love, the trials and tribulations of four young Irish friends. Yet again you are gripped from the first page with her searingly honest observational prose and dialogue. Both first books Normal People and Conversations with Friends featured characters in late adolescence and early adulthood struggling through first relationships whilst starting to find their way in the world. Just four years after her debut, this is another twenty-first-century love story of sexual entanglements and love lives of two best friends on the eve of their thirties. Alice, a successful novelist who has moved to the Irish countryside following a breakdown meets Felix a warehouse worker with a troubled past, via Tinder. Her best friend Eileen is in Dublin, working for a literary magazine, working through a painful break up and still battling with the on-off “friends with benefits” relationship between her and one of their oldest friends Simon. Her compelling writing just grabs you and her way of investigating the complexity of relationships and dynamics is just so incisive. Whilst you feel they are “ordinary”, “normal” people, the beautiful dialogue is interspersed with long narratives on email between Eileen and Alice. So cleverly done, rhetorical and didactic and it really serves to getting you thinking about the current state of our social fabric, of society, our global challenges, day to day political helplessness and environmental collapse. And it gets you to thinking: beautiful world, where are you? Beautiful? Yes. Serious? Definitely. I loved it. Barriers and all. Magnum opus. Without a doubt.

Star Books
Bewilderment

Bewilderment

Author: Richard Powers Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/09/2021

Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old. His son Robin is funny, loving, and filled with plans. He thinks and feels deeply, adores animals, and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also on the verge of being expelled from third grade, for smashing his friend's face with a metal thermos. What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, while all the while fostering his son's desperate campaign to help save this one.

The Cat Who Saved Books

The Cat Who Saved Books

Author: Sosuke Natsukawa Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/09/2021

An absolute little treasure! After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro finds himself on an adventure with Tiger the talking cat, to help books that desperately need saving. This incredibly quirky and beautiful novel highlights the importance of books, friendship, and self-belief. The simplicity of the story highlights the warmth, the love, and the true power of books. It also encouraged me to explore my own relationship with books. Sosuke Natsukawa painted images straight into my thoughts, simple, clear, vividly bright, they still sit in my minds eye. A shout out to the translation by Louise Heal Kawai, as I felt as though I was reading the original Japanese version. If you, like me, think of books as being more than words on paper, if you talk to them and pat them, are moved by them and have thoughts altered by them, then I recommend The Cat Who Saved Books with my heart and soul. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make the perfect gift, either for you, or another book-lover in your life.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Black Reed Bay

Black Reed Bay

Author: Rod Reynolds Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

When Orenda Books decides to back an author, whether they write in - or are translated into - English, it’s wise to pay attention as they have an uncanny knack for finding and signing up writers of great quality in publishing’s busiest and most competitive genre. Rod Reynolds is no exception. Having gained plaudits aplenty for his excellent Charlie Yates 1940’s noir series; The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky, Reynolds then diverted to the brutal London-based stand-alone thriller, Blood Red City, and gained a long-listing for the CWA Steel Dagger for his troubles.  Pivoting ‘back to black’ with Black Reed Bay, Reynolds introduces us to his newest creation, Detective Casey “Big Case” Wray, through a superbly crafted contemporary who-why-how-dunnit.  Set in the fictitious Hampstead County - which bears a striking resemblance to Nassau County N.Y - on Long Island, with windswept Atlantic beaches and the cookie cutter beachfront McMansions of a comfortable community, each scene is imbued with a sense of location so real, you can feel the salt spray and neighbourly judgment sting your skin. On the face of it it’s a standard crime/thriller narrative: something bad happens and the police investigate. For some the female victim trope will rankle, but the story and cast are introduced with such nuance and style and then, credentials established, around the 100 page mark Reynolds moves up through the gears to deliver a beautifully paced, smartly plotted read that really delivers. And Wray? Well she is the real star of the story. Somewhere between Frances McDormand’s “Marge Gunderson” in Fargo and Helen Mirren as “Jane Tennison” in Prime Suspect; too good a human and too big hearted to be hard boiled, but à point cynical and with a great store of whip-crack one-liners. Mark these words, Reynolds is going to good places fast if he can repeat the magic of Black Reed Bay in his next few books. Join in and get reading, it’s going to be quite the journey.

Books of the Month
The Joy and Light Bus Company

The Joy and Light Bus Company

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Mma. Ramotswe may have a tiny white van that is kept on the road by her devoted husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, and not a tank, but when she parks it on your lawn, you know you’re in trouble. Not that this is a key part of this particular story, but it is a rare act of challenge to an unfortunate character that comes to Mma. Ramotswe’s attention as she ponders on the happiness of men, the lateness of her much loved father and J.L.B Matekoni’s troubling new foray into business development, with a company that echoes his initials. For No 1 fans, everything we love and adore about these stories is included, the value of quiet wisdom in a world of crass celebrity, the importance of good traditional cattle and of course plenty of tea and cake, as befits the reflectively minded and traditionally built. This pearl of story has some grit to it too, touching on issues of slavery, child labour and violent abuse, and is a superb new addition to the series, a beautifully crafted and elegantly told story of much loved characters doing what they have always done; their best in the circumstances and doing it with dignity, tolerance and understanding. Unless we’re talking about Violet Sephotho, of course, the shameless hussy of the tales, who here gets into a spot of bother with chocolate biscuits. McCall Smith is one of our most gifted and indeed prolific writers, as we know, but he is also that rarest of folk, a true storyteller of the first order who can transport us in fiction, time after time, to a land few of us will be fortunate enough to travel to in reality, a place of big skies, warm welcomes, and respect for your fellow humans.

Books of the Month
The Dragonfly Sea

The Dragonfly Sea

Author: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Sensuous, lyrical, and suffused in the natural world, especially a sense of the ebb and flow of the ocean, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s The Dragonfly Sea shimmers with passion, humanity, and quickening waves of history. And all this unfolds and undulates through tracing the journey of a young girl, Ayaana, forming a novel to take your time over, to luxuriate in and return to. It’s a rich banquet of beautiful words. Beginning on an Indian Ocean island in the Lamu Archipelago, off the coast of Kenya, fearless Ayaana and her mother live a kind of lonely, haunted existence. She has no father, nor a father figure, until a sailor comes into their lives. Without her mother’s approval, Muhidin becomes Ayaana’s friend and teacher. Her life reels and realigns in cycles, seeing her voyage to China with the promise of education and a different future. As her journey surges and ebbs, ebbs and surges, the author lays bare conflicts of the both personal and political kind (colonialism, radicalisation) with individuals and nations caught in the nets of global forces. Through loss and longing, there’s a sense of becoming whole again, finding refuge, and finding oneself.

Books of the Month
The Last Library

The Last Library

Author: Freya Sampson Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/09/2021

You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum - the beloved local librarian - passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village's memory of her mum. Instead, she's retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home. When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There's gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause? If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .

Edge of the Grave

Edge of the Grave

Author: Robbie Morrison Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Shortlisted for The Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2021 Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2021 and the HWA Debut Crown 2021  Glasgow, 1932. When the son-in-law of one of the city's wealthiest shipbuilders is found floating in the River Clyde with his throat cut, it falls to Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn to lead the murder case - despite sharing a troubled history with the victim's widow, Isla Lockhart. From the flying fists and flashing blades of Glasgow's gangland underworld, to the backstabbing upper echelons of government and big business, Dreghorn and his partner 'Bonnie' Archie McDaid will have to dig deep into Glasgow society to find out who wanted the man dead and why. All the while, a sadistic murderer stalks the post-war city leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. As the case deepens, will Dreghorn find the killer - or lose his own life in the process? Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison is a dark historical crime novel set in Glasgow, 1932. A city still recovering from the Great War; split by religious division and swarming with razor gangs. For fans of William McIlvanney's Laidlaw, Denise Mina and Philip Kerr.

A Slow Fire Burning

A Slow Fire Burning

Author: Paula Hawkins Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/08/2021

Subtle and smart yet intense and thrilling, this story builds with each turn revealing another set of steps in front of you. Within a corner of London a murder sets questions hunting through secrets and the past. I was caught sleeping at the start and was given a huge shove, from that moment on my attention didn’t waver. This is all about the characters, yet the beautifully intricate plot more than holds its own. What Paula Hawkins does so successfully, is to allow you to see the inner being of people, the shadows that dwell within, without ever losing connection with their humanity. Every person in this story feels authentic, relatable, and that dreaded word, normal. It made me question what I would do in the same circumstances, could this in fact, be me. Oh, and just as an aside, great map! A Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, A Slow Fire Burning wanders through the everyday, before reaching under the surface and pulling out darkness.

Star Books
Circles a Clover

Circles a Clover

Author: Michael Egan Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/08/2021

Egan’s finely tuned skill as a storyteller seduces you. Right from the opening chapter he sets up a delicious, nerve-tingling sense of foreboding, with references that range from Game of Thrones and mushroom clouds to Afghanistan, Iraq and the impending end of the world. He doesn’t so much hook you into his imagined world, as gently caress a net around you, coaxing you onto each page after the next. And what a story he tells.  Plucky, thoughtful Kyle Halfpenny, year 11,  lives with her Dad who is either a mad drunk or prescient seer. She sees bigger pictures and small details and has views, thoughts and fears that all speak of a profound understanding and compassion for the lot of those in her world.  She communes with foxes, mourns for a lasagne that had ”shrunk in on itself, like it was trying to hide from it’s own failings” and through the absence of her mother and missing her brother, she cares for her Dad, a lasagne made mortal, who seeks sanctuary with Kyle on a island imbued with history, overrun by rabbits and the home of hope. This is a one hell of a read, for YA readers as much as for the intended adult audience. It is a cautionary tale of the corrosive effect on life of unfettered fear, the acid that eats joy. It is a sad and lyrical hymn to our responsibilities to ourselves and to each other. And, with its exquisite, magical, story-within-a story, it is an enchanting fable about the gritty beauty of life and of all lives. Unless you’re a rabbit.

Men Don't Cry

Men Don't Cry

Author: Faiza Guene Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/08/2021

Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry is an absolute triumph - wise, funny, enthralling, thought-provoking. At its heart, the novel explores the age-old (and sharply pertinent) pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case generational and family conflict between Algeria and France. It’s an incredibly powerful commentary on a very real conflict in contemporary France, perfectly summarised when the novel’s protagonist comments that “to be fully French you have to deny part of your heritage, part of your identity, part of your history, part of your beliefs, and yet when you succeed in achieving all that, you’re still reminded of your origins…So what’s the point?” Men Don’t Cry is also a superb coming-of-age story that sees an awkward young man, Mourad, find his feet, and his voice. He was born in Nice to Algerian parents, the youngest of three children. His eldest sister Dounia, a devoted feminist, leaves home without looking back, while his middle sister marries, has kids, and is happy. Mourad is between the two - neither desperate to leave home, nor especially looking to settle down. He’s insular, doesn’t have many friends, so he’s there when his dad has a hugely debilitating stroke. He’s there when his hypochondriac mum needs to vent (which she does a lot, about anything and everything, to comic and poignant effect). But then the time comes for Mourad to leave home too - he has a teaching job in Paris. A few weeks into his new post, he reconnects with Dounia, now a public figure feminist activist who’s stepped onto the political ladder. Her interviews in high profile publications and the book she writes about her upbringing and experiences rile Mourad. For example, she describes their dad as “authoritarian, change-averse, illiterate.” But, nevertheless, it’s Mourad who bridges the chasm between Dounia and the rest of the family, not least at the unexpected, heartrending end of this remarkable novel. Mourad’s voice is engrossing, and feels unfailingly authentic. On that note, deep appreciation must go to the novel’s award-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone - rendering Mourad’s voice so dazzingly into English, is a tremendous achievement. The result is a novel that reads like a dream - vibrant, nuanced, thought-provoking, funny, and shot-through with Mourad’s wit.

Star Books
The Silence of Scheherazade

The Silence of Scheherazade

Author: Defne Suman Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Taking in the cultural complexities of the Ottoman Empire through the compelling, criss-crossing stories of Levantine, Greek, Turkish and Armenian characters, Defne Suman’s The Silence of Scheherazade is an astounding feat of historical fiction - tremendously ambitious, and dazzlingly realised through the author’s exquisitely-threaded plotting and lush storytelling. It’s September, 1905, and one moment seals the fates of four very different families. This is the moment Scheherazade is born in cosmopolitan Smyrna to a mother numbed by opium. Though her namesake is the legendary storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, she’s mute. A silent girl who grows up to bear witness to the brutality that eventually besets her city - the death and destruction, the expulsion of communities, the impending outbreak of WWI, and the burning. The magic of the city is dazzlingly evoked and intertwined with both the socio-political context and the very moving, very personal stories of this novel’s vast cast of characters. This is a novel to savour, to be dazzled by, to learn from, and reflect on. It invites utter immersion. The LoveReading LitFest invited Defne to the festival to talk about The Silence of Scheherazade. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Defne in conversation with Deborah Maclaren and find out why this is such a sumptuous tour de force of a book that everyone needs to read. Check out a preview of the event here.

Audiobooks of the Month
History

History

Author: Miles Jupp Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

History, the first novel from actor, comedian and writer Miles Jupp (you’ll know him from his roles in Balamory and The Durrells, and appearances on popular comedy panel shows like Would I Lie To You?) is a funny, moving tale of modern family life and a man in the throes of midlife unravelling. Clive is a history teacher at a private school - he moved from a comprehensive as a result of his wife wanting a more rural life for them and their two daughters. Feeling increasingly stifled by school, and generally let down by life, Clive suggests they take a half-term holiday to France just as an incident at school throws his integrity into question. Their break turns out to be anything but the tonic Clive had sought for his well-being (and his marriage). It’s peppered with funny farcical moments - torrential rain followed by sun-burn; incidents with cars and a painful bike-ride accident - and on their return, Clive is more aware than ever of the need to change how he deals with life, and his actual life, for that matter. Underpinned by poignant realisations, Clive’s story has authentic, funny charm. If you’re aware of the author’s TV and radio persona, you’ll hear him narrating Clive’s character - a blend of hesitant, bumbling action and a realistic voice that’s both assured and endearingly rambling. Oh, and the ending is entirely surprising and leaves one desperate to know what Clive is about to do, and what path his life takes a little further down the road.

Debut Books of the Month
Land of Big Numbers

Land of Big Numbers

Author: Te-Ping Chen Format: Audiobook Release Date: 19/08/2021

A dazzling debut collection which, deftly and urgently, tells the stories of those living in the biggest and most complicated country on earth. A brother competes for gaming glory while his twin sister exposes the dark side of the Communist government on her underground blog; a worker at a government call centre is alarmed one day to find herself speaking to a former lover; a delicious new fruit arrives at the neighbourhood market and the locals find it starts to affect their lives in ways they could never have imagined; and a young woman's dreams of making it big in Shanghai are stalled when she finds herself working as a florist. These are just some of the myriad lives to be evoked in The Land of Big Numbers, a collection of stories which - sometimes playfully, sometimes darkly - draws back the curtain on the realities of modern China and unveils a cast of characters as rich and complicated as any in world literature. With virtuosic brilliance, Te-ping Chen sheds light on a country much talked about but little understood and announces the birth of a bright new star in the literary firmament. 

Audiobooks of the Month
The Ex-Husband

The Ex-Husband

Author: Karen Hamilton Format: Ebook Release Date: 19/08/2021

Charlotte and Sam were partners. In life, and in crime. They never stole from anyone who couldn't afford it. Wealthy clients, luxury cruise ships. It was easy money, and harmless. At least, that's what Charlotte told herself, until the world caved in on her. But now, years after she tried to put that past life behind her, it comes rushing back when her estranged ex-husband Sam suddenly goes missing - and someone threatens to expose what they did. Desperate to escape whoever is tormenting her, Charlotte takes a job as events planner for an engagement party onboard a superyacht in the Caribbean. For a while, her plan seems to have worked, nothing but open ocean and clear skies ahead. Until it becomes clear that she's no longer a thousand miles away from harm. Because whoever is behind it all is onboard too. And now there's nowhere left to run.

eBooks of the Month
That Summer in Nautilus Cove

That Summer in Nautilus Cove

Author: Julie Holland Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/04/2021

What a transportive read ‘That Summer on Nautilus Cove’ by Julie Holland is. Mixing summer and festive vibes, I think that this is a relationship story to be enjoyed in all seasons. Marnie Fawkner heads from Melbourne to Queensland to house sit for her sister, divorced and unemployed Marnie is at a crossroads and the time in Nautilus Cove will give her the seaside break she needs. Once there, Marnie becomes involved with the community and her sister’s business, but with her stay there only supposed to be temporary and plenty of troubles still waiting for her in Melbourne, will there be an opportunity for a fresh start? This is a really sweet and entertaining relationship story that reminded me of Carole Matthews. Marnie is lovable although frustrating in her attempts at self-sabotage and I was invested in seeing what would happen to her throughout the book. Interweaving family dynamics of a divorce, grown up children and new relationships, I feel that this is a nice and romantic story that will have broad appeal across the age ranges. A slice of sunshine with a side of feel-good that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and would highly recommend. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
Then a Wind Blew

Then a Wind Blew

Author: Kay Powell Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/01/2021

Kay Powell’s Then a Wind Blew is at once atmospheric, lyrical, poignant and enlightening, made all the more engaging by the distinct and captivating voices of the three woman whose lives and experiences it lays bare, during the final months of brutal war in Rhodesia, ahead of it becoming Zimbabwe. Throughout, personal details and circumstances are finely enmeshed with historic and political contexts, with the gripping, smoothly-paced story suffused in the author’s clear love for the country. The three women we meet in these pages could hardly be more different, yet the war entwines their lives, and through them we encounter a rich, rounded range of experiences. White Rhodesian settler Susan has lost a son in the war, while Beth is a missionary nun on an African Reserve. Then there’s Nyanye, a freedom fighter who’s fled to a guerrilla camp in Mozambique in the wake of her village being destroyed. Offering lesser-seen insights into women’s direct experiences of war, this book is both deeply personal and universal, showing - ultimately - how we are linked by common bonds in the most horrific, divisive of circumstances. If you read and enjoy this, you’d do well to check out other works published by Weaver Press, an independent Zimbabwean publisher that works closely with NGOs in the fields of arts, culture, development and human rights.

Darcy Lane

Darcy Lane

Author: James T. Graham Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/10/2020

Elise Rose lives with her mother and one night whilst sitting on her bed reading, she hears raised voices. These noises pull her out of her room and so she witnesses a horrific and violent altercation between her mum and a drunk man. Move forward and after a period away, Elise is now living with her grandad, while helping run his shop. You get the impression that Elise is very uncomfortable with her life and where she lives, and because of this she stumbles across a house in Darcy Lane. She spends many hours thinking about the house, drawing pictures and dreaming of all the improvements she would make if the house was hers. Back in real life, Elise meets someone who has ties to the past and soon becomes entangled in his life. He gives her the means by which to improve her standing and fulfil her dreams. However, he is not all that he seems, and Elise learns this in a horrific manner.  Life turns full circle for Elise, but by the end of the book you feel that she is now settled and is hopeful for her future. This is not the usual sort of book that I would read. However, I really enjoyed it and it gave me a few things to think about, even after I had read the final page. Gail Phillips, A LoveReading Ambassador

What We Find

What We Find

Author: Robyn Carr Format: Audiobook Release Date: 05/04/2016

Join Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Virgin River and Thunder Point series, as she explores the healing powers of rural Colorado in a brand-new story of fresh starts, budding relationships and one woman's journey to finding the happiness she's long been missing Between the urban bustle of Denver and the high-stress environment of a career in neurosurgery, Maggie Sullivan has hit a wall. When an emergency high-risk procedure results in the death of a teenager, Maggie finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit-and experiencing levels of anxiety she's never faced before. She knows she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can think to do that is Sullivan's Crossing. Named for Maggie's great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide Trails have been passed down through the generations and now belong to Maggie's eccentric father, Sully. When she shows up unannounced, he welcomes her with open arms, and she relishes the opportunity to indulge in his simple way of life. But shortly after arriving, Maggie's world is rocked once again and she must take on more responsibility than she'd planned. Though she's relieved a quiet and serious-looking hiker, Cal Jones, is willing to lend a hand, Maggie is suspicious of this mysterious man's eagerness to help-until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation. Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon.if only they can learn to find peace and healing-and perhaps love-with each other.

Audiobooks of the Month

August 2021 Featured Books

Afterparties

Afterparties

Author: Anthony Veasna So Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties is a box of fireworks that crackles with characterful portraits of California’s Cambodian immigrant community, and with bittersweet, universally resonant observations and truths. Perfectly-formed, with wham-bam impact, each and every short story in this anthology gets to the heart of what makes us strive to live our version of a good life through its sharp exposition of distinct - and distinctly memorable - characters and circumstances. The stories typically teeter on that heady hi-wire between the absurd and the poignant, as in Superking Son Scores Again in which a grocery store owner and badminton coach experiences a downfall to rival that of any Shakespearean tragicomic hero. Then there are characters grappling with their identities as the children of Cambodian refugees, and with the weighty legacy of the Khmer Rouge genocide. By turns gritty and wildly funny, poignant and thought-provoking (and often all of these at once), Afterparties is an exceptional collection.

eBooks of the Month
No Honour

No Honour

Author: Awais Khan Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Centred on a young woman who strikes free from the misogynistic confines and culture of her small Pakistani village, Awais Kahn’s No Honour tells a brutally honest story of courage, strength and father-daughter bonds in searingly clear style. The novel’s shockingly arresting opening sets the tone and themes in no uncertain terms as it recounts a brutal scene in which an unmarried young woman’s new-born is snatched from her before she’s subjected to public horrors. When it looks like sixteen-year-old Abida might face a similar fate, she’s driven to flee her small village for the city of Lahore, aided by her forward-thinking father, Jamil. When she vanishes, Jamil is compelled to go after her, leading to an entanglement of love, corruption and a lethal conflict between age-old practices and integrity, with a sense of place vividly evoked through the escalating pace. Exposing disparities between rich and poor, and the corruption of people in public office as it also exposes the plight of women, this wends to a tense end, driven by Abida’s indomitable spirit of survival. 

eBooks of the Month
The Origins of Iris

The Origins of Iris

Author: Beth Lewis Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Gosh, this original and thought-spinningly intricate yet quietly simple read speared my emotions. I found myself utterly consumed by The Origins of Iris and absolutely adored every word. When Iris leaves her abusive wife for the wilds of the mountains, she quite literally finds herself when she comes face to face with another version of Iris. Being described by Hodder Studio as Wild meets Sliding Doors was an immediate hook for me, yet there is so, so much more on offer here. Love of course isn’t simple, it can be complex, cruel, even dangerous, and as this novel allowed me access to the layers of emotions within Iris, it entered my inner thoughts too. Beth Lewis skirts the obvious to open unrecognised pathways, she gradually opens up the story and sets information free. Goosebumps skittered down my arms as I felt understanding enter my awareness. I love the way you’re left to explore the complexities, I didn’t question, just let myself and my feelings go. Come the end, the fascinating, wonderful end, I didn’t make a decision as to exactly where I had travelled, I just knew that I had. Delving deeply into what it is to be human, The Origins of Iris is a truly unique and wonderful read.

Star Books
The Book of Two Ways

The Book of Two Ways

Author: Jodi Picoult Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Who would you be, if you hadn't turned out to be the person you are now? Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully. But when the plane she's on plummets, she finds herself thinking not of the perfect life she has, but the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago - when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved. Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to - but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain. As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she's never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us? Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Patience

Patience

Author: Victoria Scott Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

This poignant page-turner switches between the four members of the Willows family - a sixty-something couple and their two daughters, one of whom, 38-year-old Take That fan Patience, has Rett syndrome, a progressive genetic neurodevelopmental disorder that almost exclusively affects females. While she can’t speak or move, Patience is incredibly perceptive. She takes everything in and knows everyone’s secrets. She’s wryly funny too, remarking to herself that, “I’m still lying here, like Miss Havisham’s mouldering wedding cake, at least ten years after I should have left.” Former nurse Louise has devoted her life to Patience and understands her daughter better than anyone. Meanwhile, Patience’s 36-year-old sister Eliza is in denial about being dumped by her fiancé, while Dad Pete works overseas most of the time. Then comes a ray of hope, in Louise’s eyes at least. She takes on a job with a leading Rett syndrome consultant, essentially so Patience can be part of his potentially ground-breaking gene therapy trial. While Professor Larssen thinks the therapy could reverse the syndrome’s symptoms, Pete is vehemently against Patience’s participation - he thinks the risks are too great.  Despite the dangers, they go ahead, and the story accelerates to an emotional, edge-of-your-seat ending, underpinned by a fine exposition of how humans weather the worst of life’s storms to cope with the unexpected hands we are dealt.

Debut Books of the Month
Looking for the Durrells

Looking for the Durrells

Author: Melanie Hewitt Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

The Durrell family and their writings have been a source of wonder and inspiration to book illustrator, Penny, since her Father read Gerald Durrell’s “Corfu trilogy” to, and with, her when she was young.  Now an enduring bond between them as his life nears its end, when the dread day comes, Penny, grieving and needing time and space, embarks on the promise that she and her dad couldn’t fulfil together, a Durrells’ pilgrimage. Suffused throughout with the scent of flowers, lemon and garlic and the dual salves of sunshine and sea, Hewitt’s tale weaves the lives of fishermen, restaurateurs, holiday company representatives and more into a loving nurturing community, offering a balm to Penny’s spirits. Each character so perfectly drawn and credible, that you feel you know them, might even have actually met them. At heart this is a story of belonging, proof of the Edna Buchanan phrase that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Penny’s quest for the Durrells’ various homes and the restaurants they ate in, slowly revealing that while she can’t live their lives, she can and should live hers and live it well. There ought to be a better word for the way sunlight sparkles so brilliantly on the sea, thought “glisters”, as a conflation of “glistens” and “glitters”, gets close, and this book does exactly that, shining calmly and thoughtfully from beginning to end. This is such a enchanting, uplifting story of love for Corfu, for Corfiots and for life rediscovered, that one wonders why Hewitt has waited to debut.  That she has done so with such a perfect story, written with charm, insight and an utterly captivating sense of humane sensitivity, augurs well for future novels. And yes, tissues are advised while reading, there may be tears!

Books of the Month
All My Mothers

All My Mothers

Author: Joanna Glen Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

What a truly special book this is, thoughtful, refreshing and comforting, this novel has entered my heart and soul. From a young age Eva has questions about who she is and where she has come from. As she grows up, alters and changes, the questions remain and she begins to find answers. I adored Joanna Glen’s debut, The Other Half of August Hope which hurtled straight into our LoveReading Star Books collection, and this, this is just as memorable, just as beautiful, and firmly cements this author as one I will be looking out for. Eva has the most honest and contemplative voice, her voice is so individual that you can hear her, even feel her as she speaks. Even the smallest of her small thoughts planted seeds which rooted, grew, divided, and she entered my awareness and took up residence. Joanna Glen has a real gift, she is able to go beyond the surface of things to find the unfamiliar and make it feel like home. I love it when a book provokes new thoughts and feelings, and that is exactly what All My Mothers does. It also joins the LoveReading Star Book list, and becomes one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. Congratulations to Joanna Glen, All My Mothers balances fear and wonder, loneliness and belonging, despair and elation, it is a true joy to read.  

Star Books
Little Women

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2021

Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this new gift edition of Little Women features embossed gold foiling, coloured endpapers and attractive bespoke cover illustrations. If you’ve yet to read this classic, now’s your chance to enjoy a stunning edition at an attractive price. Once encountered, either on the page, or on-screen, the four New Englander March sisters are never forgotten, and between them they represent all kinds of young women, with vastly different personalities, outlooks and dreams. The eldest, Meg, aspires to be a fine-living lady, while fifteen-year-old tomboy Jo dreams of being a writer. Then there’s sensitive music-lover Beth, and Amy, the baby of the family who they all indulge. Though rich in period detail, the sisters’ story resonates still.

Little Women

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2021

Part of Wordsworth’s Exclusive Collection (a series of 15 classics for all ages), this new gift edition of Little Women features embossed gold foiling, coloured endpapers and attractive bespoke cover illustrations. If you’ve yet to read this classic, now’s your chance to enjoy a stunning edition at an attractive price. Once encountered, either on the page, or on-screen, the four New Englander March sisters are never forgotten, and between them they represent all kinds of young women, with vastly different personalities, outlooks and dreams. The eldest, Meg, aspires to be a fine-living lady, while fifteen-year-old tomboy Jo dreams of being a writer. Then there’s sensitive music-lover Beth, and Amy, the baby of the family who they all indulge. Though rich in period detail, the sisters’ story resonates still.

Nine Lives

Nine Lives

Author: Danielle Steel Format: Audiobook Release Date: 08/07/2021

Nine Lives is a thought-provoking story of lost love and new beginnings, by the number one bestseller Danielle Steel. After a carefree childhood, Maggie Kelly came of age in the shadow of grief. Her father, a pilot, died when she was nine. Maggie saw her mother struggle to put their lives back together. As the family moved from one city to the next, her mother warned her about daredevil men and to avoid risk at all cost. Following her mother's advice, and forgoing the magic of first love with a high-school boyfriend who she thought too wild, Maggie married a good, dependable man. Together they had a son and found happiness in a conventional suburban life - until tragedy struck again. Now on her own, feeling a sense of adventure for the first time, Maggie decides to face her fears, setting off on a whirlwind trip from the US to Rome, Paris, London and Monaco. But when her travels reconnect her with the irresistible, thrill-seeking man she's spent thirty years trying to forget, Maggie is terrified that rushing into love and sharing his life may end in disaster. But while Maggie tries to outrun her fears and painful memories, fate will surprise her in the most astounding of ways, as she walks the tightrope between danger and courage, and between wisdom and love.

Audiobooks of the Month
A Different Kind of Happy

A Different Kind of Happy

Author: Rachaele Hambleton Format: Audiobook Release Date: 08/07/2021

Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. Jo said goodbye to peace and quiet when she got pregnant at 19, but now she has a chance to hit refresh. A partner she loves, five amazing kids and a house by the sea. But life is never simple and there is more than a little emotional baggage coming along for the ride. Starting with that tw*t of an ex-husband who doesn't pull his weight. Then there's the untrained puppy, the work/life balance, a custody battle for the children and all the everyday ups and downs and chaos of being a patchwork family. Surrounded by family dramas and mums who seem to have all their sh*t together, Jo must find a way to make friends and make it work in this new town. Barbecues on the beach and dog walks open up new conversations, but as Jo gets to know everyone better, the picture perfect families might be in need of more help than she first thought... When normal is not an option, surprises can lead to a different kind of happy family.

Audiobooks of the Month
Yours Cheerfully

Yours Cheerfully

Author: A. J. Pearce Format: Audiobook Release Date: 24/06/2021

London, September, 1941. Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It. When the Ministry of Information calls on Britain’s women’s magazines to help recruit desperately needed female workers to the war effort, Emmy is thrilled to be asked to step up and help. But when she and Bunty meet a young woman who shows them the very real challenges that women war workers face, Emmy must tackle a life-changing dilemma between doing her duty, and standing by her friends. Every bit as funny, touching and cheering as AJ Pearce's debut, Dear Mrs Bird, Yours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up, even in the most challenging times.

Audiobooks of the Month
Unbury Our Dead with Song

Unbury Our Dead with Song

Author: Mukoma Wa Ngugi Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/06/2021

Setting out its stunning stall as “the story of how a Tizita musician stopped the Ethiopian-Eritrean war”, Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s Unbury Our Dead with Song casts a uniquely beguiling spell. Its narrator, tabloid journalist John Thandi Manfredi, has an engaging, down-to-earth style that shifts as he himself falls under the spell of tizita - usually translated as ‘nostalgia’, or ‘longing’, tizita is form of bluesy, folksy ballad music from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Through Manfredi we meet four musicians - The Diva, The Taliban Man, The Corporal and septuagenarian bartender Miriam - who are in Nairobi, Kenya, competing to be hailed the best tizita performer. Their music has Manfredi in their thrall, to the extent that he journeys to Ethiopia to discover more about them. During their meetings, Manfredi uncovers raw truths and secrets about each artist, and through them he learns to read the layers of life and longing he’s heard (and felt) in tizita performances: “I knew enough about telling stories - they were also about the storyteller,” he says. In this case, the four musicians have very different stories to tell - hugely different histories and longings - as imparted through their performances. Propelled by a subtly mounting sense of mystery and discovery to a stirring tizita soundtrack that plays out in your head, this captures the indefinable, almost magical, power of music and art to inspire awe - which is exactly what this novel does with sweeping verve.

eBooks of the Month
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

July 2021 Featured Books

The Girl in the Mirror

The Girl in the Mirror

Author: Rose Carlyle Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

A hugely entertaining and thrilling debut that feels as though a blockbuster film is playing out in front of you. Twin sisters Iris and Summer may look identical, but their personalities are a world apart. When Summer asks Iris for help sailing their yacht across the Indian Ocean, Iris has the opportunity to create the life she has always envied her sister. Oh my, where to start! Well, this would make the perfect summer read, as you gallop through, just remember to savour the journey. Rose Carlyle has created a thriller that sits right on the edge of unbelievable. She takes you into secrets and lies, and throws in a humdinger of a plot. As Iris revealed her story, as the tension increased, I found my feelings hesitating, then changing. Iris has the most distinct voice, she is brutally honest, and allows access to the thoughts most wouldn’t allow to surface. As such, she isn’t always likeable, but boy is she captivating. The setting is vibrant, the family drama is dramatic, in other words The Girl in the Mirror is a vivid and entirely stimulating read. 

Debut Books of the Month
The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers

The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers

Author: Emily Critchley Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/07/2021

Though The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers is Emily Critchley’s debut novel for adult readers (Notes on My Family was her widely acclaimed debut for young adults), it’s an accomplished, powerful, mesmerising story that explores a seventeen-year-old’s embroilment in an abusive relationship with an older man. Shifting between two timelines, it’s also a potent coming-of-age novel, and a fascinating portrait of a mother-daughter bond. The steady, measured style coupled with the present tense immediacy creates tremendous tension. There’s a sense that something is simmering. In Nell’s past, which we enter in 1983, she and her artist mother Alice move from London to her deceased Grandma’s rural cottage. Everything is new and different, not least because this is the first time Nell attends school, where she experiences a succession of awakenings as her world opens up. Here she realises that not everyone is the same, that boy and girls are “very different.”  After a nasty falling out with the group of wealthy, sneaky girls she’s fallen with, Nell experiences the worst of school relationships: “Girls sneak up on one another with whispered words and turned shoulders. Girls work slowly, stripping away the thin layers of self-esteem.” And then, after her harrowing first experience of sex, Nell loses all hope for her future, concluding that “her life is no different to anyone else’s and she hates herself for ever thinking it might be.” The narrative shifts back and forth between Nell’s school days and 2003. At 17, she’s moved to Brighton vaguely hoping to start a new life. She’s still bookish and thoughtful, but has never found her way. Her life here begins in a bookshop, for she “needs somewhere safe to think about what comes next, to reflect on her first night in the city.” She starts dating Scott, who’s more than ten years her senior, and it’s not long before instances of coercive control escalate. Worse follows. Much worse. And though Nell is aware that “there was something wrong with her life, she had no idea how to change it.” Reaching out to her mother helps, though, and light and hope glimmers through the fog of Nell’s life as a young adult.

A Passage North

A Passage North

Author: Anuk Arudpragasam Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/07/2021

It begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother's former care-giver, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances, at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an activist he fell in love with four years earlier while living in Delhi, bringing with it the stirring of distant memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for the funeral, so begins a passage into the soul of an island devastated by violence. Written with precision and grace, A Passage North is a poignant memorial for the missing and the dead, and a luminous meditation on time, consciousness, and the lasting imprint of the connections we make with others.

Taking Flight

Taking Flight

Author: JT Torres Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

A gorgeously simple yet heartbreakingly complex debut that strays into magic realism and explores the meaning of family. Tito and his grandmother probe the magic of family bonds, as they grow older, their struggle to keep loved ones close takes its toll. Fairlight Moderns are little gems of books, small and compact, beautiful inside and out, each story packs a punch. J T Torres writes with a compassionate and thoughtful yet penetrating and provocative pen. A chain reaction of emotions ran through me as I joined Tito and his Nana and echoes of Cuba slid into Florida and Alaska. It feels as though the magic of Taking Flight will release a totally different experience to each person who steps between the pages. While readers always take a part of themselves into a book, here that piece of me stayed within it. With a devastating delicacy, Taking Flight delves into the intricate complexities of family, migration, and mental health and has been chosen as one of our Debuts of the Month.

Debut Books of the Month
Would I Lie to You?

Would I Lie to You?

Author: Aliya Ali-Afzal Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Amusing yet poignant, uplifting yet sharply pointed, this is a very contemporary look at a woman spiralling out of control in an effort to keep up appearances. When Tom is made redundant and says the family will have to live off of their savings until he gets a new job, Faiza panics, she has secretly spent all of their money and is determined that Tom won’t find out. Faiza is warm and engaging, I felt as though I was sitting by her side and she was telling me her story. While there were times I winced and was frustrated by her actions, I also cheered her on and if I could, would have given her the hugest of huge hugs. A truly exquisite balance is maintained throughout this novel, Aliya Alif-Afzal writes with wit, perception, and emotional integrity. While sitting as a wonderfully readable and entertaining novel, this is a smart take on some of the problems faced in our society. Would I Lie To You is an engaging and moving debut, it’s also a little bit feisty, I loved it!  The LoveReading LitFest invited Aliya to the festival to talk about this fabulous debut. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Aliya in conversation with Deborah Maclaren and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here

Debut Books of the Month
Woman of a Certain Rage

Woman of a Certain Rage

Author: Georgie Hall Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

The most wonderful, funny, and engaging novel, Woman of a Certain Rage simply danced into my hands and I read with true glee. Eliza has hit middle age and the menopause, as she navigates all that her hormones throw at her, can she rediscover the joys of her youth? I wanted to wriggle with excitement when I heard that this was Fiona Walker taking a writing step in a new direction as Georgie Hall. I completely understand why she is using a different name, as she says on her site: “I don’t want to mislead readers into expecting a big-cast Walker romp”. I genuinely feel as though I have been waiting for this novel, she takes the menopause years and runs with it, with laughter, warmth, and most of all empathy. She explores family life with teens and parents while maintaining a career, a relationship and home-life while the menopause is on the rampage. She made me snort with laughter on a number of occasions, and I frequently exclaimed as I recognised and related with different scenarios. While the midlife years and all the trials and tribulations that come with it sit centre stage, this is a book that can be read right through the age groups. All hail Georgie Hall as she uncovers the menopause with wit and honesty, excuse me while I find a few rooftops to camp out and shout from. Beautifully readable and laugh-out-loud funny, Woman of a Certain Rage is a LoveReading Star Book with attitude.

Star Books
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Author: Emily Austin Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Our July 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This deliciously quirky, amusing and sharply-pointed debut novel slowly wormed its way into my heart and soul. Anxiety is plaguing Gilda, who also has death on her mind, she unexpectedly finds herself in a new job, fending off unwanted attention from men while keeping her girlfriend secret, and investigating a suspicious death. Emily Austin writes with such honesty and empathy, I found her words burrowed their way into my mind before reaching beyond thought, to feelings. It took me a while to get to know and warm to Gilda, she borders on awkward as she tells her story. I gradually found myself getting closer and closer to this fragile yet thoughtful and beautiful woman. The plot weaves a unique magic as it ranges from mystery to family drama to relationship story. The humour is pithy and smart, the observations can sting yet are compassionate, and the descriptions simply sing. I really have fallen in love with this book, and can’t wait to see what comes next from Emily Austin, she is a writer I will be looking out for. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a compelling, provocative, and beautiful LoveReading Star Book. 

Star Books
Build Your House Around My Body

Build Your House Around My Body

Author: Violet Kupersmith Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Though complex, subtle, and rich in history and myth, Violet Kupersmith's Build Your House Around My Body makes an instantly potent impression. Her writing is at once measured and vivid, infused with the elemental power of Vietnamese folklore, and with the histories, fates and desires of its protagonists. Following the lives of two fearless women who both went missing (though decades apart - one in 1986, the other in 2011), and who both seek revenge, Build Your House Around My Body is hauntingly poetic, playful, and a puzzle, of sorts. A multi-layered Russian doll of a story with magic realist elements - ghosts, time travel, snake monsters. Indeed, the whole novel might be described as a coiled serpent that spirals and springs when you least expect it. Despite their very different backgrounds, the women are bound by the past, and by ancestors and ghosts. It’s a mystery, a mythic epic, a slippery history that defies classification, and I loved it.

Star Books
Everyone Is Still Alive

Everyone Is Still Alive

Author: Cathy Rentzenbrink Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Modern life, the real and vibrantly emotional side of modern life, is on show in this truly lovely and big-hearted novel that I simply adored. A small London community sits centre stage as the residents move about their business and inside and out of each others homes. While the focus remains on Juliet, Liam and their son Charlie, this is a wider look at navigating family and friendships. Everyone is Still Alive is bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink's first novel, and what an eloquently beautiful read it is. The setting is a relatively affluent suburban street that welcomes you in and feels like home. With huge compassion, themes concentrate on the more difficult side of life in our modern world, including grief, anxiety, and envy. I also walked with humour, encouragement and affection, and balanced that exquisite tightrope of emotions that people experience each day. This wonderful novel feels like a celebration, a hand held out in support and in love, and I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. Powerful yet gently soothing, Everyone is Still Alive is a novel that gives a warm embrace as it slips into emotions and makes them sing.   

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Here is the Beehive

Here is the Beehive

Author: Sarah Crossan Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Ana and Connor have been having an affair for three years. In hotel rooms and coffee shops, swiftly deleted texts and briefly snatched weekends, they have built a world with none but the two of them in it. But then the unimaginable happens, and Ana finds herself alone, trapped inside her secret. How can we lose someone the world never knew was ours? How do we grieve for something no one else can ever find out? In her desperate bid for answers, Ana seeks out the shadowy figure who has always stood just beyond her reach - Connor's wife Rebecca. Peeling away the layers of two overlapping marriages, Here is the Beehive is a devastating excavation of risk, obsession and loss.

Star Books
Tomorrow

Tomorrow

Author: Chris Beckett Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/07/2021

Clever, compelling and kaleidoscopic, Chris Beckett’s multi-time-framed Tomorrow explores the elusiveness of finding meaning and fulfilment, though it defies reduction to a simple “this story is about...” description. Focussed on a novelist, the novel shifts in time and settings, from middle-class discussions of social justice in the city, to their retreat to a remote riverside Eden to write “the real book”. The hope this will happen is “the only handle I have on being me,” the writer confesses. After authoring several novels and a successful memoir about their experience of being held captive by revolutionaries, they dread the thought of returning to the city not having done so, though a friend worries they’re “chasing a mirage”. Another of the novel’s themes is how we construct barriers to implementing our long-held plans so we never try, and therefore never fail. The narrative skips to the writer’s period in captivity, and to a perilous journey of escape through a jungle dripping with dangerous, outlandish creatures and plants, with plenty of wry musings on literature along the way, such as the “distinction between stories that make you feel more alive and stories that just pass the time by tapping, like a fruit machine does, into your infantile need for resolution.” Thought-provoking, and slotting together like a brilliantly devised puzzle, Tomorrow falls firmly into the former camp.

The Disaster Tourist

The Disaster Tourist

Author: Yun Ko-Eun Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist is a triumph of originality and slick, satirical style. It’s a richly wry, cuttingly dark comedy that shines a light on the absurdities (and ethical dubiousness) of certain tourism practices, and on modern life more generally, with its understated lyricism packing poignant punch. Through Yona, we certainly see the bizarreness of the world we live in. A world in which a thirty-three-year-old woman works for a travel company that specialises in disaster tourism package holidays. To compensate Yona for being sexually harassed by him, her boss allows her to take a break on one of the trips they’re thinking of axing. What a deal! What a way to deal with harassment! Yona goes on the trip to the remote Vietnamese island of Mui, where the major attraction is a supposedly catastrophic sinkhole. When she becomes trapped here, the island takes on the appearance of “a theme park that wasn’t yet open”. Then, after making a hideous discovery, cutting truths are revealed like exposed nerves amidst escalating absurdity - and tragedy. Quite brilliant.  

Star Books
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Author: Quentin Tarantino Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/06/2021

Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited first work of fiction - at once hilarious, delicious, and brutal - is the always surprising, sometimes shocking new novel based on his Academy Award-winning film. RICK DALTON - Once he had his own TV series, but now Rick's a washed-up villain-of-the week drowning his sorrows in whiskey sours. Will a phone call from Rome save his fate or seal it? CLIFF BOOTH - Rick's stunt double, and the most infamous man on any movie set because he's the only one there who might have gotten away with murder... SHARON TATE - She left Texas to chase a movie-star dream, and found it. Sharon's salad days are now spent on Cielo Drive, high in the Hollywood Hills. CHARLES MANSON - The ex-con's got a bunch of zonked-out hippies thinking he's their spiritual leader, but he'd trade it all to be a rock 'n' roll star. HOLLYWOOD 1969 - YOU SHOULDA BEEN THERE

Lucky

Lucky

Author: Rachel Edwards Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Weaving between complex social issues, this is a powerful, tense, and striking second novel by Rachel Edwards. When Etta turns to online gambling her entire life begins to crumble, she is willing to do anything to stop her world from imploding. Rachel Edward’s  wonderfully captivating debut Darling was a LoveReading Star Book which concentrated on the new wife and young daughter of a man as they each fought for his love and attention. Lucky is entirely different in plot, yet a strong central character again sits to the fore. Etta can be stubborn (determined), manipulative (smart), she’s also addicted (lost and confused), kind, thoughtful, and loving. I found her frustrating and appealing in equal measures which lead to me forming a complex yet fascinating relationship with her character. Suspense kept me company throughout this novel, at times I almost read between my fingers as I waited to see what Etta would do next. I explored online gambling, migration, identity, race, and relationship traps and pitfalls all on top of a plot that that had me edging along a towering clifftop of tension. Rachel Edwards has created an intriguing and compelling main character, a cracking plot and sub-plot which collide to create the most fabulous ending. Lucky is an intriguing, smart, and thought-provoking novel I can highly recommend.

Liz Robinson's Picks 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.

eBooks of the Month
The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

Author: Alka Joshi Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Having written advertising commercials and marketing copy for decades before trying fiction, Alka Joshi launched her fiction career with the stellar debut The Henna Artist and instantly became a phenomenon.  Much admired by Reese Witherspoon, it became a bestseller for its multi-sensory depiction of superstition, class and tradition in 1950’s Indian society and introduced readers to a superb cast of credible and highly engaging characters. Joshi’s latest, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur shows that the author has had no ‘difficult second novel’ issues as from page one we are immersed in Joshi’s trademark sense of place and launched straight into a tale of disaster and deception. A sequel to her debut that works very well indeed as a stand-alone novel, Joshi seamlessly weaves some of the characters we first met in The Henna Artist with new cast members that are so well drawn we can feel their hopes, dreams and fears, and there are plenty of all,  in every chapter. What Joshi does so well is to conjure a strong sense of setting with her adept use of the sights, sounds and smells of the locations she sets her story in. If ever a book had ‘scratch and sniff’ potential this is it.  In her interview with LoveReading LitFest, Joshi was asked how she writes and she explained that she conjures chapters visually, like a film director, and then transcribes what she has ‘seen’ onto the page.  For a fully immersive, take-you-to-another-place read, Jaipur and Shimla in the hands of Alka Joshi is a must.

Audiobooks of the Month
Moth

Moth

Author: Melody Razak Format: Hardback Release Date: 24/06/2021

Moth is absolutely gorgeous. Fair warning, it broke my heart, but is still completely and utterly gorgeous! Partition in India slices the country through its soul, one liberal family find themselves adrift and battling for survival. Set in 1940’s Delhi this story focuses on family, and in particular women as the world around them boils with political unrest and danger. The beauty and pain of the prologue turned my thoughts inside out, I had to stop for a moment before carrying on. The awareness of the prologue stayed with me as I continued to read, consume, feel. This is Melody Razak’s debut novel and was written on long train journeys across India. Here she takes an intimate story set in an epic, huge moment in history, and makes it feel real. Snippets and slices of all emotions are brought together to form the most wonderfully told story that highlights the tragedy that falls. Her writing caught me, lulled me, shocked me, seduced me. She writes with huge compassion, the smallest of details weave together to form a vivid and vibrant tapestry of life. It is all too easy to imagine this happening anywhere in the world, yet among all the pain is strength and hope. The moments of calm, love, humour, sharing, and kindness all combine to ensure that you can still feel delight among the pain. Oh, and I must just mention the stunning cover too, it matches the beauty within. Moth, so exquisitely emotional, powerful, and harrowing, will be one of my favourite books of the year, it is so special, I just had to choose it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.

Star Books
The Darlings

The Darlings

Author: Angela Jackson Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/06/2021

When Mark is 15 a freak accident changes his life forever. He was the golden boy. He was admired by all who knew him. The accident casts Mark adrift for a decade, until he meets Sadie, someone who could put his life back together again. But a chance meeting with someone from his past is set to unmoor Mark again, driven by his need to heal the wounds from his past once and for all. I found the characterisation in this book to be very descriptive. I liked that ‘The Darlings’ showed how a traumatic incident during Mark’s childhood had a huge impact on his adult life and future relationships. I loved this book, in fact I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I had become a part of the character’s lives and I found myself getting quite attached to them as the story went on.  I recommend ‘The Darlings’ highly and I will definitely be looking out for more of Angela’s books.

Indie Books We Love
Destination Wedding

Destination Wedding

Author: Diksha Basu Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/05/2021

For an easy comparison, many would call this is an Indian version of Crazy Rich Asians and of course My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In some ways they’re right: there’s a cross-cultural wedding and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication and hilarity. At the centre is Tina, an American-Indian in New York who feels she doesn’t fit anywhere. When she’s invited to a friend’s lavish wedding in New Delhi her sense of self and belonging comes under scrutiny. There were so many layers here: explorations of class, gender and wealth among them, helped by how the perspective shifts across a large array of characters. A fun read, full of dry humour, and one that will also guarantee to leave you dreaming of far flung climes…

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
Virgin River

Virgin River

Author: Robyn Carr Format: Audiobook Release Date: 05/01/2021

A Netflix Original Series! Welcome back to Virgin River with the book that started it all… Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included. When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad, she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving—the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she’s made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning. But a tiny baby abandoned on a front porch changes her plans…and former marine Jack Sheridan cements them into place.

Audiobooks of the Month
Bad Love

Bad Love

Author: Maame Blue Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/06/2020

Ekuah is in an up-and-down, back-and-forth relationship with Dee. It’s not perfect, but it feels enough for her . . . that’s until Dee ghosts her. Bruised and heartbroken, Ekuah does her best to get on with her life and eventually meets Jay, a man who might just be the one to win her heart. That is, of course, when Dee reappears in her life… The protagonist in this tale is very young but her emotions are real and the tricky relationship she has with her parents is every bit as important as the romantic ones. I was impressed by the depth and authenticity that came through the pages, a fantastic read. Selected by Dorothy Koomson, Our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.

Imperfect Arrangements

Imperfect Arrangements

Author: Frances Mensah Williams Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/03/2020

Best Friends Lyla, Maku and Theresa have a rock-solid friendship – it’s the other relationships in their lives that cause them heartache. When ambitious Theresa moves back to Accra with her husband, she doesn’t realise it’s going to show up the cracks in her relationship, and also make her friends look more closely at their lives. This drama is full of twists and turns some of them heartstopping, others heart-rending, all of them brilliantly played out and realistic. If you’re a fan of female-centered dramas, this is one for you.  Selected by Dorothy Koomson, Our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.