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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.

Twilight of Innocence

Twilight of Innocence

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

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

Indie Books We Love
The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers

The Tiny Gestures of Small Flowers

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

Seventeen-year-old Eleanor has left rural Lincolnshire for Brighton in search of a fresh start. Everything goes right till everything goes wrong-a funny, tragic, unpredictable story of a young girl's dangerous journey through an abusive relationship and coming out the other side. Critchley gets inside the mind of both abuser and abused laying bare the strange and strained logic of both, but in the end her protagonist emerges bravely and triumphantly the less deceived but not before things have gone terribly wrong.

Would I Lie To You?

Would I Lie To You?

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

From fresh new voice Aliya Ali-Afzfal, Would I Lie to You? is a page-turning, warm and funny debut about what happens when you have your dream life - and are about to lose it. At the school gates, Faiza fits in. It took a few years, but now the snobbish mothers who mistook her for the nanny treat her as one of their own. She's learned to crack their subtle codes, speak their language of handbags and haircuts and discreet silver watches. You'd never guess, at the glamorous kids' parties and the leisurely coffee mornings, that Faiza's childhood was spent following her parents round the Tooting Cash'n'Carry. When her husband Tom loses his job in finance, he stays calm. Something will come along, and in the meantime, they can live off their savings. But Faiza starts to unravel. Raising the perfect family comes at a cost - and the money Tom put aside has gone. When Tom's redundancy package ends, Faiza will have to tell him she's spent it all. Unless she doesn't... It only takes a second to lie to Tom. Now Faiza has six weeks to find GBP75,000 before her lie spirals out of control. If anyone can do it, Faiza can: she's had to fight for what she has, and she'll fight to keep it. But as the clock ticks down, and Faiza desperately tries to put things right, she has to ask herself: how much more should she sacrifice to protect her family? 'Convincing and compelling' Stacey Halls 'The writing is so fresh and light; funny in places, but moving in others ... I'll be recommending it to everyone I know' Sarah Pearse 'I really enjoyed Would I Lie to You ... A fresh take on domestic dynamics and moral dilemma ... Great for book clubs' Clare Mackintosh 'So warm, funny, sad and brilliantly written' Laura Marshall 'Not just entertaining, but intelligent and original too ... and the resourceful Faiza will steal your heart' Lesley Kara 'A warm, funny, compelling, escapist read' Debbie Howells 'Tense, funny, poignant and very clever' Claire Douglas

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

A smart and funny novel about love, life and a second shot at freedom for rebellious women of a certain age. Eliza is angry. Very angry, and very, very hot. Late for work and dodging traffic, she's still reeling from the latest row with husband Paddy. Twenty-something years ago, their eyes met over the class divide in oh-so-cool Britpop London, but while Paddy now seems content filling his downtime with canal boats and cricket, Eliza craves the freedom and excitement of her youth. Fifty sounds dangerously close to pensionable: her woke children want to cancel her, a male motorist has just called her a 'mad old bat' and to cap it all her hormones are on the run. Who knew menopause was puberty's evil older sister? But then a moment of heroism draws an unexpected admirer, and Eliza sets out to discover whether the second half of life can be a glass half full after all. She might suffer mental fog and night sweats - and have temporarily mislaid her waist - but this is her renaissance. Woman of a Certain Rage is a smart and funny novel for all women who won't be told it's too late to shake things up.

The Die Is Cast

The Die Is Cast

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

‘The Die is Cast’ is an adventurous story about the supposed identity and whereabouts of the Dish of Christ. This is the first book in the Lady Jane and the Last Supper Dish Series that sets the wheels in motion for four different stories to collide, each centred around revealing the truth about the Christ’s Last Supper Dish. This quest is filled with mystery and intrigue, using history, myth and imagination. I found the plot very well written, the book, in the prologue the atmosphere of panic and loss of hope during the fall of Constantinople is well conveyed, and also sets up the mystery to be investigated in the modern narratives. I liked this layout, letting the reader in on parts of what really happened before being introduced to the characters that will be involved in investigating.   Each storyline comes with it’s own motive, with the Dish of Christ meaning something different to each of the characters. Ray Cozart and Natalie Ashbrook, are looking for a way to revitalise their careers and their relationship. Jane Whitaker loves adventure and in her search must face her family’s problems. Professor Adam Burke looks for academic acclaim and a way to get ahead of a rival. The Order of Andronicus, the descendent of the original Keepers must overcome their centuries of resent and work quickly to protect their secrets from others, as some within their own ranks seek to sabotage their efforts. A grand quest filled with adventure, twists and humour travels alongside multiple storylines about people. This is a story about traditions, relationships, families and how private resentments can hold you back as much as it is about the hunt for a sacred relic. I liked the multi-faceted nature of the narrative and getting to know all of the characters. This is a well written story to sink into and enjoy and I look forward to seeing what’s to come in the rest of the series. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
One Last Time

One Last Time

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

A deeply layered, emotional and compelling novel that examines and contemplates family relationships. A terminal cancer diagnosis results in reflection for Anne and her daughter Sigrid. This is award-winning Helga Flatland’s fifth book, and her second to be published in English, it was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers Award and topped the bestseller lists there. Her first English translation A Modern Family which was a number-one bestseller in Norway is another beautifully written book I can highly recommend. Both books have been translated by Rosie Hedger, and it is superbly done, you can feel Norway and the differences, yet an exquisite connection to the story makes you a part of the words. Anne and Sigrid narrate, the chapters aren’t headed yet each character’s voice is distinctive and any momentary hesitation between chapters soon clears. This joining of voices yet fragmentation of thoughts as the voices change, helps not hinders as it establishes the tone, the feeling of these women. Helga Flatland is a writer who is able to directly touch innermost thoughts and set them free to explore. She knows how to display the raw yet real side of what it is to be human. Using small slices of humour to break tension, she allows emotions to form, alter, sway. The ending, that engaging eloquent ending, sent goosebumps skimming down my arms. One Last Time is a beautiful meaningful expressive read and I truly loved it.

Star Books
Should We Stay or Should We Go

Should We Stay or Should We Go

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

Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay or Should We Go is an of-the-moment novel if ever there was one. With whip-smart dialogue and thought-provoking internal monologues cutting to the core of its characters, it tackles the topic of ageing through a playfully inventive structure involving twelve parallel universes and two principle protagonists who’ve made a suicide pact. Should We Stay or Should We Go boasts a smart concept that’s been cleverly executed - think Life After Life meets Sliding Doors delivered in Shriver’s distinctive style. After watching her father’s demise during ten years of Alzheimer’s, Kay struggles to cry for him when he dies: “I feel absolutely nothing… I feel as if he’s been dead for years.” Both fifty-something NHS medical professionals, Kay and her husband, Cyril, move to discussing everything from the nature of memory to universal social care. They’ve seen far too many of their patients suffer like Kay’s dad and their discussion leads Cyril to propose they agree to a suicide pact to avoid a similar fate - they will kill themselves on turning eighty. Of course, when that time comes, they must confront their decision.  Each chapter serves up an alternate ending for the couple, with the likes of the ethics of suicide, cryogenic preservation, and ageing cures explored along the way. By turns amusing, moving and provocative, it examines the biggest of questions through personal detail, and will surely provoke thought as to how readers themselves wish to bow out.

eBooks of the Month
THE SILENT LISTENER

THE SILENT LISTENER

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

Set in rural Australia in the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s (the plot smartly slips between the decades), Lyn Yeowart’s The Silent Listener - her debut novel - is a dark and stormy psychological thriller focussed on family secrets and the search to fathom terrible truths. When Joy Henderson returns to her family’s farm to care for George, her dying dad, she’s confronted with a succession of horrendous events - both those that occur in her present, and traumatic experiences from her past. The very day after her father confesses to a horrific crime, he’s found dead with his own belt around his neck. As the narrative slips back to 1960, we learn how eleven-year-old Joy existed in utter fear of her father. An abusive bully who forced her to declare herself a “lazy, good-for-nothing sinner”. A brute who scarred her for life - psychologically and physically, for Joy has been left with “thick red strips of raised flesh creeping over the top of her shoulder and under her loose bra strap, wrapping themselves around the top of her arm like the tentacles of a red octopus.” This description is representative of the author’s taut, evocative style. Then there’s the Constable investigating George’s death - Alex Shepherd, a man still haunted by an unsolved case of a missing girl from 1960, and now deeply engrained in this new case, and the Henderson family’s secrets. As Joy and Shepherd talk, Joy is struck by a sickening thought: “The bastard killed himself so that you’d think I killed him. So I’d go to jail for murdering him. It was the ultimate punishment for disobeying him.” Shepherd isn’t sure what to believe, but his instincts lead him back to that unsolved case of the missing child. Exploring coercive control, violence, abuse and revenge with edgy levels of tension through potentially unreliable narrators, this is a satisfyingly suspenseful gothic thriller.

Debut Books of the Month
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.

Foregone

Foregone

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

It’s little wonder that Russell Banks has won major awards for his subtle, seductive novels, and Foregone - the author’s first new novel for a decade - also deserves a place among prize-winners. It features famous left-leaning Canadian American documentary filmmaker, Leonard Fife. He’s in his late-seventies and dying of cancer, with a live-in Haitian nurse and attentive wife. The book opens with Fife wondering why he’s agreed to be filmed for a final interview to discuss his life and work. His nurse reminds him it’s “because he’s famous for something to do with cinema, and famous people are required to make interviews”. In the ensuing interview, after the irritation of the production team setting-up (a team led by his former star-pupil), Fife makes a long, dark, unexpected confession, with the plot cleverly switching camera angles from Fife to those who are filming him - a smart device, effectively realised.  Taking in the history of US draft evaders who fled to Canada to escape serving in Vietnam (of which Fife was one of sixty-thousand), and written entirely in the present tense, Banks’s style is haunting, meditative and gripping, with its protagonist’s personal revelations striking compelling rhythmic, resonant beats.

eBooks of the Month
Fragile

Fragile

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

Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.

Star Books
Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

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

Quirky yet insightful, bright yet wistful, amusing yet emotional… this is one heck of a thought-provoking and stimulating debut. When Rachel is told ‘everything happens for a reason’ after her son Luke is stillborn, she begins to search for proof, certain she is to blame. This is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, instead it straddles several, and actually stands quite rightly on its own two feet. Author Katie Allen is a journalist, and this story is deeply personal and painful to her, she said on twitter that after her baby died one person texted back: “everything happens for a reason”, and she had grappled with that ever since. Grief is a lonely and isolating place to be, yet this novel, while eye-opening, is also inclusive and encouraging. Letting her feelings out in a series of emails, Rachel is incredibly engaging, she took my hand and welcomed me into the pages. I quite honestly had no idea where this book was going to to take me, I didn’t try to guess and remained firmly in the the presence of the words as they entered my thoughts. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book, Everything Happens for a Reason is full of contradictions that fuse into the most surprising, moving, and beautiful novel.  

Star Books