Tom is a teenager and blends into the background of life. After a row with his dad, and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library. Tom unwittingly ends up with a bagful of romance novels and comes under the suspicion of Maggie. Maggie is a pensioner and has been happily alone for ten years, at least that's what she tells herself. When Tom comes to her rescue a friendship develops that could change her life. As Maggie helps Tom to stand up for himself, Tom helps Maggie realise the mistakes of her past don't have to define her future. They each set out to prove that the library isn't just about books - it's the heart of their community. Together they discover some things are worth fighting for.
Estranged brothers are reunited over plans to develop the tower block where they grew up, but the desolate estate becomes a stage for reliving the events of one life-changing summer. Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats. But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past - twins Annette and Christine - appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived - a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever... Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family - of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave - a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.
Wisely comic, soul-searchingly tender, and defiantly unsentimental, Bryan Washington’s Memorial is a brilliant bittersweet debut. Really it’s a story of many things that matter most in life, when it comes down to it - family, emotional closeness, physical closeness, the urge to break free, and the compulsion to return. It’s also about the unexpected experiences and discoveries that come in the wake of strangers being thrown together, in this case when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying as his mother is due to stay with him, and as his two-year relationship teeters into fizzling-out territory While Mike heads to Osaka, boyfriend Benson plays host to Mike’s mother in Houston. Benson’s never met straight-talking Mitsuko, but little by little they form an unlikely and profound bond. Meanwhile, after meandering memories and feeling the strange melancholia of being reunited with his dying, distant dad, Mike is transformed by his Osaka experience. Through all this richness, Memorial is an absorbing, funny, stirring achievement told in lucid, elegant style.
Rich with romance, mystery and family drama, Elisabeth Gifford’s A Woman Made of Snow is a delicious treat for readers who like their historic fiction seasoned with haunting atmosphere. It’s 1949 and Caro and Alasdair Gillan are newly married Cambridge graduates living near his Scottish family home. Though elegant, crumbling Kelly Castle has seen better days, and hides many secrets, as Caro discovers when she accepts her mother-in-law’s suggestion that she research the Gillan family history. Her academic career curtailed when she falls pregnant soon after marriage, Caro is glad to have something to occupy her mind, and the mystery of a missing bride is certainly intriguing. The woman in question was married to Alasdair’s great-grandfather, Oliver, whom we meet when the narrative slips back to the late 1800s. As a boy, Oliver resolved to explore the frozen north, and later read medicine at Edinburgh University. Then, as broken-hearted young man, Oliver signs up to board a ship bound for the Arctic. In the present, as a shocking find is made in the castle grounds, there are tensions between Caro and Alasdair’s family - she’s not the kind of woman they’d envisaged him marrying, yet she is the kind of woman who can uncover Oliver’s past, not least when she finds the diary of his voyage aboard the Narwhal whaling ship and pieces together a tragic and beautiful tale of love that exposes abhorrent Western notions of “savages”. With a fine evocation of time, place, and Inuit society, A Woman Made of a Snow is a moving, captivating read.
The most deliciously moody, romantic, and enchanting tale awaits. Written for young adults, this is a book that will also quite happily sit on bookshelves belonging to adults too. Evangeline strikes a deal with an immortal Fate in order to stop the wedding of the man she loves and complete her own happily ever after. This particular Fate isn’t to be meddled with, and when Evangeline strikes a bargain, things don’t go according to plan. A new series by the best-selling Stephanie Garber is to be celebrated and there is a crossover from her previous Caravel trilogy (though you don’t need to have already read them). As you can probably tell by the title, there is more than a hint of fairytale contained within the pages, however, this is not the syrupy sweet kind, oh no, darkness plays its part with aplomb. The setting is fabulously enticing, the characters engaging, and the plot beautifully sets up this book as the first in the series. A Liz Pick of the Month, Once Upon A Broken Heart, is a captivating tale, perfect for lovers of romantic fantasy.
Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied. When We Make It is a love letter to anyone who was taught to believe that they would not make it. To those who feel their emotions before they can name them. To those who still may not have all the language but they have their story. Velasquez' debut novel is sure to leave an indelible mark on all who read it.
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.
The brand new, instant Sunday Times top ten novel from million-copy bestselling author Cecelia Ahern. Five people. Five chances. One woman’s search for happiness. Allegra Bird’s arms are scattered with freckles, a gift from her beloved father. But despite her nickname, Freckles has never been able to join all the dots. So when a stranger tells her that everyone is the average of the five people they spend the most time with, it opens up something deep inside. The trouble is, Freckles doesn’t know if she has five people. And if not, what does that say about her? She’s left her unconventional father and her friends behind for a bold new life in Dublin, but she’s still an outsider. Now, in a quest to understand, she must find not one but five people who shape her – and who will determine her future. Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from modern Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and of growing into your own skin.
Ethan’s father is outed as a man living a double life with another family on the other, less salubrious, side of New York. Who are they? Certainly nothing like Ethan; this newly-discovered household are Thai, live in Queens and serve and wash dishes at the local Thai restaurant. He, meanwhile, is a lawyer residing in West Village, often found in Katz. This discovery introduces us to an ensemble cast and we delve deep into their lives until a bigger picture unfolds. After Ethan we hear from others; some tell us about losing parents, bailing out siblings on the other side of the world, leaving lovers and rekindling old flames. Silber is as incise and skewering as Woody Allen, delivering needle-sharp observation that we associate with the best American writers. But it’s the ghost of Charles Dickens who’s really flickering on the margins and Silber takes on his themes of family inheritance, class and wealth to underpin her characters’ search for happiness.
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.
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.
Our June 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Heady, rich and evocative, and while a reimagining of Great Expectations, this debut stands as a unique and startling read in its own right. As a child, orphaned Kit finds the world of his Uncle and Aunt an enticing place to be, as he grows older he discovers that all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold. Gill Darling travels through three decades from the 1970’s, creating the most spelling-binding novel. She doesn’t flinch from the harsher side of life, and while building an enchanting world, exposes vulnerability, selfishness, and excess. The characters feel as real as can be, with a tapestry of traits they ensured my feelings moved through the gamut of emotions. While I knew this was inspired by Great Expectations before I started, I entered and read it as Erringby, completely absorbed and only looking between the two when I had turned the last page. I found growing up with Kit at times disturbing, while at others I relished his adventures, and the ending sent little goose pimples skittering down my arms. When I finish reading I always return to the cover again to see with new eyes, and oh what a gorgeously expressive and clever creation it is! Thoughtful and loving, yet passionate and provocative, Erringby is a truly striking coming-of-age novel and a deserves its place as a LoveReading Star Book.