With echoes of the Renaissance Guy Gavriel Kay brings intrigue, revenge, war, and exile face to face with love, friendship, and hope. This powerful and striking story begins with those tasked with an assassination, and grows to encompass many more people and places. Here we continue on in the times from A Brightness Long Ago featuring new as well as previously met characters. If you’ve not yet stepped foot into this particular world (not all of his novels are from these lands), then the quality of writing is such that you can most certainly read All the Seas of the World as a standalone. Please do though visit past books as not only are there truly beautiful stories to discover and the obvious connection to the previous novel, there are other whispers too from longer ago. The map had me poring over memories, and within the list of principal characters I welcomed old friends. While I immediately felt a sense of coming home, my emotions were hung above a sharpened knife edge. The narrator, occasionally present, sits in overview, words sinking into thoughts and feelings, and a little way in I met one particular friend from Brightness who again spoke directly to me. I folded into and around a story that boldly and brilliantly ventures onto the seas. I particularly loved the small slices of individual lives and how they knitted together and influenced the larger scale events. The most inconsequential moment could seem momentous as it formed around one person. It felt as though both history, the present, and the future was being told. Just as a little aside, I have been reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels since I tipped into my twenties. He is one of two authors who I count as being hugely positive influences, and from my late teens on I have been able to trust in their integrity, empathy, and principles as I read. You can probably tell from my thoughts and feelings about All The Seas of the World, that I still hold Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing in the highest regard and this new book will sit as a particular favourite. His words, they really make my emotions sing, and that was certainly the case here. So it will come as no surprise that All the Seas of the World sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick for its month of publication, it also comes with a standing ovation from me.
The award-winning author of Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel returns with a wondrous novel of time travel that precisely captures the reality of our current moment. Sea of Tranquility is a virtuoso performance and an enormously exciting offering from one of our most remarkable writers. In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic, exiled from English polite society. In British Columbia, he enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and for a split second all is darkness, the notes of a violin echoing unnaturally through the air. The experience shocks him to his core. Two centuries later Olive Llewelyn, a famous writer, is traveling all over Earth, far away from her home in the second moon colony. Within the text of Olive's bestselling novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him. When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in time, he uncovers a series of lives upended: the exiled son of an aristocrat driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe. Sea of Tranquility is a novel that investigates the idea of parallel worlds and possibilities, that plays with the very line along which time should run. Perceptive and poignant about art, and love, and what we must do to survive, it is incredibly compelling.
This magical debut set in Victorian London is bold and profound yet somehow uncomplicated as it lays out a mosaic of vibrant themes and characters for your reading pleasure. Star theatre performer Zillah has climbed out of the slums, so while uncomfortable with the part she performs, she does what it takes to remain the headline act until one day she is faced with a life-altering and dangerous decision. Zillah tells her own story, I immediately heard her voice, so vibrant and alive. Lianne Dillsworth ensures all of the characters have an individual vital energy, they can be seen, felt, sensed. While the era throws itself around you and immerses you in all things Victorian, it feels as though the human responses are timeless. That feeling echoes through the plot as Zillah’s mixed heritage, and the fact that she was born free in London, marks her as different. All of humanities character traits are on offer from greed, selfishness, ignorance and indifference through to empathy, kindness, and courage. The mystery aspect of the plot was thrilling, yet it was Zillah’s personal journey that will stay with me and that is why I’ve chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. Vivacious, provocative, and compelling, Theatre of Marvels comes with a standing ovation stamp of approval from me.
Full of enthralling action, with a mix of fictional and real characters, this is a striking tale set in thought-provoking times, Dr Nicholas Shelby finds himself again acting as spy for Robert Cecil as Ireland rebels against Elizabeth’s rule. The Jackdaw Mysteries Series is one of my favourites, S. W. Perry is wonderfully consistent with his conjuring of the era, introducing thrilling plots and fascinating characters. Here we are at book five, and I highly recommend starting with The Angel's Mark and reading in order if you’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas and Bianca. The court of Elizabeth thrums with activity and intrigue, and The Jackdaw inn remains at the centre of the tale even as Nicholas and Bianca travel to Ireland, a country fighting for its freedom. The mix of real characters and fact blended with fiction is really successful, it is all too easy to imagine the instability of the times and compare them to today. There is a strength to Nicholas and Bianca being together, their relationship allows a deeper exploration of the precariousness of being wound up so tightly in Cecil’s web. The Rebel’s Mark is a fabulous continuation of a winning series, long live the Jackdaw Mysteries!
A soaring, sweeping, truly beautiful and far-reaching novel that calls for emotions to respond on every level. Ailey’s maternal line has lived in a small Georgia town since arriving from Africa in bondage, as she grows up she begins to uncover her family’s past. Author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers is a published award-winning poet, and it shows. This debut novel feels urgently and vibrantly alive and yet also slips into feelings like a lyrical dreamy song. While Ailey and her family remain as a constant through the book, other stories enter and initially read as a separate tale before slowly joining to create a whole. I felt as though I was part of a wave on the ocean and I was gathered in to live in each moment. This story breathes. It exists. It was. It will be. The intensity of the pain flows through every page, gaining strength, knowledge, and love. Already published in the US, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick, it was a New York Times bestseller, and the Washington Post stated it is: “The kind of book that comes around only once in a decade”. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow yourself to feel, to soak up the words. I hope you get a sense in my review of just how stunning it is. For me, it’s a must-read and I will be recommending this book far and wide. Both hugely epic and intimate in scale, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is extraordinarily powerful. Convincing and commanding, we declare it a LoveReading Star Book as well as Liz Pick of the Month, it deserves to be on everyone’s reading lists and a future classic.
Through the finely-nuanced narratives of three Black women from very different backgrounds, Lola Akinmade Åkerström's In Every Mirror She’s Black is a remarkable feat of fiction. Teeming with hope, desire, struggle and love, this powerful page-turner pulls no punches as its engagingly three-dimensional characters strive for better lives in a world that makes it anything but easy for them to be themselves. It also dismantles any notion of there being a monolithic Black culture, and lays bare the unjust multiple standards by which Black women are judged - and all this through dazzling story-telling that will leave readers desperate to read the author’s next novel. The three female protagonists are linked by one wealthy man - Jonny Lundin, born into one of Sweden’s most privileged families, and CEO of the country’s biggest marketing company. Bored and frustrated by work, and by the men she meets on US dating apps, award-winning marketing executive Kemi is ripe for change when Jonny invites her to become his new Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. While on a flight to woo Kemi from America to Stockholm, Jonny encounters Brittany, a former model who now works as a first-class flight attendant. Initially dismissive of Jonny’s attention, she finds herself drawn to him - he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and lavishes her with unimaginable devotion and wealth. Then there’s refugee Muna, who lost her mother and younger brother during a treacherous sea crossing, and now works as a cleaner in Jonny’s office, while dreaming of becoming an accountant and having a group of good friends. True to life, the women variously make mistakes, face excruciating decisions, and long to feel fulfilled. Their finely-drawn stories are equally as engaging as they struggle to feel at home in a city that’s supposedly egalitarian, but turns out to be rife with implicit racism, tokenism, and injurious stereotyping. Riveting, moving and stirring (with punch-packing endings you won’t see coming), In Every Mirror She’s Black is a magnificent must-read.
A tremendously provocative yet entertaining historical crime thriller set in 1728, it’s worth noting that while this takes a journey through some very dark places, a light touch is on hand when needed. Thomas and Kitty find themselves in the happiest of times, until they discover that someone wants Thomas dead. I’ve always loved this series, which began with Crime Writers' Association Historical Dagger award winning The Devil in the Marshalsea, and it has progressed with such vivid intensity. While I recommend starting at the beginning, you can actually read these as standalone novels. Thomas and Kitty definitely deserve double billing, each ensures a balance is maintained and allows the plot to really sing (and occasionally glower and smirk). Antonia Hodgson not only encourages us to see and feel the times, she also shows the difficulties that humankind still fall foul of to this day. We really don’t learn do we! Exploring love, friendship, revenge, and the very nature of evil itself, the ending sliced through my thoughts and stayed with me for some time. You can feel the research behind the story, and I delved into her historical notes at the end. The Silver Collar is a cracking and thought-provoking read, and comes as highly recommended in my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. If you enjoyed Andrew Taylor’s James Marwood and Cat Lovett series which started with The Ashes of London set in 1666 and The Jackdaw Mysteries Series by S. W. Perry which began with The Angel's Mark set in 1570 then you should most definitely check out The Thomas Hawkins Series.
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.
An interesting and challenging speculative science fiction novel that begins in 2066. Covering a number of years and several time frames, Ben Holden is on the run after being targeted for his scientific research. It really does feel as though this world could be our future, enough is relatable and touchable to allow you to easily slip into what could be. Author Steve Holloway has a degree in Aquatic Biology and has worked around the world in marine science, it means that the scientific and oceanic world Ben finds himself in teems with possibilities and I particularly enjoyed these sections. The frequent moves in time and locations are clearly marked, which allowed me to flick between the different timelines in the plot with ease. Faith plays a part here, in terms of what is on offer in the future, and the main character’s transformation. I’m not in the slightest bit religious and found that this element, rather than overpowering proceedings, slotted into the story with ease. There is also enough action to keep the plot moving along at a good pace. Pelagia: Between the Stars and the Abyss makes for a refreshing and thought-provoking read.
Like the very best short stories, Wandeka Gayle’s Motherland and Other Stories are multi-layered, long-lingering, and delivered in a deceptively simple style - vivid vignettes of life from varied corners of the globe with lasting impact that grows over time and draws you back. Many of the tales take turns down unexpected paths - purposeful detours and changes of direction that reveal new truths. Others present intimate, intense portraits of their protagonist’s complex relationship to home (Jamaica). All of them exude elegance and insights into the human condition. In my book, that’s pretty much short story perfection. Though distinct, the twelve stories are united by the courage of their protagonists, and an exploration of what it is to be black in white worlds. In Motherland we meet compassionate Roxanne, who moved from Jamaica and works in a London care home. She encounters racism, but strikes a bond with an elderly writer resident. Then there’s Ayo in Finding Joy, who leaves Jamaica to study in Louisiana and finds agency through personal upheavals “in this foreign place.” Each story, and each woman’s experiences, had me utterly in their thrall.