Narrative theme: Social issues

A Corruption of Blood

A Corruption of Blood

Author: Ambrose Parry Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2022

A Raven and Fisher Mystery: Book 3 Edinburgh, 1850. This city will bleed you dry. Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman. Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out. Raven's efforts to prove his former adversary's innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah's help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh's social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Daves Next Door

The Daves Next Door

Author: Will Carver Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/07/2022

The lives of five strangers collide on a London train carriage, as they become involved in an incident that will change them all forever. A shocking, intensely emotive and wildly original new thriller from Will Carver... A disillusioned nurse suddenly learns how to care. An injured young sportsman wakes up find that he can see only in black and white. A desperate old widower takes too many pills and believes that two angels have arrived to usher him through purgatory. Two agoraphobic men called Dave share the symptoms of a brain tumour, and frequently waken their neighbour with their ongoing rows. Separate lives, running in parallel, destined to collide and then explode. Like the suicide bomber, riding the Circle Line, day after day, waiting for the right time to detonate, waiting for answers to his questions: Am I God? Am I dead? Will I blow up this train? Shocking, intensely emotive and wildly original, Will Carver's The Daves Next Door is an explosive existential thriller and a piercing examination of what it means to be human ... or not. 

The Siege

The Siege

Author: John Sutherland Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

An enthralling, rewarding, and ever so satisfying debut crime thriller. Covering ten hours, from beginning to end, a far-right extremist takes nine people from an immigrant support group hostage. Author John Sutherland is a retired Borough Commander with the Metropolitan Police, during his time in the job he was a hostage negotiator, in other words he knows his stuff. Not only that, he is also a gifted, passionate, and compassionate speaker and I’ve listened to his inspiring words on several occasions at Literary Festivals. This may be his debut novel, but he already has two non-fiction books to his name, Blue: A Memoir and Crossing the Line are both fascinating books about policing. When I knew he was venturing into fiction I grabbed a proof just as fast as I could with one question on my mind, could his knowledge and abilities translate into a novel? Yes, yes they can. If you’ve read his books, newspaper articles or his blog, heard him on the TV, at talks or worked with him then you will know he is principled, honourable, thoughtful, and that clearly comes across in his writing. Yet being from the policing family means he has seen it all, experienced the highs and lows that this job throws at you. So while the tone is unmistakably him, calm with no fuss or bluster, it feels real, right up in your face real. The three main characters have equal billing, concentrating in turn on their lives, who they are, what makes them tick. There is a straightforward clarity to the writing that ensures the words hit with intensity. As the story gained momentum, as the lives of these people began to really matter to me, I couldn’t put the book down. At one point I cried, and I know how good a book is by how it makes me react, how it makes me feel. So, this novel joins our LoveReading Star Book community, it also sits as a Liz Robinson Pick for its month of publication. For those of you who have been waiting, hand-on-heart, it’s worth it. The Siege is not only thrilling and entertaining, it’s also engaging and meaningful, and comes with the hugest of ticks in the must-read box from me.

Star Books
Nothing Else

Nothing Else

Author: Louise Beech Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/06/2022

A professional pianist searches for her sister, who was taken when their parents died, aided on by her childhood care records and a single song that continues to haunt her. Heather Harris is a piano teacher and professional musician, whose quiet life revolves around music, whose memories centre on a single song that haunts her. A song she longs to perform again. A song she wrote as a child, to drown out the violence in their home. A song she played with her little sister, Harriet. But Harriet is gone ... she disappeared when their parents died, and Heather never saw her again. When Heather is offered an opportunity to play piano on a cruise ship, she leaps at the chance. She'll read her recently released childhood care records by day - searching for clues to her sister's disappearance - and play piano by night ... coming to terms with the truth about a past she's done everything to forget. An exquisitely moving novel about surviving devastating trauma, about the unbreakable bond between sisters, Nothing Else is also a story of courage and love, and the power of music to transcend - and change - everything. 

Tasting Sunlight

Tasting Sunlight

Author: Ewald Arenz Format: Paperback Release Date: 23/06/2022

An anorexic teenager escapes from a clinic and forms an unlikely friendship with a farmer. The two damaged women slowly heal as they work the land, in an achingly beautiful debut. Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she to be treated for anorexia. She's furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace. Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people. From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn't like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked. That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up - connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land. Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it... 

Lying Beside You

Lying Beside You

Author: Michael Robotham Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

Powerful and addictive reading heaven. Cyrus is called in to help investigate the case of a missing woman while preparing for the release of his brother from a secure psychiatric hospital. If you haven’t yet met Cyrus and Evie then I would advise starting with the first in the Cyrus Haven series Good Girl, Bad Girl, which I absolutely adored and was chosen as the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger winner for 2020. We are now at book three, and I have camped out for each new addition. I read Lying Beside You in one absolutely thrilling sitting, I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be. Cyrus and Evie are equally fascinating, the separate traumas from their childhoods create an invisible thread that ties them together. The calm and the storm that they individually offer shapes an unforgettable pairing that is one of my favourites in the book world. Michael Robotham knows how to capture and hold the readers interest as Cyrus and Evie tell their own stories in alternating short sharp shocks of chapters. The other characters feel fully fleshed even if only on the page for a short time and oh, how I absolutely loved the addition of Elias to the tale, someone who has been a shadowy figure until now. The pace of the plot is brilliantly handled, and while I wanted to gallop through as quickly as I could, there are undercurrents of empathy and compassion that hold you to the here and now. Lying Beside You is just as good, just as compelling and ferociously readable as the first two in the series, and joins them as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
The Final Strife

The Final Strife

Author: Saara El-Arifi Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

A debut that sings, in fact roars with strong vibrant themes, beautiful storytelling, and fabulous characters. Three women sit centre stage as the trials begin to find the next rulers of the Empire, each has different coloured blood and were born to very different roles. This is the first in the The Final Strife series, and Author Saara El-Arifi has created the most compelling world with roots in Ghanian folklore and Arabian myths. A vivid energy crackles into life from the start. The sense of place is immense, I saw, I felt, I believed. The three very different young women who lead in the story, in such different ways, have fascinating characters. The story flows through some thought-provoking topics, from oppression and rebellion through to drug addiction. Love can be found in its many guises including friendship as well as romance. While tyranny rules, this in an inclusive land in terms of relationships and diversity. I would say this is definitely not for younger teens due to content, but is suitable for those heading towards their twenties as well as adults. This first book sets up the continuing story rather wonderfully and I can’t wait to see where we head next. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, The Final Strife, so very clever, bold and provocative has set aflame a new world that promises much, highly recommended.

Star Books
The Shadows of Men

The Shadows of Men

Author: Abir Mukherjee Format: Paperback Release Date: 16/06/2022

Calcutta, 1923. When a Hindu theologian is found murdered in his home, the city is on the brink of all-out religious war. Can officers of the Imperial Police Force, Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath Banerjee track down those responsible in time to stop a bloodbath? Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this 'unmissable' (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

Star Books
The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl

Author: Zakiya Dalila Harris Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/06/2022

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she's thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They've only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella's desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It's hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career. Dark, funny and furiously entertaining, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

Debut Books of the Month
Madwoman

Madwoman

Author: Louisa Treger Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/06/2022

So thought-provoking it hurts, this is a fictional account based on the true story of US journalist Nellie Bly. She was famous for exposing the horrific abuse that took place in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island in 1887, and at the time this was pioneering investigative journalism. Louisa Treger gives Nellie her voice and creates a simply told story where you experience her thoughts and feelings. The tale first takes you to her childhood and allows you to discover the true strength and grit that made this extraordinary woman. When entering the asylum it is difficult to comprehend the cruelty uncovered. The effect of Nellies descent into a world of pain can not be ignored. As interesting, is Nellie’s fight to be a voice in a male dominated world, not only for herself, but also the women falsely incarcerated. It is sometimes difficult to hold on to the fact that this is based on history and not a fictional flight of fancy, and so, it is successfully shocking in its impact. After finishing I wanted to find out more about Nellie beyond this stage of her life, what a woman! The clarity of the tale ensures Madwoman hammers home in this compelling and achingly absorbing read. 

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Author: Emily Austin Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/06/2022

Meet Gilda. She cannot stop thinking about death. Desperate for relief from her anxious mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local church and finds herself abruptly hired to replace the deceased receptionist Grace. It's not the most obvious job - she's queer and an atheist for starters - and so in between trying to learn mass, hiding her new maybe-girlfriend and conducting an amateur investigation into Grace's death, Gilda must avoid revealing the truth of her mortifying existence. A blend of warmth, deadpan humour, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration - and the expiration of those you love - is the only certainty.

Star Books
Vladimir

Vladimir

Author: Julia May Jonas Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/05/2022

Charged with sexual and moral tensions, Julia May Jonas’ Vladimir debut is tantalisingly provocative from start to finish. Its complex, fallible characters are nigh unforgettable as they storm, teeter and flounder on multiple brinks of human experience. Shot-through with dark humour, with a cunning, unexpected sense of hubris rearing forth in the feverish finale, Vladimir is a tragi-comic gem of our times, and incredibly compelling as it lays bare extra-marital affairs with dubious imbalances of power, fulfilling desire through devious means, and middle class, middle-age crises. “When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me”. “I’ve always felt the origin of anger in my vagina and am surprised it is not mentioned more in literature”. These are the kinds of declarations made by the novel’s narrator, a middle-aged English professor at a liberal college in the US. Though long accepting of her husband’s affairs (they’ve always had an open agreement about extra-marital sex), he’s now facing accusations of sexual misconduct from former students. Since they teach at the same college, his actions are making her life pretty difficult. At the same time, “trapped in the prison of vanity”, she develops an obsession with a younger novelist. Through the extraordinary escalation of the narrator's infatuation, we see the extremities of manipulation, desire, and the desire to be desired. She becomes, in her words, an “evil puppeteer”. But this is no straightforward story of affairs and lust. The novel careers to a crazy, unexpected, and quite brilliant denouement, with a sense of tenderness and gallows humour through the darker subject matter. At once edgy, playful and serious, Vladimir is a compulsive triumph.

Debut Books of the Month