Shorter Reads

Want to read a story with all the depth, questions and quality of a novel, written by highly skilled writers in about 5% of the space? Short stories can be heartbreaking, mysterious and incredibly detailed; for a perfectly formed, bite-sized smorgasbord of stories, browse our Short Story recommendations here.

Serpentine

Serpentine

Author: Philip Pullman Format: Hardback Release Date: 15/10/2020

A brand new short story set in the world of His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust by master storyteller, Philip Pullman. Serpentine is a perfect gift for every Pullman fan, new and old. 'Lyra Silvertongue, you're very welcome . . . Yes, I know your new name. Serafina Pekkala told me everything about your exploits' Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon have left the events of His Dark Materials far behind. In this snapshot of their forever-changed lives they return to the North to visit an old friend, where we will learn that things are not exactly as they seem . . . Illustrated throughout by Tom Duxbury, the perfect re-entry for fans of His Dark Materials and a wonderful companion to The Book of Dust.

The Woman of Stencils and other stories

The Woman of Stencils and other stories

Author: Marianne Price Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/10/2020

'The Woman of Stencils' is the title of the tenth story in Marianne Price's book of 22 short stories. As a West End actor and singer brought up in North London, the author draws on her very varied life experiences as well as her prolific imagination to enrich her writing of these exceptionally wry and moving tales. The common theme to all is that of loss, or perceived loss, of something or someone, and the very profound and lasting effect that can have. A few of the stories, such as 'Remember, Remember' and 'The All Too Perfect Teddy Bear' deal with the loss of a child in a very dark and ghostly way, so that they read like horror stories, guaranteed to have the hairs on the back of the reader's head up on end. Far more laid back are the stories dealing with the fragility of romantic attachments, whilst the saddest and most poignant are those dealing with lost youth and time. All the stories have a surrealism about them, are thought provoking and compelling.  Perhaps the most memorable in the collection are the stories with a theatrical backdrop, where the characters and scene setting are particularly realistic and well drawn, since performing has been the natural environment of the author for so much of her life but every story will resonate with and be appreciated by the reader. We look forward to more soon.  Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love
A Large Measure of Snow

A Large Measure of Snow

Author: Denzil Meyrick Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/10/2020

A compelling, adventurous, and somewhat quirky tale of the sea. When a small Scottish town is cut off by heavy snow in 1967, the skipper of the Girl Maggie and others in the fishing fleet set sail for supplies. Forming a ‘tale from Kinloch’ you actually don’t need to have read the DCI Daley Series to enjoy this novella. It is set years before DCI Daley enters town, and features Hamish (one of my favourite characters from the series), though this is before he is the fully formed Hamish of today! If you already know and love the series then this will be a must-read for you. You’ll recognise names and places but meet a whole new crowd of residents. As usual Denzil Meyrick paints a vividly vibrant picture that you can step straight into. There are some mystical touches of otherworldliness to be discovered along the way that really appealed to me, as did Sandy and the lobster! Amusing and entertaining, A Large Measure of Snow would make a perfect stocking filler for all the Denzil Meyrick fans out there.

Help Yourself

Help Yourself

Author: Curtis Sittenfeld Format: Audiobook Release Date: 01/10/2020

Sittenfeld's wryly hilarious and insightful new collection, HELP YOURSELF, illuminates human experience and gracefully upends our assumptions about class and race, envy and disappointment, gender dynamics and celebrity. Suburban friends fall out after a racist encounter at a birthday party is caught on video and posted on Facebook; an illustrious Manhattan film crew are victims of their own snobbery when they underestimate a pre-school teacher from the Mid-West; and a group of young writers fight about love and narrative style as they compete for a prestigious bursary. Connecting each of these three stories is Sittenfeld's truthful yet merciless eye, as her characters stagger from awkwardness, to humiliation and, if they're lucky, to reconciliation. Full of tenderness and compassion, this dazzling collection celebrates our humanity in all its pettiness and glory.

Audiobooks of the Month
Mantel Pieces

Mantel Pieces

Author: Hilary Mantel Format: Audiobook Release Date: 01/10/2020

A stunning collection of essays and memoir from twice Booker Prize winner and international bestseller Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light In 1987, when Hilary Mantel was first published in the London Review of Books, she wrote to the editor, Karl Miller, ‘I have no critical training whatsoever, so I am forced to be more brisk and breezy than scholarly.’ This collection of twenty reviews, essays and pieces of memoir from the next three decades, tells the story of what happened next. Her subjects range far and wide: Robespierre and Danton, the Hite report, Saudi Arabia where she lived for four years in the 1980s, the Bulger case, John Osborne, the Virgin Mary as well as the pop icon Madonna, a brilliant examination of Helen Duncan, Britain’s last witch. There are essays about Jane Boleyn, Charles Brandon, Christopher Marlowe and Margaret Pole, which display the astonishing insight into the Tudor mind we are familiar with from the bestselling Wolf Hall Trilogy. Her famous lecture, ‘Royal Bodies’, which caused a media frenzy, explores the place of royal women in society and our imagination. Here too are some of her LRB diaries, including her first meeting with her stepfather and a confrontation with a circus strongman. Constantly illuminating, always penetrating and often very funny, interleaved with letters and other ephemera gathered from the archive, Mantel Pieces is an irresistible selection from one of our greatest living writers

Audiobooks of the Month
AZADI

AZADI

Author: Arundhati Roy Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2020

The perfect gift for the activists, rebels and freedom fighters in your life... The chant of 'Azadi!' - Urdu for 'Freedom!' - is the slogan of the freedom struggle in Kashmir against what Kashmiris see as the Indian Occupation. Ironically, it also became the chant of millions on the streets of India against the project of Hindu Nationalism. Even as Arundhati Roy began to ask what lay between these two calls for Freedom - a chasm or a bridge? - the streets fell silent. Not only in India, but all over the world. The Coronavirus brought with it another, more terrible understanding of Azadi, making a nonsense of international borders, incarcerating whole populations, and bringing the modern world to a halt like nothing else ever could. In this series of electrifying essays, Arundhati Roy challenges us to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism. The essays include meditations on language, public as well as private, and on the role of fiction and alternative imaginations in these disturbing times. The pandemic, she says, is a portal between one world and another. For all the illness and devastation it has left in its wake, it is an invitation to the human race, an opportunity, to imagine another world.

Ash Mountain

Ash Mountain

Author: Helen FitzGerald Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

A blistering, deep and provocative novel containing moments of heartbreaking emotion and poignant humour. Fran leaves the city and returns to her childhood home in Australia to take care of her Dad. Memories rush back in, but then a devastating bush fire takes hold. The plot and location are as different as different can be when compared to her previous book Worst Case Scenario (a LoveReading Star Book), however I could still feel the distinctive style of Helen FitzGerald. She could plonk her next story on Mars and I would be desperate to read it, this is a writer that as a reader, I would follow anywhere. I just want to mention the stunning cover while I’m here, you’ll find out about it after you’ve finished reading the book, just take a good look before you start. The first chapter hits hard, straight into the middle of chaos, the impact was huge. Set over ten days, we travel with Fran as she returns to Ash Mountain, then back and forwards in time, dropping into her memories before marching on towards the fire. The intimacy of Fran’s life and searing shock of the fire made me shiver and flinch. This is 211 pages of truly fabulous writing, and an all-consuming read. Ash Mountain buffeted my thoughts and smashed my emotions, but oh my, it will be a book I will never forget. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book, I really can’t praise it highly enough.

Star Books
To the Land of Long Lost Friends

To the Land of Long Lost Friends

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

So beautifully written you can just slip into this gentle wander through Botswana alongside the kind and astute investigations of Mma Ramotswe. During a quiet patch at the agency, Precious has friends in need and Charlie is placed in a difficult position. If you haven’t read any of this much loved series, do start at the beginning with the aptly named The No:1 Ladies Detective Agency. We are now at the twentieth novel and the absolute charm of these books is in getting to know the characters (Mma Makutsi is a personal favourite). Alexander McCall Smith excels in creating a light yet warm atmosphere where he quietly looks at complex issues. Human nature in all its wonder is examined with mellow observations and compassionate wit sitting alongside the vivid heat of Botswana as it waits for rain. To The Land Of Long Lost Friends is a lovely, affectionate read and a fine addition to this celebrated series. Find out more about Alexander McCall Smith in our Book Chat blog post.

Books of the Month
Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women

Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women

Author: Sharon Blackie Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/07/2020

Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month! 

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Supporting Cast

Supporting Cast

Author: Kit de Waal Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/07/2020

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Missing A Beat... And Other Stories

Missing A Beat... And Other Stories

Author: Shane Hulgraine Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/07/2020

Missing a Beat and Other Stories is a varied collection of short stories. There are 11 different short stories, spanning a variety of genres although contain a similar thread. Each of the main characters seemed a little bit broken in their own way, with additional obstacles and challenges to face.  I like the variety within this different collection of short stories, this is a book that you could return to, dipping in and out to find a story to suit your mood. Each short story is well-developed and the characters within them are nuanced and well written. Each story draws you in with fresh questions about what has happened and what will happen. I paused between each story to ponder the events. My favourite story was ‘Out of Sync’, the setting, description and atmosphere really brought this story leaping off the page for me, and I especially like the added touch of the bobble head, it added both whimsy and foreboding and was a good example of small detail bringing everything vibrantly to a life.  A great short story collection that I would recommend and return to in the future.

Us & Everything Else

Us & Everything Else

Author: Francoise Helene Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2020

Us & Everything Else is a collection of poems and short stories by Francoise Helene, in which the author explores her feelings about many different aspects of her life. Covering topics from love and loss, pain and healing to joy and wonder, self-appreciation and inner strength. There are also atmospheric black and white illustrations used throughout which are lovely.  The poetry is in free form and the reader will relate to it on a very deep level. Each poem is written from the heart and truly inspiring. Francoise has made herself vulnerable when creating Us & Everything Else so that we may share her connection with the world and indeed the universe. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by these beautiful poems with their amazing imagery. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

Indie Books We Love