Books of the Month

Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!

September 2021 Featured Books

NICK

NICK

Author: Michael Farris Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/09/2021

Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.

Star Books
Black Reed Bay

Black Reed Bay

Author: Rod Reynolds Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

When Orenda Books decides to back an author, whether they write in - or are translated into - English, it’s wise to pay attention as they have an uncanny knack for finding and signing up writers of great quality in publishing’s busiest and most competitive genre. Rod Reynolds is no exception. Having gained plaudits aplenty for his excellent Charlie Yates 1940’s noir series; The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky, Reynolds then diverted to the brutal London-based stand-alone thriller, Blood Red City, and gained a long-listing for the CWA Steel Dagger for his troubles.  Pivoting ‘back to black’ with Black Reed Bay, Reynolds introduces us to his newest creation, Detective Casey “Big Case” Wray, through a superbly crafted contemporary who-why-how-dunnit.  Set in the fictitious Hampstead County - which bears a striking resemblance to Nassau County N.Y - on Long Island, with windswept Atlantic beaches and the cookie cutter beachfront McMansions of a comfortable community, each scene is imbued with a sense of location so real, you can feel the salt spray and neighbourly judgment sting your skin. On the face of it it’s a standard crime/thriller narrative: something bad happens and the police investigate. For some the female victim trope will rankle, but the story and cast are introduced with such nuance and style and then, credentials established, around the 100 page mark Reynolds moves up through the gears to deliver a beautifully paced, smartly plotted read that really delivers. And Wray? Well she is the real star of the story. Somewhere between Frances McDormand’s “Marge Gunderson” in Fargo and Helen Mirren as “Jane Tennison” in Prime Suspect; too good a human and too big hearted to be hard boiled, but à point cynical and with a great store of whip-crack one-liners. Mark these words, Reynolds is going to good places fast if he can repeat the magic of Black Reed Bay in his next few books. Join in and get reading, it’s going to be quite the journey.

Books of the Month
The Joy and Light Bus Company

The Joy and Light Bus Company

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Mma. Ramotswe may have a tiny white van that is kept on the road by her devoted husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, and not a tank, but when she parks it on your lawn, you know you’re in trouble. Not that this is a key part of this particular story, but it is a rare act of challenge to an unfortunate character that comes to Mma. Ramotswe’s attention as she ponders on the happiness of men, the lateness of her much loved father and J.L.B Matekoni’s troubling new foray into business development, with a company that echoes his initials. For No 1 fans, everything we love and adore about these stories is included, the value of quiet wisdom in a world of crass celebrity, the importance of good traditional cattle and of course plenty of tea and cake, as befits the reflectively minded and traditionally built. This pearl of story has some grit to it too, touching on issues of slavery, child labour and violent abuse, and is a superb new addition to the series, a beautifully crafted and elegantly told story of much loved characters doing what they have always done; their best in the circumstances and doing it with dignity, tolerance and understanding. Unless we’re talking about Violet Sephotho, of course, the shameless hussy of the tales, who here gets into a spot of bother with chocolate biscuits. McCall Smith is one of our most gifted and indeed prolific writers, as we know, but he is also that rarest of folk, a true storyteller of the first order who can transport us in fiction, time after time, to a land few of us will be fortunate enough to travel to in reality, a place of big skies, warm welcomes, and respect for your fellow humans.

Books of the Month
The Dragonfly Sea

The Dragonfly Sea

Author: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor Format: Hardback Release Date: 02/09/2021

Sensuous, lyrical, and suffused in the natural world, especially a sense of the ebb and flow of the ocean, Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor’s The Dragonfly Sea shimmers with passion, humanity, and quickening waves of history. And all this unfolds and undulates through tracing the journey of a young girl, Ayaana, forming a novel to take your time over, to luxuriate in and return to. It’s a rich banquet of beautiful words. Beginning on an Indian Ocean island in the Lamu Archipelago, off the coast of Kenya, fearless Ayaana and her mother live a kind of lonely, haunted existence. She has no father, nor a father figure, until a sailor comes into their lives. Without her mother’s approval, Muhidin becomes Ayaana’s friend and teacher. Her life reels and realigns in cycles, seeing her voyage to China with the promise of education and a different future. As her journey surges and ebbs, ebbs and surges, the author lays bare conflicts of the both personal and political kind (colonialism, radicalisation) with individuals and nations caught in the nets of global forces. Through loss and longing, there’s a sense of becoming whole again, finding refuge, and finding oneself.

Books of the Month
Find You First

Find You First

Author: Linwood Barclay Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

It’s a deadly race against time… Tech billionaire Miles has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of – except time. Now facing a terminal illness, Miles knows he must seize every minute to put his life in order. And that means taking a long hard look at his past. Somewhere out there, Miles has children. And they might be about to inherit both the good and bad from him – possibly his fortune, or possibly something more sinister. So Miles decides to track down his missing children. But a vicious killer is one step ahead of him. One by one, people are vanishing. Not just disappearing, every trace of them is wiped.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Return

The Return

Author: Nicholas Sparks Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a moving new novel about an injured army doctor and the two women whose secrets will change the course of his life. Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, he comes to regroup in the dilapidated cabin inherited from his grandfather. Trevor isn't prepared to fall in love, yet from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a deep connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson. Though she seems to reciprocate his feelings, Natalie remains frustratingly distant. Further complicating his stay is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie. Claiming to be 17, she works at the local store and keeps to herself. Discovering that she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather's death, but she offers few clues - until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie's past. In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie's secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that often, to move forward we must return to the place where it all began.

Books of the Month
How to Raise an Elephant

How to Raise an Elephant

Author: Alexander McCall Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/09/2021

The latest instalment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in this new instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . . But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe's comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe's circumspection and Mma Makutsi's sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter? Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe's van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition. In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution - preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani's fruit cake.

Star Books
Men Don't Cry

Men Don't Cry

Author: Faiza Guene Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/08/2021

Faïza Guène’s Men Don’t Cry is an absolute triumph - wise, funny, enthralling, thought-provoking. At its heart, the novel explores the age-old (and sharply pertinent) pull between one’s land of heritage and one’s land of birth, in this case generational and family conflict between Algeria and France. It’s an incredibly powerful commentary on a very real conflict in contemporary France, perfectly summarised when the novel’s protagonist comments that “to be fully French you have to deny part of your heritage, part of your identity, part of your history, part of your beliefs, and yet when you succeed in achieving all that, you’re still reminded of your origins…So what’s the point?” Men Don’t Cry is also a superb coming-of-age story that sees an awkward young man, Mourad, find his feet, and his voice. He was born in Nice to Algerian parents, the youngest of three children. His eldest sister Dounia, a devoted feminist, leaves home without looking back, while his middle sister marries, has kids, and is happy. Mourad is between the two - neither desperate to leave home, nor especially looking to settle down. He’s insular, doesn’t have many friends, so he’s there when his dad has a hugely debilitating stroke. He’s there when his hypochondriac mum needs to vent (which she does a lot, about anything and everything, to comic and poignant effect). But then the time comes for Mourad to leave home too - he has a teaching job in Paris. A few weeks into his new post, he reconnects with Dounia, now a public figure feminist activist who’s stepped onto the political ladder. Her interviews in high profile publications and the book she writes about her upbringing and experiences rile Mourad. For example, she describes their dad as “authoritarian, change-averse, illiterate.” But, nevertheless, it’s Mourad who bridges the chasm between Dounia and the rest of the family, not least at the unexpected, heartrending end of this remarkable novel. Mourad’s voice is engrossing, and feels unfailingly authentic. On that note, deep appreciation must go to the novel’s award-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone - rendering Mourad’s voice so dazzingly into English, is a tremendous achievement. The result is a novel that reads like a dream - vibrant, nuanced, thought-provoking, funny, and shot-through with Mourad’s wit.

Star Books

August 2021 Featured Books

56 Days

56 Days

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

56 Days is entertaining and fast paced - a tale of two strangers who make a hasty decision at a time of extreme stress, fear and anxiety. Multi-layered, brimming with suspense and with well-portrayed characters, this book certainly kept me on my toes. Set in present times, it felt very familiar, occasionally too familiar - a reflection of the early days of the pandemic, when no one could have predicted what was to come. The book has a dual timeline, focusing on a murder investigation in the present day and an exciting new relationship in the past. Occasionally, the two main characters give their persepctive on the same scenes, leading to some repetition, but I found myself trying to read between the lines - what they weren't telling each other, the secrets they were hiding ... 56 Days was a brave book to write (who could have known we would still be living in a Covid-19-filled world on publication day), but it doesn't come across as gimmicky at all. An engaging, unsettling and surprising domestic noir thriller - Brief Encounter with a rampant virus and decomposing body. 

Books of the Month
Looking for the Durrells

Looking for the Durrells

Author: Melanie Hewitt Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

The Durrell family and their writings have been a source of wonder and inspiration to book illustrator, Penny, since her Father read Gerald Durrell’s “Corfu trilogy” to, and with, her when she was young.  Now an enduring bond between them as his life nears its end, when the dread day comes, Penny, grieving and needing time and space, embarks on the promise that she and her dad couldn’t fulfil together, a Durrells’ pilgrimage. Suffused throughout with the scent of flowers, lemon and garlic and the dual salves of sunshine and sea, Hewitt’s tale weaves the lives of fishermen, restaurateurs, holiday company representatives and more into a loving nurturing community, offering a balm to Penny’s spirits. Each character so perfectly drawn and credible, that you feel you know them, might even have actually met them. At heart this is a story of belonging, proof of the Edna Buchanan phrase that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Penny’s quest for the Durrells’ various homes and the restaurants they ate in, slowly revealing that while she can’t live their lives, she can and should live hers and live it well. There ought to be a better word for the way sunlight sparkles so brilliantly on the sea, thought “glisters”, as a conflation of “glistens” and “glitters”, gets close, and this book does exactly that, shining calmly and thoughtfully from beginning to end. This is such a enchanting, uplifting story of love for Corfu, for Corfiots and for life rediscovered, that one wonders why Hewitt has waited to debut.  That she has done so with such a perfect story, written with charm, insight and an utterly captivating sense of humane sensitivity, augurs well for future novels. And yes, tissues are advised while reading, there may be tears!

Books of the Month
Spirited

Spirited

Author: Julie Cohen Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her - and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . . Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them - but Victorian society is no place for reckless women. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight. Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom? Driven by passionate, courageous female characters, SPIRITED is your next unforgettable read! Perfect for fans of other bestselling historical novels The Binding by Bridget Collins, The Familiars by Stacey Halls, and Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

Books of the Month
Savage Road

Savage Road

Author: Chris Hauty Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

AMERICA IS THREATENED BY CYBER ATTACKS ONLY ONE WOMAN CAN PUT A STOP TO THEM Running a double agent from inside the White House to spy on the Russians is not easy, but Hayley Chill has never backed down from a challenge. Then suddenly her whole operation is at risk as a series of cyber-attacks are launched on Washington, D.C. Tasked by the covert organisation she works for to solve the situation, her hunt for the hacker takes her straight to the heart of the intelligence community. SAVAGE ROAD - address The location of Fort Meade, headquarters for the NSA and Cyber Command. Hayley must stop the hacker quickly, before global politics is disrupted and World War III breaks out. But when she uncovers dark truths about her own past, her characteristic calm is threatened... Nothing is as it seems. Nobody can be trusted. Hayley Chill is on her own. Savage Road is a political thriller of our time, perfect for fans of Gregg Hurwitz and Terry Hayes and series like The Bodyguard and Designated Survivor. 

Books of the Month
The Lost Hours

The Lost Hours

Author: Susan Lewis Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

Don't miss the gripping new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author!  A perfect marriage... Golden couple Annie and David Crayce have it all. A loving marriage, three beautiful children and a thriving family business. Life couldn't be better. Until the unthinkable happens... A perfect crime? A piece of damning DNA evidence has arisen, placing David as the prime suspect of a murder committed twenty-years ago. Annie is sure her David is innocent. But if he isn't guilty, then either his father or brother must be. As the police investigate the cold case, so does Annie. Trawling through her old diaries, she begins desperately looking for answers. But it all comes down to a few lost hours she can't solve. And Annie begins to doubt the one person she thought she knew best... Her husband.

Books of the Month
The Lantern Boats

The Lantern Boats

Author: Tessa Morris-Suzuki Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/04/2021

Beautifully-written, smoothly-readable, and waltzing with elegance and the intrigue of espionage, Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s The Lantern Boats is an accomplished work of historical fiction. Melding criss-crossing personal stories with the bigger-picture political climate of occupied Japan, it’s rich in details of time and place, with swathes of charisma that make single-sitting readings all but impossible to resist. Adding to the intrigue, the book’s characters are based on real people. The novel opens with an evocative scene describing the swell of the Sumida River illuminated by paper lanterns in a ritual for the dead, of which there are many as a result of the US firebombing raids that ended six years ago. Then we meet Kamiya Jun, a young war orphan with nothing - “no home, no family, no documents, no identity.” Being invisible makes him ideal spy material, and so he’s tasked by the Americans to spy on Vida Vidanto, a beautiful Japanese poet they suspect of being a communist spy. Meanwhile, part-Japanese, part-Scottish Elly Ruskin feels compelled to spy on Vida herself - she suspects her journalist husband, Fergus, of having an affair with the poet, and all while they’re in the process of adopting a child. The worlds of spy and spied-on intermesh powerfully when Fergus finds Vida’s strangled body, and then follows a gripping quick-fire succession of secrets unveiled, a tragic casualty, and hopeful beginnings.

Books of the Month

July 2021 Featured Books

The Beresford

The Beresford

Author: Will Carver Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

Dark, provocative, and addictive, The Beresford saunters out into the limelight as it plays in the shadows. In an apartment building, in a city somewhere, a never-ending cycle of death is watched over by landlady Mrs May. This standalone supernatural thriller enters a fascinating world where hope cowers in the corner. Will Carver skirts and plays with the unseen curtain that sits on the edge of irreverence. There is a knowing, almost teasing atmosphere that is dark and grim and entirely seductive. The short punchy chapters ensured I couldn’t stop for breath or take a break. It felt as though the rhythm increased, as though I had to read that little bit faster in order to keep up as the ending hurtled towards me. I devoured The Beresford in one all-consuming sitting, if you find the edge of darkness a fascinating place to stand, then this is the book for you.

Star Books
Girls Who Lie

Girls Who Lie

Author: Eva Björg Ægisdottir Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

A chilling tone and unsettling plot is wrapped up inside this cracking police procedural and psychological thriller. West Iceland CID investigate the death of a woman who went missing seven months previously. While suicide was the initial assumption, it's only when Marianna’s body is found that they can establish murder. This is the second in the Forbidden Iceland series, I recommend starting with The Creak on the Stairs which was a bestseller in Iceland, winning the Blackbird Award. While a police procedural, the other characters share the stage which ensures there are some fascinating trails of information to follow. In this book Eva Björg Ægisdottir cements the characters of the policing team. The vivid descriptions and haunting quality of the writing, which is so well translated by Victoria Cribb, ensured I could see and feel Iceland. Two stories sit side by side, each twisting around the other and allowing tension and intrigue access while themes of child neglect and social issues are thoughtfully handled. Girls Who Lie slithers and suggests and coils towards its thought-provoking conclusion, and I will be following this series with interest.  

Books of the Month
When We Fall

When We Fall

Author: Carolyn Kirby Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/07/2021

Carolyn Kirby’s When We Fall tells the gripping, read-in-one-sitting stories of two women who fall for the same man. Sparked by the long-suppressed WW2 Katyn massacre atrocity that saw 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia killed by the Soviet Union, it presents the painful complexities of love and loyalty during terrible times in readably elegant style. England, 1943 and British pilot Vee is set on being given her Wings when she first encounters charismatic Polish RAF pilot Stefan. There’s an immediate frisson between them, and from this first meeting their lives are to be entangled for the rest of their days. Both of them are immensely likeable - Vee for her dogged and down-to-earth determination to succeed in a male dominated field, and Stefan for his amiability and respectfulness.  Meanwhile, in the Polish town of Posen (formerly Poznań), Eva (formerly Ewa before Nazi occupation) has all but given up on her lover returning as she waits tables in her father’s guesthouse while working for the resistance. Matters are complicated when she falls for a handsome German officer, and then her lover - Stefan - returns and asks Eva to take a huge risk for him. He’s asked similar of Vee in England and so, unbeknown to each other, both women become caught up in a costly mission to disclose the horrors Stefan witnessed while in Russian captivity.  Covering events from spring 1943 to late 1945 (with an unexpected addendum from 1963), this is a highly visual, highly sensory novel with relatable, powerful human dilemmas at its heart.    

Books of the Month
Woman of a Certain Rage

Woman of a Certain Rage

Author: Georgie Hall Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

The most wonderful, funny, and engaging novel, Woman of a Certain Rage simply danced into my hands and I read with true glee. Eliza has hit middle age and the menopause, as she navigates all that her hormones throw at her, can she rediscover the joys of her youth? I wanted to wriggle with excitement when I heard that this was Fiona Walker taking a writing step in a new direction as Georgie Hall. I completely understand why she is using a different name, as she says on her site: “I don’t want to mislead readers into expecting a big-cast Walker romp”. I genuinely feel as though I have been waiting for this novel, she takes the menopause years and runs with it, with laughter, warmth, and most of all empathy. She explores family life with teens and parents while maintaining a career, a relationship and home-life while the menopause is on the rampage. She made me snort with laughter on a number of occasions, and I frequently exclaimed as I recognised and related with different scenarios. While the midlife years and all the trials and tribulations that come with it sit centre stage, this is a book that can be read right through the age groups. All hail Georgie Hall as she uncovers the menopause with wit and honesty, excuse me while I find a few rooftops to camp out and shout from. Beautifully readable and laugh-out-loud funny, Woman of a Certain Rage is a LoveReading Star Book with attitude.

Star Books
Trust

Trust

Author: Chris Hammer Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

A smart, fast-moving, and riveting crime thriller, make sure you set aside plenty of reading time as I didn’t want to put Trust down. Martin races to help girlfriend Mandy after checking his voicemail and hearing her scream before the call cuts off. Trust is the third in the Martin Scarsden series, the first and Chris Hammer’s debut Scrublands won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy New Blood Dagger in 2019. So far, each book has seen a different setting, starting in the Australian interior followed by a small coastal town with Silver, and now we enter Sydney. While a couple of previous characters crop up, Martin and Mandy are the main draw. You could potentially head straight into this and read it successfully as a standalone but for the best experience I really do recommend that you start with Scrublands. I feel as though a lot of unanswered questions from Martin and Mandy’s past are thoroughly and successfully covered here. The author’s background as a journalist can be felt as the corruption of power and privilege is examined in the most punchy way. This is a series you can really get your teeth into, intelligent and challenging, yet as readable as can be, I really do hope there is more to come. Trust is a fabulously suspense filled, powerful and pacy read that we just had to include as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
I Know What You've Done

I Know What You've Done

Author: Dorothy Koomson Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Hugely entertaining and addictive, this psychological thriller presses all the klaxon alert buttons from the get-go. The diary of a murdered woman who had been monitoring her neighbours in Brighton holds some very dangerous secrets. Dorothy Koomson is such a consistent writer, her books are oh-so readable, smart and stimulating, and range from family drama and relationship right through to suspense and thrillers. This read is full of suspense and intrigue as it explores family, friendship, and just how well we really know each other. Different characters, all neighbours, head chapters with relevant dates, each person speaking in their own very distinctive voice. These are people who slowly reveal their secrets, and as an added lure the diary secrets are also gradually revealed. I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be as the tension increased, and the explosive ending was just fabulous. This would make a perfect summer read, and though you can just throw yourself in and let go, there are also some thought-provoking themes too. I Know What You’ve Done is a proper page-turner, you may never look at your neighbours in the same way again! Dorothy Koomson is our Summer 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to learn more

Books of the Month
The Night Before Morning

The Night Before Morning

Author: Alistair Moffat Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

This all too plausible and atmospheric reimagining of the end of World War Two hits hard as it turns history on its head. It’s 1945 and Britain is under Nazi occupation after an atomic bomb strikes London. A shocking revelation discovered while on the run, means that David Erskine holds knowledge that could save the world from the Nazi’s. This is historian and award winning writer Alistair Moffat’s first novel. His ability to walk through time with his words, sets a stage that felt as though I was reading history. It really is all too easy to fall into this story and believe it is real, the prologue thoroughly sets the scene before the first chapters take you back a year to 1944 as the Allies were pushing through to victory. Erskine tells his own cooly matter-of-fact story in journal form, while other tales are added to form a wider picture. Action-packed yet succinctly told, The Night Before Morning is a chilling slice of speculative fiction.  

Books of the Month
The Disaster Tourist

The Disaster Tourist

Author: Yun Ko-Eun Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2021

Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist is a triumph of originality and slick, satirical style. It’s a richly wry, cuttingly dark comedy that shines a light on the absurdities (and ethical dubiousness) of certain tourism practices, and on modern life more generally, with its understated lyricism packing poignant punch. Through Yona, we certainly see the bizarreness of the world we live in. A world in which a thirty-three-year-old woman works for a travel company that specialises in disaster tourism package holidays. To compensate Yona for being sexually harassed by him, her boss allows her to take a break on one of the trips they’re thinking of axing. What a deal! What a way to deal with harassment! Yona goes on the trip to the remote Vietnamese island of Mui, where the major attraction is a supposedly catastrophic sinkhole. When she becomes trapped here, the island takes on the appearance of “a theme park that wasn’t yet open”. Then, after making a hideous discovery, cutting truths are revealed like exposed nerves amidst escalating absurdity - and tragedy. Quite brilliant.  

Star Books
Fortune

Fortune

Author: Amanda Smyth Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/06/2021

From the exceptional author of Black Rock, Amanda Smyth’s Fortune is an absolute dazzler. Set in 1920s Trinidad, and based on real-life events, the novel is founded on exquisite storytelling. It’s measured in style, and panoramic in impact - though the writing is so finely accomplished its influence swells over time as the novel charts a universal story of desire and ambition, of love and lust, of all-but impossible battles with the external forces of nature. I relished every sentence, every considered word, every beat of a plot that pulses to the varied rhythms of its characters’ unsettled hearts. What’s more, it captures a nation on the cusp of monumental change - Trinidad’s earth-shattering shift to oil from its struggling sugar and cocoa industries. A chance encounter between handsome, charismatic Eddie Wade and Trinidadian business man Tito (lately down on his luck) leads them to hatch a plan to make their fortunes in oil. And the man who holds the key to their future fortunes is Sonny Chatterjee, a superstitious farmer whose cocoa estate is failing due to the abundance of oil oozing up through his soil. Sonny is reluctant to go into the oil business with anyone, and sceptical, as is his wife (“Who really need oil? Who want it? Not me, not you. You can eat oil?”), though she’s also angered by their escalating poverty. And so the two men convince Sonny, and they’re granted a lease to drill his land for a year. The very first meeting between Eddie and Tito’s wife Ada is charged with electricity. She’s a beautiful enigma, he’s like no one she’s never met, “he could have fallen out of the sky.” As the oil project progresses, the men battle sickness and set-backs until the black gold starts surging, as does the yearning between Ada and Eddie. Though ignorant of this, Tito unwittingly makes a premonitory statement, of sorts: “Ada has fire in her. A woman who has fire, if you love her, she’ll warm up your heart.” To which Eddie replies, “If you don’t she’ll burn down your house.” Tito laughs, “That’s exactly right, Eddie. She’ll burn down your house.” The way Ada and Eddie’s relationship buds from fascination, to lustful tension, to overwhelming desire, is exquisite: “Ada knew something was happening to her. The world was different. The hills were greener, the sky a painting of light.” A fatal accident on a neighbouring oil site causes Sonny to want to halt the drilling and sell up, but Tito and Eddie want to drill one more well before their lease is up. Enthralling and heart-stopping to the end, Fortune is a magnificent feat of fiction.

Star Books

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