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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
A moving and engaging addition to the family saga and drama of The Four Streets series set in 1950’s Liverpool. The Doherty’s, who everyone relies on have moved to Ireland, another family is in serious trouble, and corrupt police officer Frank the Skank is about to move into the street. After several standalone novels, Nadine Dorries returns to the series that launched with her debut The Four Streets, and continued with Hide Her Name, and The Ballymara Road. The characters and location are still firmly stamped into my mind and I looked forward to their return. This is just as warm, gossipy and familiar as I remember, though among the ups, there are plenty of downs for the families on the street to contend with. Vibrancy and colour warm the pages, while the villain of the piece adds tension, and oh how I hoped that he would received his comeuppance! Coming Home to the Four Streets will appeal to anyone who loves an entertaining family saga, this is a satisfying and rewarding return to the series.
If you’re in need of a truly lovely and heart-warming relationship tale then I can recommend that you stop right here. If the thought of a rescue dog and a Scottish island also appeal, then you really have come to the right place. An abandoned small terrier enters the lives of residents and visitors on the Island of Sgadansay. I do so love Fiona Gibson’s writing, as I’ve said before, she writes with empathy, and the extra sparkle of romance and wit is just delightful. Her tales feel as though they are grounded in reality and I always find myself really connecting to her characters. This is a multi-generational tale and we meet 10 year old Arthur through to 78 year old Harry. Suzy and Ricky who are both in their late 40’s head the chapters, each telling their own tale and living life with its ups and downs. I love the dog sharing aspect of this story, connections form, seconds chances beckon, and friendships begin to flourish. There may well be a heart-stopping moment or two to encounter, but ultimately this is as feel-good as it gets. As a ray of sunshine to combat darkness, The Dog Share is a wonderfully engaging and entertaining read.
Co-written by Brendan Kiely and the always-exceptional Jason Reynolds, All American Boys is an immensely powerful, timely novel about police brutality against young Black men. Shining a stark light on white privilege and the racism implicit in not speaking out, it’s a punch-packing wake-up call for us all to stand up and plant ourselves on the right side of history. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour. It all goes wrong for Black sixteen-year-old Rashad when a cop jumps to the unfounded conclusion that he’s shoplifted a bag of chips. Rashad’s arrest is brutal and the cop, Paul, leaves him with internal bleeding and broken bones. There were witnesses though, among them Quinn, a rising basketball star from Rashad’s school who also happens to know Paul. In fact, Paul has been like a father to Quinn since his dad died on service in Afghanistan, which puts him in a tricky situation - speaking out against Paul would sever his friendship and support ties. But Quinn’s decision to keep quiet unravels when footage of the incident is picked up by the media, with everyone in town taking a side. As a powerful “Rashad is absent” school campaign gains momentum along with plans for a big protest march, Quinn realises that not speaking up is a form of racism, that as an “All-American” white boy he can walk away from anything. “Well, I was sick of it,” he decides. “I was sick of being a dick”. Aware that his dad had inspired Paul to become a cop to “make a difference in the world”, Quinn resolves to be like his dad too, but not in the sense of being loyal to his country and family, which is how people always frame his father’s heroism. Quinn means in the sense of standing up for what he believes in; being “someone who believed a better world was possible - someone who stood up for it.” Packed with plenty of moments that will make you melt and tear up (such as Rashad’s relationship with the hospital shop volunteer, and the bonds between him and his buddies and big brother), this is a smart, incisive, rousing read for our times.
Honest of heart and exhilarating in spirit, Isabel Allende’s The Soul of a Woman is an inspirational account of the writer’s lifelong feminism. Interweaving autobiography with astute commentary, it presents a stunning tapestry of a life lived fighting inequality in all its forms as it seeks to light the way for a better world. “When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” Allende begins this stirring memoir, referring to seeing her father leave her mother “with two toddlers in diapers and a newborn baby” when she was three, compelling them to move to live with her grandparents. It was here that Allende’s “anger against machismo started” as a result of realising that her mother and the housemaids were subordinates without voice or resources. The contrast made between the stoniness of patriarchy (an aggressively imposed system that “grants dominion and privileges to the male gender” and “punishes those who defy it”) and feminism’s ocean-fluid nature is sublime. Feminism “moves in waves, currents, tides, and sometimes in storms. Like the ocean, feminism, never stays quiet.” An ocean metaphor might also be applied to this book - it undulates beautifully as Allende recounts her life through feminist lens. The tone is invigorating, and charmingly familiar too, with interjected “by the way” digressions, as if in the company of a wise and passionate friend. And, like the kind of friend who brings joy to any gathering, Allende ends this book with a bright beam of optimism. While aware that inequalities have never been deeper (“we can’t continue in a civilisation based on unbridled greed and violence”), she believes that this is a time for reflection, a time to ponder what kind of world we want to live in following the brutality of a global pandemic. For Allende, that’s a world in which “peace, empathy, decency, truth, and compassion prevail.”
In Between Two Kingdoms, Saleika Jaouad traces her journey from her diagnosis of a rare form of leukaemia at a young age to remission and beyond. This deeply moving book is dark, raw and honest. The first half follows her experiences of the cancer treatments and how these affected her own identity, as well as her relationships with loved ones. The second half follows her fluctuating emotions as she shifted from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor with a ‘new normal’ way of living. After doctors told her she was ‘cured’, she took a road trip across the country with just her dog at her side, meeting strangers who had written to her in hospital offering their support. Saleika Jaouad is an exceptional storyteller and her book is beautifully written – I could feel the pain, anger, fear and passion behind her words as she learnt how to find meaning in life again. It’s a book about survival and support, hope and healing – not always an easy read but well worth the journey.
An exquisitely written and beautifully emotional novel that will remain in my heart and thoughts. Edward survives a plane crash in which every other person, including his parents and brother, die. As the only survivor he becomes the lodestone for the relatives of the other passengers. Ann Napolitano writes with huge compassion as she explores overwhelming grief, and the tragedy is sensitively and skilfully handled. Knowing what is coming, in no way prepares you for the journey. Two time frames travel together, the first immediately leading up to the crash, the second as Edward learns how to survive the aftermath. Scattered within are smaller, intense, briefly short stories that added to, and intertwined with the overall tale. I was allowed to find my own way, to consider and contemplate as I walked alongside Edward. I felt the most profound heartache and joy as I sank into the lives of the passengers, not only incredibly thoughtful, it is also a thought-provoking read. Dear Edward has been chosen as one of our LoveReading Star Books, it is a must-read and truly deserves to be a huge success.
Klaxon alert! Discover full-on heart-pounding action, plus smart, sharp writing in this absolute reading feast of a book. Travelling from Africa to the UK and ending in Russia, former Foreign Legion Commando Dan Raglan is on a hunt that guarantees death. This is the first in what promises to be a smash-hit spy thriller series and I already can’t wait for the next book. The prologue throws you straight into October 2019 with a man running through a frozen Russian forest while bullets whip towards him. Chapter one turns to 2013 and from here we get to know Dan Raglan. As an introduction, it’s spot on, within pages I was on board and by his side. Author David Gilman is a former firefighter, paratrooper, and photographer and now writes full time. His words build a vivid picture, this world feels authentic and I read with full confidence. I was so involved in the unfolding story that my thoughts didn’t skim backwards or forwards, I purely existed in each moment as it hit. And boy, each moment lands with ferocious intensity. Shockwaves of action expanded and the storyline tripped me with unexpected developments. Even though I had read the prologue, the ending still came with a whammy. LoveReading Book of the Month - tick, LoveReading Star Book - tick, one of my personal Picks of the Month - tick! The Englishman comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me, more please!
A smart, enthralling historical thriller with real attitude, this LoveReading Star Book is the sixth in the Bruno Giordano series. Bruno is tasked by Sir Francis Walsingham to go under cover after he arrives with information about a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. What a cracking series this is, each book can easily be read as a standalone, but oh, you really would be missing out if you didn’t read them in order, so do start with Heresy if you are a newcomer. S. J. Parris creates delicious intrigue and suspense as Bruno embeds himself in the plot. She takes fact, and welding it to fiction forges a seamless and fascinating tale. I would like to go on record as saying that I adore Bruno, I felt as though he was beside me as he told his story, and I found myself leaning in to hear more. Digging deep into the corners of history, Execution is a pacy, fabulously entertaining story that I can highly recommend.
Another truly lovely and heart-warming romantic saga from the award-winning Dilly Court. When Kate arrives back in London from India in 1858, she determines to help the poor and opens a soup kitchen however rival gangs place her life in danger. Dilly Court opens up a world and allows entry for your reading pleasure as the settings come alive under her pen. Kate is bright, courageous, and determined to do the very best she can. There are several potential matches for Kate, who will you warm to? Romance is also on offer for a number of other characters which creates a delightful will-they-won’t-they atmosphere. Each character adds depth, even if only on the page for a moment. The tension is high with scoundrels and out-and-out villains trying to outwit each other. This novel really does fulfil all the requirements of a romantic saga. The Reluctant Heiress contains wonderful courtship, dastardly deeds, and plenty of family drama, ensuring a riveting read. If you'd like to read more about Dilly Court, do take a look at our LoveReading Loves Channel - Fall in Love with Dilly
A beautifully written, smart yet dark novel novel of suspense and tension. A family from a small nearly abandoned village in northern Sweden find themselves a target when rumours suggest that they own a fortune. I absolutely raved about Stina Jackson’s award-winning debut, The Silver Road, and this her second novel hits the just the right notes too. She has the ability to inject moments of light and hope within the darkness that holds the story in its grasp. Translated by Susan Beard, I could feel all the differences of Sweden yet felt entirely at home within the words. The background tale from 1998 begins to fill in the gaps in the present. A real sense of menace is created, and something unforgivable lurks, waiting to be found. The characters are as deep as the tone is dark, and I read with bated breath. The Last Snow cements Stina Jackson as an author to watch, this is a story that just thrums with foreboding atmosphere and demands to be read, highly recommended.
Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles. Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16. When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood. The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera. This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners. The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too. The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture. A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy.