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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
A beautifully poignant, thought-provoking and special novel that really does travel to the heart of what it is to be human. 20 year old Sebastian knows exactly what he wants, his hormones are raging and he is desperate for sex however his autism limits his ability to meet girls. When Sebastian’s mother Veronica contacts escort Violetta, the lives of all three change forever. The novel focuses on the three main characters, each is vividly realised and I positively ached for and adored all three. Their individual stories weave through and under and around each other, the short chapters tying them together, creating one whole tale. Louise Beech often crosses genres in her novels, and has explored crime through to relationship stories. Her particular skill, on display in all of her novels, is allowing us to connect and sink in to what it means to be human, she takes us below the surface, below the obvious, and allows us to explore. My emotions sang throughout this novel, I balanced the exquisite tightrope that swings from the pages, stepped out, and fell in love with the words, the feelings they evoked. The title is absolutely perfect, and when I had finished, I just sat pondering its meaning. The Author’s Note at the end shows just how connected Louise is to this story, how she was inspired by her experience of autism as ‘an outsider’ and she also talks about #OwnVoices. This is How we are Human is bold and provocative, thoughtful and warmhearted, and I declare it is completely gorgeous!
Welcome to the most squishy heart-warming hug of a romance. Marisa finds herself adrift after her grandfather dies, her grief moves with her to Mount Polbearne in Cornwall where she shies away from her neighbour and the welcoming community. Neil the puffin is back, but no need to worry if you’ve not yet joined the Little Beach Street Bakery Series. Jenny Colgan’s books read as perfect standalone titles, though this as an introduction will undoubtedly call you back to read the rest of the series! It is acknowledged that grief is something we all feel differently, Marisa’s feels touchable and relatable, and I positively ached for her. Polly and her wonderful family are as joyful as ever, even with money difficulties. I simply adored getting to know Marisa’s neighbour, and again Jenny Colgan adds real depth to the characters. The storyline, with delicious glimpses of Italy, is a compassionate delight and the ending all that I had hoped for. Uplifting and gorgeous, Sunrise by the Sea is another approachable and heart-soothing read from one of the most wonderfully consistent authors around.
Number One bestselling author Philippa Gregory's new historical novel tracks the rise of the Tidelands family in London, Venice and New England. Midsummer's Eve, 1670. A wealthy man waits outside a poor London warehouse to meet with Alinor, the woman he failed twenty-one years before. He has everything to offer: money, land, status - and he believes she has the only thing he cannot buy: his son and heir. Meanwhile in New England, Alinor's brother Ned cannot find justice in the New World, as the king's revenge stretches across the Atlantic and turns the pioneers against each other and against the American Indians. Then, a beautiful widow, Livia, arrives from Venice, telling Alinor that her son Rob has drowned and that she needs their help. She enchants the warehouse family with her sensual carefree warmth, and promises of a new profitable trade selling beautiful statues of marble and bronze to fuel the classical craze among the wealthy landowners. But something in Livia's story doesn't add up and the answers lies across the dark tides in Venice...
This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer - the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, in a big, messy family, one teenager watches as brothers and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter the Goddens - irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there's a serpent in this paradise - and the consequences will be devastating. From bestselling, award-winning author Meg Rosoff comes a lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale - a summer book that's as heady, timeless and irresistible as Bonjour Tristesse and I Capture the Castle but as sharp and fresh as Normal People.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for A Room Made of Leaves. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
What a devastatingly honest - and brilliant - book this is. Its portrayal of grief and the absurdity of death - the bizarre, unfathomable fact that someone just isn’t there anymore - are simply incredible. Earth-shatteringly raw and resonant, it’s a book that will break your heart and heal it. Set in Tasmania and London, Gill and Gabe are thousands of miles from their son, Dougie, when they’re told he’s drowned in a caving accident in England. They rush to London, deciding to keep Dougie’s death from their daughter Sylvie, who’s seriously ill with anorexia, and leaving their adorable youngest child, Teddy in the care of a close friend and his equally adorable grandfather Papabee, who has dementia. In England, chef and food writer Gill can’t face viewing her son’s body, can’t face the fact of Dougie’s death and so she returns to Tasmania, keeping up the pretence that he’s still alive by writing letters from him to Sylvie - it becomes an obsession. In England, Gabe obsesses over every excruciating detail of Dougie’s death, both of them distracting themselves from the truth. In contrast, Teddy is working to uncover the truth of Sylvie’s illness, believing she’ll get well if he can work out when it began - his love and steadfast determination to save his sister are incredibly touching, and I cannot praise the authentic, tender representation of his relationship with granddad Papabee enough. Inseparable, they have their own “TeddyandPapabee” collective noun. Teddy also perfectly expresses brutal truths about death and grief with piercing honesty: “When Dougie went into that little box, I thought the main bit of his dying was finished. I was wrong. Nobody tells you that being dead just keeps on going… he’s dead every day.” Similarly, in her haunting monologues, Sylvie reveals brutal truths about her anorexia. Peppered with Gill’s heart-breaking recipes (Mediterranean vegetable soup for the day you land in England to collect your son’s body; Roast beetroot salad for the week after your son’s post-mortem results are released), the story reels and swerves to a truly edge-of-your-seat, hold-your-breath conclusion. While the family’s pain and grief always tangible, the buds of healing are too. What a book.
Wearing its warm heart and uplifting messages on its sleeve, Uzma Jalaluddin’s Hana Khan Carries On is a highly readable romance about staying true to your principles - even when that means risking your future. Riffing on You’ve Got Mail, and exuding the same feel-good vibe of forging a positive path through hardship as the author’s debut, Ayesha at Last, this is a cute and charismatic read with a powerful portrayal of a community rallying round to stand up to racists. Twenty-four-year-old Hana Khan is a Toronto-born, South Asian Muslim who interns at a radio station, helps out in her family’s dwindling restaurant on the Golden Crescent and hosts a podcast “to ask questions, without worrying who might be listening and judging”. Through her podcast Hana strikes up an adorable anonymous friendship with one of her listeners, to whom she turns for advice about her worries, particularity those around her family’s restaurant when a flashy competitor rocks up and threatens to put them out of business. While Hana’s family is at the heart of her life, she’s chosen to follow her own path, not unlike her charismatic aunt, “a woman ahead of her time” who “hadn’t been afraid to make bold decisions and carry them out.” Evoking her aunt’s spirit comes to the fore when Hana’s put in an impossible situation at her radio station - an exciting opportunity to work on a show with a fellow intern sours when they’re pushed into “perpetuating harmful stereotypes about Brown people and Muslims”. To handle this, Hana must heed her aunt’s advice: “Find your principles and see your story through to the end, no matter what.” Alongside worries about work and the restaurant, Hana is attacked by racists before a baseball game, and then comes a hate-fuelled attack on the Golden Crescent. Throughout, the sense of unity and generosity in her community is a joy - it serves as such a wonderful support network. Hana is persistent, tenacious and, as the title states, “carries on” to forge a bright future - on her own terms, according to her principles, with an unexpected someone at her side. Fun and thought-provoking, this serves up a sweet slice of romance with a side of real-life grit.
Gentle, mysterious, and incredibly evocative, this is a novel to read slowly and absorb. After realising no-one attended the funeral of garden designer Nina Lawrence in 1978, archivist Lottie begins to investigate her life and death. The story flows between Lottie finding her feet in Rome, and excerpts from Nina’s notebook. While the two women sit centre stage, it is actually Rome that struts forward to earn the title of lead character. Elizabeth Buchan has brought this wondrous city to life, the social history, the small intricate details that make a place touchable and breathable all flow from the page. We are allowed an almost immediate connection with Lottie, while Nina remains enigmatically detached. Information about Nina is slowly revealed and I sat back and observed her life unfolding. Quietly cultivated reveals keep a soft tension thrumming through the novel. I rather liked the fact that I didn’t know every intimate detail. While the ending enfolds and divulges answers, not everything was resolved and I was left still pondering, still thinking, still wondering. Two Women in Rome is an atmospheric, truly lovely read, with a deep mystery at its heart.
James (Scouse) O’Connell was a 22-year old Private in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when, along with his fellow soldiers, he was deployed to the Falklands to engage the Argentinian invaders. Three days in June describes the last few days of the war when 3 Para fought the battle of Mount Longdon. By the time the battle was over, 23 of their number were dead and 48, wounded. Sergeant Ian McKay was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. James O’Connell was left with life-changing injuries, the result of a bullet that entered his face through his nose and removed his cheek-bone and right eye. Candid, gritty and, at times, gruesome, this is a warts ‘n’ all account by the young men who were there, and told in their words. This makes the book all the more readable as it’s the perceptions, the humour, the fears, the honesty and the sheer heroism of these men that shines through. From the moment I opened the first page of the hardback, I suspected I was going to be in for a treat. The book looks and feels of very high quality and the content certainly delivered. A book for anyone with even the remotest interest in military history, this is a book to savour, enjoy and then have pride of place on any bookshelf.
A wonderfully warm, bright book to escape into, to give yourself up to and just enjoy. Jodie Jackson leaves everything she knows for a houseboat in the Isle of Wight, she soon finds herself falling for the island and its inhabitants, but London is calling and won’t take no for an answer. I always look forward to reading the latest book by Carole Matthews, they wrap me up and give me a massive loving squeeze. Having said that, this isn’t syrupy sweet, oh no, some real life dilemmas and mistakes sneak in to ensure a feeling of connection, that this could be you, or someone you know. I loved Jodie’s voice and how she talks to the reader, it not only created a bond, I ended up feeling as though I had made a brand new friend. Pure, wonderful escapism, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes really is the most lovely relationship tale and I can thoroughly recommend picking up a copy and just allowing yourself to sink into the pages. We simply adored this book in the office and so it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as well as a Book of the Month. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
An all-consuming read awaits in this wonderfully crafted, fast and sharp thriller. Colter Shaw wants to take down crooked company BlackBridge, but they will let nothing get in their way. This action-packed series began with The Never Game, and here we are already at the third book in and I’ve particularly enjoyed how the plot has continued and developed through the novels. Dare I say it, The Final Twist is my favourite in the series so far, Colter is really settling in as a must-read character. Jeffery Deaver is hugely adept at setting whip-smart plotlines and characters you care about. The reader is always kept in the dark about one or two things, which lead to exciting reveals that hit the spot at just the right moment. Here, the wow of the introduction and first chapter explodes into being, and that was it, I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be and read it in one glorious sitting. I felt as though I was in the heart and heat of the action right through to the smile-inducing end. The Final Twist is an engaging and enthralling thriller that proclaims Jeffery Deaver as the master storyteller he is.
A wonderfully readable, thoughtful yet amusing, and sometimes painfully honest memoir from journalist Emma John as she asks: “What does happily ever after look like when your Prince Charming never shows up”. Emma is in her forties, she is not in a relationship, nor plans to be, in Self-Contained she looks at a society that views single as a temporary arrangement and, what it actually means to be on your own. Emma visits her past as she galloped through her twenties into her thirties and then entered her forties. She explores with intense personal reflection and writes with a self-depreciating wit. She is also incredibly honest and friendly, I felt as though I was having a heart to heart with one of my best friends. I have to admit to blushing beet red as I read one particular section, I still cringe at the memory of twenty-something me saying to a friend: “someone will come along when you’re least expecting it” and her vexed reply that she: “wasn’t looking”. Self-contained isn’t in the slightest bit preachy, it just feels as though Emma is allowing you into her thoughts, and in turn it made me think about mine. Chapter 14 is a wonderful closing chapter and it really, really made me smile. Self Contained: Scenes from a Single Life is a book for everyone, no matter how old you are, whether in a relationship or not, there is much to discover and appreciate between the pages.
This is the most scrumptious journal for book lovers. While it is centred around book clubs even if you’re not a book club member you could still use it as a collection point for your own booky thoughts. Sanne Vliegenthart has been sharing book love since 2008 with her Books and Quills videos. She has created the most lovely journal, with space for your thoughts and feelings on books to take centre stage. The book is perfectly sized, with a beautifully stylish cover. She gives some smart tips on starting and maintaining a book club, she is realistic about little issues that may crop up, and how much time we all get to read. Basically she is encouraging and friendly, and I think will inspire your book club with her suggestions. There is space for your to write about 50 books, a helpful ribbon marker, and at the end Sanne suggests some cracking reads for you to consider as your book club picks. Book Club Journal is not only lovely to look at, it just begs to be filled in, and would make a perfect gift for someone else or yourself!
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.
All twenty-two of the short stories included in Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw’s stunning Caribbean-set Stick No Bills are rich in atmosphere and thought-provoking observational detail. Cutting to the core of their characters’ states and situations, lingering long, and possessing the power of a Siren’s call to draw readers back for multiple readings, these stories are masterworks of the form. Vibrant with humanity and emotional ambiguities and truths, each story is a finely drawn vignette. The author’s characterisation is first-class; her painterly observations and details of place and psychological states profoundly affecting. Take 'Killing Time', for example, in which a young Trinidadian woman coins the term “lostfulness” to describe her uncertain state of being and relinquishes her dream of becoming a writer - the ending made my heart flip. Some of the stories are only a few paragraphs long, and yet these too bear tremendous power. 82, for example, unpacks an entire existence in its chain of 82 words. In these shortest pieces, Walcott-Hackshaw conveys the feeling of existing within particular moments with brilliant dynamism - fleeting flashes of thought, or poignant reflection, or anticipation of what will come next. The eponymous story, 'Stick No Bills', is an exquisite example of this, capturing as it does the cycle of life and motherhood as a woman ponders the imminent departures of her daughter and mother with heart-aching precision, and all prompted by observing a “stick no bills” notice on an ice factory she first saw during her childhood. While the stories exude multiple moods, together they form an exquisite whole, united by finely-threaded themes of family, loss, the passing of time, ponderings on the past, and possible futures.
Written in its unforgettable protagonist’s captivating Trinidadian voice, Lisa-Allen Agostini’s The Bread the Devil Knead is an exceptionally immersive read that resonates with the heart-wrenching rawness of a women’s lifelong abuse at the hands of men, and the seeds of her future liberation. Every perfectly-placed word, every perfectly-formed sentence rings with truth and strikes deep. Port of Spain boutique manager Alethea is about to turn forty. Thankfully, though, there’s one thing she can count on, “and that is my looks. I going on forty but you would never know it, because every morning and night God spare life I does cleanse and tone and moisturise from head to foot.” But while she has her looks and is philosophical about reaching this life landmark (“is just a number and the face you does see staring back at you in the mirror not as important as the memories in the mind behind it”), the trouble with Alethea is that “most of the memories was bad”, while her present-day life sees her frequently abused by her partner. She finds some solace in the arms of her boss, though, and in books: “This is how I does see the world: by reading books. I does go to London, Hong Kong, Siberia, even, when I read a book. I does meet all kind of people. Learn all kinds of words. Live all kinds of lives. Thank God for books.” Then, when her adopted brother, now a priest, returns after decades away, she begins to take a new path as secrets are laid bare and ways through a dark and tangled forest come to light. Through Alethea’s complex, damaged character Agostini lays bare complex, potent truths about sexual and violent abuse, racism and colourism. Mixed race and light of skin, she’s subjected to prejudice: “because my skin light colour they feel like I feel I better than them. That is bullshit”, and “People in this island does always surprise to know it have poor white people, but though we skin was light and we hair was straight we wasn’t really white and we didn’t have a penny to we name.” And she also sees that “even after Independence, after Black Power, after all that. Is still a kind of racial, colour-conscious place where people who look like me does get through” while darker skinned people “doesn’t get one shit.” Raw and achingly beautiful, this really is remarkable.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.
Honey & Co’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich have struck culinary gold in Chasing Smoke, a gorgeous grill-focussed cookery book that takes readers on a tasty tour of the authors’ favourite food locations - rural Jordan, Alexandria, southern Turkey, Israel, Thessaloniki - with all manner of dishes and eateries covered, from kerbside kebab joints to swanky grill houses. Organised by food type (fruit and veg; fish and seafood; birds; lamb and other meat; bread and unmissables), the recipes are wonderfully varied and easy-to-follow. Grilled peaches with almond tahini, chicken wings in spicy pomegranate molasses, classic Adana kebabs, herby cheese-filled griddle bread - from this small selection of recipes, it’s plain to see how beautiful banquets might be born from this book. With stunning photos of places and people alongside vibrant visuals of the delicious dishes and raw ingredients, plus lively accounts of the authors’ culinary journeys, this is so much more than a recipe book - it’s as much about exploration and friendship, and discovering the region’s culinary culture, though cooking remains at its heart, of course, supported by practical tips on techniques, such as how to start (and mellow) your fire, top tools of the trade, and to how to construct you own home-smoker. Bog-standard burger-and-banger-BBQs, your time is up!
Comedian Geoff Norcott’s Where Did I Go Right? How the Left Lost Me is an honest, amusing and thought-provoking account of how a working-class lad raised on a council estate by a unionised father and matriarchal mother ended up voting (wait for it…) Tory. Framed as his journey to discover how this unlikely turn of events came about (he was surely destined to be Labour red - how on earth did he turn blue?), this lively memoir is packed with engaging anecdotes and provocative reasoning. While I stand firmly at the other end of the political spectrum, it provided fascinating and well-considered insights into how the half think and, as such, should be read by both Reds and Blues. “Given my solid working-class background and performing arts job, it’s obvious to everyone I meet that I should be Labour through and through. I’m a comedian who grew up on a council estate with two disabled parents, and my dad was a trade union man. But that’s not how I voted.” So Norcott states near the beginning of the book, setting out his unusual stall before tracing his left-to-right swing back to his adolescence. “My dial was moving all the time”, he recognises amidst growing disillusionment with New Labour - though his first non-Labour vote didn’t go to “those Tory bastards”, to quote his dad. From the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers and credit crunch, through to Brexit, Norcott’s funny (and moving) personal experiences are smartly woven into his political musings and analysis.
An intriguing and yet desperately sorrowful look at the unresolved case of Sophie Toscan du Plantier who was murdered outside of her holiday cottage in 1996. Due to the remote location in West Cork, this particularly violent killing has been described as a ‘locked room’ murder mystery. Nick Foster is a journalist and author, he began researching the story in 2014 and has spent six years: “living the story, inhabiting the puzzle”, and while the twists and turns are undoubtedly fascinating, he has a considerate and compassionate touch. This is an eye-opening account, within a short time the police had a suspect, Ian Bailey, however he was released without charge. Nick Foster became involved in the case when Bailey sued the Irish state, claiming: “the Irish police had engineered a massive stitch up”. We are privy to witness statements, police notes, and transcripts, plus of course Nick Foster’s own investigations as he got to know Bailey. I felt as though I was in the middle of the investigation with every aspect over the years since the murder covered, and the last chapter sent an icy shiver down my spine. Perfect for true crime fans, Murder at Roaringwater is a compelling and riveting story of a truly dreadful crime.
Razor-sharp tightrope time with this belter of a read, it is as dramatic and different as it is fabulous. Discover two books in one novel as true crime is enveloped by breathtaking storytelling. Read Eve Black’s memoir as she searches for the man who murdered the rest of her family 20 years ago. Sitting by its side is the story of the killer Jim Doyle as he reads the book and fears he will be unmasked. This has such a clever premise, Catherine Ryan Howard ensures that this is one of the few instances where knowing the identity of the killer actually adds to the intensity and drama. The change from one book to the other doesn’t jar in the slightest, each embraces and calls to the other and the transition is seamless. The tension increases until it is fairly reverberating through the pages. I let myself be carried away in the story, and don’t forget, this is a story, and it works because there is no sneaking a peek at the end! The Nothing Man is a blast of pure reading entertainment, and has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Nothing Man.
With the most wonderful blend of stark and sharp plot lines mixed with richly descriptive detailing this is a beautifully readable novel. It stands independently outside of genres as it slips into mystery, family drama, and relationship tales, and covers nearly one hundred years. A Highland shepherd disappears, years later his family still have questions and start to search within their family for answers. A eulogy sits at the very beginning, setting the mystery element in stone yet opening a door to intrigue. Numbered signs sit among the chapters, allowing a personal insight into the shepherd himself. The chapters are short and there is a large cast of characters but I didn’t ever lose my way. The majority of the novel sees two main characters spilling thoughts and feelings, which encourages a closer connection. Merryn Glover has an evocative pen, the descriptions sing, the sense of place flowed into my awareness and I found I couldn’t stop reading. Of Stone and Sky is an unexpected novel, echoing the past and asking questions of the future, it really is a truly lovely read.
What an elegant, edge-of-your-seat triumph this is. Set near the ocean in 1980s San Francisco, Vendela Vida’s We Run the Tides explores the coming-of-age experiences of thirteen-year-old Eulabee and her best friend Maria Fabiola, an enigmatic, attractive, gets-whatever-she-wants kind of girl. They stride affluent Sea Cliff with supreme confidence - the streets are theirs, the world is theirs, and nothing can stop them: “We want to want. We want to love. We want to want love. We are on the precipice of having real boyfriends, of making out with them. We know this.” While walking to their elite girls’ school with other friends, they witness something disturbing. Or so Maria and the rest of the girls claim. Eulabee insists it didn’t happen - to her friends, and the police. Then, in the aftermath of this disagreement that sees Eulabee ostracised, Maria goes missing, prompting an outpouring of anxiety in the neighbourhood as the police investigate her suspected kidnapping. And so an intense entanglement - and unravelling - begins. The potency of teenage female friendship is masterfully evoked - tightly knotted, holding powerful sway, but also quick to fray. And Eulabee’s offbeat voice is mesmeric, authentic and often amusing, notably during the toe-curling account of her first sexual experience. Unique, unexpected, affecting and funny - you couldn’t ask for much more from a novel, and reading this has pushed the rest of Vendela Vida’s novels to the top of my must-read list.
What a fabulously readable and eye-opening book this is. With experts guiding your way, visit the amazing world of ants as they build, raise, grow, and hunt, raid and devour. I’ve always been enthralled by ants and have watched in fascination as they purposefully march their way through life. I’ve also wondered what happens to the lone lost explorer who ends up on your clothing potentially miles away from home, well I found out the answer to this and learned a whole host of other interesting facts in Empire of Ants. Yet this isn’t a data and statistic gala, the writing duo of Susanne Foitzik and Olaf Fritsche have ensured an engaging and absorbing read. One of the first things we are told is that: “If all the ants suddenly disappeared, terrestrial ecosystems across the word would be on their knees… Without ants, the natural world would suffer a long period of instability and would never look the same again”. They’re important then, these bustling ants who exist and create and invent, there’s plenty to learn as we are introduced to them by biologist Susanne. There are so many similarities with humans, and yet their structure could quite easily sit in the realms of fantasy. Empire of Ants is an intensely satisfying and entertaining read that opens up a whole new world.
Light, bright, and tremendously entertaining, The Wife Who Got a Life also tackles some difficult subjects with balance and consideration. After years of putting her family first, Cathy decides to take back control of her life and sets up a list of monthly goals. Over the year I spent with her, I smirked, sniggered, and laughed, oh how I laughed! While Cathy is heading towards menopause, the writing ensures this is a read that everyone could enjoy. Tracy Bloom has a seriously witty pen, and knows exactly when a smile is needed, there were times when the words buffeted my thoughts and then in the next moment hugged me. She has the ability to write about tough times with love and empathy while being sharply aware and ensuring Cathy has an authentic voice. I absolutely adored this novel and would describe it as a wonderfully smart and joyous celebration of life. The Wife Who Got a Life is feel-good writing at its best as it lifts you up while remaining completely aware of the sharp reality of life. A LoveReading Star Book, this is one to pop to the top of your reading pile. The LoveReading LitFest invited Tracy to the festival to talk about the fabulously readable The Wife Who Got A Life. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Tracy in conversation with Julia Wheeler and find out why you won't want to miss this witty and uplifting read. Check out a preview of the event here
A truly beautiful and stimulating book that can be devoured in one heady go or dipped into and adored. Meet and wonder over illuminated addresses, books, scrolls or certificates in celebration of events. Covering a hundred years, sitting mainly in Victorian times, each is its own masterpiece, the designs so colourful and intricate, they shine from the page. On display are 50 letters with a particular theme, from royalty, to civic duty, to clubs and societies. John P Wilson explains that the recipient could be wealthy or famous, or an ordinary person who had provided special service. He states these letters: “provide an opportunity to obtain an insight into someone’s life and achievements, and allow a brief historical opening into social history”. Each letter sits with an explanation, but the focus here is the beauty of the letter. In our current times, the art of the letter is all but forgotten, and these treasures appear to be almost jewell-like in their wonder and intensity. I have quite fallen in love with this book, it really speaks to me. Beauty in Letters is a wonderful insight into the past, and a stunning display of true creativity and artwork.
21 Breaths by Oliver James is a gorgeous little yellow hardback book. It’s excellent quality, inside and out. The first section of the book focuses on the benefits of breathing techniques. Oliver James relates the story of when he discovered breathing techniques could change his life, followed by simple explanations of how these can affect different parts of your body, and how they may help to change how you feel too. Then there’s a chapter with four simple tests to check how to assess whether you’re breathing correctly – it really did make me think about ‘how I breathe’ and how my breathing could be improved. In the main section of his book, Olive James describes breathing techniques to suit various physical and mental needs, including pain, constipation, sleep, confidence, anxiety, posture and stress. Each breathing technique is explained clearly, with simple tips to follow. The book contains beautiful black-and-white drawings of the author demonstrating each breathing exercise, and these really helped me to get my posture and positioning right. A fascinating book that’s easy to dip into or read all the way through – and it looks great too!
Conceived a year before his tragic death as “an atlas of the world through his eyes”, Anthony’s Bourdain’s World Travel is a glorious testament to the unique wit and worldview of a chef, food writer and travel documentarian who was, above all else, a brilliant storyteller. Put together by his long-time assistant Laurie Woolever, with contributions from friends, family and colleagues in place of Tony being around to write some of the planned pieces himself, this is a travel guide like no other - unsurprising given that Bourdain was a character like no other. From Argentina to Vietnam, Australia to Uruguay, this A-Z travelogue includes information you’d expect to find in a conventional guidebook (how to get there, where to eat, where to stay) but beyond these basics, it dishes up Bourdain’s distinctly personal take on the many places he’s explored. His words are always incisive; always a brutal blend of raw candour and decadent description. There are thoughts on food, history and culture, sometimes contextualised by Tony’s companions, while at other times all it takes is a straight-talking, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth quote from the man himself, like these words of caution for first-time tasters of Brazil’s potent dendê oil: “You know, it takes some getting used to. The first time I was here, you eat it, you shit like a mink for hours afterwards. But now, no problems! Lovin’ it.” There’s passionate political commentary too, notably when he talks about Cambodia (“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands”) and Mozambique, a beautiful nation that has, to Tony’s anger, been “relentlessly screwed by history”. Honest, insightful and salty, this is a delicious antidote to formulaic travel writing; a rejuvenating blast of anti-blandness that stirs an urge to explore the world with even a soupçon of Bourdain’s fearless, flamboyant spirit.
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.
Potently timely, Diana McCaulay’s Daylight Come is a Caribbean-set masterwork of speculative fiction that explores humanity and avenues of hope in the devastating wake of climate change. It’s 2084. The island of Bajacu is under the ruthless rule of the Domins. While “dawn used to be hopeful,” the inhabitants are now “on the run from the day” as a result of the sun’s scorching strength forcing people to sleep by day and work by night. In the cooler mountains, the Toplander elites protect themselves in a hidden refuge, while Sorrel and her mother Bibi are struggling Lowlanders. On her fourteenth birthday, Sorrel makes a promise: “one day, she would find a place where it was possible to sleep in the dark and go outside all day when it was light.” Sick of their precarious, close-to-starving existence, and having heard of the Tribals, people in the island’s interior who’ve found ways of sustaining themselves and surviving the attacks of feral animals, Sorrel persuades her mother to head for higher ground. Bibi’s narrative reveals the environmental changes that led to this situation - the escalating global effects of “melting ice, swirling snowstorms, cities swallowed by earthquakes”. Closer to home, “the crops began failing and the fruit trees stopped bearing.” Human fertility declined too, resulting in fertile women falling prey to Domin men. During their gruelling journey, Sorrel, the girl who came into the world as the sun rose, the girl whose birth was “daylight come,” is rescued by a young Tribal woman. The Tribals have made a life for themselves in the cooler highlands, where breadfruit and coconuts still grow, where water is plentiful - bounties Sorrel has never known. Mother and daughter are taken to the Tribal elder who will decide if they can stay but, at 45, Bibi is too old. Blamed for the state of the world, and a seen as a drain, older people have no value in this society. The elemental beauty of Bibi and Sorrel’s bond is a powerful thread - how Bibi knows her daughter bone-deep and makes the most profound sacrifice for her. Sisterhood is central too, as seen through the tribe of resourceful women coming together in a society in which men and women are deeply divided. And it’s women who devise and lead the courageous, perilous act that may forge a more hopeful future. Gritty, moving, and startlingly plausible, this exceptional novel delivers an extraordinarily powerful perspective on pertinent problems facing humankind right now (hunger, environmental ruination, deep social inequalities), but beams of hope burn through the bleakness.
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
A hard-hitting, fast-moving slicing wow of a book. An old case is reopened when new evidence appears, and a violent predator hunts his next victim. It’s no secret that I get jump-up-and-down excited about Karin Slaughter’s novels. She has the most wonderful ability to pitch full-on sharp storytelling and blasts of drama alongside thoughtfully handled social issues and relationship dilemmas. This could easily be read as a standalone, however there are two series that link to this novel, Will Trent and Grant County. Both series are just too good to miss, and I highly recommend them. For those who have read both sets, in this particular book time slides along a different path in order to make two time frames work. The author’s note perfectly explains why at the end, but (big but), make sure you don’t read the author’s note until you have read every last drop of the novel! Will Trent and Sara Linton work with the rest of the team, while the past runs alongside and does some serious meddling. Please note there are some fairly graphic descriptions of medical examinations and brutal attacks within the novel. Karin Slaughter doesn’t shy away from highlighting a distressing subject matter, which she mentions in her notes and the last part of her acknowledgments. While graphic, it is not gratuitous, and I felt every word that made me wince was necessary. The Silent Wife is another winner of a read, it sent goosebumps skittering down my arms and this, her twentieth novel, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Pick.
“For the last thirty-two years, you’ve not once trotted out for a run around the block. And now you tell me with a straight face that you want to run a marathon.” So begins this scathingly amusing novel that sees 64-year-old Remington - recently forced to retire early after an unsavoury employment tribunal – develop an unhealthy obsession with extreme exercise and his hideously competitive trainer, Bambi. Remington’s wife, sixty-year-old Serenata has always been a solitary exerciser (“I find large numbers of people doing the same thing in one place a little repulsive”), so the fact that her “husband had joined the mindless lookalikes of the swollen herd” comes as a shock, and an insensitive affront too, given that she was recently compelled to give up a lifetime of running after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both knees. Their spiteful bickering begins immediately, with neither party displaying themselves in a favourable light. Indeed, both characters are largely unlikeable, which makes their sniping all the more entertaining. Remington bemoans accusations of privilege, thus revealing said privilege: “I’m a little tired of being told how ‘privileged’ I am... How as a member of the ‘straight white patriarchy’ I have all the power. I’m supposedly so omnipotent, but I live in fear, less like a man than a mouse.” After (eventually) crossing the finish line of his first marathon, Remington signs-up for a gruelling triathlon, with his farcical persistence in spite of serious incidents and injuries making this novel both hilarious and excruciatingly cringe-worthy, albeit with an unexpectedly bittersweet upshot.
A beautifully gentle yet pointed, and amusing yet thoughtful, feel-good relationship tale. When head teacher and separated mum of two Lucy, meets butcher, babysitter, and aspiring DJ Joseph, their age gap is just one of the obstacles in their path to finding love. This isn’t an overly sensational or dramatic tale, it’s more subtle than that, though it does cover three years during and after the EU referendum. Don’t groan, as Nick Hornby looks back in the most mindful way possible. Thoughts are provoked and rich pickings are to be found, as lots of little lightbulb moments clicked on as I read. The plot settled in the lightest of dances through some pretty weighty subjects. It’s not shouty, or finger-pointy, a relationship is created within a set of circumstances that allows you to form your own thoughts. I feel Nick Hornby has written the perfect story for anyone suffering from Covid 19 blues. Just Like You is an incredibly uplifting, engaging and stimulating read, and I absolutely loved it.
An absolutely cracking spy thriller with a difference, this is one to put to the top of your reading pile. Disgraced spy August Drummond finds himself up to his neck in trouble when he steps into the middle of an Islamic State plot. Author James Wolff (a pseudonym) has worked for the British government for over ten years. There is an undeniably sharp edge to this story that feels all too real, and yet the fabulous writing ensured I couldn’t determine what was outrageously inventive or shockingly authentic. One thing I would definitely recommend, and that’s starting with the first in this trilogy, Beside the Syrian Sea. While you could read How to Betray Your Country as a standalone, to fully understand what has come before is an important part of this tale. August is a loose cannon with a conscience, the loss and sadness that directs his every move is clearly felt. And yet, there is an underlying wit, smirk, and dark humour that skulks through the pages. This is a story that skips and flits and burrows and teases. As the file excerpts filled in missing information and as the plot sky-rocketed towards its conclusion I became more and more consumed. A LoveReading Star Book, How to Betray Your Country is ever so smart, provocative, and thought-provoking, its also thoroughly entertaining. It comes with the hugest of thumbs up from me.
Lucinda Gosling’s John Hassall: The Life and Art of the Poster King is an exquisite feast of vibrant visuals for anyone interested in art and design history. While exhaustive in its coverage and analysis of John Hassall, whose iconic posters and postcards are instantly - and widely - recognisable, its lively, accessible tone will also enthral interested laypeople. Born in 1868, John Hassall began his long, successful, influential career as an advertising artist after studying in Paris, where he was influenced by Czech design innovator, Alphonse Mucha. Hassall went on to found an art school and work across multiple disciplines, including pottery, toy-making, book illustration, fine art and commercial art, each of them bearing his distinctive bold style and wit. His impactful WWI and travel and transport posters are instantly recognisable, as are his striking ads for big brands like Colman’s Mustard and Nestlé. Many sketches, letters and diary excerpts are here published for the first time, and the standard of the reproductions do excellent justice to the striking quality of the art itself. Alongside learning about Hassall’s life, and enjoying the high-quality visuals, I was especially wowed by seeing some of his book illustrations for the first time, among them a stunning Art Nouveau Little Red Riding Hood, and his astonishing “Pantomime ABC”.
Perhaps best known for her seminal WWII photojournalism, or her earlier life as a surrealist model and muse, or her sublimely striking solarised portraits, Lee Miller was also an exceptional fashion photographer, whose work illuminated the pages of British Vogue (Brogue) from 1939 to 1944. Featuring over 130 images, plus an excellent contextualisation essay by Ami Bouhassane, Miller’s granddaughter and Co-Director of the Lee Miller Archives, Lee Miller: Fashion in Wartime Britain is a breathtakingly beautiful, informative book - clearly a must-have for Lee devotees, and also essential for those interested in forties fashion and style. Since many of the images featured here haven’t been seen since they were shot in the 1940s (they came to light while being archived in 2020), this truly is a treasure chest to delight in. Miller’s editor at Brogue wrote of her in 1941 that “she has borne the whole weight of our studio production through the most difficult period in Brogue’s history” and this book is a glorious record and celebration of Lee’s contribution to the publication, with an essay by Robin Muir, contributing editor to British Vogue, furnishing readers with detail on this. The range of subjects, settings and fashion is a joy to behold, and fashion historian Amber Butchart’s essay offers fascinating insights into the era. There are classic Lee portraits of women wearing tailored suits, striking angled poses in stark light. There are women positioned by rubble, or going about their day-to-day business. There are staged studio shots of women in elegant eveningwear. And there are women (and the occasional man) in utilitarian outfits - “fashion factories”. All of them, of course, bear Miller’s inimitable panache, her way of seeing the world and its people. Simply stunning.
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.
Always engaging and illuminating, Laura Galloway’s Dálvi is an uplifting ode to doing something different. A testament to how a person can flourish after fleeing the monotony of the work, spend, socialise, show-off-on-social-media cycle of modern life to live by an entirely different kind of cycle - the kind that’s directed by nature’s shifting seasons in a unique environmental and cultural setting. Threaded with themes of flourishing through adversity, and finding home and love in unexpected places, this remarkable memoir is as stirring as it is gripping. The author’s journey began when a genetic test revealed that she shares DNA with the indigenous Sámi people of the Arctic tundra. Having endured a disastrous marriage, and growing increasingly dissatisfied with her life in NYC, Galloway ventures to the Norwegian town of Kautokeino, ostensibly to discover her roots, but in actuality discovering herself and her future way of life. Here, in this remote reindeer-herding region she meets and falls for a herder and decides to stay - even after he leaves her just six months later. With only very limited knowledge of the Sámi language, Galloway lives a largely solitary life with little money, and yet this life is so much better for her: “Now it is simple. There is no noise and no distraction. I have to be with myself, whatever that means, in the silence, listening to nature, being still.” In contrast, “When I left New York, I was exhausted – emotionally, financially and physically, as if I had been on a giant rat wheel.” Galloway is an amiable, amusing companion - never self-indulgent and always honest, not least when writing about her traumatic childhood (the death of her mother when she was only three, and the unrelenting vindictiveness of her father’s second wife). In time, little by little through her six years in the Arctic, she realises, “I’ve moved between two worlds.” And, at the heart of this transition, and a consequence of living in nature, her “endlessly fascinating companion”, is the realisation that “home is inside you and all around you.” Home whispers, “’I am here’, when you are most alone.” What a joyous life-affirming read.
A dramatic, intense, and entertaining mystery which is so vivid it feels as though you are watching the story play out rather than reading the words. DCI Jansen joins a house party for the luxury launch of a new tech company after one of the high profile guests receives threats. This is the third in the DCI Maarten Jansen series though only my first outing and I found that it reads wonderfully as a standalone. There is fascinating insight into the guests and it feels as though this is their story rather than Maarten’s. There are a fair few characters to get your head around, but each is distinctly different which helps. The country house chic, the wealthy guests, the backbiting and buzz all adds to the theatre of the piece. Rachael Blok allows information to ebb and flow, slowly filling in blanks, and all the while the interplay between the characters encourages suspicion and intrigue to grow. The ending enters with a roar, with events dramatically concluding. Into the Fire is as much about the setting and characters as it is the crime, which ensures a hugely captivating read.
Penetrating and emotionally intense this is a fabulously compelling family drama. Jonathan Coulter’s will simply stipulates that his three children should decide how to dispose of his estate, this causes arguments and increasing tension particularly given that no mention has been made of their mother or their father’s new partner. Caroline Bond excels in creating dramatically readable novels that delve into what it is to be human. She also writes with incredible empathy as she explores thought-provoking subjects and allows the reader to arrive at their own conclusions. There are five main characters here, they feel as real as can be, with intricate layers slowly exposed to allow us to see who they truly are. This is an incredibly intimate tale, with the majority of the novel taking place over a weekend in Scarborough. As the tale progresses and the walls close in on the discussions taking place, the few excursions that take place out of the house release tension. The focus firmly remains on the emotions that swing and swerve as grief and loss in the immediate aftermath of death is explored. A story about love and family, The Legacy really is a wonderfully stimulating read, and it’s been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
Action-packed and wonderfully sinister, this is a fabulous addition to the Jackdaw Mysteries Series. Nicholas and Bianca flee to Europe after an accusation of treason, en route they are joined by a strange young woman who claims to predict the future. This is a series I can highly recommend, do start at the beginning with The Angel’s Mark so you can witness the relationships as they grow. S. W. Perry conjures 1594 into being, the sights and sounds, the conspiracies and intrigue, all flourish on the page. Within this novel two main tales sit side by side, with Nicholas and Bianca on the road, and Ned and Rose looking after the rebuilding of the Jackdaw. The intimacy of the two tales is severed when trouble begins to hunt them down. Shivers of goosebumps travelled down my arms on meeting Hella, she is a character I won’t forget in a hurry. I found myself devouring the words as they flung themselves from the page and the ending roared towards me. The Heretic’s Mark really is the most thrilling, stimulating and fabulously readable tale.
So good, I read it twice. In recent years, television reality shows and documentaries have provided an insight into what it takes to become a badged member of our Special Air Service, the highly skilled and largely anonymous elite soldiers who stand at the very pinnacle of the UK’s armed services. Many, many books – non-fiction and fiction – have been written about the exploits of these soldiers. Some have been auto-biographical; most have described life at the sharp end – from the Iranian Embassy to Afghanistan – where the blades, as they are often called, pursue their dangerous profession. Following a traumatic departure from a corporate career, Monica began working at the SAS Headquarters as a kitchen hand. The blades – geezers as we discover they are now more often called – discovered someone they could talk to, someone who would listen, someone who cared. In the main, Geezers is a series of anecdotes; stories of conversations, of characters, of situations and challenges. At times it is tragic, at times it is very funny. Always, it is fascinating. Never before, has the public been given the opportunity to read a lay person’s account of what life away from the front line is like for these men – during selection, during training, in their down time and when they are at rest and play. What do you talk to your wife or partner about when so much of what you do is secret? What is it like to work away from home, cut off from friends and family for months at a time? How do men adjust from kicking down doors and fire-fights to playing with their children, mending a leaking tap or dealing with mounting household bills when they eventually return? The fact this is a book written by a civilian is key to the engaging quality of Geezers. Monica Lavers is observant, intelligent and articulate. She is not constrained by military training or doctrine. As a result, this book is really quite unique. Which explains why I read it twice. Because, at first, I was sceptical. By the time I was half-way through Geezers, I was hooked. And so, I went back and read it again. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
Our April 2021 Book Club Recommendation Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. With love and family sitting centre stage, this is an emotionally intelligent and beautiful novel. Reclusive 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius find their lives in disarray when their mother dies and secrets spill forth. At LoveReading we have adored Claire Fuller’s novels since her debut Our Endless Numbered Days which won the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2015. I love her writing style, she has the ability to take you to known yet entirely unexpected places within the human soul and your own subconscious. Her descriptions almost hurt as they land with apparently effortless precision. This has a seemingly simple premise, yet it thoroughly provokes thoughts and contemplation. The words danced from the pages into my mind, and pieces of my heart cracked and broke away. A wonderful balance is maintained as hope is allowed to remain within touching distance. These are characters that will stay with me, this is a story that I will return to. Unsettled Ground evokes raw emotions and yet it is a thoughtfully compassionate and gorgeous read. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book.
Many Different Kinds of Love has the subtitle ‘A story of life, death and the NHS’. This book is a thank you to the NHS healthcare professionals and helpers who looked after Michael Rosen when he caught Covid-19 last year. These weren’t just doctors and nurses, but also speech & language therapists and physios, all working out of their own comfort zone to help on the frontline. Michael Rosen can’t describe most of his ICU experience, as he spent 48 days in an induced coma. But this diary of his hospital stay uses a mixture of poems, drawings, diaries and letters from hospital staff, family and friends to provide an honest account of what it feels like to care for someone with severe Covid. Michael Rosen talks about not just how he felt physically during his recovery and rehab, but emotionally too – revealing his frailty and fragility. He shows warmth and gratitude for the people who saved his life, and anger towards those who deny the seriousness of the pandemic. This book is full of raw emotion – sad, honest and thought-provoking, but also uplifting, heartwarming and enlightening. A joy to read!
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