There’s something about a debut. The team at LoveReading adore discovering a new favourite author. Can you imagine the blood, sweat, tears and love that has gone into the process of becoming an author? Here you can be in at the start and then recommend your favourites far and wide.
WINNER OF THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE 2021 England, 1643. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women. Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive?
Deliciously rich and dark, this reimagining of The Story of a Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas is loaded with recognisable elements yet is as delightfully individual as can be. Set in Nottingham in 1906 ballerina Marietta’s family have proclaimed that she should stop dancing and take her place in society, when she meets neighbour Dr Drosselmeier she is thrown into a new world full of magic. This is the debut adult novel by M. A. Kuzniar, she draws enchantment and menace together and allows them to walk hand in hand. The beauty and strength of friendship sits centre stage while a relationship slowly blossoms. This most definitely isn’t a sugary sweet confection, a hint of the nightmare echoes through the pages. The traditional dark elements of folklore and fairytale scuttle and scurry with a fabulously modern edge. The characters crackle with energy, the setting sparkles with light and shade, and the ending, oh, that ending! Potently sharp and beautifully magical, Midnight in Everwood dances in to sit as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Robinson Book of the Month.
Through the finely-nuanced narratives of three Black women from very different backgrounds, Lola Akinmade Åkerström's In Every Mirror She’s Black is a remarkable feat of fiction. Teeming with hope, desire, struggle and love, this powerful page-turner pulls no punches as its engagingly three-dimensional characters strive for better lives in a world that makes it anything but easy for them to be themselves. It also dismantles any notion of there being a monolithic Black culture, and lays bare the unjust multiple standards by which Black women are judged - and all this through dazzling story-telling that will leave readers desperate to read the author’s next novel. The three female protagonists are linked by one wealthy man - Jonny Lundin, born into one of Sweden’s most privileged families, and CEO of the country’s biggest marketing company. Bored and frustrated by work, and by the men she meets on US dating apps, award-winning marketing executive Kemi is ripe for change when Jonny invites her to become his new Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. While on a flight to woo Kemi from America to Stockholm, Jonny encounters Brittany, a former model who now works as a first-class flight attendant. Initially dismissive of Jonny’s attention, she finds herself drawn to him - he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and lavishes her with unimaginable devotion and wealth. Then there’s refugee Muna, who lost her mother and younger brother during a treacherous sea crossing, and now works as a cleaner in Jonny’s office, while dreaming of becoming an accountant and having a group of good friends. True to life, the women variously make mistakes, face excruciating decisions, and long to feel fulfilled. Their finely-drawn stories are equally as engaging as they struggle to feel at home in a city that’s supposedly egalitarian, but turns out to be rife with implicit racism, tokenism, and injurious stereotyping. Riveting, moving and stirring (with punch-packing endings you won’t see coming), In Every Mirror She’s Black is a magnificent must-read.
Oh what fun this is, written in diary form, the year in the life of Liz is a cackling, absolute fire-cracker of a read. Liz deals with all that life throws at her, from impossible questions from her two children, through to navigating family, neighbours, friendship, and work. I loved Lucy Mangan’s quick-firing and witty, yet compassionate and inclusive writing. I don’t have children, despite this, I fully participated in the family life on offer here. I could relate to the dilemmas and plights, joy and love, I sympathised, empathised, smirked, and on several occasions even laughed out loud. Although all the characters stand independently proud and fabulous, my favourite just has to be five year old Evie, who rules with an iron fist and is described as a gangster and anarchist. Author and journalist Lucy Mangan’s first novel is an absolute belter. Are We Having Fun Yet is a warm, uplifting, gloriously funny read and comes as highly recommended and a Liz Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book.
'Girl A,' she said. 'The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.' Lex Gracie doesn't want to think about her family. She doesn't want to think about growing up in her parents' House of Horrors. And she doesn't want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can't run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings - and with the childhood they shared. Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.
When Amy Ashton's world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection. Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been. Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves - soon there'll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy's carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she'd lost still be hers for the taking? Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places
Super smart and a little weird (in the best possible way), Several People are Typing comes served with a huge dollop of darkly quirky, smirky humour. This novel, which comes in at under 250 pages, is all written in the workplace chat function of the app Slack. Gerald is uploaded into the Slack while working on a spreadsheet, his pleas for help initially go unanswered by his work colleagues. We use Slack at LoveReading, but you really don’t need to be aware of it in order to ‘get’ this book, anyone who uses a workplace communications channel, apps or social media will just slide into this book and within a couple of pages feel right at home. Gerald and his colleagues could be anyone, anywhere, the little darts of jealousy, humour, support, showboating, flirting, and all the other emotions that highlight office life can be found on display. In terms of characters, Slackbot is a particular favourite of mine, the horror of the situation is deftly handled with humour by Calvin Kasulke. While office politics and shenanigans are front and foremost, I really enjoyed the relationship element sneaking in to stir things up. And it really did stir things up as it also poked a thought-provoking elbow into sexual consent. Several People are Typing is a fabulously ballsy read that edges along a tightrope between provocative and humour.
Truly fascinating, this is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in a while. Seriously, I could rave on and on about it! Journey to what feels like an entirely different planet and explore the wonder of fungi. “Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live...Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view , and over 90% if their species remain undocumented.” Author Merlin Sheldrake caught and held my attention from the outset. I had to stop reading every so often just to contemplate the world that was opening up in front of me. I still feel gobsmacked days after reading it. Fungi has shaped our history and “the ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in breakthrough technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘wood wide web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.” Entangled Life made me reconsider established thoughts and opened my eyes to new ones. I want to recommend it to everyone, for me it’s a genuine must-read and just had to be included on my list of Liz Picks of the Month and as a LoveReading Star Book.
An extraordinary and angry Russian novel about poisons of all kinds: physical, moral and political. Untraceable is a wonderful piece of fiction rooted in the recent history of Russia's state assassinations, especially the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Professor Kalitin is a ruthless, narcissistic chemist who has developed an untraceable, extremely lethal poison called Neophyte while working in a secret city on an island in the Russian far east. When the Soviet Union collapses, he defects and is given a new identity in Germany. After an unrelated Russian is murdered with Kalitin's poison, his cover is blown and he's drawn into the German investigation of the death. Two special forces killers with a lot of Chechen blood on their hands are sent to silence him - using his own undetectable poison. Their journey to their target is full of blunders, mishaps, holdups and accidents. Urgently topical and compellingly readable.
Well, a debut doesn't come more well-honed than Inga Vesper’s absolutely cracking slice of dark Americana, The Long, Long Afternoon, which is set in the summer of 1959 and encompasses a gripping mystery with an excoriating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are under-estimated, silenced and diminished. Beautifully written with scenes and characters that take you right back to a time of mail-order catalogues, mother’s ‘little helper’ and the appalling casualness of race and gender inequality, Inga has created a breath-taking, chromium-shiny, tale of how dark the sunniest places can be and how very desperate things can get. The LoveReading LitFest invited Inga to the festival to talk about The Long, Long Afternoon. 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 Inga in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone is talking about this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
Nina George Dean on the surface has it all. Fantastic friends, a new home all of her own, a successful career as a food writer and a loving family. Saying that, her thirties thus far haven't been all they were cracked up to be...and so she decides to dive into online dating. This is a funny observational debut novel by Dolly Alderton, a voice we recognise from her best-selling memoir Everything I Know About Love and her podcast The High Low. But it's fresh, it's so relatable, so real. We've all been through it or know someone who has - and because of that it's so heartfelt and sad and tender and true. But funny; I chuckled, laughed and nodded along on every step of Nina's journey. And it's not an easy journey as love interest Max isn't quite what she hoped he'd be with his good looks and prepackaged charm and we hope she doesn't fall hard when after two hours she "wants to touch his face which looked like it belonged to a Viking warrior". Her doting dad shows more and more signs of dementia, and her friendships drift as friends become consumed with kids, love and moving out to the 'burbs. Whatever decade you're in, this will serve as a witty warning, a reeling realisation or a magnificent memory and I can't recommend it enough.
In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers. For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result. When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man. And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all. HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.