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I knew in every bone of my body, in every fibre of my being, that I had to report what had happened, not only for myself but to help stop anyone else having to go through what I did. I knew I could not remain silent, or still, I could not stop walking through the world. A journey of reclamation through the natural landscapes of the North, brilliantly exploring identity, nature, place and belonging. Beautifully written and truly inspiring, I Belong Here heralds a powerful and refreshing new voice in nature writing. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England when she became the victim of a race-hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her travelling freely and without fear. The Pennines - known as 'the backbone of Britain' runs through the north and also strongly connects north with south, east with west - it's a place of borderlands and limestone, of rivers and 'scars', of fells and forces. The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita's journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance.
Satisfying, convincing, and rewarding, the final book of the Ration Book series is appropriately set in the last months of the war. Even more appropriately the focus is matriarch Queenie (a particular favourite of mine), and we float between her early life in Ireland, and the Queenie in her 70’s of the Second World War. If you haven’t yet started, I would recommend going back to the beginning of this series with A Ration Book Dream as A Ration Book Victory is a coming together of storylines and characters. It is obvious that Jean Fullerton has a passion as well as well researched knowledge about this period. You can feel the life on the home front, the ploys to stretch your food, the fear for loved ones fighting, living life on the edge waiting for a silent V2 to explode into your life. As ever, the characters feel vibrantly real and the plot ticks along highlighting Queenie’s life. Her strength of will is apparent as we visit her in Ireland, and the feelings she still holds for her first love are heartbreaking. The trademark humour surrounding this character is very much on show, often coming out punching as a result of her fiery nature when protecting the people she loves. For those who have adored this series from the beginning, A Ration Book Victory is a fitting end to a compelling and poignant wartime family saga.
For readers with an interest in what happens behind the scenes in the newsrooms – of which there are many – The Shot is sure to satisfy their thirst for the next big scoop. Given her first chance in the spotlight, young TV journalist Samira is out to prove her worth. Alongside seasoned photographer Kris, they take a photograph – a shot that has thrown their whole mission and lives in peril. As a former CNN news executive, author Sarah Sultoon packs her novel with the kind of details that only someone who’s been on the frontline of war reporting can – from what life is like in conflict zones, to the petty squabbles in the newsroom. What many readers may be left with is the full effect and exposure of the realities of war reporting. Sultoon’s style never veers into gratuitous violence, but her book is made only more visceral by the current conflict in Ukraine.
Darkly compelling, and provocative, yet with bright pockets highlighting the power of self-awareness and love, Quicksand of Memory walks into thoughts and shakes up feelings. Revenge means everything and when Jenna and Luke fall head over heels for each other, not everyone is happy for them. Author Michael J Malone is a trained therapist, this book explores the affects of traumatic events, how the past can alter the future with devastating results, and the emotions raised feel authentic, feel real. From the outset whiplike tendrils of disquiet creep their way into the story. The connections between the characters simmer just below boiling point, and as the flames built, I sat in fear for what was to come. While the plot succeeds in maintaining tension and suspense, it is the characters who really come to the fore. Luke and Nathan’s relationship in particular nurtures and protects a necessary balance that ensures the focal point remains sharply in focus through to the end. Thoroughly rattling and provoking emotions, Quicksand of Memory is an intense and absorbing novel.
Set against the sizzling backdrop of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s first royal tour to Australia, this is historical fiction simmering with the drama of banquets and betrayal, seduction and scandal! For identical twins Daisy and Violet Chettle, stepping aboard the royal ship marks the start of a new chapter in their lives. A chance to serve at the very highest level, and the opportunity to leave behind the tragedies of their own shared past. Daisy won’t stop at anything for a taste of the high life – much to her sister’s outrage. But when Violet’s own secrets catch up with her on the other side of the world, their fragile relationship grows ever more turbulent. Andrew Mackie has created a tantalising world inhabited by characters that are both desirable and despicable, often behaving badly behind the façade of regal splendor. The consequences are heartbreaking, unexpected and sometimes comical - but that’s all part of the book’s charm. You’re never quite sure how the drama will unfold from chapter to chapter! The Journey after the Crown is most definitely a piece of fiction. But isn’t it thrilling to imagine how life behind the scenes of the real tour of 1954 may have played out? Mackie has given the Queen’s landmark trip the Bridgerton treatment to brilliant effect; the writing sparkles like Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuous wardrobe and the secrets concealed below deck match the intensity of the adoring crowds and landscape above.
Neil Lancaster has written a twisty, high-octane police procedural that thrilled and intrigued me from beginning to end. Starting with several dramatic scenes, this book drew me in straightaway, following DS Max Craigie and colleagues as they investigate two seemingly linked deaths. I've not read the first book in this series - Dead Man's Grave - but this didn't matter at all, as The Blood Tide works well as a standalone, with enough back story to fill in any gaps. The writing is beautifully descriptive, bringing the diverse characters, stunning Scottish countryside and fast-paced action scenes to life (it seemed as though everything was springing out of the page in front of me), and the humorous banter between the team brought some light relief to break up the darkness of the plot. The author's own police background provides realism, authenticity and insights to a gripping and gritty read. Highly recommended Scottish Noir - I'll be picking up the first book in this series soon, and look forward to the third.
When Lottie Brown bumped into Leo she was convinced he was “The One”. Their three months together were pretty much perfect. She was the happiest she’d ever been. Until she lost him. As she mourns the man snatched from her too soon, she crumbles, her heart breaks and Lottie struggles to get her life back on track. They hadn’t had time to meet their family and friends, to fully know each other. Leo had never met Lottie’s two sisters, the remainder of their trio. She’d met his cousin Ross briefly but that hadn’t gone too well. Having already been unlucky in love this is a step too far for Lots. A heartwarming read with a little heartbreak, just don’t forget the tissues.
Like the rhythm of the sea itself, this life-affirming novel pulls you in and sweeps you along with captivating ease. Emotions rise and fall from chapter to chapter - heartbreak, joy, love, regret - and guaranteed you will be yearning for your own summer escape before the final page has closed! Poor Freya. Her dream of being an artist is in shatters and her love life isn’t looking much better. Just on cue, fairy godmother Lola invites her to spend the summer working in her small village café on the Cornish coast. It’s the perfect chance for Freya to leave behind her broken life in London – and take a much-needed break from men. But when the mysterious Angelo storms into town with his motorbike and unavoidable Italian beauty, issues of the heart are about to loom large. There’s so much to fall in love with in Jennifer Bibby’s romantic debut: intuitive Lola, the friend and champion we all need in a crisis; postcard-perfect Pulcarrow, the small fishing village that reignites Freya’s passion for art; and the heartwarming community of people, (and a dog!) who scoop Freya up in a gentle embrace and provide a safe place for her to grow again. Every page oozes with their warmth! If you ever needed a reminder of the healing power of friends, the landscape and a slice of freshly baked cake, then The Cornish Hideaway is the perfect novel. A charming read for the summer season.
A tense, twisty novel about love, betrayal, survival - and an addiction so compelling it threatens to destroy everything in its path Etta is in her mid thirties and keen to nudge her loving but commitment-phobic partner, Ola, towards marriage and children. Ola is reluctant to get engaged before they have enough saved for a house deposit, so Etta takes matters into her own hands and finds a way to start secretly making money: online gambling. What a delightful discovery! And what a stroke of luck that Etta just happens to be so brilliant at it. Soon she's playing quite a lot. She doesn't like lying to Ola, but it's all for the good of their relationship. She's even made a friend on the site, StChristopher75, and she's invited to a special VIP party. And even if she is losing a little money here and there - or even quite a lot of money - she'll win it back eventually. Or maybe even StChristopher75 can help her out with a little loan, once she's met him in real life. He's just won big, and he's been so friendly and helpful on the site. Why wouldn't he want to help her?
From the pen of international bestseller The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Songbirds is a beautifully poignant story about the disappearance of a nanny and the darker sides of a migrant’s life. It is another haunting read which will break your heart. Inspired by the real-life disappearance of domestic workers in Cyprus, Christy Lefteri (a child of Cypriot refugees) brings their story to life when Nisha, Sri Lankan nanny and maid vanishes without a trace. Her employer Petra tries to unravel the mystery with Nisha’s lover Yiannis. Nine years ago Nisha arrived in Cyprus to find work so that she could earn money to support her daughter Kumari who she had to leave with relatives in Sri Lanka. Her relationship devoid of physical contact and via a tiny screen. She never returns. Or does she? The police don’t take her disappearance seriously and it is left to Petra to investigate. We never meet Nisha, we hear her story through the mouths of others and this mirrors her lack of voice in real life. Yiannis is a poacher, hunting the tiny endangered songbirds migrating from Europe to Africa. Full of symbolism, the plight of the songbirds mirrors that of the refugees. The story of entrapment can’t help but pull you in, as Lefteri has crafted such a beautiful and empathetic exploration of prejudice, and the plight of migrant domestic workers. It’s a stunning novel about the need to fight for truth and justice, to enable women to reclaim their lost voices.
MEET EVA MARTINEZ-GREEN, AN ONLY CHILD FULL OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HER BEGINNINGS. Between her emotionally absent mother and her physically absent father, there is nobody to answer them. Eva is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why are there no baby pictures of her? Why do her parents avoid all questions about her early years? When her parents' relationship crumbles, Eva begins a journey to find these answers for herself. Her desire to discover where she belongs leads Eva on a journey spanning decades and continents - and, along the way, she meets women who challenge her idea of what a mother should be, and who will change her life forever...
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