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How to Make Good Things Happen is a well-researched book on managing your stress and anxiety levels, and how our mental health influences our physical health and day-to-day lives. Written by an American psychiatrist, it’s not a quick read or self-help book, but is more of a scientific look at our hormones and how our brain works in relation to our emotions – love, sadness, happiness, guilt – especially at times of stress. To combat stress, we need to train ourselves to see positivity in all situations, rather than focusing on negativity, and we also need to learn how to stop overthinking. The book uses practical approaches based on science, including the evidence for mindfulness and omega-3 foods in brain health. I loved the case studies dotted around the book – short stories about people the author has met over the years, some as patients and others just in passing. The book seeks to help its readers see the good in everything so that they can lead a healthier, more fulfilling life. An interesting read.
Short and brilliantly bittersweet, Marie Aubert’s Grown Ups packs plenty of existential trials into its 160 pages. Honest, entertaining, and poignant with it, Grown Ups shows how many of us never quite grow up through its nuanced, droll portrayal of family dynamics. Single architect Ida isn’t terribly keen on children - “other people’s children, always, everywhere” - but, at forty, as her family gather at their country cabin to celebrate her mother’s 65th birthday, she’s considering freezing her eggs for the future. Sibling tension and rivalry is succinctly and potently evoked from the outset, delivered through Ida’s engaging first-person narrative that often drifts into introspective monologues. Her younger sister Marthe is insecure, desperate to conceive, and envious of Ida. At the same time, Ida competes with Marthe (“She can’t overtake me”), sick of Tinder, and desperate for physical closeness, “to have someone come up behind me, hold me, their breath at my neck.” The cracks that come in the wake of Marthe’s big announcement widen further during their mother’s birthday meal, leaving both sisters forever changed.
Suffused in the author’s courage and lifelong commitment to justice, Parm Sandhu’s Black and Blue is a powerfully personal and pertinent account of her life through a thirty-year career in the Met - a distinguished career that saw Sandhu vilified and confronted with accusations of gross misconduct when she spoke out against discrimination. Told in an engaging, personable style, we are taken on the author’s extraordinary journey from her childhood in Birmingham as the daughter of Punjabi immigrants, to securing a position in the highest ranks of the Met. Forced into an abusive arranged marriage at the age of sixteen, Sandhu - remarkably - fled to London with her baby boy and joined the police, where she shone in multiple departments, from crime prevention, to the police corruption unit, to counter-terrorism. But, while rising through the ranks to become the most senior BAME woman in the Met, Sandhu witnessed and experienced countless incidences of racism and sexism. Revealing much about police procedures, the pressures and dangers Sandhu faced on a daily basis, and prejudice within the force, this is, above all, a powerful, page-turning - and often shocking - story of courage. It’s essential reading for those interested in the state of policing Britain, and for readers who enjoy memoirs with inspirational bite.
Taut, intriguing and compelling, this story just flies as it weaves through the interwar years in Norway. A private investigator and his assistant take on what appears to be a straightforward case but their past haunts their present and they soon find themselves caught up in Nazi schemes. I adore Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detectives Series, and now his latest novels including The Courier, take a step into the past. He writes with an assured hand and translator Don Bartlett brings his world to life without you even realising he is there. The story flips between 1938 and 1924, each turn releasing information and tightening the connection between the two time periods. The plot is powerful, my thoughts spun, my feelings hesitated and altered as I read. It was fascinating to dwell in the time just before the Second World War, before the world experienced the full force and terror of the Nazi’s. A standalone novel, The Assistant is not only an action-packed, thrilling and chilling tale, it’s also smart and thought-provoking too. The LoveReading LitFest invited Kjell to the festival to talk about this thrilling and chilling tale. 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 Kjell in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why you won't want to miss this cracking read. Check out a preview of the event here
Your Mental Health Workout focuses on giving your mind some attention, in the same way you might change your eating or exercise habits to get physically fitter. Think of it as the mental health equivalent of a five-week gym membership, focusing on your thoughts and feelings and how you respond to them. The book was very easy to navigate, with weekly checklists and planners at the beginning to keep me on track (printable copies are available from the author’s website). Everything in the book is very practical and explained in simple terms and a friendly tone. I loved the way Zoe Aston, a psychotherapist, approaches a mental health workout in the same way we would approach a physical one – setting goals, warming up, weekly workouts and daily workouts – with easy exercises to build ‘mental muscle’. There’s even an additional chapter on ‘Physio for your feelings’. A fun and informative way to look after my mental health and keep stress and anxiety at bay.
Emotionally powerful and provocative, this true story really packs a punch. At 18, Joey O’Callaghan was signed up to the Witness Protection Programme after he gave evidence in court that put away two violent drug bosses. Joey had been part of a drugs gang since he was 10, for his own safety after giving evidence he was given a new identity and relocated to England. Award winning journalist Nicola Tallant writes his tale, with his voice. A journalist for 20 years, she has: “broken countless crime exclusives, delved into the darkest corners of the underworld and come face to face with some of the most notorious gangland criminals”. She is called on for her expertise about organised crime to contribute to television and radio, and is an author of books about crime, cults, and murder. In other words, she really does know her stuff. She turns this true story over to Joey and allows us to see the grooming, the broken childhood, and the crimes as they take place with his eyes. We also see Joey’s life after he was given a new identity, and how that affected him. The before and after the court case are equally shocking, the writing is clear and open, and unfolds into what is a truly gobsmacking story. The Witness recognises what has gone wrong in society, yet it is the personal connection that really highlights the significance of this tale.
Chris Aslan’s Mosaic is an atmospheric novel underpinned by Christian spirituality. Rich in historic and cultural detail, the writing is visual and sensory, evoking the book’s first-century Middle Eastern setting in vivid technicolour. It’s also shot-through with a young woman’s trials and tragedies, and the hopes that bud in the wake of hearing about a miracle worker. Tabita‘s tale opens with her “seething at how unfair life is” as she picks stones from dried lentils in the afternoon sun of her mountain village. It’s located in the "far north of our holy land”, with the foothills below “populated by foreign occupiers with their enormous vineyards, expensive villas, and drunken and idolatrous ways.” Her family is scarred by death, and Tabita feels fragmented, in despair that she might not be repaired. Then comes news of a Teacher who can heal. A Teacher whom some wonder might be a trickster, but a Teacher who himself counsels for people to “put our trust in God and not man, and to be aware of blind guides who lead others into destruction.” Taking portions of the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Acts as its sources, this is steeped in the author’s spirituality and knowledge of its setting.
A thrilling and enthralling novel that is just so beautifully easy to read I raced through it while inhaling every word. This is the prequel to the Detective Kubu series of books set in Botswana by the writing duo of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. If you’ve not read any of the previous books in the series then of course this is the perfect start! Detective David ‘Kubo’ Bengu is recruited from university straight into the position of Detective Sergeant in CID which causes consternation in his colleagues and makes his first job of a diamond robbery all that much harder. The cast of characters with phonetic pronunciations and map at the beginning are particularly helpful. I love the feel of this novel, it takes all the attributes of Kubo and paints with them, allowing you fall for this gently charismatic and fiercely intelligent man as he learns his trade. The storyline is riveting, sense of place vivid, and characters fascinating. Set in 1998 Facets of Death is an atmospheric, intriguing, and wonderfully readable crime novel I most definitely recommend.
Inclusive and welcoming this is such a charming, gentle, and compassionate tale. Kath wants to ensure a successful centenary celebrations for Hope Hall which stands at the heart of their community. This is the second in a trilogy, so I recommend starting with the lovely Springtime at Hope Hall, if you’ve already met the people who use and staff Hope Hall then you’ll catch up with some old friends along the way. There are a number of characters here, diverse personalities are on display, and approachable and generous Kath the centre manager, sits at the centre of them all. Pam Rhodes writes with generosity and kindness, ensuring hope weaves through her tales. Her books soothe, even as she visits all that life has to offer, including difficult times. Summer’s Out at Hope Hall is a good-hearted and thoughtfully readable tale that offers hope and community spirit.
Hot on the heady heels of Coincidence of Spies, Exodus of Spies by Brian Landers, the fourth thrilling instalment of his Dylan series, sees MI6 agent Thomas Dylan sent to Angola, where South African troops are gathering to uphold apartheid. He’s been instructed to provide support, though this must be done with the utmost discretion. Meanwhile, a recently-retired, longstanding figure in British Intelligence is killed in the Caribbean and electrifying questions arise around his loyalty, and his connections to Angola, and it falls to Thomas and his wife Julia to disentangle the disorder. I found the novel’s international scope particularly fascinating - Landers has sure done his research to fashion a gripping, authentic-feeling thriller that traverses the globe. Tingling with the intrigue of politics, the torment of betrayal, and question after question after question, this is a complex espionage thriller that will surely entice many readers to immerse themselves in the Dylans’ world in a single satisfying sitting.
From the bestselling author of Lady of Hay, Barbara Erskine‘s The Dream Weavers is a spellbinding saga that spans centuries through a writer’s eerie connections to Anglo-Saxon King Offa and his indomitable daughter. In 2021, writer Simon has decamped to a cottage on the English-Welsh border to finish his book about King Offa. Unsettled by noises in the cottage - a woman’s distant voice, banging on doors in the dead of night - he enlists the help of modern-day mystic Bea. In 775 AD, Eadburh, the youngest daughter of ambitious, aggressive King Offa has inherited her father’s ruthless streak, along with unusual gifts from her mother, and it’s not long before these two time periods and gripping stories are seamlessly interwoven, not least when Simon’s daughter vanishes in our time. While the action is epic, the stakes high, and the historic episodes powerfully evocative, Erskine has an accessible down-to-earth style, with lots of character backstory and side strands feeding into the main narratives. Thronging with mystery, ghostly visions and centuries of secrets, this comes recommended for readers who like historic fiction with meandering intrigue.
An interesting and immersive book about the undeveloped potential of mushrooms. If our relationship with nature interests you, if you believe that in order to thrive we should live in harmony with nature, then I can highly recommend reading In Search of Mycotopia. Doug Bierend is an American journalist who writes about science and technology, food, education, and how we can live in a sustainable world. Here he looks at the potential of fungi, and we meet a variety of people and ideas that could contribute to our working in harmony with nature. The author challenges the reader throughout this book, he questions our idea of expertise and asks us to look at fungi in a completely new way. The various chapters include a section at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London where it is clear that amateurs and experts have worked together throughout its history in the study of fungi. This is readable, inclusive, and the big messages that I kept hearing throughout this book, were about bringing people together and working together in order to gain a better relationship with nature. In Search of Mycotopia highlights the importance of fungi in an eloquent and engaging way.