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A deeply layered, emotional and compelling novel that examines and contemplates family relationships. A terminal cancer diagnosis results in reflection for Anne and her daughter Sigrid. This is award-winning Helga Flatland’s fifth book, and her second to be published in English, it was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers Award and topped the bestseller lists there. Her first English translation A Modern Family which was a number-one bestseller in Norway is another beautifully written book I can highly recommend. Both books have been translated by Rosie Hedger, and it is superbly done, you can feel Norway and the differences, yet an exquisite connection to the story makes you a part of the words. Anne and Sigrid narrate, the chapters aren’t headed yet each character’s voice is distinctive and any momentary hesitation between chapters soon clears. This joining of voices yet fragmentation of thoughts as the voices change, helps not hinders as it establishes the tone, the feeling of these women. Helga Flatland is a writer who is able to directly touch innermost thoughts and set them free to explore. She knows how to display the raw yet real side of what it is to be human. Using small slices of humour to break tension, she allows emotions to form, alter, sway. The ending, that engaging eloquent ending, sent goosebumps skimming down my arms. One Last Time is a beautiful meaningful expressive read and I truly loved it.
Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay or Should We Go is an of-the-moment novel if ever there was one. With whip-smart dialogue and thought-provoking internal monologues cutting to the core of its characters, it tackles the topic of ageing through a playfully inventive structure involving twelve parallel universes and two principle protagonists who’ve made a suicide pact. Should We Stay or Should We Go boasts a smart concept that’s been cleverly executed - think Life After Life meets Sliding Doors delivered in Shriver’s distinctive style. After watching her father’s demise during ten years of Alzheimer’s, Kay struggles to cry for him when he dies: “I feel absolutely nothing… I feel as if he’s been dead for years.” Both fifty-something NHS medical professionals, Kay and her husband, Cyril, move to discussing everything from the nature of memory to universal social care. They’ve seen far too many of their patients suffer like Kay’s dad and their discussion leads Cyril to propose they agree to a suicide pact to avoid a similar fate - they will kill themselves on turning eighty. Of course, when that time comes, they must confront their decision. Each chapter serves up an alternate ending for the couple, with the likes of the ethics of suicide, cryogenic preservation, and ageing cures explored along the way. By turns amusing, moving and provocative, it examines the biggest of questions through personal detail, and will surely provoke thought as to how readers themselves wish to bow out.
It’s little wonder that Russell Banks has won major awards for his subtle, seductive novels, and Foregone - the author’s first new novel for a decade - also deserves a place among prize-winners. It features famous left-leaning Canadian American documentary filmmaker, Leonard Fife. He’s in his late-seventies and dying of cancer, with a live-in Haitian nurse and attentive wife. The book opens with Fife wondering why he’s agreed to be filmed for a final interview to discuss his life and work. His nurse reminds him it’s “because he’s famous for something to do with cinema, and famous people are required to make interviews”. In the ensuing interview, after the irritation of the production team setting-up (a team led by his former star-pupil), Fife makes a long, dark, unexpected confession, with the plot cleverly switching camera angles from Fife to those who are filming him - a smart device, effectively realised. Taking in the history of US draft evaders who fled to Canada to escape serving in Vietnam (of which Fife was one of sixty-thousand), and written entirely in the present tense, Banks’s style is haunting, meditative and gripping, with its protagonist’s personal revelations striking compelling rhythmic, resonant beats.
Sunshine Warm Sober embraces the joys of sobriety. This sequel to Catherine Gray’s The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober covers what she has learnt over last three years, now that she has reached her eighth sober year. Using flashbacks to her past, she highlights her positive experiences of being ‘sunshine warm sober’ rather than ‘stone cold drunk’ during birthdays, holidays, dog sitting and other occasions. In her book, she explores addiction using medical, psychological and behavioural experts and case studies, discusses the role of alcohol in society, and answers thought-provoking questions such as: What does the label ‘addict’ really mean? Can you have an addictive personality? Is alcohol a parenting aid? Sunshine Warm Sober is filled with honesty, wit and warmth, as well as facts and personal stories. This fascinating read may help you to reassess your relationship with alcohol and change your life for the better.
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.
A thought-provoking book that almost shakes thoughts loose and sets them free in a bid to reclaim the enchantment within ourselves and the natural world around us. There are concerning studies that suggest: “the brains of people in this generation might be developing differently because of their almost constant interaction with technology”. This book explores history and myth, other peoples musings and findings, through to Sharon’s own thoughts in order to offer us the tools to find the enchantment again, to relish and really live with it. Dr Sharon Blackie is an award winning writer and we are confirmed fans here at LoveReading. Sharon is our June Author in the Picture, editorial expert Joanne said If Women Rose Rooted creates: “a richly interesting perspective on other ways of living” and I simply adored the 13 bitingly beautiful stories in Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. She is also a psychologist and mythologist, she understands our need to connect to the world around us. From the first few paragraphs The Enchanted Life really resonated with me, it made me stop and listen, it captured and thoroughly provoked my thoughts before setting me on the trail: “to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again”. I read, I agreed, I believed, The Enchanted Life is a meaningful and truly lovely book that I can thoroughly recommend.
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.
The book is split into five main sections: food, home, travel, body/beauty and life. The food section is particularly helpful, from meal planning and budgeting to delicious-sounding recipes and step-by-step cooking with kids (with full-colour photos). Inside, there are easy ways to make your home child-friendly, stylish and tidy(ish), followed by tips on travelling with kids (abroad, at home, camping etc), beauty and fashion tips (on a budget, with little time) and finally how to still have a life (friendships, sex life and work life). It’s written in a ‘best friend’ tone – easy to read with plenty of humour – and I found myself nodding along at the advice. You can’t get much more practical than this, with its tick-off checklists, space for meal plans and notes, and even a ‘working mum guilt’ word search. Mummin’ It is ideal for parents with children at nursery and/or primary school, and a book that you’re likely to return to again and again.
A MESMERIZING BREAK-OUT CRIME THRILLER FULL OF BREATHTAKING TWISTS Nic always hated clubbing. She only went out that night because she’d promised a friend. She wakes up, naked and bound in an abandoned cottage in the middle of nowhere. Dappled light comes in through a dirty window. Her body is covered in cuts. Across the room her friend groans in pain. A shadow passes the window. He’s back. He picks up a knife. He begins to cut her friend. In that moment of bloody frenzy, Nic wrenches free and runs. She’s finally safe. But this is just the beginning. Detectives Asha Harvey and Aaron Birch arrive at the scene hours later. There is no body, there is no sign of the killer. It’s as if it never happened. YOU THINK YOU KNOW HOW IT ENDS? THINK AGAIN. Fans of Lynda La Plante, Tana French, Patricia Gibney, Brian McGilloway and Helen H. Durrant will devour this electrifying crime thriller by one of Northern Ireland’s newest talents.
AN ADDICTIVE MUST-READ WHODUNNIT FROM THE NEWEST TALENT IN CRIME FICTION A new life. A new town. A dead body. Andrea “Andi” Silvers needs a fresh start. Once a star reporter, she’s been dumped by her lover and by the paper they both worked at. Andi moves to the tiny fishing village of Coffin Cove, on the Vancouver coast, where she lands a job at the local Gazette. Expecting bake sales and unpaid parking tickets to be the biggest news items, she quickly discovers the small town holds dark secrets. Two sea lions wash up on the shore. They’ve been shot dead. Activists point the finger at local fishermen. Then things get far worse . . . A dead body turns up. How does it all relate to a fifteen-year-old girl’s tragic death twenty years ago? The girl was found drowned with her arms and legs tied together. The deeper Andi digs, the more dirt she finds. Discover a web of murder and mystery laced with humour and a thread of romance in this fast-paced whodunnit set on the gorgeous coast of Western Canada. Fans of Joy Ellis, L.J. Ross, Peter Robinson, Thomas King, Louise Penny and Shari Lapena will devour this mesmerizing debut crime thriller.
Poignant, powerful and pacey, Ellie Midwood’s The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz tells the remarkable true story of Mala Zimetbaum, a woman who did the all-but-impossible when she escaped Auschwitz with her Resistance fighter lover. It’s an extraordinary tale of courage and heroism in the face of impossible odds and excruciating circumstances - a tale told with much compassion in The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz. It’s autumn 1943 and “Edek had had enough. The grim realization of it dawned on him along with the first slanting rays of the sunset bleeding red atop the barracks’ roofs as he watched SS Officer Brück stomp repeatedly on an inmate’s head with the steel-lined sole of his tall jackboot.” This brutally arresting opening is typical of the book’s style - incisive, and physically impactful. A veteran of the camp, Edek is a political prisoner and resistance fighter – and he’s long been determined to escape. Meanwhile, Belgian-born Mala is at Birkenau Women’s Camp, where she works as a “runner in charge of delivering SS orders and official documents from one block to another.” As such, she “no longer had anything to fear from the wardens or the Kapos. An official armband with an insignia of a Läuferin on her left bicep, civilian clothes and dark-blond hair pulled into a bun instantly distinguished her from the general camp population.” But having been through the horrors of arriving at camp (“First, they took her freedom. Then, they took her hair”), and feeling disgust for the utter lack of humanity, she - like Edek - has resolved to regain her freedom. In the meantime, she uses her position to save lives. When they meet, Mala comes to believe in Edek’s escape plan, comes to believe that there might be light through these darkest of days - and through love. Shot-through with tremendous tension and compassion, this comes recommended for readers who enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Purchase The Girl Who Escaped Auschwitz from: Amazon - Currently 99p Apple Kobo Google
Comic, characterful, and driven by a cast of larger-than-life characters, Shaun Hand’s The Sadness of the King George is as strongly flavoured as the kind of salt and vinegar crisps a person might purchase in The King George. Our unnamed (and decidedly awkward) 20-year-old narrator’s life revolves around the pub - pulling pints, killing time, in the company of the pub’s many regulars. If only he could find confidence, find a life for himself, find a girlfriend even. Trouble is, even when these possibilities present themselves, it’s not a given that he can summon the strength of character to bring them to fruition. Pacey, packed with authentic West Midlands dialect, and shot-through with bitter-sweetness, this comes recommended for readers who like their comedy irreverent, and their fiction funny and driven by flawed characters they can root for. Check out our guest blog post '10 Favourite Drinking Scenes in Books' by author of The Sadness of The King George Shaun Patrick Hand.
Fast-paced and rippling with revelations, Samantha Hayes’s Date Night is a creepy page-turner for readers who like their thrillers unexpected - recommended for fans of Gone Girl. On the face of it, Libby seems to have it all - a husband, daughter, and expanding catering business. But disquieting truths lurk beneath the façade, beginning with the note left under her windscreen wipers. “Sean is having an affair,” it reads. Unsettled, Libby refuses to believe it, but doubts niggle and she confronts him. Then, on returning from a disastrous attempt at a reconciliatory dinner, they find their daughter alone - the babysitter has vanished and it’s not long before Libby stands accused of her murder. When she’s arrested, Libby’s shock and outraged disbelief are palpable: “This is me! I want to scream. Just me! I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a best friend. Aged thirty-nine with a four-year-old child, a husband, my own business, a stepson and a cat. I’ve got good friends, I’m well liked, I do Pilates and pay my taxes on time.” With shocking twists aplenty, and a dual timeline adding layers of intrigue, Date Night is written in an easily readable style, with lots of domestic detail as Libby is caught in a terrible web, wondering if anyone will believe her, as readers wonder who’s telling the truth. Purchase Date Night from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
It is the end of October, the city of Basel is grey and wet. It could be December. It is just after midnight when Police Inspector Peter Hunkeler, on his way home and slightly worse for wear, spots old man Hardy sitting on a bench under a street light. He wants to smoke a cigarette with him, but the usually very loquacious Hardy is silent-his throat a gaping wound. Turns out he was first strangled and his left earlobe slit, the diamond stud he usually wore there missing. The media and the police come quickly to the same conclusion: Hardy's murder was the work of a gang of Albanian drug smugglers. But for Hunkeler that seems too obvious a resolution. After all, Barabara Amsler, a prostitute, was also recently found strangled, her ear slit. He follows his own intuition and methods which lead him deep into a seedy world of bars and night clubs. More ominously, he soon must face the consequences of certain events in recent Swiss history that those in power would prefer to keep far from the public eye.
A snaking twisting ride into the middle of a young family torn apart by allegations of murder. When the police knock on the door of Beth and Tom Hardcastle the resulting investigation means that life will never be the same again. The author previously worked for the NHS and on completing a psychology degree then worked in a men’s prison facilitating rehabilitation programmes, she has also written thrillers under another name. While the title screams a high body count, the story weaves through the reactions of community and friendship as the allegation hits. The four narrators each have their own unique voice, with Beth and Tom speaking in the present, Katie in the past, while a further un-named narrator adds a decidedly chilling tone. These are characters who delight in provoking the reader, both in terms of decisions they make, and who they are. As I read my thoughts paused before moving down new paths as each voice and short chapter altered the plot in turn. The Serial Killer’s Wife is a read you can throw yourself into and race through, while the plot corkscrews itself through to a highly entertaining end.
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.
Helen Stancey’s Relative Secrets is a highly readable story for readers who like to get lost in the drama and intrigue of other people’s relatable lives. Told in a straightforward style, with domestic detail and emotional ups and downs to heighten engagement, three generations of women are at the heart of this saga of family secrets. It’s set in 1999 and follows the family from the 1920s through to the millennium. The eldest of the women, Mary, is in a care home, her mind deteriorating. During a visit from grand-daughter Lucy, Mary makes strange statements that arouse Lucy’s curiosity. She tries to put them out of mind - until she finds a locket while clearing out Mary’s former room. Not wanting to upset her mother (not with her father gone, her elder brother away, and her little brother misbehaving), Lucy takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the mystery - risking discovering truths that might unsettle the very foundations of their family. The drama builds slowly at first - there’s a considered, unhurried build-up, with lots of family backstory delivered before the revelations come. Then tension builds as Lucy delves deeper, and the questions keep coming - not merely what the secret is, but why it was covered-up. And, a question with universal resonance - is it sometimes better to simply let things be?
DISCOVER ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CRIME THRILLERS YOU'LL READ THIS YEAR Detective Sara Hirst has moved from London to Norfolk Police’s Serious Crimes Unit. Under the brooding skies of North Norfolk, Sara faces her toughest case yet and finds that great beauty sometimes conceals great violence. Too many secrets. Too much pain. Too many leads. Dawn breaks as a dog-walker finds a dead body, half-naked and wrapped tightly in an old groundsheet. Sara is first on the scene. Who is the victim? And who will be next? Sara must take on some of Britain’s most wanted criminals if she’s to find out the truth. This crackling, twisty thriller set within the mysterious beauty of the east coast will have you flying through the pages right till the gripping end. Fans of Joy Ellis, J.M. Dalgliesh, Matt Brolly, Rachel Lynch and Angela Marsons, get ready for your next favourite detective.
Burnout is a buzzword of recent years, as technology plays an increasing role in our lives, with 24/7 access to the world. It’s not surprising that it’s hard to switch off at times. In Burnout, author Selina Barker explains ‘how to thrive with a hectic lifestyle’, using practical tools and exercises to guide us. The book is colourful and well-designed, making it a pleasure to read. It begins with a ‘Burnout SOS’ for those of us in need of urgent help because we’re physically and mentally exhausted, already right in the middle of a major burnout, or about to have one. The rest of the book takes a step back (prevention is far better than cure), for those of us not yet at the burnout stage. It explains what can cause burnout, how to get our energy levels back and how to redesign our lives. It’s a book that you could dip in and out of, and refer to again and again. It was fun to read – making me laugh at times – and highly encouraging. The comforting companion you need at a tough time.
Intricate, intriguing and aglow with authenticity, Brian Landers’s Coincidence of Spies, the third in his Dylan series, explores the threat of fascism in post-Communist Poland. It’s 1981. Communism is teetering on the brink of collapse and MI6 agent Thomas and his agent wife Julia are instructed to leave Moscow after she witnesses a murder. In Warsaw, the couple are sent on a top-secret mission with minimal detail. During a mysterious trip to the countryside (it involves the lost crown of an ancient king), bullets are fired and their American agent companions vanish without trace. Back in Blighty, there’s a killer to be found, and innumerable twists and tangles to be followed, unravelled and made sense of. Befitting of a spy narrator, the writing is crisp and matter of fact, which adds to the tension, with plenty of interwoven historic, political and personal particulars creating layers of compelling atmosphere. It’s a tightly-woven web of international espionage suited to readers who delight in puzzling over and unpacking deep detail.
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.
Spanning twenty years, beginning four years from now, Rosa Rankin-Gee’s Dreamland is a haunting, visionary dystopian novel. Set against a bleak backdrop of escalating inequality, austerity and climate change in post-Brexit Britain, the novel feels both hyper-real and dream-like, suffused as it is in the ethereal melancholy of an abandoned seaside town and the longings of its inhabitants. Seven-year-old Chance and thirteen-year-old JD were born in London, which “was a fourth world country now. A hotbed. A timebomb waiting to go off. That, and an island for rich Russians.” And so their mother accepts a grant from a right-wing foundation for them to move to Margate at a time when droves of people are moving inland to escape the rapidly rising sea. It’s run-down, boarded-up, and subject to the hazardous consequences of climate change, from the rising sea, to the extreme heatwave that hits during their second summer. There are black-outs too, power outages, riots and looting, and then comes the Localisation Act, which grants greater autonomy to smaller regions, resulting in London isolating itself further from the rest of the country and a mass exodus from hard-hit Margate. The creeping sense of change, deterioration and desperation is palpable as Chance seeks to settle into herself, to make a life in Margate while her mother has a new baby to care for and a violent boyfriend to watch out for. And then Chance meets Francesca (Franky), and both their lives change forever thanks to a love that both sets them spinning and roots them, as the world spins out of control. Beautifully-written (the calm, crystalline language is loaded with longing), and powerfully prescient, this is a unique and captivating cautionary tale of our times.
Crossing a number of genres, this is a read that both challenges and provokes thoughts. Gabriela works in the Foreign Office, Isobel is a journalist, both women have a drive to succeed that will ultimately put them in danger. This novel links to Part of the Family, and I would suggest starting there as though the main characters are different, there are connections that are needed in order to fully appreciate the plot. Charlotte Philby has created two women that aren’t particularly likeable, but you don’t have to become friends with them in order to experience the story. The focus here is family life, with an investigation sitting brooding and waiting with menaces. The prologue, so short, has huge impact and left questions buzzing around in my mind spoiling for a fight. The two women and two different time frames remain separate until information slowly bleeds into and connects each story. The ending arrived in an unexpected way, and leaves the story wide open for more. With hovering suspense and intrigue, A Double Life is a provocative and stimulating novel.
Nobody Tells You is a brilliant and reassuring companion for anyone starting out on the path to parenthood, from getting pregnancy all the way through to feeding your baby. Featuring diverse real-life stories, it feels so natural and personal, like you’re chatting with friends. These are real people (with their twitter handles and photos) answering real questions about different types of pregnancies, babycare and parenthood. So you know that whatever you’re thinking – or feeling – is normal, and that you’re not alone. It’s a reminder that parenting may be a struggle at times – all those niggling things that no one else is going to tell you and you’ve not yet dared to ask. ‘Yes, contractions can hurt.’ ‘It’s natural to worry about your baby.’ ‘It may take time to bond.’ This book is packed with simple advice from healthcare professionals too, featuring essential tips on morning sickness, hospital items, and more. I wish I had been given a book like this before my two sons were born.
A wonderfully engaging blended mix of spy turned PI novel set in the USA during the 1960’s. When ex CIA spy Vera’s girlfriend leaves her and on the same day she is sacked, Vera decides to turn private investigator. Her first case involves a lost child and a Caribbean Island under authoritarian rule. I haven’t read the first in the series Who is Vera Kelly, yet felt incredibly comfortable stepping midway into the story. Though I have to say that the various mentions of the first book where she was stranded in Argentina during a coup, ensured I wanted to go back and meet her at the start. Vera is very much the star of this story, she survives on instinct and smarts, her vulnerabilities adding an edge. Rosalie Knecht creates a beautifully balanced story, with go-getter Vera marching through the interesting plot and her life during a time of political upheaval and action for LGBTQ rights. The ending arrived at unexpected speed, leaving me wanting to know more about this private investigator. Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery is a short, smart, rewarding detective novel with real heart.
Subtle in style and fierce in characterisation, Carol Birch’s Cold Boy’s Wood is a haunting psychological enigma. Exploring the flux and fallibility of memory, and the effects of loneliness on the human spirit, the novel is a puzzle, of sorts, as two flawed and damaged characters are confronted with long-buried secrets when a mudslide unearths a body outside their village. Visiting his mother’s grave near the site of the mudslide, Dan observes “Ravens. The wet nose of the pregnant doe. A body returned to light. Things falling into sequence. All these things seemed significant.” Embittered, often drunk, and scared stiff by the supernatural, he’s disturbed by a sound in the darkness and locks up. Then there’s Lorna, who lives nearby in the ancient woods that have called her since she saw a strange “cold boy” here as a teenager. The boy haunts her still, along with her past, as she watches Dan, and helps him when he collapses drunk, all the while delivering a feverish internal dialogue. Both of them provoke intrigue, their lives entangle, their stories haunt and pierce to the end.
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eBooks have at last come of age and although you have been able to see if an eBook is available on a title by title basis on Lovereading for a while now, we also wanted to create a special section which features all of our eBook recommended reads.
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