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Did you know that the first recorded reading groups were among women working in factories in the nineteenth century? And now, according to research undertaken a few years ago, there are tens of thousands of groups meeting regularly in the UK reading everything from literary classics to technical manuals! Of course, if you are in a book group, choosing what to read next can be a serious matter as not every book has subject matter that can really be discussed. So to help you LoveReading has decided to lend a hand by, each month, selecting a number of books we feel are perfect and will give your group a rewarding discussion as well as a rewarding read.
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!
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
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.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CWA GOLD DAGGER AWARD She's a murderer. Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees - why else would his dead body be found in her shed? So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial. Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn't fit in then, and she doesn't fit in now. That day is such a blur, she can't remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important... She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder. And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself. So she must fight. Against the odds. For her life. Beautifully written about prejudice, loneliness and fighting spirit, this new book by Nicci French is shocking, twisty and utterly compelling.
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.
Our October 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. An absolutely charming and thoroughly entertaining mystery debut starring four septuagenarians. A real-life murder tickles the detective fancy of certain members from a well-to-do retirement village. Led by Elizabeth they sneakily make themselves indispensable to the investigating officers. I’m already working out who I would cast as Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron if this was made into a TV series. Each character in this amusing (yes it is charming and amusing even with a murder to solve) story is perfectly placed. There is a sense of ease, an inviting warmth, and a hint of old-fashioned, yet this story is actually bang up-to-date. A sharp edge to observations slices through any thoughts of cosy, while there is a gentle poking of fun at middle England. Richard Osman has created a wonderfully readable story that is the perfect introduction to a new series. I can't wait to see what comes next! The Thursday Murder Club has waltzed its way into my heart and the LoveReading Star Books list - highly recommended.
Smart and smirky as heck, this is a furiously wonderful wow of a crime caper that will no doubt be sitting on my list of favourite books of the year. Ramesh has set himself up with a business sitting exams for the kids of India’s middle classes, it all goes spectacularly wrong when he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country. The opening slapped my attention, in fact from the first sentence I was as hooked as a hooked thing can be! This is Rahul Raina’s debut, and he has created the most extraordinary voice in Ramesh. Ramesh tells his own story, words spill from him in a torrent that feels so incredibly authentic even as my eyebrows reached for the stars. The words ganged together to create the most exhilarating story. The plot alternately sang or punched me in the guts, just when I felt comfortable, bang, my thoughts were swinging in free fall again. There is a political commentary to be found among the whirlwind wit and satire, however it certainly doesn’t preach, it just lays it out you to view, and then consider. How to Kidnap the Rich is a hugely entertaining wild ride, so good it had to be a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book.
This is beautiful indeed, yet darkly intimate and almost claustrophobic in its intensity. 15 year old Natasha foretells tragedy when lights appear above her seaside town. As she tells the story of her past some 30 years later, she is still consumed by the events that occurred. I love Rachel Donohue’s writing, it is so haunting and powerful, she turns a spotlight on the shadow of things that sit in the background and brings them to the fore. Her first novel The Temple House Vanishing is on the surface very different, yet her assured and elegant eloquence is stamped over both books. I started to read The Beauty of Impossible Things and within a few sentences found myself intrigued and then consumed. I could taste Natasha’s words, they landed as a visual dance in my mind. There is an ageless quality to this storyline, even though it is set in the modern day. It felt as though the trappings of being different is a story that has and will be repeated again and again through history. Rich, close, and heavy with feeling, The Beauty of Impossible Things opens thoughts and sets them free. Rachel Donohue is our Putting Author in the Picture feature for May 2021. Click here to read our Q&A with her.
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.
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!
Our May 2021 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. This is one of the most squeezable and loveable books going, yet it comes with sharp and poignant notes as well as a dancing wit and humour. Norman’s best friend and comedy partner dies before they turn 12, in his grief Norman decides he’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, and his mum Sadie is determined to help him. The focus here is on family and the many different forms it can take. Chapters are headed by either Norman or Sadie, each has the most wonderfully distinctive voice. Julietta Henderson has created a cast of beautifully individual characters, they walk off the page, with little snippets of information filling in their spirit and letting you see who they truly are. Norman is a complete joy to get to know, he entered my heart and let me see with fresh eyes. There is an exquisite balance here, between heartache and warmth, piercing and diverting, amusing and engaging. The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman proclaims that empathy and kindness are winning combinations and is completely gorgeous in every way. This LoveReading Star Book is an absolute delight of a debut, it will be one of my highlights of the year.