Liz Robinson has been an Editorial Expert writing reviews for LoveReading since February 2014. At LoveReading we only recommend books we love, and each month Liz now has the tricky task of choosing a small selection that really caught her eye. All are highly recommended and come with Liz's seal of approval.
With echoes of the Renaissance Guy Gavriel Kay brings intrigue, revenge, war, and exile face to face with love, friendship, and hope. This powerful and striking story begins with those tasked with an assassination, and grows to encompass many more people and places. Here we continue on in the times from A Brightness Long Ago featuring new as well as previously met characters. If you’ve not yet stepped foot into this particular world (not all of his novels are from these lands), then the quality of writing is such that you can most certainly read All the Seas of the World as a standalone. Please do though visit past books as not only are there truly beautiful stories to discover and the obvious connection to the previous novel, there are other whispers too from longer ago. The map had me poring over memories, and within the list of principal characters I welcomed old friends. While I immediately felt a sense of coming home, my emotions were hung above a sharpened knife edge. The narrator, occasionally present, sits in overview, words sinking into thoughts and feelings, and a little way in I met one particular friend from Brightness who again spoke directly to me. I folded into and around a story that boldly and brilliantly ventures onto the seas. I particularly loved the small slices of individual lives and how they knitted together and influenced the larger scale events. The most inconsequential moment could seem momentous as it formed around one person. It felt as though both history, the present, and the future was being told. Just as a little aside, I have been reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels since I tipped into my twenties. He is one of two authors who I count as being hugely positive influences, and from my late teens on I have been able to trust in their integrity, empathy, and principles as I read. You can probably tell from my thoughts and feelings about All The Seas of the World, that I still hold Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing in the highest regard and this new book will sit as a particular favourite. His words, they really make my emotions sing, and that was certainly the case here. So it will come as no surprise that All the Seas of the World sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick for its month of publication, it also comes with a standing ovation from me.
Hitting with hammer hard precision, thrilling storytelling is balanced with pointed social commentary in this fabulous novel set in the USA. Two fathers, both ex-cons, seek revenge for the murder of their sons. One of my favourite books from last year was S. A. Cosby’s debut Blacktop Wasteland which I read for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award judging, it spoke to us all and was a highly commended shortlisted title. So I came to this, his second book, with a huge sense of anticipation. The writing style is passionately and fiercely bold yet holds moments of quiet gentleness and real compassion. The characters rumble with authenticity and charged with emotion, I could see, hear, touch them. Delivering an all-consuming blast of violence, raw grief, and blistering regret, I was taken to an unknown place which made me feel the social issues on offer. The plot screams, really screams at the top of its voice as it races along and as with his first book I was left feeling stunned and emotionally drained after I had finished. This is a writer who is able to touch hearts and minds, all while offering an immensely entertaining read. Razorblade Tears is a provocative, powerful, beautiful novel that is both a LoveReading Star Book, and a Liz Pick of the Month.
Haunting and powerful Take My Hand burrowed its way into my awareness and will stay with me. Newly qualified nurse Civil Townsend is set to truly take care of her African American community, but a shocking discovery tests her resolve and courage. This skilful blend of fact and fiction is set in 2016 and early 1970’s Alabama, and the sense of place and time is extraordinary. The writing brings to life the characters and period, and surround the facts of the case so that it is all too easy to see, believe, begin to comprehend the enormity of actions taken. Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez explains the case in the Author’s Note and why she wrote a novel rather than non fiction. Not only does she bring a horrifying time in the not too distant past to life, she also highlights current issues too. This is a superbly readable and rewarding book, with a moral and ethical messaging that soaks into and carries through each page. Deep breath time, I want to shout about this novel, yes, it is at times painful, but it is also imbued with hope and just had to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, Take My Hand is provocative, emotional, and so relevant it hurts.
A dashing and absolutely delicious tickle on your reading tastebuds, this historical debut novel comes with lively romance and sharp wit. With her family in danger of being made homeless, Kitty Talbot the eldest of four sisters, heads to London to bag herself a man with a fortune. While set in 1818’s high society, this is less vapours and vulnerability and more unwavering tenaciousness from the leading lady. Sophie Irwin creates a vivid setting and vivacious tone, I found myself in Georgian London, yet Kitty could be running round the streets today. Kitty is an absolute delight, she is essentially on war footing and determined to save her family and home, nothing less than the richest of rich men will do. I read this in one heady sitting, light, bright, and fun yet with bite, I’ve chosen this debut as a Liz Pick of the Month. With everything you’d expect from a Regency romance yet refreshingly different, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting is a colourful, charming, and sparkling read.
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.
Thought-provoking, challenging, and hugely compassionate, this historical family drama pierces emotions as it combines fact and fiction. Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have a bright future in the eugenics movement, however their world begins to crumble when their daughter is diagnosed with epilepsy. Author Louise Fein takes a difficult subject and creates a world that feels all too real. The eugenics movement, which was widespread in the UK and US before it moved to Nazi Germany is difficult to fully process. The thoughts of the time seem so very distant, and yet look around today and more than echoes remain which ensures this is a riveting yet disturbing theme. The personification of epilepsy as it travels alongside the family is interesting and creates an intimacy. The main characters feel incredibly authentic, they couldn’t be anything other than flawed, yet the writing is such that you can still connect with them. The inclusion of real characters alongside what has obviously been meticulous research ensures this novel creates an unsettling edge, and yet hope blossoms. The fascinating Author’s Note brings even more understanding. The Hidden Child is a touching and powerfully compelling story as it explores a time in history that should never be forgotten.
A stunningly provocative and thought-provoking book viewing England from a different perspective, one where: “magic and rebellion and destruction are the horses to which the country is hitched. On these fabled shores we are all castaways, whether our family has lived here for four thousand years or four”. Stephen Ellcock’s books are particular favourites of mine, I regularly dip into All Good Things, and The Book of Change. Here he has joined forces with Mat Osman, whose short texts sit as an introduction to each chapter where the images chosen are allowed to sing. I love Mat’s introduction! He perfectly describes Stephen’s talent for choosing images and picking up on the thoughts and feelings of the moment. He also brings England to life: “Like a teenager sulking in their room, England is in one of its periodic spasms of insularity - but no matter, we’ve been here before”. Look deeper, explore roots that are bound to the ancient and to wilderness, join protests and anti-fascist marches, adore our absurdity while remaining aware of our capacity for division and discord. While our dark times are explored, hope springs in the form of a new breed of artists, the images chosen here matter, they speak of and to our deepest emotions. This book has helped me to feel connected again with the country in which I live, my eyes opened in a new awareness. A LoveReading Star book, England on Fire is truly beautiful, it’s astute, inclusive, and absolutely magical.
This magical debut set in Victorian London is bold and profound yet somehow uncomplicated as it lays out a mosaic of vibrant themes and characters for your reading pleasure. Star theatre performer Zillah has climbed out of the slums, so while uncomfortable with the part she performs, she does what it takes to remain the headline act until one day she is faced with a life-altering and dangerous decision. Zillah tells her own story, I immediately heard her voice, so vibrant and alive. Lianne Dillsworth ensures all of the characters have an individual vital energy, they can be seen, felt, sensed. While the era throws itself around you and immerses you in all things Victorian, it feels as though the human responses are timeless. That feeling echoes through the plot as Zillah’s mixed heritage, and the fact that she was born free in London, marks her as different. All of humanities character traits are on offer from greed, selfishness, ignorance and indifference through to empathy, kindness, and courage. The mystery aspect of the plot was thrilling, yet it was Zillah’s personal journey that will stay with me and that is why I’ve chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. Vivacious, provocative, and compelling, Theatre of Marvels comes with a standing ovation stamp of approval from me.
Discover a hugely squishy, compassionate, and affectionate hug in book form. After her divorce, Liv leaves London behind for the Yorkshire Dales and discovers new beginnings aren’t that easy to find. While main character Liv narrates her own story, we also enter the lives of other characters from across the generations, and in dog form. Their stories surround Liv and as friendships begin to blossom, I fell in love with all of them (particularly Harry who rather steals the show!). Life in all its impossible, heart-breaking, fabulous glory sweeps across the pages, and took me with it. I love how Alexandra Potter balances different themes, characters, and the plot. You’ll greet dementia, grief, aging, teenage angst, fear, courage, friendship, autism, and love. I laughed, cried, raised my eyebrows, kept my fingers crossed, and basically felt as though I was a part of this little gang. For the feel-good factor alone I would have chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month, but there’s more than that to discover within the pages. With oodles of warmth and charm One Good Thing is a lovely, thoughtful, and rewarding read.
DYING IS HELL . . . SOLVING YOUR OWN MURDER IS PURGATORY When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own dead body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May. She's there to enlist him to the Dying Squad, a spectral police force made up of the recently deceased. Joe soon realises there are fates far worse than death. To escape being stuck in purgatory, he must solve his own murder. A task made all the more impossible when his memories start to fade. Reluctantly partnering with Daisy-May, Joe faces dangers from both the living and the dead in the quest to find his killer - before they kill again.
Powerful, thought-provoking, and stunningly eloquent, this remarkable novel will be one of my books of the year. Two young men meet, under normal circumstances they would battle on different sides of the Glaswegian Catholic and Protestant divide, instead they fall in love. Although no date is given, this potentially takes place in the 90’s. Two different time frames slip into and through each other, with the past rushing to meet the present. Gangs of words squared up, pushing and shoving their way into my thoughts. While the focus remains on the main character Mungo, Booker prizewinner Douglas Stuart doesn’t skim the surface of the other characters, he took me deep down into who they truly were. Mungo will remain a part of me, he feels entirely real, and I lived every exquisitely written second alongside him. This travels into extremely dark places, and yet it’s full of love too. Family obligations, abuse, self-worth, violence, religion, toxic relationships, the struggle of being different, the purity of first love all swirl together, creating a darkly addictive pull that on occasion threatens to overwhelm. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Young Mungo is a swaggeringly beautiful novel that I recommend, heart and soul.
This fabulous crime thriller is full, absolutely stuffed full to overflowing with intense, smart, powerful writing. A local family goes missing in suspicious circumstances, the police, their friends and neighbours rush to fill in the gaps of their disappearance in order to find them. The novel runs along different timelines, revealing stories from both before and after the Holden’s were found to be missing. A number of different strands open up, running alongside each other, but in themselves independent. It feels as though there are enough stories here to fill several separate novels, yet it doesn’t ever feel cluttered. Fiona Cummins keeps the characters, time frames, and plot all spinning up in the air with aplomb, any that drop and smash open are done so deliberately and I found myself on tenterhooks, waiting for the next to fall. The darkness grows, stealing across the pages, almost overwhelming in its intensity. The words crept into my thoughts, suggesting, encouraging suspicion and questions to grow and expand. Even though I had been led to expect some of the events taking place, I was still shocked when they did, and that is the skill of the writing here. I found myself on that wonderful reading clifftop of suspense before falling out into the heart-stopping void, and so I’ve chosen Into the Dark as a Liz Pick of the Month. This breath-stealing novel offers dramatic, satisfying, pure reading pleasure, so we also declare it a LoveReading Star Book.
Darkly suggestive and consuming, this historical fantasy novel offers a nod to The Great Gatsby. Annie Mason finds herself in an unknown world of blood magic and murder when she investigates her inheritance. This is set just after the First World War, where witchcraft, which had a huge influence in the war, has been all but banned. At the beginning I wondered if I had entered a realm already formed as I found myself hesitating and searching for information that wasn’t immediately available. However, I soon settled in and immersed myself in the stormy and decadent atmosphere, where the urge to live as large a life as possible after the effects of the war hits hard. The plot bubbled along in the background as the characters took centre stage. While Annie and Emmeline throbbed with energy as they explored their feelings for each other, the secondly characters added real depth and flavour before pulling the story together. Author Francesca May successfully evokes the excess of the time, and also balances the abuse, dark magic, and violence that can be found in the story with the innocence of Annie, love and friendship. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month, Wild and Wicked Things successfully steals into thoughts and thoroughly provokes feelings.
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?
Light and bright yet tackling difficult subjects with compassion, this is a ray of reading sunshine. 50 years old and single, flight attendant Jen dips her toe in on-line dating waters in an attempt to find a partner after she wins an exclusive romantic holiday. It’s always rather fabulous when menopausal women star in the leading role, the sense of affinity, the smirk of recognition! Fiona Gibson creates layers of fun, warmth, empathy, tenderness, and affection as she builds the tale around the rather wonderful Jen. Anyone who has ever tried on-line dating will smile and even wince in sympathy as she learns to navigate that very peculiar world! Friendship is the major theme on offer here, proper loving, supportive, heartfelt friendship, and it’s rather lovely to feel as though you are being welcomed in to that special group as your read. I particularly enjoyed the fact that this story didn’t have a foregone conclusion, I was kept guessing until I settled into the ending with a feeling of satisfaction. Amusing, thoughtful, and uplifting, The Woman Who Took a Chance is heart-warming delight and Liz Pick of the Month.
This is a story about taking a leap of faith And believing the unbelievable They say those we love never truly leave us, and I've found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you'd expect. I've been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I'm talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here. Right now, you probably think I'm going mad. Let me explain... Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions - but away from her own family - how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother? For fans of The Time Traveler's Wife comes an original and heartwarming story about bittersweet memories, how the past shapes the future, and a love so strong it makes you do things that are slightly bonkers.
So exquisitely haunting it hurts, Sundial slithers into thoughts to carve out a spot and make itself at home. Fearing for the future of both her daughters, Rob takes troubled Callie to her own childhood home in the Mojave Desert and revisits the past. I have been of fan of Catriona Ward since her debut Rawblood, each of her subsequent novels has become my new favourite, and that is most certainly the case here. Just reading the synopsis sent a shiver through me, I had to have this book! As I started to read, goosebumps shivered and skittered their way down my skin to declare just how special this was going to be. A quiet menace slipped past my boundaries to create a heightened sense of fear for what was to come. The smallest yet most vital of moments are created to tip feelings already in the balance. Trust is a scarce commodity, love though, love is more than evident as mother and daughter test their relationship. There is also a grace to be found, in the eloquence of words as they slice and then stitch to form the most vividly real and vibrant story. Sundial is an intensely dark and blazingly beautiful novel about the love that can hold us together, or shatter us into pieces. This stunning tale that hovers on a sharp edge of horror has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month, it will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year.
Hugely provocative, powerful, and suffused with a stinging, haunting beauty, The Clockwork Girl thoroughly deserves its inclusion as a LoveReading Star Book. Set in Paris during 1750, Madeleine is tasked with discovering the truth about a clockmaker who designs mechanical objects that appear to come to life. Three women sit centre stage, all from different backgrounds, yet struggling to survive in a male dominated world.Oh my word, from the very beginning this made me flinch, unapologetically raw and intense the words burrowed their way inside me. Anna Mazzola really is the most gifted storyteller, I was taken captive as I read, consumed by the fierce thrilling plot and the characters who invaded, and still remain in my mind. I loved the sharp edge of the unreal I found myself hovering over, the insinuations and suggestions that allowed my thoughts to run riot. While the spellbinding clockworks danced eerily featherlight in their own world, the reality of the time created a layer of foreboding that sat glowering, waiting, ready. As it soared into chilling evocative life in front of my eyes I fell in love with this tale. I just had to include The Clockwork Girl as a Liz Pick of the Month, it’s an entirely and gloriously captivating stunner of a read.
Hugest of huge recommendations from me for this bold, provocative, compassionate and thoughtful, yet real as heck debut novel. I adored the characters, plot, and writing, Kasim Ali is an author to watch. After falling in love Nur is welcomed into Yasmina's family, but after four years he can’t bring himself to tell his own that he’s even got a girlfriend let alone living with Yasmina. Love, it should be simple, but with outside influences so often isn’t. Kasim Ali zigzags through the years of the relationship, allowing you to see ahead of time, to feel the weight of the decisions taken. As the little pops of understanding were released Nur, Yasmina, and their friends and family slipped into my heart. The characters are finely drawn, the flaws, the imperfections all add credibility. This is just so easy to read, yet the bittersweet plot ensures a level of tension remains throughout. I cared so much for these characters I was genuinely fearful of what was to come. I thought the ending was perfect in every way, standing ovation time for Kasim Ali. Wonderfully stimulating yet subtly thought-provoking Good Intentions emotionally connects with heart and mind. I’ve chosen this absorbing and rewarding read as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
This powerful, provocative, intoxicating rush of a read hit me head on and ploughed through my thoughts. Mother, former teacher and now MP Emma Webster is used to the press and public judging her, when a man is found dead in her home it opens the floodgates. Trolling, bullying, the difficulties of being a woman and a powerful one at that, are examined while encased in a plot that accelerates into a thrilling story. Newspaper reports and social media comments lie in wait. The focus on different characters and their points of view ensures each nuanced layer splices to the next. Only Emma is written in the first person, I felt her emotional reaction and found myself positively aching for her. The characters are beautifully flawed, each giving you access yet creating a space to explore their personality and choices made. Sarah Vaughan allows you to see what’s coming, the what but not the how, letting you in while creating tension with the slicing edge of the story. Thoroughly provoking thoughts while being highly entertaining, Reputation is timely, convincing, and exhilarating read.
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...
Liz Robinson has been an Editorial Expert writing reviews for LoveReading since February 2014. Reading has always played a huge part in her life and she can quite happily chat books all day. Liz previously spent twenty years working as a member of police support staff, including roles as Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Briefing Officer and Crime Reduction Advisor. She relishes her time spent exploring all genres, and particularly enjoys novels that encourage her emotions to run riot, or fling her back in time or to unknown places, Liz is also thrilled when broadsided by an unexpected twist. Liz was delighted to have been asked to be a judge for the Romantic Novelists' Association Goldsboro Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2018, the LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2019, and the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2019. She would describe herself as a reader, a lover of all things books, and can be found on twitter as @LRLizRobinson.