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.
I read this beautifully stormy dark gothic mystery while perched high up on the edge of my seat. A dreadful fire has haunted Ivy for years, she mourns two deaths, and now seeks the truth. Beth Underdown’s debut The Witchfinder's Sister was a bestseller and winner of the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award 2017, this is her second novel and it more than lived up to my expectations. The two time frames, sitting either side of the First World War, are initially fractured before they gradually fuze together. Information dripped and then seeped into the pages before hiding in my thoughts. The story is secretive, occasionally sullen as it begins to unfurl. Cornwall, and the house in particular cast a brooding presence which adds to the intensity of this tale. The characters are perfectly imperfect, trust is a scare commodity, and each casts a deep shadow. I was held in limbo while I read, totally immersed in the writing. Expressively powerful The Key in the Lock thrills and chills in equal measure. Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month and LoveReading Star Book, this historical mystery is a worthy contender for the very top of your reading list.
Hand on heart this is truly beautiful, a delightful mix of ancient myth and modern storytelling creates a spellbinding tale. When Xingyin has to leave her mother and flee her home, she finds herself alone in the Celestial Kingdom attempting to master archery and magic. From the very first page I was held, captivated by the words and story. This is Sue Lynn Tan’s debut fantasy, the first in a duology, and she is most definitely an author I will be keeping an eye out for. She writes with a lyrical, otherworldly energy, yet I immediately felt comfortable and at home in this story. The characters feel touchable and relatable, they also hold a legendary magic through their very being which adds a fascinating vitality. The spirit, the magic, it feels grounded, but oh how it sparkles with intensity! The core of strength and power that runs through the pages, lies in the vulnerabilities that are as much a part of the characters as their life force. I was left feeling fully satisfied and rewarded by this debut, and yet excited and longing for the next. Daughter of the Moon Goddess glows with intoxicating energy and heartfelt emotion. It has been chosen as both a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month, it’s just gorgeous!
A soaring, sweeping, truly beautiful and far-reaching novel that calls for emotions to respond on every level. Ailey’s maternal line has lived in a small Georgia town since arriving from Africa in bondage, as she grows up she begins to uncover her family’s past. Author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers is a published award-winning poet, and it shows. This debut novel feels urgently and vibrantly alive and yet also slips into feelings like a lyrical dreamy song. While Ailey and her family remain as a constant through the book, other stories enter and initially read as a separate tale before slowly joining to create a whole. I felt as though I was part of a wave on the ocean and I was gathered in to live in each moment. This story breathes. It exists. It was. It will be. The intensity of the pain flows through every page, gaining strength, knowledge, and love. Already published in the US, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois was chosen as an Oprah Book Club pick, it was a New York Times bestseller, and the Washington Post stated it is: “The kind of book that comes around only once in a decade”. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow yourself to feel, to soak up the words. I hope you get a sense in my review of just how stunning it is. For me, it’s a must-read and I will be recommending this book far and wide. Both hugely epic and intimate in scale, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is extraordinarily powerful. Convincing and commanding, we declare it a LoveReading Star Book as well as Liz Pick of the Month, it deserves to be on everyone’s reading lists and a future classic.
Welcome to an entertaining wild ride, stuffed full of action and spiky humour. 22 humans remain on a ship set to colonise a planet, the robots have to decide which of the humans will fill the 12 seats to the surface. The publishers have declared this as The Hunger Games meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and while I could most definitely sense the connection, for me this had a sentient Robot Wars (but with the robots in the driving seat) come Lord of the Flies vibe. And yet, even with these four comparisons rushing around this is a resoundingly individual novel. The dedication is entirely fabulous, and aims its own kick. The mix of robots and age old children makes for an intruiging dystopian premise. It took a little while for me to settle in, and to actually engage with all of the characters as the focus of each is so narrow. Spenser was by far my favourite though, adored him! James Breakwell is known for his humour and that definitely makes itself known here with a decided edge. If you’re looking for something a little different, then head this way. The Chosen Twelve is a quirky, high-energy, surprisingly thoughtful novel and I’ve chosen it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month.
Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn't met Death in person - a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen. Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death's scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced - or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated - their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans' fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her . . .
Everything she touches breaks . . . Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong. So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own. But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . . A dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.
A fierce and fiery beast of a crime novel, definitely one to add to the top of your reading lists. A crucified opal miner brings investigators Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan to outback town Finnigans Gap in Australia. I have absolutely loved the Martin Scarsden Thriller series, believe me when I say they are fabulous. Opal Country, I think, is Chris Hammer’s best yet, it’s linked to the series, yet highlights detective Ivan Lucic rather than Scarsden who is only mentioned in passing. Although this book can easily be read as a standalone, I would still recommend starting with award-winning Scrublands and working your way through, as you really don’t want to miss out. Chris Hammer has the ability to paint the most vividly vibrant picture while delving into the inner workings of his characters. The location is in essence a character, and a starring one at that. Every aspect is felt, I soaked up the smallest details as they steered me towards the difficulties of living in a ferocious land that can easily destroy the unaware. There is beauty to be found too, an admiration that encourages you to look beyond the obvious. Ivan and Nell make an interesting pairing, and I hope we see more of them. The plot circles and twists, allowing connections to form, and pieces to slide into place. With dynamic strength and a sharp edge Opal Country hammers home to become a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month. Highly recommended.
This gloriously bittersweet and intensely dark novel swims into the very depths of emotion and takes you with it. Tartelin’s new job on near deserted island Dohhalund off the East Anglian coast tests her own grief and the secrets of her employers past. Polly Crosby’s debut novel was the stunning LoveReading Star Book The Illustrated Child. This, her second novel more than lived up to my high expectations, Polly Crosby is most definitely an author to watch. She isn't afraid to slice open, peel back and expose layers of pain, and she does so in the most beautifully eloquent way. I advise taking your time with this novel, step into and soak up the words. A hushed quiet descends, and yet the island, the tone, the words, create a powerful and vivid reality. A sense of unease kept me company as I read, alongside that unease something else embraced me in welcome as I settled in and explored with Tartelin. The two time frames shimmered and almost flexed into one as I read. The story hides, remaining watchful and patient before revealing itself, and oh, that ending! Captivating and uniquely atmospheric, The Unravelling has been chosen as both a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month.
This thought-provoking and exquisitely written novel has touched my heart. In 1923, Esme Nicholls travels to Cornwall in the hope of learning more about her husband who died in the First World War. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott, and it won’t be my last. Her debut The Photographer of the Lost set in 1921 was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick, and When I Come Home Again set in 1918, was one of The Times Best books of 2020. The Visitors is so eloquently emotional and earthy it will stay with me for some time. The Cornish setting just sings, the house full of former soldiers where Esme stays made me feel welcome. The garden and natural surroundings soothe and act as a foil for the feelings of the people who reside there. Diary entries and articles add hidden thoughts and an awareness of the war. I adored the ending, the closing information so simply imparted, yet so satisfying and fulfilling, made me smile. The Visitors is beautifully expressive and heartfelt, and I’ve chosen this gorgeous novel as both a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month.
Billed as a paranormal romance for young adults, a missing person and a murder mystery theme sit centre stage, and actually friendship plays a key part in this novel. Elise can see how everyone she touches will die, the Veil sends vampire Claire to help Elise grow into her powers. Isabel Sterling has created a supernatural world championing LGBTQ characters, and it feels beautifully organic and straightforward, people (or vampires) are who they are. The two main characters narrate their own story ensuring a wider overview of thoughts and feelings. The vampire threat of compulsion is handled thoughtfully as is the theme of consent. Murder, violence, greed, and obviously death are major topics, the romance doesn’t exactly take a back seat, but it feels as though the author has so much to say, that there are times when the plot bubbles with all the different possibilities. I was fascinated by some of the supporting characters and wanted to know more about them. I felt as though there was still more to discover when I reached the end, is this the start to a new series? The Coldest Touch is a readable, engaging story perfect for paranormal loving older teens searching for LGBTQ centred characters.
The most wonderfully wild, smart, and hugely entertaining novel awaits your reading pleasure. It’s 1946 and Lillian Pentecost and Willowjean Parker find themselves at the circus when one of Will’s friends from her performing days is murdered. I kept a beady eye out for this, the second in the Pentecost and Parker series, as Stephen Spotswood’s debut Fortune Favours the Dead was an absolute delight. I have to say that the cast list alone had me at hello. The circus comes to roaring vividly vivacious life, with the ups and downs of life on the road making the investigation particularly tricky. Little digs and pokes of humour nestle themselves in alongside the social issues of the day. The concerns faced by the residents of the sideshow in particular ensure that while this heads towards cosy crime, it comes with a sharply provocative edge. The writing is so visual, the descriptions come to colourfully dramatic life and as I read, I could see. The cunning ending ensured a resounding round of applause from me, Stephen Spotswood has done it again! A Liz Pick of the Month, and another LoveReading Star Book, Murder Under Her Skin is a charming, darkly amusing, and fabulously stimulating read.
This emotionally intelligent and perceptive novel is hand-on-heart gorgeous. Diana finds herself alone in the Galapagos during the early months of the pandemic while her surgeon boyfriend is back in New York. This is Jodi Picoult at her best, what seems like a simple tale is full of richly beautiful and provocative imaginings. The natural world, our world, sings with celebration. The torment of the pandemic echoes with heartbreak. Relationships, love, awareness of self, the focus is intimate and penetrating and yet feels immense and inclusive to all. I experienced a meaningful connection with the characters and plot, as though I was a part of this story somewhere in the world. And though I had that awareness, the author has the magical ability to open your thoughts and then send them in an entirely unexpected and breathtaking direction. I absolutely adored this book and felt as though it had been written just for me, and yet also for everyone. It connects us all in a time of uncertainty and fear. In a welcoming arms-open-wide hug, the Author’s Note from March 2021 explains her writing story during Covid-19. Charting the raw immeasurable pain of the pandemic, and yet also administering hope and love, Wish You Were Here sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month.
If you’re looking for some festive sparkle, teasing romance, and a gorgeous setting then hello, you can stop right here. A fortune teller tells three friends they will meet the love of their life by Christmas, each scoffs and moves on while the prediction lingers in their minds. While I adore a beautifully written romance at any time of the year, there is something really special about cosying up with one at Christmas. Phillipa Ashley takes the beauty of Cornwall, the energy of a rock and roll dance group, and the atmosphere of a boat yard cafe then creates a scrumptious love story. The characters feel entirely real and pop with vitality, friendship also plays an important role. The plot again has that authentic edge, where you remain a firm part of the tale as it sings along. A Special Cornish Christmas is a truly lovely treat and I’ve chosen it as one of my Liz Picks of the Month for December.
Oh my, The Ruin of All Witches is absolutely fascinating! Detailing the witch-hunting that took place in a frontier town in Massachusetts during 1651, this is a darkly enthralling read. The author describes it as a historical reconstruction rather than a novel. Written using historical documentation including court records, sermons, letters, diaries, deeds, and wills, this dual sense of story and history ensures a deeper awareness. It begins almost as a fairytale would, the style of writing placed me in time and location. I was able to look around and soak up the atmosphere. I felt a connection to the place and people, could reach a level of appreciation for thoughts and feelings. Examining small details, looking behind fears, beyond survival, makes this an accessible and thought-provoking read. The maps help plant the location, the Sources and Methods detailed at the back confirm the thought process behind this book. Malcolm Gaskill is a leading expert in the history of witchcraft and his knowledge and research shows. The Ruin of All Witches is a vivid, captivating and intriguing walk into the past and I’ve chosen it as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
This incredibly engaging and entertaining murder mystery set in 1938 just crackles with energy and would make a perfect Christmas read. Josephine Tey and DCI Archie Penrose spend Christmas at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, a world famous film star and two deaths throw the festivities into disarray. This is the ninth in the Josephine Tey novels, however you can easily, and quite perfectly read it as standalone. Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by writer Elizabeth MacKintosh, and just out of interest, her book The Daughter Of Time was named as the greatest crime novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association back in 1990. Using the real life crime writer Tey as one of the main characters works incredibly well, so do consider going back and starting at the beginning of the series with An Expert in Murder if you’ve not yet met her. The prologue for The Dead of Winter unsettles and creates intrigue before Nicola Upson sets snippets of information about Hitler and the war free to create a tone that settles over the novel.The characters are introduced with aplomb, St Micheal’s Mount and the weather are rather menacing, while the plot zips and darts along. A couple of maps also help proceedings (I love a good map!). Chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, if you love the Golden Age of Crime, and enjoy the thought of a Christmas mystery then I can wholeheartedly recommend The Dead of Winter to you.
Deliciously rich and dark, this reimagining of The Story of a Nutcracker by Alexandre Dumas is loaded with recognisable elements yet is as delightfully individual as can be. Set in Nottingham in 1906 ballerina Marietta’s family have proclaimed that she should stop dancing and take her place in society, when she meets neighbour Dr Drosselmeier she is thrown into a new world full of magic. This is the debut adult novel by M. A. Kuzniar, she draws enchantment and menace together and allows them to walk hand in hand. The beauty and strength of friendship sits centre stage while a relationship slowly blossoms. This most definitely isn’t a sugary sweet confection, a hint of the nightmare echoes through the pages. The traditional dark elements of folklore and fairytale scuttle and scurry with a fabulously modern edge. The characters crackle with energy, the setting sparkles with light and shade, and the ending, oh, that ending! Potently sharp and beautifully magical, Midnight in Everwood dances in to sit as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Robinson Book of the Month.
Highlighting reads that encourage you to explore new beliefs, ideas, and opinions, this was an eye-opening read for me. Recommending a collection of 50 novellas and novels from around the world, with voices from all backgrounds and races, the reader is encouraged to rethink the novels that are considered the classics of literature. It is explained as: “an intervention that offers opportunities for readers to explore a broader reach of works than those that are perennially taught and examined, or promoted”. Prior to reading this I believed that I read far and wide, across genres, continents, and authors, and yet and yet, I’ve only read books by four of these authors. It really brought me up short and has made me rethink my reading lists. I know that some of my LoveReading reviewing colleagues have already read many of these books, but for me, the majority will be new. Joan Anim-Addo, Deidre Osborne, and Kadija Sesay are well respected and explain their thoughts, reasoning, and hold their arms wide in welcoming you to This is the Canon. Each of the 50 books is introduced and includes details of publishing, the author, and other recommended books. The Afterword encourages you, as a reader, to make a difference in the literary world, to make your voice heard. Sitting as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, This is the Canon offers a huge opportunity to the reader, and one that I will be taking up.
Offering a huge burst of escapism this romantic comedy from the winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2019 skates along with attitude. When Clem’s identity is stolen she is determined to foil the thief, along the way with her life thrown up in the air, Clem discovers friendship and romance in unexpected places. The synopsis describes Clem’s adventure as a: “madcap quest”, which perfectly expresses how I felt about this reading journey. 30 year old Clem is an irrepressible, unstoppable, somewhat rebellious woman and at times I sat open-mouthed as she charged into danger. Natalie Cox (a pseudonym) co-owns a bookshop in London and has two Great Danes, which sounds like a perfect combination to me! A large dog called Charlie Bucket rather steals the show in It Takes Two, and several friendships bloom into being while romance flirts along. Friendship (which comes in many guises) was for me a really successful part of this entertaining novel. Incredibly easy to fall into and read, It Takes Two is a bouncy, occasionally bonkers, fun-filled romantic comedy with gumption.
A spellbinding fable for adults from the award-winning and bestselling author, Sally Gardner. 'This heartbreaking, brilliantly written novel is the most original publication for years' The Times on Sally Gardner From an award-winning author, whose books have sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide Women imprisoned by superstition, chained by guilt. Perched on a mountain in a land of ancient forests is a village, rife with secrets. Cut off from the outside world it is run by the elders, men to whom tradition is all. Edith lives alone with her alcoholic father who is forcing her to marry the village butcher. But she is in love with a shepherd who promised to return to her. As the village becomes isolated in a sea of snow, Edith loses her power of speech. And it is this enchantment that will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Edith but for the whole village.
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.