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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.
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.
A really smart, readable, and pacy novel that not only thrills, it also encourages thoughts to explore beyond the obvious. Investigate Journalist Casey works to expose the horrors that take place in the factories behind the clothes trade. Holly Watt’s debut and start to this series, To The Lions won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2019. Dead Line is the second book and continues the winning format. What I really enjoy about these novels is the knowledge that the author is an award-winning investigative journalist, she knows her stuff. There is an immediate relevance to what you are reading, you could look up from the page at the world around you and see these stories taking place right now. Casey is a tenacious and fabulous main character with depth. This is a book that can make you flinch and feel uncomfortable, it’s also balanced with fabulous storytelling that is full of pace and attitude. One of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month, Dead Line is an intelligent and convincing action-packed thriller.
Forming part of an incredibly well written, detailed yet vibrant and exciting historical crime series, this is a stonkingly good read. If you’ve not yet explored the Captain Damian Seeker novels (two of them have won the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger Award), then I recommend that you start at the beginning with The Seeker. The House of Lamentations is the final book in the five book series, and while sad that it’s ended, I can shout from the rooftops that this is a series that is most definitely worth reading. Taking place in Bruges in 1658 the Royalists plan to fund a last-ditch attempt to place the exiled Charles on the throne. However, a traitor has been feeding information to Cromwell’s enforcer who now needs all of his wits about him to deal with the threat. While the main story plays out, a number of smaller mysteries weave their way around the plot. As I read my thoughts twisted and turned inside out as I tried to work out who to keep my eye on, and when the ending came it made me smile in satisfaction. The House of Lamentations is a fine final hurrah to the Damian Seeker Novels and I just want to stand up and applaud S. G. MacLean on her wonderful creation, so this sits as a Liz Pick of the Month.
An artfully composed and thought-provoking novel covering several sub genres within crime fiction. When Xander Shute reports witnessing a murder to the police, they don’t believe him, and as he begins to search for answers himself, he finds himself lost in his own mind and a vortex of memories. Xander narrates his tale, he lives on the streets and within a few pages his existence stamped itself all over my consciousness. Imran Mahmood is a practicing barrister and his debut novel was long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. He writes with cunning pen, an intricate plot slowly and stealthily reveals itself creating the most wonderful page-turner of a story. Short sharp shocks of sentences ganged together driving my thoughts before them. Sometimes I felt as though I was inside Xander’s mind, a part of his awareness, sometimes I was on the outside, trying desperately to work out what was going on. I found this a clever, provocative novel, and when the ending came sat back and travelled back over my suspicions and presumptions. I Know What I Saw is a smart, stimulating, and compelling psychological thriller and mystery, enter the pages and prepare for your thoughts to scatter and explore.
Oh, this is almost too gorgeous for words, thoughtful and full of emotion, it’s a simply wonderful story that connected to my heart and soul. Cate Morris has no option other than to leave everything she knows and move to Hatters with her son Leo, will they be welcomed with open arms? Anstey Harris writes with beautiful eloquence, her debut novel The Truths of Triumphs of Grace Atherton was one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, Where we Belong is too. I was completely charmed by the first sentence, settled in with joy and then the end of chapter one caused me to take a deep breath. This is emotionally intelligent writing and perfectly timed reveals of information lay in wait. Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World is just lovely, do I want to go there? Yes I most certainly do, so was captivated to learn that it is based on a real location. Where We Belong bewitched me with its secrets and beauty, Anstey Harris really is the most wonderful storyteller and I salute her. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
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.
An incredibly thoughtful, eloquent, and revealing book about policing by John Sutherland. Not only is it absolutely fascinating, there are also a whole heap of lessons that can and should be learned within its pages. John spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police, during that time working his way to Borough Commander, leading teams as they dealt with some of the most sad and incredibly damaging aspects facing our society. Now retired on medical grounds, John is a sought-after public speaker and commentator, he regularly speaks on TV and radio, and writes for major newspapers. I can highly recommend his first book, Blue: A Memoir, this new book goes a step further. John issues an invitation to walk with him and witness the scenes behind the blue and white cordon tape. He talks about ten issues we face in the modern world, from domestic violence through to terrorism. He still cares about and loves policing, he also has huge compassion, this, linked with his ability to see the reality of policing, means he can open our eyes. Accessible, considered, meaningful, shocking, inspiring… Crossing the Line has been chosen as LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. It really is the most crucially important piece of writing for the whole of our society to absorb, all I can say is, read it! Read our Q&A with John Sutherland.
A really intelligent, intimate, and ultimately human story awaits in this fabulous crime novel. Within a few months, Rob is due for release from an open prison in Brixton, when he meets a woman while out on day release, he is determined to hide his background from her yet there are desperate secrets on both sides. This is such a beautifully written novel from Lottie Moggach, for a dark novel it is vibrant, almost visual in effect. It feels real, as though this could be happening somewhere close by, right now. There was an immediate sense of place when I started to read, the run of Brixton Hill from the prison to the charity shop where Rob works comes alive. I felt a palpable connection to the characters, even those just appearing for a few pages. The suspense is exquisitely handled, while the atmosphere of the prison keeps pace with the turmoil in Rob’s mind. As the story neared its conclusion the heightened tension pulsated from the page through to my fingertips. Brixton Hill is an absolute gem, and is both a Liz Pick of the Month and Star Book too. Loved it, I really really loved it.
An absolute monster of a fabulous read! I smirked and chuckled my way through this thoroughly entertaining and smart comedic crime novel. It’s charity ball season in Palm Beach, when a prominent high-society member of the POTUSSIES (a group of women who support the President) goes missing, the President declares it was the fault of immigrant hordes. However, wildlife wrangler Angie Armstrong has just been tasked to deal with an influx of huge pythons, so the President might just be talking out of his behind. By the way, I am a titchy bit scared of snakes, but this didn’t affect my reading of this novel in any way. The President’s name is never mentioned, but Carl Hiaasen brilliantly lampoons the President that came between Obama and Biden, and I actually snorted with laughter on a number of occasions. I first read Carl Hiaasen’s novels for young adults, including Skink No Surrender but this is my first of his novels for adults. If you’re already a fan then you might just bump into a much loved character in Squeeze Me. This is a book that you can just throw yourself into and trust in the talent of the author. He isn’t just funny, the humour is pointed and makes a point. Squeeze Me is so irreverent, stimulating, and gorgeously readable, I already know that it will be one of my books of the year. Chosen as a Liz Pick and a Star Book, in the middle of dark times this is just what we needed, unless of course you are a fan of a certain someone!
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.
A dramatic and enthralling relationship tale that captures emotion and takes you on a journey through the Second World War. When Sara and her parents flee their homeland taking refuge in the French Alps, the full impact of the Nazi oppression edges ever closer. Inspired by her visit to a small museum in the Lower Alps Carol Drinkwater has created the most captivating story of young love, and the courage needed to face the most devastating of times. She has the ability to focus on the things that make us human, to create a link that alters the focus from watching, to actually feeling the events that take place. A balance is created between the intimate moments of relationships and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during the horror of war. This is ultimately as much a story about Sara’s own relationship with, and understanding of herself as it is with the man she falls in love with. The ending came with beautiful words and tears welling up in my eyes, I just had to include this as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. An Act of Love will encourage emotions to dip and soar as it gives hope even in the darkness. The LoveReading LitFest invited Carol to the festival to talk about An Act of Love. 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 Carol in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone should read this book. Check out a preview of the event here
Thought-provoking, inspiring, and inclusive, this is a wonderful blend of nature and an examination of language, community and friendship. Journalist and writer Anita Sethi decided to hike the ‘backbone of Britain’ The Pennines after she was the victim of a vicious race-hate crime. Born in Manchester and holding a particular love for the natural world around us, in I Belong Here she reclaims her sense of belonging while being open and giving of herself and her thoughts. She walks through the land, often by herself, and explores her experiences and love for nature. Words dance in her hands, she shows how much language matters, looking at the various meanings of words, particularly with regards to nature and emotions, stating: “language can imprison or liberate”. She is so beautifully eloquent. I’ve always had a deep connection to the countryside, yet Anita’s words encouraged me to look again, to not just see the face of our natural surroundings but to look in more depth at our natural history and how it exists and connects us. And, that resonates deeply with her thoughts on the colour of skin: “it is exhausting to be pigeon-holed, people not seeing beyond skin colour”. While at times this is a challenging read as she experiences anger and despair, there is an awful lot of love to be found as she welcomes her surroundings and the people she meets along the way. Ultimately I felt a connection with Anita as she held out a hand and invited me to explore thoughts, feelings and nature alongside her. A LoveReading Star Book, I Belong Here is a truly beautiful and important read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
What an uplifting and joyous book this is, the blend of family warmth and hard work at Cannon Hall Farm makes for a fascinating read. You may have already heard about The Nicholson’s, or even feel as if you know them if you’ve watched them on Springtime on the Farm or This Week on the Farm on TV. Cannon Hall Farm is known as ‘the perfect family day in Yorkshire’, it’s an award-winning farm that has grown to become a true tourist attraction. At its heart though it’s still a family farm and its success is down to teamwork, tenacity through hard times, and enthusiasm for exploring new ideas. Author Nicole Carmichael has captured the story of this family and the farm from the beginning. I was enveloped in their love for animals, nature, and life in the country. I travelled through the years with the Nicholson’s and was there as the tearoom started and they diversified to become a full tourist attraction. I loved seeing the photos and hearing about the various animals at the farm, particularly how they are named! You also meet the current team and wider family members, plus focus on different aspects of the current farm, such as the farm shop. Living Our Best Lives is a celebration of farming, and more importantly family, it’s absolutely gorgeous and has been chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
Is there such a word as bookstruck? Because that is what I'm feeling right now, The Court of Miracles is a debut, the start of a trilogy, and a stonkingly good read. I believe both (older) young adults and adults will fall for this and I suggest just throwing yourself in and letting go. Find yourself in a reimagined Paris years after the French Revolution has failed with some of the cast of Les Miserables… this is what might have been. As well as cast members (with notable exceptions), there are little references to Les Mis to discover along the way which made me smile but please don’t think of this as being a historical tale as you are opening up a whole new world. I think The Court of Miracles would work without already knowing Eponine, Cosette, Gavroche and friends, as some develop in a completely unexpected way and there are a whole host of new characters to meet. Eponine (Nina) the Black Cat narrates, and after her father sells her beloved sister, she becomes a thief in the criminal underworld of the Court of Miracles. She soon finds herself another sister Cosette (Ettie), but in order to protect, she must betray. Opening up the trilogy in the best possible way The Court of Miracles is an adventurous story stuffed full of revenge, courage, and love. While it felt like a wondrous tale in its own right, there is obviously still much to come. I adored it and this oh so readable novel sits as a Debut of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
A hard-hitting, fast-moving slicing wow of a book. An old case is reopened when new evidence appears, and a violent predator hunts his next victim. It’s no secret that I get jump-up-and-down excited about Karin Slaughter’s novels. She has the most wonderful ability to pitch full-on sharp storytelling and blasts of drama alongside thoughtfully handled social issues and relationship dilemmas. This could easily be read as a standalone, however there are two series that link to this novel, Will Trent and Grant County. Both series are just too good to miss, and I highly recommend them. For those who have read both sets, in this particular book time slides along a different path in order to make two time frames work. The author’s note perfectly explains why at the end, but (big but), make sure you don’t read the author’s note until you have read every last drop of the novel! Will Trent and Sara Linton work with the rest of the team, while the past runs alongside and does some serious meddling. Please note there are some fairly graphic descriptions of medical examinations and brutal attacks within the novel. Karin Slaughter doesn’t shy away from highlighting a distressing subject matter, which she mentions in her notes and the last part of her acknowledgments. While graphic, it is not gratuitous, and I felt every word that made me wince was necessary. The Silent Wife is another winner of a read, it sent goosebumps skittering down my arms and this, her twentieth novel, has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Pick.
Oooh, this is one heck of a feisty, dramatic, and addictive tale! On the anniversary of her husband’s death, Marianne stumbles across the dark web and an assassin’s hit list with her name on it. This is a seemingly simple premise, however an intricate plot, two time frames, and a sturdy cast of characters ensures a powerful read. I entered the dark web alongside Marianne as a complete novice, and found what awaited was utterly chilling. Holly Seddon has the ability to really bring a character to life, the words transfer from the page into feelings, thoughts, and actions. These are people who sit on the edge of right and wrong, which way will they topple? Some realisations sneaked into my head, while others arrived with a sledge hammer. The stakes are high, the tension increases and waits ready to trip you up until the ending hits. Provocative and stimulating, The Hit List is a wonderfully unexpected story that I can highly recommend.
Both charming (yes I know that is a strange word to describe a crime novel) and stimulating, look forward to the feel of a golden age mystery with a modern twist. The death of a 90 year old murder consultant to authors is investigated by DS Kaur and a diverse group of friends who turn amateur detectives. This is the second novel featuring DS Harbinger Kaur, however you could quite cheerfully step in here and read it as a standalone. Set in West Sussex (with a brief sojourn in Scotland), I can say with some glee that the book world takes centre stage. From literary festivals to publishing offices, if you love all things books then this is the crime mystery for you! Elly Griffiths takes the premise and runs with it, which made me clap my hands with delight. I adore the diversity and quirky nature of the characters, the somewhat gung-ho approach by the amateurs is highly entertaining. The Postscript Murders is a wonderfully readable crime novel to cosy up with and joins my Liz Picks of the Month.
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
A smart, thoughtful, intriguing crime novel. DI Helen Birch starts to dig into what should be a simple case, but finds far more than she bargained for. I absolutely adore this series, for me it contains one of the more realistic characters in the modern book world of policing. The first novel in the series All The Hidden Truths, was shortlisted for the 2019 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and won the McIlvanney Debut Prize. Here we are at the third book in, and see DI Helen Birch in all her glory, flaws and all, but she doesn’t become a caricature, when I’m reading, she exists. Edinburgh sings, and the investigation sits nicely alongside Helen’s personal life, with certain parts crowding and affecting her thoughts. Claire Askew gets inside the small things, makes them count, she also handles the more difficult subjects contained here with compassion and empathy. The ending is a corker, and slides nicely into place. Cover Your Tracks continues a great crime series, and it’s one I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Immensely enjoyable, this high fantasy novel contains characters and a storyline to die for. Oh, and if you think you don’t like fantasy, you might want to think again - this has heaps of drama, action, and thoughtful intrigue, as well as allowing an escape from the reality of the world we are living in. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the new Burninglade and Silvereye Series. Gyre seeks revenge on the Twilight Order who took his little sister Maya twelve years ago, but when the siblings meet again they find themselves on opposing sides in a war for survival. When it comes to fantasy novels I am a reading fiend, I find that this particular genre offers some of the very best series going and can already safely say that this will be a series I will be camping outside of bookshops for. Django Wexler has built a post-apocalyptic world that you can immerse yourself in, I didn’t stop, doubt, question, just wholeheartedly believed. I grew in knowledge alongside Gyre and Maya, and absolutely loved the combination of technology and inner power. Not only is this a fast-paced beautifully diverse read, I found the humour perfectly timed. In the acknowledgements Django Wexler says that the novel originated after a series of conversations about Star Wars, and you can definitely see some influences as you read. Ashes of the Sun has it all, and comes with the higher than highly recommended tag from me.
Delivering a creepy premise, chilling atmosphere, and intricately built suspense, this is a satisfying psychological thriller. As a teenager twenty-five years ago Paul left town after a murder, and he heads home just as a copycat killer strikes. I completely fell for Alex North’s last book, The Whisper Man which held the most deliciously supernatural undertones and was a LoveReading Star Book. On the strength of that, The Shadow Friend jumped straight on to my list of reads I was looking forward to. Two time frames, ’now’ and ‘before’ ensure child and adulthood are very different places yet by the end of part one, the background and foreground have met and set the scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of foreboding, of waiting, of understanding edging into the corner of thoughts before disappearing again. There were several surprises to be discovered along the way and the tiptoeing tension and haunting dream sequences ensured I was desperate to find out what happened. The ending was very neat and rather nicely wraps everything up. The Shadow Friend is a twisty, intriguing, and rewarding tale and has been chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the month.
A shout from the rooftops type of book, and this is so special, I may be there for some time! Ava is at the peak of her ballet career and about to appear in the most challenging role of her life, but she’s just one small step away from falling from grace, and someone desperately wants her crown. I am always so careful to avoid spoilers, and also wary of stating if there are twists. With this novel though, I feel as though I can proclaim that it is most cleverly unexpected read, without spoiling it in any way! Erin Kelly takes us behind the scenes, to the effort and obsession, to the pain and glory, and sets the most thrilling and intoxicating plot. This novel builds in an intensity that I couldn’t have even imagined when I first opened the pages. It was only as I got further in that my thoughts began to stutter, and then went into free fall. I became absolutely transfixed. The plot is everything, so cunning and smart, yet the characters and descriptions are absolutely on point too. I know this will sit as one of my favourite reads of the year, and along with a standing ovation it also receives a LoveReading Star Book. Breathtaking, sharp, and wonderfully rewarding, Watch Her Fall is an absolute stunner and I proclaim it a must-read.
Meet eleven fabulous short stories by China’s number one science fiction writer. This is the first time they have been published in English, originally written between 1999 and 2017, a number of different translators have ensured that an exquisite reading feast awaits. Cixin Liu’s foreword ensured a few raised eyebrows and smiles on my part. It is absolutely fascinating to read these stories, that: “inevitably have a strong Chinese flavour, imbued with the culture, history, and present reality of China” as well as explore the universe beyond our understanding. These are stories that are set on an epic scale, yet focus on the intimate and essential meaning of being human. I particularly enjoyed The Village Teacher, a story that pivots on an apparently small, individually brave act. This would be the perfect introduction to science fiction for anyone who has not yet dipped a toe. For lovers of sci-fi, there is plenty here to fall into and enjoy. Hold Up The Sky is a cracking collection of stories that allows your mind to look within as well as well as travel into the unknown.
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.