Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month

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.

Razorblade Tears

Razorblade Tears

Author: S. A. Cosby Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/03/2022

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.

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Sundial

Sundial

Author: Catriona Ward Format: Hardback Release Date: 10/03/2022

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 scare 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.

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Em & Me

Em & Me

Author: Beth Morrey Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/02/2022

Beautifully glorious, this book danced into my heart and soul and I want to dangle from the rooftops to shout about it. Since Em was born Delphine has spent her time as a single mum protecting her daughter and a secret, as she begins to taste the joy of life, her past starts to unravel. This compassionate, generous, and heart-warming novel about being brave and second chances deserves to be a huge hit. I adored Beth Morrey’s debut, the LoveReading Star Book, Saving Missy, and Beth’s unique touch is just as evident in Em & Me. She has the ability to take your thoughts into unexplored places yet plant the story in vibrantly authentic circumstances. She also develops the most charmingly relatable characters, they become known, cared for, a part of you. The plot weaves and flows through good and dark times with eloquence and empathy. I stepped into this book with trust, and came out with my heart full of warmth and emotion. Yes, I know I’m being rather gushy, but I seriously love this book! A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, the wonderful Em & Me is delightfully rewarding novel I’ll be recommending far and wide.

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The Unravelling

The Unravelling

Author: Polly Crosby Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/01/2022

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.

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The Visitors

The Visitors

Author: Caroline Scott Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/12/2021

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. 

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The Coldest Touch

The Coldest Touch

Author: Isabel Sterling Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

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.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Murder Under Her Skin

Murder Under Her Skin

Author: Stephen Spotswood Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/12/2021

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.

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Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult Format: Hardback Release Date: 25/11/2021

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. 

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A Special Cornish Christmas

A Special Cornish Christmas

Author: Phillipa Ashley Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/11/2021

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.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Ruin of All Witches

The Ruin of All Witches

Author: Malcolm Gaskill Format: Hardback Release Date: 04/11/2021

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.

Star Books
The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter

Author: Nicola Upson Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/11/2021

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.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Snow Song

The Snow Song

Author: Sally Gardner Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2021

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.

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