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Each week our team of book lovers choose a selection of books they have loved and think deserve an extra shout out. Everyone fights to get theirs on the list. Here are this week’s faves…
The book is split into five main sections: food, home, travel, body/beauty and life. The food section is particularly helpful, from meal planning and budgeting to delicious-sounding recipes and step-by-step cooking with kids (with full-colour photos). Inside, there are easy ways to make your home child-friendly, stylish and tidy(ish), followed by tips on travelling with kids (abroad, at home, camping etc), beauty and fashion tips (on a budget, with little time) and finally how to still have a life (friendships, sex life and work life). It’s written in a ‘best friend’ tone – easy to read with plenty of humour – and I found myself nodding along at the advice. You can’t get much more practical than this, with its tick-off checklists, space for meal plans and notes, and even a ‘working mum guilt’ word search. Mummin’ It is ideal for parents with children at nursery and/or primary school, and a book that you’re likely to return to again and again.
Shalini Bolands’ My Little Girl is a riveting family-centred psychological page-turner that will have thriller fans on the edge of their seats. As whodunits go, it presents an intense tangle of threads for readers to follow as those threads take multiple unexpected turns. “Don’t get angry. Don’t get angry. Don’t panic. Stay calm. It will all be fine. It will be okay. Kids wander off all the time and their parents find them.” So reasons Claire Nolan when her mother-in-law, Jill, tells her that her daughter, Beatrice, has gone missing at the fair. Claire tries not to panic, tries not to think the worst, but she’s upset, and angry too - her husband was supposed to be with them, and he knows how forgetful Jill is, that they can’t trust her to care for Beatrice alone. As she drives to the fair, Claire’s stream of consciousness, first-person narrative captures the panic of her worst nightmare situation in all its intensity. Then the action switches to Jill’s account of events. “What a mess. How did this happen? Why did I take that call from Laurel? Is this really my fault? Surely not.” The fact that the story is told from multiple points of view adds to the suspense and intensity of the horrifying whodunit guessing game. As Claire’s world implodes, her doubts and paranoia escalate - stories aren’t adding up, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. Gripping stuff, and highly readable too. Purchase My Little Girl from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
Poignant, powerful and pacey, Ellie Midwood’s The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz tells the remarkable true story of Mala Zimetbaum, a woman who did the all-but-impossible when she escaped Auschwitz with her Resistance fighter lover. It’s an extraordinary tale of courage and heroism in the face of impossible odds and excruciating circumstances - a tale told with much compassion in The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz. It’s autumn 1943 and “Edek had had enough. The grim realization of it dawned on him along with the first slanting rays of the sunset bleeding red atop the barracks’ roofs as he watched SS Officer Brück stomp repeatedly on an inmate’s head with the steel-lined sole of his tall jackboot.” This brutally arresting opening is typical of the book’s style - incisive, and physically impactful. A veteran of the camp, Edek is a political prisoner and resistance fighter – and he’s long been determined to escape. Meanwhile, Belgian-born Mala is at Birkenau Women’s Camp, where she works as a “runner in charge of delivering SS orders and official documents from one block to another.” As such, she “no longer had anything to fear from the wardens or the Kapos. An official armband with an insignia of a Läuferin on her left bicep, civilian clothes and dark-blond hair pulled into a bun instantly distinguished her from the general camp population.” But having been through the horrors of arriving at camp (“First, they took her freedom. Then, they took her hair”), and feeling disgust for the utter lack of humanity, she - like Edek - has resolved to regain her freedom. In the meantime, she uses her position to save lives. When they meet, Mala comes to believe in Edek’s escape plan, comes to believe that there might be light through these darkest of days - and through love. Shot-through with tremendous tension and compassion, this comes recommended for readers who enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Purchase The Girl Who Escaped Auschwitz from: Amazon - Currently 99p Apple Kobo Google
Why the F*ck Can’t I Change? is a scientific look at our emotions and why it can be difficult for us to change our mindset, long-standing habits and productivity. While the title is a sweary one, the book’s contents aren’t sweary at all. This is a fairly academic book on behavioural change, focusing on the biology and anatomy of the human brain. It has been well-researched by its neuroscientist author, using scientific studies and reference books. There are some case studies, self-help advice and practical tips, but it’s not a quick read. The book features some medical jargon so it may not work for everyone, but each chapter has a useful summary at the end. If you’re looking for a book that gives you more than the usual self-help ‘change your life’ advice, because you want to understand the root cause of why you feel, think and behave the way you do, then this book may be the answer. Purchase Why the F*ck Can't I Change from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
One Left Alive, the first in a new series by Helen Phifer, is a pacey, chilling psychological thriller driven by personality and a creeping sense of time running out. Rookie Detective Morgan Brookes is well and truly thrown in at the deep end when she’s called to a suicide scene. Though new to this, she feels bolstered “as the adrenalin kicked in. She hadn’t attended a suicide on her own before, but she had been to several when she was completing her training and in company with a more experienced officer. She was ready for this.” Ready or not, she’s first on the scene and takes charge. Too late to save the woman hanging from a tree in her front garden, Morgan realises that there’s more to this than initially meets the eye when the woman’s husband and daughters are found in the basement - at least one of her daughters is still alive. This fragile girl drives Morgan to do whatever it takes to solve the case, with added layers of intrigue and suspense coming courtesy of another body, and a case from the past. Fans of in-your-face thrillers will surely take satisfaction from trying to figure out the case alongside Morgan. The writing is bluntly impactful, with short to-the-point sentences, but evocative with it, and the tension escalates as it becomes clear that Morgan must make progress before someone comes for the girl. Purchase One Left Alive from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google
Fast-paced and rippling with revelations, Samantha Hayes’s Date Night is a creepy page-turner for readers who like their thrillers unexpected - recommended for fans of Gone Girl. On the face of it, Libby seems to have it all - a husband, daughter, and expanding catering business. But disquieting truths lurk beneath the façade, beginning with the note left under her windscreen wipers. “Sean is having an affair,” it reads. Unsettled, Libby refuses to believe it, but doubts niggle and she confronts him. Then, on returning from a disastrous attempt at a reconciliatory dinner, they find their daughter alone - the babysitter has vanished and it’s not long before Libby stands accused of her murder. When she’s arrested, Libby’s shock and outraged disbelief are palpable: “This is me! I want to scream. Just me! I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a best friend. Aged thirty-nine with a four-year-old child, a husband, my own business, a stepson and a cat. I’ve got good friends, I’m well liked, I do Pilates and pay my taxes on time.” With shocking twists aplenty, and a dual timeline adding layers of intrigue, Date Night is written in an easily readable style, with lots of domestic detail as Libby is caught in a terrible web, wondering if anyone will believe her, as readers wonder who’s telling the truth. Purchase Date Night from: Amazon Apple Kobo Google