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…
Critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith pulls Nick Carraway out of the shadows and into the spotlight in this exhilarating imagination of his life before The Great Gatsby. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world, he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed first-hand, Nick delays his return home, hoping to escape the questions he cannot answer about the horrors of war. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence. An epic portrait of a truly singular era and a sweeping, romantic story of self-discovery, this rich and imaginative novel breathes new life into a character that many know only from the periphery. Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to transfix even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.
A simply glorious reading feast awaits in this crime novel that I'd describe as warm and cosy with a healthy dose of feisty attitude and smirky humour. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, and Ron find themselves on the trail of stolen diamonds and before too long, a murderer. I roared my appreciation of the first in this series, the best-selling and LoveReading Star Book The Thursday Murder Club, so I’ll admit to approaching Richard Osman’s second novel with an intriguing mix of excitement and apprehension. I am absolutely thrilled to say that The Man Who Died Twice more than exceeded my expectations. The superb introductory chapters sucked me straight in, and this is one of those books that I wanted to read in one sitting. I cackled and read with glee as I ran to keep up with these four septuagenarions. While I adore all of the main characters, Joyce is a particular favourite, quite possibly because we continue to get an outpouring of her thoughts, I so wish I had this woman in my life! The relationships evolve beautifully, and the humour tickles and flirts as the plot just hums along. The ending is rather wonderful and I predict that Richard Osman’s second novel will be just as big a hit as his first. So, of course The Man Who Died Twice comes with the LoveReading Star Book stamp of approval, and sits as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month, what are you waiting for, go grab yourself a copy!
Like many of us, when lockdown gripped, travel journalist Tom Chesshyre took to the local park for his one walk a day with more purpose and curiosity than ever before. His excursions through Richmond Park in South West London drew him into researching its rich history, which in turn prompted him to revisit his old notes from park visits across the planet. From Pyongyang to Bogotá and Edinburgh to Cape Town it becomes clear how parks are not only universally necessary to our quality of life, they are also essential to our cities’ histories, rich with stories and full of links to events and characters long gone. Park Life is more than just a guide to joyous green spaces, it’s a history of world urbanisation sketched with fondness from the peace and quiet of a park bench.
When his son is brutally murdered, gangland boss Zander Finn leaves the Scottish underworld, goes underground and tries to transform his life with a move to London. When he’s pulled back into his old world to fight the Albanian mobsters threatening his family, it’s an action-packed adventure with thrills aplenty and promises that you’ll be on the edge of your seat every step of the way. Meyrick’s inimitable dark humour threads throughout and peppers Finn’s intense fight for survival.
Well, a debut doesn't come more well-honed than Inga Vesper’s absolutely cracking slice of dark Americana, The Long, Long Afternoon, which is set in the summer of 1959 and encompasses a gripping mystery with an excoriating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are under-estimated, silenced and diminished. Beautifully written with scenes and characters that take you right back to a time of mail-order catalogues, mother’s ‘little helper’ and the appalling casualness of race and gender inequality, Inga has created a breath-taking, chromium-shiny, tale of how dark the sunniest places can be and how very desperate things can get. The LoveReading LitFest invited Inga to the festival to talk about The Long, Long Afternoon. 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 Inga in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out why everyone is talking about this book. Check out a preview of the event here.
What an elegantly written delight Lissa Evans’ V for Victory is - it’s packed with page-turning intrigue, and perfectly described particulars that evoke both the era (1944 Britain), and the nuances and quirks of a dazzling cast of characters with equal engaging aplomb. It’s London, 1944, and while Hitler’s bombs teem down on the capital, Vee and the teenage boy in her charge are getting on with things as best they can - she through taking in lodgers to get by in her Hampstead Heath home, and he, Noel, through indulging his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and intellectual stimulation. Then, after witnessing a car accident and being summoned to court, Vee becomes paranoid that her secret (shared only with Noel) will be discovered. Tension mounts as the war rumbles on, and new and old faces come into Vee and Noel’s lives. Evoking day-to-day details with fine strokes as it dapples its canvas with brilliant broad-brush observations of humanity, this is a richly satisfying story, with characters I felt I’d come to know inside out.