Recent Posts

Book review: Wyvern and Star by Sophy Boyle

This exciting new novel is set against one of the most dramatic periods in English history, the Wars of the Roses.


That tumultuous struggle of the fifteenth century saw the throne of England pass –  several times over – between the rival houses of York and Lancaster before it was eventually won by an offshoot of the Lancastrian line, the Tudors.


With its heady mix of treachery, bloody battles and dynastic rivalries, it’s no wonder that the explosive contest for the crown has long fascinated so many, from historians to playwrights and novelists – including Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin.


While most novelists writing on this period choose to focus on the house of York, Sophy Boyle has instead based her new series Wyvern and Star on the Lancastrians, no strangers themselves to intrigue and bloodletting.


Wars of the Roses devotee Boyle has taken the unusual line of weaving the story around fictional lead characters backed by a large supporting cast of real historical figures.


At the heart of the action is the fictional Robert Clifford, a flawed character; a daring but vengeful man who squanders his gifts and his chances, giving rein to short-sighted and self-destructive impulses.


The book sets out its stall with the opening chapter, a disturbingly vivid and brutal recollection of the slaying of a young foe. Though a hardened soldier, Clifford cannot forget his involvement in this shameful murder, and we soon learn that this is only one among a number of regrets haunting him.


This novel – the first in a series of seven – spans the years 1470-71, the beginning of the second phase of the conflict. Clifford, a staunch Lancastrian, means to bring his fortunes back from the brink with an audacious plot to invade England, wrest the crown from the Yorkist king Edward IV and return the imprisoned Lancastrian Henry VI to power.


As the novel begins he’s emerging from a dark decade of penniless exile into what he hopes will be a more favourable future with Alice de Vere, the woman he loves. But Alice, who’s both fascinated and horrified by Clifford’s menacing reputation, turns his schemes on their head when she marries instead Edmond Beaufort, Duke of Somerset – leader of the Lancastrian faction and Clifford’s erstwhile friend.


The book follows the parallel stories of Clifford and Alice, along with a cast of impressively-drawn characters whose lives are inextricably linked with those of the ill-starred pair. While Clifford’s faithful follower Loic Moncler is a solid and loyal confidant throughout, others in the inner circle reveal themselves to be scarcely less treacherous than the enemy. Clifford’s eldest son, Hal, harbours feelings of his own for Alice, while younger son Aymer has inherited all his father’s ruthless ambition.


As the novel races towards its battle-scarred climax, Clifford and the Lancastrian alliance come tantalisingly close to victory, but all is jeopardised by rivalry and betrayal within their own faction.


Packed with vivid detail, evocative prose and a thrilling, twisting plot, Wyvern and Star offers an utterly engrossing and escapist read. Its streak of gallows humour and the modern voice keep it fresh, ensuring readers with a taste for hard-edged historical fiction will lap it up.


Wyvern and Star sets the scene for an equally explosive second installment, expected to be released later this year.


Wyvern and Star by Sophy Boyle is out now, priced £8.99 in paperback and £3.99 as an eBook. Visit to find out more.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Mid-February eNewsletter

Read on for lots of book recommendations to keep you absorbed, entertained and on-track to make 2017 your year of reading… especially our intriguing Mega Book of the Month A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.


More Exclusive Pre-Pubs

This is our superb selection of downloadable extracts of top titles before they’re published. This month, whet your appetite with:

When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson – ‘An absolute page-turner of a novel… uncomfortable… powerful and oh so compelling.’ Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi – Simply superb, it will leap straight into your heart and soul. Without doubt, a must read. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal –  ‘Addictive, funny yet serious undertones’, ‘fascinating and enjoyable’ (Pearl Wilson, Reader Reviewer).

Romeo and Juliet for the Space Age

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan is a beautifully written, stunning, unusual debut that weaves its way through an intense, all-encompassing first love. A love forbidden by the times in which they live and yet one that they’ll risk everything not to lose. Graduate of the Faber Academy writing course and space geek Katie Khan started writing the book in 2012. So, quite a while to wait but so worth it.

Unmissable February Highlights

Here, all in one place, are the highlights of this month’s top recommendations. Books you won’t want to miss. Book like:

The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and Her Lover by Simon Parke – A worthy and absorbing read, as the axe falls, history hovers in touching distance. The Second Bride by Katharine Swartz – A bittersweet, compassionate family drama set in Cumbria. Emotional yet ultimately full of love and hope.
ghf fd
The Black Sheep by Sophie McKenzie. Honeymoon Suite by Wendy Holden. The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom.

A Love Story Like No Other

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan – Our MEGA Book of the Month, a first collaboration between two major award-winning novelists. ‘A wonderful love story, told in prose, featuring two very damaged young people who blossom when they find one another. A gem.‘ (Reader Review).

The authors first met at a dinner to celebrate their respective books being shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal. Soon after the two of them began sending chapters back and forth on WhatsApp.

If you liked, you’ll love …

Keep your bedside table piled high with recommended reads that are right up your street … see below for two of our favourites this month.

If you were a fan of the poignantly comic The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce then do have a browse of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. We think it is a discovery of enchantment and delight.  

And fans of the heartbreaking but beautiful The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson should be tempted by the charming and bittersweet story that is The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan.

From ‘Self’ to Shelf – Spring 2017 Independent Authors

Self-publishing may still sound a bit like bad books badly printed in a shed, but there are those that take the world by storm. These are our top tips for the Spring.


A Glass Act! – Cathy Glass

When a novel has the author’s personal experiences pouring out of every word, the reader can’t help but feel every bite and bend, hope and fear and twist and turn of it. The novels of foster-carer, Cathy Glass are a great example. The much-loved author of The Child Bride, Girl Alone, The Silent Cry and her latest Nobody’s Son is described by our regular Reader Reviewer Angie as: ‘one amazing lady, and to read her books, gives hope to all the children who come into contact with her.’ Find out more.

Reader Reviewers Recommend! – February’s Selection

Newly launched last month, this is a sparkling selection where we feature the books that Reader Reviewers have marked in the ‘must read’ column! Books like:

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee – A beautiful and deeply moving story that can’t be put down (Judith Smith, Reader Reviewer). Moonglow by Michael Chabon – Absolutely fascinating, a beautiful yet quirky read, this is a tale to make you wonder, to make you feel… Who’s That Girl? By Mhairi McFarlane – One kiss and your world falls apart… A light, highly infectious, delightful read.
Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff – Quirky, loveably light and happily hilarious romantic comedy. Debut adult novel from well respected teen/YA author. ‘A perfect gem of a book, so engaging’ (Sandra Rabiasz, Reader Reviewer). The Trophy Child by Paula Daly – Family drama, psychological thriller and police procedure mix well in a clever, well-written tale with excellent characterisation. ‘A captivating and intriguing suspenseful read’ (Karen, Reader Reviewer).
rt cmt

Spookily Good! – The Books of Mick Herron

If you like a bit of intrigue and a dollop of humour, you have to try the spook-filled spy thrillers of Mick Herron.

There’s a whole series of addictive tales to enjoy about a house filled with ‘out to pasture’ MI5 operatives, confounding colleagues and generally upping the ante in anti-establishment. Brilliant, gripping and thoroughly entertaining books. His latest and 4th in the series is Spook Street. Start here.

Just Great Stories! – That’s our Maxim!

Every month, crime fiction guru Maxim Jakubowski takes us through his singular choices of the best books about in his favourite genres. 

This month he recommends that we slow ourselves down, sit by the fire and relax while the characters on the page race, run, burn rubber and screech tyres in a high-octane choice of books to see out the winter! We have them all!  But here are his top two:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – Loved by our Reader Reviewers this is a dark, unpredictable and gut-gripping tale, right up to the imaginatively wicked and jaw-dropping ending.

And Kill the Next One by Federico Axat – Clever, stomach-churning psychological thriller that reinvents itself amid a web of questions so dizzying, you’ll be guessing to the very end.

Stuck for time? Try a Short Story

Sometimes you just can’t find the time to get into a novel even if you are desperate to read more. If that is your predicament then why not try a short story, or two. Small, perfectly formed and some not much longer than a chapter. We have a special category of them but this month we recommend Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes…  fleeting, yet memorable glimpse into other lives.

From Child to Wolf

David Young introduced us to Karin Muller, the only female lieutenant in the East German Secret Police in Stasi Child and her fascinating story continues in Stasi Wolf.

Sarah Broadhurst says ‘stories with plenty of twists and human drama but what makes these stand out is their place in history. This is a fascinating period and a fascinating place, both beautifully realised.’

In a Reading Group? Let us help you choose your books

Did you know we have a category especially for books we think make perfect choices for reading groups? Books that are great reads but will also give your group lots to discuss.

Books like Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her into the police. But out of sight is not out of mind… and blood is thicker than water.

And that is what’s hot this cold February!  But don’t miss the last chance to see our ‘life-changing books’ in our New Year, New You category. See you next month as the daffodils start singing, with more recommendations from the heart!

P.S. If you fancy picking up lots of book goodies have a browse around our Free Prize Draw section. Lovereading book bags and signed copies await.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Book Review: Thrive – How to Achieve and Sustain High Level Career Success by Dean Williams and Mike Tinmouth

Ambitious professionals who want to rise to the top – and, as importantly, stay there –would be well-advised to read this practical, informative and actionable business how-to guide.


Written by two experts in the field – award-winning executive coach Dean Williams and business journalist Mike Tinmouth – Thrive is a clear-cut, no-punches-pulled blueprint to career success that will help any talented individual achieve their true potential.


The book sets out its subject matter in clearly-defined chapters and follows a non-linear structure which allows readers to ‘plug in and play’, starting from whichever section seems most relevant to their present situation rather than feeling obliged to read straight from cover to cover.


Thrive, Williams’s second book, following Creating Grade ‘A’ Business Relationships, offers plenty of insightful guidance based on Williams’s vast experience as a top-tier executive coach. He counts global blue chip brands including Samsung, Barclays, MasterCard and BUPA among his clients and has undertaken nearly 2,000 senior coaching sessions in the last decade.


Given this, he has the inside track on the common challenges and traps that professionals can encounter when looking to move up the corporate ladder and is able to present an informed roadmap to going about career progression the right way.


The biggest fail, he says, lies with rising stars rushing to advance their careers without being fully prepared for the increased workload, responsibilities and expectations that inevitably come with promotion.


Though on paper they may have a CV to die for, many will struggle to adapt to the new work environment if they haven’t done the necessary groundwork first, resulting in an unsustainable situation that can lead to demotion and possibly lasting reputational damage.


At the heart of the book is Williams’s patented ‘Career Annulus’ – a tried-and-tested model for senior leadership success. The model offers a process, formula and science for advancement, and challenges individuals to measure their performance against nine core elements.



The authors makes it clear that anybody who is not already excelling in their current role should not imagine that they will somehow shine in a more senior position, quoting Henry Ford’s sage advice that “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”


Yet it can still be hard to know when it’s the right time to take the next step, and mistiming that jump can prove VERY costly in the long run, so having a checklist such as the Annulus is a great aid.


By breaking down the recipe for promotion into specific elements, such as ‘Peer Support’ and ‘Be An Ambassador’, it makes the process far less daunting and will, no doubt, serve as both an initial motivator for those truly ready to begin thinking about promotion, and an invaluable compass for those already committed on the path.


The book offers smart tips for shining in the workplace and in interview situations – both for internal and external positions.


Much of the advice – for instance, appear confident, dress the part, maintain a cheerful disposition – may sound like simple common sense, but as the authors point out, common sense can be surprisingly hard to come by!


Other sections provide sound tips on such things as handling workplace jealousy, and how to accept the news of a failed interview, with many real-world case studies throughout to provide further illumination of best, and worst, practice.


Thrive is aimed squarely at ambitious employees looking to instill a structured and disciplined model to success all the way to the most senior of leadership positions.


It should also be noted that HR, learning & development and talent teams – will also find much of use within its pages. After all, many employers are guilty of neglecting their talent to the detriment of their own bottom line, seeing their most prized staff burn out or be scooped up by competitors.


Not everyone is ambitious, and the authors don’t have any issues with those who are content where they are, but if you are the sort of person who wants to rise to the top of the talent pool, catching the eye of directors and being recognized as serious contenders, then Thrive is highly recommended.


Thrive – How to Achieve and Sustain High Level Career Success by Dean Williams and Mike Tinmouth (Grosvenor House Publishing) is available now, priced £9.99 in paperback and £7.19 as an eBook.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Travelex’s Next Great Travel Writer 2017 – Deadline for entry Friday 5th February

Travelex and Penguin books have come together in a search for the US and UK’s best new travel writer. Entrants must submit a 1,000 word short story about a ‘travel experience like no other’ to impress a panel of celebrity bloggers, journalists and Travelex and Penguin representatives.


The winner of the competition will receive an impressive £1,500 prize and a two hour, one on one session with a Penguin editor in order to discuss writing style and ideas. There is also a student category allowing for university entrants from any discipline to break into the writing industry and win a £500 prize!
The general public also have the chance to vote for their favourite travel writer. Using social media, Travelex are going to award the person from the judge’s shortlist who gets the most tweets supporting their entry. Just use their unique hashtag, (#NGTW) and tweet the TravelexUK twitter handle and you could be in with the chance a winning a set of beautiful Penguin books.
The successful candidate will receive a one-to-one session with a Penguin editor as well as a £1,500 prize. Click here to find out how to enter. Deadline for entries is Friday 5th February 11,59 GMT 2017.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Book Review. In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great by David Grant

More than 2,300 years after his death, Alexander the Great still holds a fascination virtually unparalleled among historical figures.


By the time he died, aged just 32, the Macedonian king had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, spanning Europe and Asia, and remained undefeated in battle, ensuring his place in the annals as one of most successful and brilliant military commanders of all time.


In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great differs from the numerous modern accounts of Alexander by not looking so much at his life, but his death and its immediate aftermath in the bitter 40 years of war that broke out between his generals for control of his vast empire.


The first thing we learn as that there is much that remains unanswered about Alexander and this period in history. No first-hand accounts survive from his era, so we are forced to rely on secondary sources from Roman-era historians.


But, as author David Grant explains, all histories are biased and written with an agenda, and the quest to unravel the reality from the legend and propaganda is never straightforward.


This is a recurring theme most relevant to the last will and testament of Alexander the Great.


Only five barely intact accounts of the death of Alexander, at Babylon in 323 BCE, have reached us, none from eyewitnesses and all to greater or lesser degree contradictory.


According to one genre of accounts from the Roman era, Alexander died leaving his kingdom ‘to the strongest’ or ‘most worthy’ of his generals; in another version, he died speechless after being comatose for some days, without making any succession or estate plans at all.


So among academics it has generally been accepted for centuries that Alexander died intestate – without a will.


But this ‘standard model’, as Grant calls it, strikes the author as highly suspect, not least given how methodical and organized Alexander was.


As an historian with no academic ties, Grant is able to bring a fresh, non-indoctrinated perspective to the Alexander mystery.


His radical proposition is that there was indeed a last will and testament, that it was suppressed in the years after Alexander’s death for political ends by his unscrupulous generals, the Diadochi.


Remarkably, a version of the document still survives under historians noses in the Greek Alexander Romance, an ancient book of fables that became one of the most widely read books of all time.


His contention is that the version of the will found in the Greek Alexander Romance is, in fact, an echo of an original testament, reworked and reissued for political purposes.


Many modern historians indeed agree that the testament was circulated as part of a political pamphlet issued within two decades of Alexander’s death. It has nevertheless been long dismissed as a fictitious document, though Grant makes a compelling argument for a re-evaluation of Alexander’s will and its reintegration into the historical record.


What’s more, Grant also believes he has uncovered the identity of the pamphlet’s author, and by so doing can help bring new understanding into the Wars of the Diadochi and the division of the empire at Alexander’s death.


Eschewing a dry academic tone in favour of an entertaining and engaging style that opens the subject to both scholars and the casual reader alike, In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great is a fascinating journey summed up by the author as the “backstory behind the history” of the great Macedonian and his generals.


Its rich narrative brings the dramatic events of this tumultuous period to life, and also delves into the wider themes of Greek art; influences of religion, philosophy and rhetoric on written history; the development of language and books themselves; and the latest archaeological discoveries about Alexander and his family.


Packed with illustrations and footnotes, this is a substantial and rewarding book for anyone who enjoys history, the history of warfare, and the challenging mechanics behind the reconstruction of the past.


In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great by David Grant (Troubador Books) is available now, priced at £19.95 in eBook, £29.95 in paperback and £39.95 in hardback. To find out more visit

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Top 10 most popular books on Lovereading 15 – 22 January 2017 Top 10

The Bone Field The Bone Field
Simon Kernick
January 2017 Book of the Month.
A series? By Simon Kernick? Yes please! Two faces, who were unknown to each other in previous books, join forces in this powerful, fast moving and intoxicating tale. Trouble starts to hunt Ray Mason down …
Download free opening extract
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
Jennifer Ryan
An engaging and charmingly bittersweet slice of fiction set during the Second World War. In a Kent village during 1940, the vicar closes the choir, as the ladies of the village start their own choir, the small rebellion creates a …
Download free opening extract
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon
January 2017 Debut of the Month.
One of our Books of the Year 2016.
The title refers to a Bible quote and two 10-year old girls are greatly mystified as to its meaning and where to find God. They spend the hot …
Download free opening extract
My Sweet Revenge My Sweet Revenge
Jane Fallon
Sharp, funny and clever, this unpredictable novel tells a bitter-sweet tale of high passions, infidelity and revenge.  It is Jane Fallon at her best. When Paula discovers her actor husband is having an affair, she is determined to make him fall …
Download free opening extract
The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters
Nadiya Hussain
January 2017 Debut of the Month.
A lovely warm and joyful squeeze of a read. When a family bombshell hits, four sisters each tell their own story. We get to know Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae, and because their lives revolve …
Download free opening extract
The Veil (Testaments I and II) The Veil (Testaments I and II)
Joseph D’Lacey
January 2017 Book of the Month.
A provocative, gut-wrenching and oh so readable pair of tales. Two novellas, testaments I and II, are included in this book of ‘The Veil’, both very different stories, yet linked to ‘the long silence’ that …
Download free opening extract
The Affair The Affair
Amanda Brooke
A family drama full of suspense, tension and heartache. Nina’s 15 year old daughter Scarlett is pregnant, and the father is a married man. As the main story moves from before to after the revelation, Scarlett also tells her story, …
Download free opening extract
Behind Her Eyes Behind Her Eyes
Sarah Pinborough
Oh my word, this book is devious, twisted, and an absolute knockout! The story, revolving around love, passion, suspicion, and deceit kept me teetering on a razor sharp wire of uncertainty. Sarah Pinborough’s writing is sublime, it’s shrewd, artful, cunning, …
Download free opening extract
The Essex Serpent The Essex Serpent
Sarah Perry
One of our Books of the Year 2016.
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016.
A gorgeously eloquent and powerfully expressive novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ explores an unusual relationship in the 1890’s. This isn’t exactly a love story, it is rather, a …
Download free opening extract
The One Memory of Flora Banks The One Memory of Flora Banks
Emily Barr
January 2017 NewGen MEGA Debut of the Month.
In a nutshell: the unforgettable story of a girl with no memory.
Can there ever have been a heroine like Flora Banks? She’s 17 when the book opens, but an accident aged 10 has …
Download free opening extract


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Mid January eNewsletter

Mid-January and we hope your New Year’s resolutions are going well, especially any to do with reading more. Read on for many more recommendations. 

And with Valentine’s Day peeking over the horizon we are enjoying Love Makes the World Stand Still by Cath Tate. A devastatingly funny book that is bursting with romantic sentiment, insightful wisdom and a tiny touch of cynicism.

Unmissable January Highlights

Here, all in one place, are the highlights of this month’s top recommendations. Books you won’t want to miss. Books like:

The Bone Field by Simon Kernick – A January Book of the Month: ‘A fast-paced thriller which I would heartily recommend.’ (Rachael Anderson, Reader Reviewer). Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson – Fast-paced, intense and gripping psychological thriller. The Affair by Amanda Brooke – ‘Unpredictable and compelling‘ (Reader Review). A stand-out family drama and a captivating and thought-provoking read.
A Family Secret by Josephine Cox – Master storytelling: the secrets and love at the heart of family life and how truth can disrupt. My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon – A bittersweet tale of high passions, infidelity and revenge. Watch your back…
fd rt

Let us help you make 2017 the year to get more creative

OK, by now a lot of the New Year’s resolutions you made may well have fallen by the wayside so why not make some more. What about a creative hobby? If so, take a look at our Arts and Crafts category. A real favourite in the office and new this month is The Great Pottery Throw Down by Liz Wilhide and Susie Hodge, a complement to the TV series and a celebration of the unpredictability, history, usefulness, and the tactile and visual beauty of pottery.

Recommended by our Reader Reviewers

Did you know we have a dedicated group of fervent readers and reviewers across the country who give us their honest opinion and experience of current books? Not only can you use their reviews to help you choose your next read, but they have proven so popular that we have decided to share their feedback with you on the titles they are really raving about. We hope you enjoy.

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson – ‘an engrossing … story’; ‘a super read’; ‘fabulously immersive’; ‘should be on everyone’s reading list‘ (Reader Review). Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – The author doesn’t hold back in this uncomfortable, powerful, provocative read – it’s an absolute knockout. Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird – The lives of a Syrian refugee family are brought vividly and sympathetically to life for young readers but we believe it is a must read for everyone.

Don’t miss 2016’s Must-Reads.

2016 as well as being a year of turbulent change was also a bumper year for brilliance on the bookshelf. We have compiled our favourites in one easy to browse category so that you won’t miss out on the literary gold-dust of 2016. Enjoy!

Fabulous February titles you can start reading now

The only thing better than getting a great new book as soon as it’s published is sneaking a peak before it hits the shelves. This is where you can!

The Moment She Left – A completely captivating and tension-filled dramatic tale. Emotional and yet terrifically readable. You Said Forever – Tugs at your heartstrings, pushes you to face your disbelief, and yet is filled with warmth and hope too. Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane – A funny, sad, entertaining and really enjoyable read – another winner from this fabulous author.’ Caroline Mathews

Books to give you a fresh start in 2017

Browse our New Year, New You category to get some help and support with your New Year’s Resolutions to make positive change in your life. And don’t miss:

Clean and Lean for Life from wellness guru James Duigan where he brings his clean and lean philosophy to a cookbook with 150 recipes that refreshes your whole approach to food whilst providing the advice you need to live a cleaner, healthier existence.

From TV to the written word

Frank Gardner is the BBC’s Security Correspondent and he has used his in-depth knowledge and experience to craft a nerve-shreddingly plausible international thriller called Crisis. Ex-Special Boat Service commando turned MI6 operative Luke Carlton fights to save his country from catastrophic attack. This is terrifying, edge-of-your-seat stuff and we loved it!

A Debut you shouldn’t miss and you won’t forget

It’s very hard to write a book that has real appeal to teens and adults but when it works it is sublimely brilliant and we think we have found one in The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr.

An accident aged ten has left Flora with no short term memory. Then a secret kiss on the beach – with her only friend’s boyfriend – lodges in her mind. Inspired, she sets off alone to follow him. It’s a unique mix, part coming-of-age, and part psychological thriller, with an almost fairy-tale setting that we think will be one of the books of 2017.

Have you discovered Ragnar Jonasson yet?

Combining Golden Age crime writing and Nordic Noir there is, quite simply, nothing like them and if you have yet to read him, you are missing a treat. The 4th in his Dark Iceland series, Rupture, has just been published. Set in a small fishing village in Northern Iceland accessible only by a tunnel this is first class classic detection with a frozen twist. See the shelf below and enjoy.


And that’s all from us this month. Happy New Year and best wishes for a prosperous, page-turning 2017!

P.S. We loved Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty when it was published in 2013 and were very excited to hear it has been made into a TV series. So, from 22 January, we will be turning off the phone on Sunday nights at 9pm to make sure we don’t miss a second. We recommend you do the same.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter


The Emerging Writer Award – Submissions open 23rd January
Deadline: Monday 25th February, 5pm

Established in 2015, the Emerging Writer Award (formerly the Bridge Award) is now in its third year, and is run by Moniack Mhor in partnership with The Bridge Awards, a philanthropic venture that has helped to fund theatre and visual arts projects.

The award winner receives a tailor-made package worth up to £2,000 including tuition via open courses, retreat time and/or mentoring.
You can read about the previous winners HERE.

Moniack Mhor and The Bridge Awards are pleased to announce the opening of applications for the 2017 Emerging Writer Award, (previously The Bridge Award). The award is for unpublished prose fiction writers wishing to make a significant breakthrough in developing a full-length piece of work.

Tracey Emerson, from The Bridge Awards, says: “We hope that the combination of Moniack Mhor’s beautiful setting, inspiring courses and experienced mentors will enhance the awardee’s creative practice and provide a valuable stepping-stone in his/her writing career.”

The successful candidate will receive a tailor-made package worth up to £2,000 including tuition via open courses, retreat time and/or mentoring. Click here to find out how to enter

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Lovereading Review. Under The Ivy by Marcia Lake

Under The Ivy is a unique collection of short stories and essays, all of which contain an inspirational spiritual element or undertone.


Bound together by a sense of positivity and grace, they are uplifting and bring a real sense of comfort to readers.


Easy to dip into, the book covers a broad array of subjects, from a girl with acne who is desperate to have clear skin, to an elderly lady with dementia trying to understand her path in life.


Although varied, the major theme that runs throughout each story is the sense of “overcoming” some great hurdle. It may be a sense of loss or grief, unrequited love or isolation from being different that presents the crisis, but help is found from the spiritual realm.


This metaphysical aid comes in many symbolic forms, such as guardian angels, saints or the kindly apparitions of those who have long since passed over, but each is a manifestation of, and connection to, a deeper reality than the protagonist was previously aware of.


In one story, for instance, a young girl is guided by angles during a serious operation, while another contemplating suicide is jolted away from her dark thoughts by the appearance of a rainbow.


Author Marcia Lake is a rising name in the sphere of mind, body and spirit (MBS) literature and her writing reflects her own beliefs and life experiences.


Having found great support in this world-view, her aim is to help awaken readers to their spiritual side and to show through her writing that there is a greater good at work in the universe that helps lost souls “learn their lessons in life”.


Her message is simple: that spiritual forces, including animals in some cases, can do much to protect us from harm and help us understand our spiritual pathways.


The MBS genre isn’t for everyone, and whether you subscribe to the author’s spiritual convictions or not is entirely a personal matter, but Marcia never oversteps the mark or risks harming the poignancy of each story or essay by coming across as preachy.


Indeed, she weaves her underlying beliefs subtlety into the narrative arcs so that they work towards the literary effect rather than intruding.


Each piece of writing is self-contained and exudes a sense of the poetic, with a fairytale and dream-like quality to them.


Though Marcia deals with traumas, her writing is designed to heal wounds rather than cause them, and build that essential feeling of hope even in the darkest hours.


In fact, the stories are often very funny and despite having a spiritual undertone are heavily set in realism and the relatable.


For instance, they’ll often be about common modern worries, such as having bad skin, finding a good job or yearning to find that special soul mate.


Teenage girls and young women may particularly connect to these tales, as will fans of the MBS genre, but the book is meant for anyone who has encountered difficulties and is looking for something beyond themselves to help fill a spiritual gap.


This is Marcia’s second book, and follows 2013’s Grace, a deeply personal and autobiographical account of her battle with, and eventual victory over, mental illness. Upon release, Grace was praised for breaking down barriers regards mental health issues and its inspirational message, and should be considered a companion piece to those who enjoy Under The Ivy.


Under the Ivy by Marcia Lake (Hope Books) is out now in paperback, priced at £5.99. Visit

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Author Talk: Five minutes with Katie Fforde

Writing at home is never easy but Katie has found the perfect balance. The President of Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) talks to Mary Hogarth about her latest books, characters and setting up a bursary for new writers.


The inspiration for A Secret Garden came from?

Our open gardens, a group of us (all gardeners) have been opening our gardens for about four years and we have sculptures too. It’s much nicer if there is something else to look at besides plants.

The book had several sources of inspiration, one being when I was invited to meet the Master Mason at Gloucester Cathedral. He was a Frenchman on whom I based Jack’s character, although I made Jack a bit different and English.

Once I had the garden, I added a secret part and various elements. I also wanted to have an unlikely romance, so in came the lovely Irish car mechanic and a snooty lady to shake people up a bit.


How did you develop such complex characters?

I think myself into their heads, imagining where they come from and how the world appears to them. For example if you’ve come from Ireland, you might have escaped from an oppressive, but kindly family.

Of course I also need to understand a character’s foundation such as a past romantic life if they’ve had one, are they the youngest or eldest child of the family and do they have children?


Is researching your character’s trades difficult?

I find someone who has a particular job I want to include then talk to them about it. For A Secret Garden, my lovely gardener tracked down some wonderful nursery people to help me understand what their job involves.

Having a conversation is far better than researching a role online, that’s why I always like to talk to people if I can, especially if they are enthusiastic about their work. For me the hardest part is making an approach. Sometimes I’m reluctant as I’m a bit shy about approaching people, but when I do people are mostly delighted.


Your favourite time and place to write?

I like to write early in the morning before breakfast. I try to shut myself in my office, but actually I work better when away from home so I go on writing retreats mostly with friends. Although we work hard we enjoy each other’s company and a glass or two of wine.

There is also this element of competition between us that make one work harder.

Being away from all the usual distractions such as household chores and interruptions I do far more than I would at home. I turn up at breakfast having written 1,000 words, then when the group goes off to write for the rest of the morning, I do too, so those 1,000 words then becomes 2,000.


The hardest novel to write?

Highland Fling as it was the first time I set a book outside my local Cotswold area. Because, although I had been to Scotland every year since I got married, I didn’t know it that well.

I had a great deal more knowledge when writing A Summer At Sea, which was set on board a Puffer boat in the Western Isles of Scotland. I already knew a lot about the Puffer and the area was a familiar environment.


How did you get your first book published?

I was very lucky being a member of RNA. They have a scheme whereby members can send in their unpublished novel for critical feedback.

That year the organizer was a literary scout and she sent my unpublished novel, Living Dangerously, to literary agent. The agent liked it enough to meet me and give me a few pointers. She then asked me to send her my first three chapters by end of the year. As new agent she was enthusiastic and cleverly managed to find a publisher before I finished it.


Describe your role as President of RNA

My son describes it as ‘ming vase’ role, but I like to take quite an active approach.

I’m not on the committee anymore but I do like to oversee and support the chair. Being chairperson is a bit of thankless task as it’s an awful lot of work, so it’s nice to have some one supporting you who knows what the role entails.


What motivated you to set up The Katie Fforde Bursary?

I had so much help from RNA when I was close to getting published but kept missing a book deal that I wanted to give something back.

The bursary, consisting of membership fee and a place at our three-day RNA Conference, was my opportunity to help struggling writers. I always choose someone who is struggling financially, juggling a day job with many other commitments just to be able to write.

This year I gave out two bursaries as there two, equally deserving applications. One of the joys of setting up your own bursary is that you have the final say and can award two if the situation arises.


Three characteristics of a successful novel?

  1. An original idea. It’s always best if you are the first person to write about cupcakes not the 59th.
  2. Create realistic characters that people are able to warm to ­– likeable heroine for instance should not be perfect.
  3. Have a hero who is truly gorgeous, but believable. The reader needs to be left with a sense of hope that perhaps one day she might meet someone is handsome, decent, but like all of us has his flaws.


Your next book is?

Set around farming. I got the idea from TV series about farming set in Scotland, taking part were a couple, who had had their farm for years, but to their great sorrow they didn’t have any children so couldn’t pass it on.

I thought what if I were a younger relative and given the opportunity to take on that farm? Then idea began to evolve into an elderly aunt who asks her niece to take over the struggling farm when she goes into a home to see if she can make it work.

For more details about Katie and her work visit

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter