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Most popular books on Lovereading 1 – 7 February 2016

Lovereading TOP 10

1
Exposure Exposure
Helen Dunmore
February 2016 Book of the Month.
A wonderfully tense and arresting Cold War relationship tale, stuffed full to the brim with suspense. Set in 1960, couple Lily and Simon become caught in an unbelievably powerful web of lies. Normal everyday life …
Download free opening extract
2
The Witness The Witness
Simon Kernick
February 2016 Book of the Month and eBook of the Month.
Simply unputdownable, this is a thrilling tale, and as you read, it just keeps getting better and better. Jane is witness to a terrible crime, and suddenly finds herself with …
Download free opening extract
3
The Ballroom The Ballroom
Anna Hope
February 2016 Debut of the Month.
A striking, eloquent and desperately beautiful novel, set during 1911 in a Yorkshire asylum. John, Ella and Charles find themselves at the edge of an impossible future, each decision they make, sets connecting wheels in …
Download free opening extract
4
The Faithful Couple The Faithful Couple
A. D. Miller
February 2016 Book of the Month.
Coming after Snowdrops, A.D. Miller’s Booker-shortlisted Moscow spy thriller, The Faithful Couple is a very different sort of creature altogether, a novel about male bonding, class and the vagaries of life, growing up and passing …
Download free opening extract
5
A Summer at Sea A Summer at Sea
Katie Fforde
February 2016 Book of the Month.
A comforting, delightful tale about taking chances, trusting instincts, nourishing friendships and finding love. If you’re a fan of Katie Fforde, then you know you’re about to be wrapped up in a delightfully familiar cosy …
Download free opening extract
6
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon
February 2016 Debut of the Month.
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 summer of 1976 looking for answers. Set …
Download free opening extract
7
Our Song Our Song
Dani Atkins
Quite simply stunning. From the moment I turned the first page, right through to the moment I finished and beyond, I have been transfixed by this beautiful yet heartrending novel. The first few pages set events in motion that will …
Download free opening extract
8
Rain Dogs Rain Dogs
Adrian McKinty
February 2016 Book of the Month.
An involved, complex Irish-set murder mystery with two deaths to baffle Sergeant Sean Duffy in his fifth case. Set in 1987 while some high-ranking Finnish businessmen were visiting Ireland, Sean Duffy is called to their …
Download free opening extract
9
The Expatriates The Expatriates
Janice Y. K. Lee
February 2016 Book of the Month.
A remarkably touching and quite, quite beautiful read. Set in Hong Kong, the prologue is teeming with people making their way to this remarkable city. Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to …
Download free opening extract
10
The Lie Tree The Lie Tree
Frances Hardinge
Winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2015.
Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2015.
Award-winning Frances Hardinge is spellbinding in this hugely entertaining and dramatic Victorian thriller. When Faith’s father dies suddenly she knows she must try to find …
Download free opening extract
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Marian Keyes is making it up as she goes along!

Fiercely funny, hilariously candid and heartfelt observations on modern life… 

9780718182526Making it Up as I Go Along is Marian Keyes’ third collection of essays and like Marian herself – gets right to the heart of what it means to be a woman in 2016. After reading the book we really wanted to share some of our favourite quotes (see below) – and we heartily recommend the book for even more gems…

Marian Keyes on:
No Regrets:
“They’ say you only regret the things you don’t do, which is total codswallop because there are no words to describe how much I regret that time I dyed my hair blonde. (It went green. And not in a good way. And I didn’t have any money to get it fixed, so it stayed bad-green for a very long time).”
Holidaying in Laos:
“Just before I went to sleep, I put my anti-mad tablets out on the bedside yoke for easy access in the morning. And when I awoke, after a lovely slumber, weren’t they all ett?! Yes! My anti-mad tablets! By insects or small beasts unknown! Who must have been going around in TOP form all day.”
Marian-Keyes-2014-credit-Barry-McCall_vsFake Tan:
“This is how I tan: feet – golden. Stomach – mahogany. Shins – Germolene pink. Face – bluey-white, offset with a massive, red, peeling, Bozo-the Clown nose. At the end of two weeks in the sun I look like a patchwork quilt.”
Learning to Cook:
“I didn’t cook. I didn’t know how and I didn’t want to learn. The thought of having to have meat ready at the same time as potatoes at the same time as two veg made me want to crouch in a corner, whimpering and rocking.”
Lasers:
“I had my hairy legs lasered and it was a resounding success! Previous to this I have had the hairiest legs in Christendom. Loads of times I’ve met people and they’ve said, ‘Oh no, I bet my legs are hairier than yours, mine are REALLY hairy,’ then I unveil my furry limbs and they usually swallow hard and step back and say, “Riiiight, I see what you mean…”
What would Scrooge do:
“Nor would Scrooge send Christmas cards. So neither do I. The first year I thought the guilt would kill me, but it’s got easier. Maybe it’s like committing murder: the first one is the hardest.”
And to finish…
Marian Keyes Lexicon:
“Feck: the most misunderstood, falsely maligned word ever. It is NOT a swear word. Anyone, even the Pope, could say ‘feck’ and no one would look askance. It is nothing like the other ‘F’ word. Feel free to use it liberally.”
Click here to find out more about the book and Download a Free Extract.
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Quick Reads announces 2016 titles

The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, is amongst the authors featured on the 2016 Galaxy® Quick Reads title list.

Quick Reads celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2016 with a diverse collection of titles which will be  sponsored by Galaxy® for a sixth year:

  • Agatha Christie (edited by Sophie Hannah and John Curran) – The Double Clue: Poirot Short Stories
  • Ann Cleeves – Too Good to be True
  • Lucy Diamond – A Baby at the Beach Café
  • Veronica Henry (editor) – The Anniversary: Ten Tempting Stories From Ten Bestselling Authors
  • Andy McNab – On the Rock
  • Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb – I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (An Abridged Edition)

One in six adults in the UK struggles with reading, whilst one in three does not read for pleasure, and Quick Reads will next year continue its work to break down barriers to reading. Ninety-seven per cent of literacy practitioners report that using Quick Reads has been effective at raising learners’ confidence to read, whilst 95% say that the books have been effective at improving readers’ literacy skills.

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February eNewsletter

It’s February. That’s a whole month closer to Spring! Our book trees are already in full blossom as we continue to scour the literary landscape for the right recommendations to keep you enthralled, in fact or fiction, until February finally turns its frosty face and flies south.

But enough of our poetic ramblings, you don’t want to listen to that! You want to see what’s hot on the bookshelves this month but not necessarily the more obvious bestsellers. Alright then. Read on for more.

FEBulous! Books of the Month

Feb’s bookshelf is filled with fantastic flights of fancy to float the most discerning of boats! Don’t miss:

The Faithful Couple by A.D. Miller – Confirms Miller as one of the most exciting and sophisticated novelists – someone who can tell a great story, with a sense of serious moral complexity. Here we have a truly compelling story of friendship through an intensely strange filter. It is literary human drama of the highest calibre.

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty – A complex, intense and truly dark 5th case for Irish sleuth Sean Duffy. A palpable hit with crime guru, Maxim Jakubowski.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore, previous winner of the Orange Book Prize – Evocative, thrilling and suspenseful tale of truth and lies in a world of intrigue and danger.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers. A controversial YA novel revolving around rape and its life-blighting consequences that our editorial expert and our YA and adult Reader Review panel members cannot stop talking about. Check out their views here and join the conversation @lovereadinguk and #tothegirls2016.

Being a Beast by Charles Foster – Non-Fiction B.O.M ! – Humorous, insightful, beautiful and, ultimately, educational journey into the psyche of animals.

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Fforde for Thought – Author of the Month, Katie Fforde

A country girl with a host of professions under her belt, Katie Fforde’s novels offer the fantasy of romance with a searing dose of realism. Strong heroes and complex, likeable, relatable heroines in a world that is vividly familiar yet also an escape for her readers. A Summer at Sea, for instance, is a cosy, comforting and delightful book about taking chances, valuing friendships and finding love. A Vintage Wedding, takes a beautiful setting and a deliciously cobbled path to true love. Full of feel-good factor, her stories are a pick-me-up anytime of year but especially during these short dreary days. See all Katie’s titles here and have the chance to WIN signed copies!

Feb Firsts – Debuts of the Month

Hungry for new writing? Quench your thirst with a first! We’ve gathered the brightest and best first time novelists, all vying to be your next favourite! Check out:

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins – One of the most talked about debuts this year. Reader Reviewers called it: “hauntingly strange”, “lyrically written” and “A dystopian drama that echoes … the great American writers”.

For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser – Homer’s Iliad reimagined. Reader Reviewers said: “A sheer delight to read”, “… beautifully written and enchanting”. Mythology paradise!

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – A sweltering human life story with real heart. “A wonderful, wonderful read” (Reader Reviewer).

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All You Read is Love … Valentine’s Day Reading

Call us hopeless romantics, but we love love! Of course, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. But, we’d rather be curled up with a good book, frankly. Conveniently, we found these:

If You Only Read One Book This Month …

Our top recommendation for this month is an exquisitely written and touching novel. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee was universally lauded by our Reader Reviewers for its immersive and spine-tinglingly beautiful storytelling. As profound as it is intriguing, exotic and prosaic, this is a very human story of identity, grief and possibility. Your heart will fill, your brain will whir and your senses tingle at the vibrant backdrop of this wonderful book. It’s one of our February Books of the Month and deserves a place on your bedside table! See more.

A Fistful of Pre-Pub Exclusives

Coming at the end of the month are five cracking novels that we have managed to persuade the publisher to part with an exclusive Opening Extract from, so you can start reading them now. Enjoy…

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We Spy a Thriller! – Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews

Written by an ex-CIA agent and fiercely endorsed in a major way by our own Maxim Jakubowski, Palace of Treason is a must read for fans of the genre. With all the pulp and sexiness of a James Bond adventure, yet the edgy realism you’d expect from a field agent, this is a thoroughly absorbing, high octane and chilli-hot dish, best served in one sitting! Find out more.

Scroll down to see many more hand-picked selections in the categories you have told us you like to be kept up to date with. To change them just log in to your account.

P.S. Don’t miss the chance to read the overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year (announced on 26 January); only the second time the Children’s Book Award category winner has done so, the first was Philip Pullman who won with The Amber Spyglass! The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge is a spellbinding, hugely entertaining and dramatic Victorian thriller that readers both young and older will love. So don’t miss out.

P.P.S. Fancy a Quickie? – Quick Reads 2016 – Brilliantly conceived and taking great strides in making reading more and more accessible, the Galaxy Quick Reads initiative has announced its title list. See our blog article and take a look at the short and sweet stars on the list, available from early February!

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Mark Zuckerberg’s Year of Book 2015

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Lovereading – Most popular books 24 – 31 January 2016

Lovereading Top 10

1
A Game for All the Family A Game for All the Family
Sophie Hannah
January 2016 Book of the Month.
Ticktock, ticktock, this is a psychological mystery that encourages reading well past bed time and keeps minds ticking over and searching for rational (and perhaps not so rational answers). A Game For All The Family …
Download free opening extract
2
The Shadow Hour The Shadow Hour
Kate Riordan
Kate Riordan has written another heartfelt beautifully readable novel about two families, set in the dual time frames of 1878 and 1922. As a tragedy unfolds in front of our eyes in the prologue, captivating whispers of intrigue continue to …
Download free opening extract
3
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon
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 summer of 1976 looking for answers. Set in a small town housing …
Download free opening extract
4
Our Song Our Song
Dani Atkins
Quite simply stunning. From the moment I turned the first page, right through to the moment I finished and beyond, I have been transfixed by this beautiful yet heartrending novel. The first few pages set events in motion that will …
Download free opening extract
5
We Are All Made of Stars We Are All Made of Stars
Rowan Coleman
One of our Books of the Year 2015.
Beautifully thought-provoking and yet simply and effortlessly readable, this is an intimate compassionate dance with life, death and hope. Read the first letter, followed by the prologue and you think you know exactly …
Download free opening extract
6
The Expatriates The Expatriates
Janice Y. K. Lee
January 2016 Book of the Month.
A remarkably touching and quite quite beautiful read. Set in Hong Kong, the prologue is teeming with people making their way to this remarkable city. Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to …
Download free opening extract
7
The Girl in the Photograph The Girl in the Photograph
Kate Riordan
The suppression of women dominates this dual-time tale. Alice, a disgraced pregnant girl, is sent to the country by her mother in 1933. Fascinated by the history of the house she hides in she feels the presence of unhappy spirits. …
Download free opening extract
8
Coffin Road Coffin Road
Peter May
January 2016 Book of the Month.
A masterful tale from beginning to end, quite literally unputdownable.  If you are a fan of his terrific Lewis trilogy, then you’ll not be disappointed; if anything this is even better.  We are still in …
Download free opening extract
9
Black Feathers Black Feathers
Joseph D’Lacey
A darkly rich and foreboding fantasy which hovers on the frightening edge of a believable future. Set in an alternate England, so very similar to our own, volume one of ‘The Black Dawn’ focuses on two teenagers in two different …
Download free opening extract
10
Disclaimer Disclaimer
Renee Knight
When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up and begins to read. But as she turns the pages she is horrified to realize she is a key character, a main player. …
Download free opening extract
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Researching Madagaskar

Guy Saville knows the difference between researching a novel online and on location – he has done both. Read the fascinating story behind his alternate history thriller series The Afrika Reich.

_______________________________________________________
guy savilleMy debut novel, The Afrika Reich, was a thriller based on the premise of the Nazis winning World War II and conquering Africa. Much of the action was set in the jungles of Congo and worn-torn Angola. Shortly after it was published, a BBC cameraman and old Africa-hand emailed to say how much he enjoyed the book and that I must know the continent well. It was a great compliment – and yet I’d never visited sub-Saharan Africa. Every detail about the setting had come from reading.

The main reason for staying deskbound was the sheer danger of visiting the locations. I did look into it, but was strongly warned against going by the Foreign Office. So when it came to writing the follow-up, The Madagascar Plan, I was determined to walk the same ground as my characters.

The Madagaskar Plan is based on a real Nazi project to deport the entire Jewish population of Europe to Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa. I spent months doing archive research for the historical elements of the book, but when it came to local colour, I got on a plane and flew below the equator. In recent years Madagascar has begun opening up to intrepid tourists, most of whom travel to the south of the island with its natural wonders. My book is set in the north, a place few foreigners go.

9781444710700I travelled 700 miles over land from the western port of Mahajanga to Diego Suarez, on the coast of the Indian Ocean, where the climax of the novel is set. The journey itself was often uncomfortable (suffocating heat one day, lashing rain the next, the air always electrified with insects) and occasionally hair-raising. The roads in Madagascar’s interior have pot-holes big enough to swallow vehicles! Once I had to cross a ravine on a rope-bridge that would have made Indiana Jones blanch.

I got a wealth of detail that books and Wikipedia could never have provided me: the snaking road layout of Antsohihy (a town that Google maps forgot); the local custom of burning coconut shells to ward off mosquitoes; the patter of geckos in the rafters as I lay in bed; the smell of smoke and ylang-ylang at the naval base in Diego. All this added greatly to the novel, which is why I would encourage any author to visit the locations they’re writing about if possible.

Madagascar wasn’t the end of my travels, though. I also went to Prora, on Germany’s Baltic coast, to see the ruin of the largest hotel in the world. Built by the Nazis in the Thirties, it has a frontage of 7km and is now being reclaimed by forest. And while on holiday in America, I made a detour to a remote canyon in Idaho to visit a hydro-electric plant similar to one I describe in the book.

I hope readers will thrill at the story and characters: find the novel unputdownable. But I also hope it transports them to Madagascar, that it brings the island so vividly to life that they will feel as if they are there.

Guy Saville’s The Madagaskar Plan is out in Hodder paperback on 28 January. Set in 1953, it imagines a world where Nazi Germany rules much of Europe and a vast African territory. There has been no Holocaust. Instead, five million Jews have been deported to Madagascar, a tropical ghetto ruled by the SS.

This article first appeared on BookBrunch (www.bookbrunch.co.uk)

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Most popular books 17 – 24 January 2016

Lovereading.co.uk Top 10

1
The Expatriates The Expatriates
Janice Y. K. Lee
January 2016 Book of the Month.
A remarkably touching and quite quite beautiful read. Set in Hong Kong, the prologue is teeming with people making their way to this remarkable city. Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to …
Download free opening extract
2
The Shadow Hour The Shadow Hour
Kate Riordan
Kate Riordan has written another heartfelt beautifully readable novel about two families, set in the dual time frames of 1878 and 1922. As a tragedy unfolds in front of our eyes in the prologue, captivating whispers of intrigue continue to …
Download free opening extract
3
Coffin Road Coffin Road
Peter May
January 2016 Book of the Month.
A masterful tale from beginning to end, quite literally unputdownable.  If you are a fan of his terrific Lewis trilogy, then you’ll not be disappointed; if anything this is even better.  We are still in …
Download free opening extract
4
A Game for All the Family A Game for All the Family
Sophie Hannah
January 2016 Book of the Month.
Ticktock, ticktock, this is a psychological mystery that encourages reading well past bed time and keeps minds ticking over and searching for rational (and perhaps not so rational answers). A Game For All The Family …
Download free opening extract
5
Crooked Heart Crooked Heart
Lissa Evans
Longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015.
This is a completely charming and very different slice of World War Two fiction. ‘Crooked Heart’ explores the relationship of Vera, and ten year old Noel, who has been evacuated from London. …
Download free opening extract
6
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
Joanna Cannon
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 summer of 1976 looking for answers. Set in a small town housing …
Download free opening extract
7
We Are All Made of Stars We Are All Made of Stars
Rowan Coleman
One of our Books of the Year 2015.
Beautifully thought-provoking and yet simply and effortlessly readable, this is an intimate compassionate dance with life, death and hope. Read the first letter, followed by the prologue and you think you know exactly …
Download free opening extract
8
The Words in My Hand The Words in My Hand
Guinevere Glasfurd
January 2016 Debut of the Month.
A gloriously readable and emotional fictional tale based on the relationship between Dutch maid Helena Jans van der Strom and philosopher, mathematician and scientist Rene Descartes, in 17th century Amsterdam. Helena tells her own story, …
Download free opening extract
9
The Queen's Choice The Queen’s Choice
Anne O’Brien
‘The Queen’s Choice’ is a wonderfully effortless read, where historical fact blends with romance, scheming and subterfuge. Covering a period between 1396 and 1422 the story revolves around Joanna of Navarre who married King Henry IV in a time where …
Download free opening extract
10
The Dark Days Club The Dark Days Club
Alison Goodman
This first novel in a trilogy of deliciously dark, supernatural page-turners set in Regency England is packed with passion, period detail and devastating demons.
London, 1812, and sharp-minded, strong-spirited Lady Helen Wrexhall is about to be presented to Queen Charlotte. Her …
Download free opening extract
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Mid January email update

Diets, dryathons, dreadful weather and short days … January can be a long month but at least you can allow yourself to totally indulge in great books that will transport you to altogether more exciting places. Why not start with a book you may have missed in 2015 in our ‘picks of last year’?

February Pre-Publication Exclusives

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! Don’t miss:

The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. The author of the excellent dual time novel The Girl in the Photograph has written another heartfelt, beautifully readable novel described by our reviewer as ‘quite simply gorgeous’. Fans of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and of authors Kate Mosse and Katherine Webb definitely need to find out more.

And published ahead of Kate Riordan’s new novel, The Shadow Hour, is an evocative short story eBook featuring characters from her debut The Girl in the Photograph. Set in the 1930’s, it’s called The Red Letter and features an exclusive extract from The Shadow Hour. And better still, it’s only 99p!

Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah – Chilling and inventive mystery from the queen of psychological crime writing. Exposure by Helen Dunmore – A fantastic foray into forbidden love, intimate betrayal, secrets and exposure by the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lie. We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman – “Heart-warming”, “Heart-breaking”, “Truly inspirational”, “Extremely uplifting” and “stunning”. (Reader Reviews).
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – ‘A mysterious disappearance, an avenue of hidden secrets, two young girls finding out about the world of adults – terrific!’ (Reader Review). All the Rage – Courtney Summers (YA) – An astonishing and starkly written novel, examining the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them. Our Song by Dani Atkins

Beautiful and heart-rending. Be prepared to be totally captivated and moved to tears.

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Maxim-um Praise!

This month, Maxim’s discerning eye has focussed on a superlative selection of ripping yarns and page-turners from the worlds of SciFi, Fantasy and Thrillers. Enough to warm AND chill you on these winter nights!

There are double agents in Putin’s dacha; puppets with artificial intelligence; shady new lights on JFK’s assassination; murky conspiracies in 1930s Naples; spacefaring spies in a parallel universe and angels descending from above. That should keep you going for a while. See all of the monthly recommendations here.

Januar – E-Books! – The best downloads this month

Life is full of ups and downs. Uploads and Downloads! Whatever your hardware, we’ve got some cracking eBooks for the digitally dexterous this month. Our pick of the bunch are:

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle – pitch perfect, stunning, subtle and fearless storytelling that will have you audibly applauding by the final page!

And No Mortal Thing by Gerald Seymour  – Italian organised crime is the backdrop for the latest suspenseful page-turner from Gerald Seymour, still on top of his game 40 years after the publication of Harry’s Game.

Spreading the Love! – If You Like You’ll Love

You’ve read everything by your favourite author and you know what you like? But now what? Let us guide you to a whole load of similar authors you’ll love. For instance:

If you like Gillian Flynn you’ll Love

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

A penetrating and intense debut thriller for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

If you like Alison Weir you’ll Love

The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien

A wonderful, effortless blend of historical fact and romance, scheming and subterfuge.

If you like Sophie Kinsella you’ll Love

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon

Sharp, feisty and wittily amusing foray into the relationship world.

One of ours and your favourites

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee was one of our staff picks of the week and clearly we hit a sweet spot as you have made it the most downloaded title of last week.

Set in Hong Kong, Margaret, Mercy and Hilary are three expatriate women learning to survive heartache in a different and sometimes difficult world. Janice Y. K. Lee writes with an exquisite, startling intensity, she provokes thoughts and feelings into exploring identity, grief and a fluttering of possibilities. The Expatriates is wonderfully fascinating, compelling and profound and we highly recommend you read the free Opening Extract to discover for yourself.

A Debut to Get Your Hands on

A quick word about a debut novel of harrowing beauty that we think is set to become one of the books of the year. Surely a film deal can’t be far away for Guinevere Glasfurd’s atmospheric and enigmatic The Words in My Hand.

With shades of Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Miniaturist, this 17th Century tale set against the backdrop of the Scientific Revolution is delightful, playful and beautifully written. See more here.

Finally, YA readers (well actually anyone who loves deliciously dark, supernatural page-turners with an historical twist) should find out more about Alison Goodman’s debut, The Dark Days Club. The first of a trilogy set in Regency England that is packed with passion, period detail and devastating demons.

That’s it for January. See you in February for many more hand-picked recommendations.

P.S. If you are someone who likes to keep up to date with Book Awards do check out our special category. And this month there are the Costa Award category winners and the overall winner of the T.S.Eliot Prize for Poetry.

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Lovereading review – Kiting the Hurricane by Dom Mee

Readers who relish tales of action and white-knuckle thrills will find a lot to love about British adventurer Dom Mee’s adrenaline-fuelled debut, Kiting the Hurricane.

dm-FC-Kiting-The-HurricaneThis non-fiction title details Mee’s real-life and ultimately doomed Kite Quest 200 expedition, where he attempted to become the first person in history to cross an ocean in a kite-powered boat.

Prior to this, the ex-commando had notched up a reputation as a world-class formula one yacht racer with the Royal Navy offshore sailing team, completing many offshore races including the Fastnet and the Sydney to Hobart races – considered to be the toughest in the world.

He was also no stranger to maritime adventures, having joined fellow Royal Marine Tim Welford in 2001 in a record-breaking bid to row across the North Pacific.

Alas, this was scuppered by a collision with a fishing trawler, but in 2003 Mee successfully kayaked solo into the high arctic during the worst ice conditions the locals had seen for 20 years, battling polar bears as they were par for the course and reaching the North Magnetic Pole.

Any one of these side stories could warrant a book of their own, but the point is that when, in August 2005, he set off in a tiny, 14ft kite-powered boat named “Little Murka” from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, he was well prepared for the challenges of the open ocean.

Mee expected to cross the 2,000-mile stretch of the Atlantic Ocean to the Devon coast within five weeks, with the 10m kite driving the craft forward with a maximum speed of 13 knots.

However, mother nature had other plans and unbeknown to him, Mee was sailing straight into what would go down as the worst hurricane season in history.

Written in a quasi-diary format, the first part of Kiting The Hurricane covers the background to the start of the expedition, going over the 18 months of meticulous planning and preparation required for such an epic voyage – including the commissioning of Little Murka, a custom-built boat that was designed not to sink.

After a raucous farewell party the night before, Mee sets off from the harbour with every expectation of achieving his place in the record books.

Things start off well enough but then the storm clouds, literally, start to appear on the horizon. From here on, the tension starts to rise and the author’s detailed, vivid prose perfectly captures the scene as the situation inexorably deteriorates.

Initial frustration with being slowed down by the weather turns into concern and then genuine fear. At first,  Dom displays an adventure’s bravado in dealing with the rising waves and winds but when a former commando – trained to survive in all environments – starts to worry then you know things are genuinely bleak.

In all, he encounters the tail ends of FIVE hurricanes: Katrina, Maria, Nate and Ophelia and Rita. The book jumps between Mee’s first-hand accounts of his experiences on board and third-person descriptions of the havoc the hurricanes are wreaking closer to shore.

Mee’s blow-by-blow account of his attempts to weather storm after killer storm aboard his tiny vessel makes for an unparalleled high tension page-turner. Written in the present tense, you feel like you are there alongside him braving the full fury of the ocean.

Trapped on the notorious Grand Banks off the east coast of Newfoundland, Little Murka is finally overcome by Hurricane Rita – a monster of a storm that has gone on record as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane in history.

The 95mph winds and enormous ocean swells 60ft high prove too much. Little Murka loses its sea anchor – the only thing helping ride out the storm – and the boat is subsequently tossed around like a toy.

Though designed to be self-righting,  the sheer force of the storm floods the boat, capsizing it and throwing its skipper into the freezing ocean, where an immense battle for survival plays out with all bets off.

To say anymore would be to spoil the thrill but it is important to note that the book is not without its humorous moments and the author lightens the tone of the book throughout with his conversational, sea-dog voice and anecdotes about boozy nights out or the soul-saving potential of bacon butties.

The reassuring presence of unofficial companion ‘Peter the Petril’ also serves to lift readers’ spirits just as the perils at sea threaten to engulf them.

Mee’s memoir could have been full of self-pity at an historic bid for glory gone wrong, but instead he has turned it into a breath-taking tale with a strong personal philosophy of getting knocked down and getting straight back up again.

The book ends, happily, with a later great seafaring success, and hints at a second volume to recount his next adventures fighting pirates with the world’s largest private fleet.

Unafraid to write frankly of the financial and emotional chaos wrought by his uncompromising career choices, Mee returns frequently to themes of enduring friendship, serendipity and the power of the human spirit.

Fittingly, the author has inserted inspirational quotes – from sources that range from Inuit chiefs to Plato, via Shakespeare and Stephen Hawking – at key moments in the book, and the overall message is that life is to be lived, not to be spent making idle plans.

Perhaps the happiest twist of fate is in the reappearance of Mee’s beloved ‘Little Murka’ herself – a full year after she was lost at sea.

As someone who has looked death in the face and come roaring back to life, Mee certainly has a story worth telling. For anyone fascinated by the sea or those who push themselves to the limit then this blow-by-blow account of a singular seafaring adventure is not to be missed.

Kiting the Hurricane by Dom Mee is available in paperback, priced £5.58, and eBook, priced £2.26. To order a copy, or for more information, visit www.dommee.co.uk.

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