It’s that time of year where we look back on the books we’ve loved most this year.
In 2021 I’ve read a total of 170 books (well, I will have by the end of tomorrow lol) so you can imagine that narrowing it down to just 21 was no easy task. I went back and forth over this list for weeks, struggling to get it down from 30 and then 25.
Thirteen of these book are by new-to-me authors, eleven are debuts and two are part of a series. Three of the author, Stacey Halls, Ellen Alpsten and Jessica Ryn, have had all of their books in my list of favourites in the year each was released and were all in my list of 20 favourites of 2020.
I plan to do a stack of the books that almost made it in the coming days so keep an eye on my social media for that. But for now, here are the 21 books I loved most in 2021:
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
The Lamplighters is a truly accomplished debut. Haunting, mesmerising and atmospheric, it tells the story of the disappearance of three men and their warring widows. Drenched in mystery and with a hint of the paranormal, it is a vividly told and addictive read that I devoured quickly. I loved that it was based on a true story, adding even more intrigue to this already fascinating tale.
Published March 4th 2021 by Picador. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker
This crazy psychological thriller still vividly lives rent free in my mind almost a year after reading. Like the author herself, this is a vivacious, darkly funny and compelling debut that I loved. It tells the story of every parents’ worst nightmare come true, of how longing can become twisted into evil, and the ripple effects of trauma and pain. Mummy remains one of the most terrifying creations I’ve read, mostly because I understand her and why she became who she is. If you love a well-written thriller then read this book.
Published February 25th 2021 by Viper Books. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot
I’m a sucker for a multi-generational friendship so I was immediately on board for a story about a seventeen-year-old girl and eight-three-year-old woman. Lenni and Margot are residents of the hospital’s terminal ward and build a friendship in the art room, telling their stories through paintings that illustrate the many highs and lows of their shared one hundred years. Hypnotic, mesmerising and heart-rending, this is a book that reaches into your soul and changes you forever. A story of life, death, all the magical moments in between.
Published February 18th 2021 by Doubleday. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Asylum by Karen Coles
Claustrophobic, haunting and addictive, The Asylum is a spectacular debut that doesn’t get enough love in my opinion. Exquisitely written, it transports you to the bleak, shadowy rooms of the asylum and the anguished recesses of Maud’s mind. Fans of historical and Gothic fiction will not want to miss this book.
Published April 1st 2021 by Welbeck. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
Once again Elizabeth Macneal has created a masterpiece. Captivating, illuminating and consuming, I was under the spell of this story from start to finish. This is a story about the outcasts, about finding your place in the world and what it is to be human. Circus of Wonders is dazzling piece of historical fiction that is not to be missed.
Published May 13th 2021 by Picador. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea
Oh, my heart. When I think of this book that is my first thought. A story about love, sacrifice, fear and survival set against the backdrop of a remote Scottish island during World War II, The Metal Heart is a breathtakingly beautiful story that I will never forget.
Published April 29th by Michael Joseph. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Atmospheric, lush and evocative, Ariadne is a rich tapestry that swept me away. In this glorious debut, Jennifer Saint brings to life many of the familiar Greek myths through a new lens, tells them from the perspective of the women who were previously relegated to the sidelines. And it is utterly spectacular, sparking my obsession with Greek mythology. I loved it so much that I not only bought the beautiful hardback, but also the Waterstones special edition. This is a book that I recommend to everyone, whether you’ve previously been interested in Greek myths or not.
Published April 29th by Wildfire. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
If Ariadne ignited my obsession with Greek mythology, The Wolf Den solidified it. The first in an exciting new trilogy, it tells the story of Amara, a former Doctor’s daughter sold into slavery and now one of the she-wolves at Pompeii’s infamous brothel. Lush, evocative and atmospheric I was transported to the doomed city’s dusty streets and immersed in Amara’s fight for survival and freedom. I am counting down to book two in May so I can find out what happens next.
Published May 13th by Head of Zeus. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Stranding by Kate Sawyer
The Stranding is a story about the end of the world. About humanity, love, hope and survival. Imaginative, original and utterly magnificent, it surpassed all my expectations. I still find it hard to believe this is a debut. Exquisitely written and beautifully observed, this was a masterclass in storytelling. I will certainly be buying anything Ms. Sawyer writes in the future.
Published June 24th 2021 by Coronet. Buy here* Read my full review here.
This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
This is the book that I always recommend when anyone asks for a 2021 book they might not have read. A truly astonishing novel from an extraordinary talent, I think this book deserves to be on everyone’s reading list. It is a story about the nuances and complexities of being human that is full of heart, warmth and wisdom. A story that is unflinchingly honest and achingly real. I have a son with autism and am so thankful to Louise for writing a book that doesn’t show us a cliché, but a real person who is as individual as anyone else. Please read this book.
Published June 24th by Orenda Books. Buy here. Read my full review here.
The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten
Another masterpiece in the Tsarina series by Ellen Alpsten. Her debut novel, Tsarina, was one of my favourite books of 2020 and I am not surprised that the follow up was every bit as good. This time she tells the story of Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, following her highs and lows after Russia is torn apart and her fortunes drastically change. The Tsarina’s Daughter is dazzling piece of historical fiction that I couldn’t put down and left me eagerly awaiting book three.
Published July 8th 2021 by Bloomsbury. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bulbitz
A murder mystery with a twist, this startling debut tells the story from the perspective of the victim rather than those investigating the case. And this creative author goes even further, also highlighting what it is like to be the person who discovers the body, a person we rarely hear more than a passing sentence or two about in most thrillers. Timely, brave and thought-provoking, it stands out from the crowd of other thrillers. A must read for fans of the genre.
Published July 15th 2021 by Sphere. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Mrs England by Stacey Halls
Stacey Halls once again shows why she is a Queen of historical fiction and one of my favourite authors with this slow-burning novel. Atmospheric, eerie and full of menace, it follows Ruby, a Norlander Nurse, on her latest job caring for the four England children is West Yorkshire. But all is not quite what it seems with Mr. and Mrs. England, and secrets are slowly revealed in this haunting and twisty novel.
Published June10th by Manilla Press. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Beresford by Will Carver
Will Carver is an author with a quirky, twisted and original style that is all his own. And The Beresford is another outstanding example of his creative genius. It opens with a murder then follows the residents of The Beresford, a halfway house for the disillusioned and vulnerable that has a life of its own, living and breathing as much as the physical characters of the story. Seductive and unsettling, The Beresford is my favourite Will Carver book to date.
Published July 22nd 2021 by Orenda Books. Buy here. Read my full review here.
The Last Library by Freya Sampson
The Last Library is my favourite uplit of 2021. A bibliophile’s dream, this is a hug in book form and is now one of my favourite books of all time. It follows a varied cast of characters as they fight to save their beloved local library from closure. It is a celebration of books and the power of stories, but also of community, friendship, kindness and courage. A charming, funny and uplifting story that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Published September 2nd by Zaffre. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Hidden Child by Louise Fein
A perfect family is fractured and torn apart when illness invades their lives and not only tests their strength, but makes them question their core beliefs and values in this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. Powerful, moving and thought-provoking, this beautifully written story is one you won’t forget.
Published September 2nd by Head of Zeus. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Maid by Nita Prose
I was lucky to be selected as a VIP for the Tandem Collective readalong of this highly anticipated debut. A murder mystery that was also a balm for my soul, this book exceeded all expectations and was like nothing I’ve read before. I adored Molly, the heroine of this wonderful story. Quirky and endearing, the world would be a better place if we were all a little more like her. Nita Prose is an author with a bright future ahead and I have no doubt that this book will be a sensation when it’s released next year and I can’t wait to see the movie adaptation that is already in the works.
Published January 20th 2022 by Harper Collins UK. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
A book about the pandemic doesn’t sound like something that would be on my list of top books, but Jodi Picoult has added her magical touch to make that so. A story about resilience, hope and survival that explores the fear and trauma of the pandemic and the limitless potential of the human mind. Beautiful, heartwarming and absorbing, I got lost in this book. I thought I knew what I was getting when I started reading, but I had no idea. When that twist comes it blows your mind and shakes you to the core. This is one of Ms. Picoult’s best books to date.
Published November 25th 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton. Buy here* Read my full review here.
The Imperfect Art of Caring by Jessica Ryn
Sometimes you pick up a book and it is exactly what you need. That was the case when I decided to read this book on a whim. Uplifting, heartwarming and hopeful, this is a beautiful story of friendship, community and forgiveness. Just as she did with her debut novel, Jessica Ryn has given us another everyday heroine to root for and I was behind Violet every step of the way. Ms. Ryn has solidified her place on my list of auto-buy authors and I can’t recommend her books highly enough.
Published November 25th by HQ. Buy here* Read my full review here.
A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
One of those books that is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, A Girl Made of Air is a mesmerising and magical tale. It tells the story of an nameless and unwanted protagonist, following her from the days as a neglected child living in a circus in England then all the way to New York, where she found fame as the greatest Funambulist of all time. For this dazzling debut, Nydia Hetherington merged Manx folklore, fairy tales, circus freaks and fiction to create a story about the strange and the extraordinary. My only regret is that I left it to languish on my shelf for so long. Pick it up now.
Published September 3rd 2020 by Quercus. Buy here* Read my full review here.
Midnight in Everwood by M. A. Kuzniar
I am so glad that I saved this spellbinding story to read over Christmas as it is on Christmas Eve that most of the magic happens in Everwood. Marietta dreams of being a ballerina but her high society family have another path for her life that she must follow. As she prepares for final performance, Marietta discovers a hidden magical world full of wonder hidden in the scenery. But this enchanting place holds magic darker than she ever imagined and Marietta soon finds herself fighting to find a way to break free of Everwood’s hold and return home. A mesmerising debut sprinkled with magic, this is the perfect winter read.
Published October 28th 2021 by HQ. Buy here* Read my full review here.
BOOK OF THE YEAR
I have agonised for weeks over what book should be given the title of Book of the Year. I had two main contenders: Ariadne and This Is How We Are Human. It was only now, while writing this post and putting together my thoughts about the books, that it became clear which book would get the title. It is a book that lives in my heart and soul, one that I am passion about having other people read and that I truly believe has the power to educate and change minds. That book is This Is How We Are Human by the incomparable Louise Beech. If you’ve not read it, please do. And let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Happy New Year and I will see you in 2022. Emma xxx
We aren’t even out of 2021 yet, but 2022 is overflowing with so many exciting books that I have had to create three lists to share the ones I’m most anticipating: Most Anticipated, Most Anticipated Debuts and Next in Series
Following on from my list of most anticipated books, today I’m sharing what debuts I’m particularly looking forward to next year.It feels like each year the debut novels being released just get better and better, forcing me to add yet more authors to my auto-read list.
Here are my most anticipated debuts of 2022:
Wahala by Nikki May
SYNOPSIS: SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER
SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL
Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English. Not all of them choose to see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.
SYNOPSIS: POLISHED TO PERFECTION, THE HOTLY-ANTICIPATED DEBUT, COMING JANUARY 2022
I am your maid. I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry. But what do you know about me?
Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?
Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how everyone deserves to be seen. And how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .
Published January 20th by Harper Collins. Buy here*
The Christie Affairr by Nina De Gramont
SYNOPSIS: In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance. I’m no Hercule Poirot. I’m her husband’s mistress.
Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.
Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.
After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.
Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .
The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.
Published January 20th by Mantle. Buy here*
Daughter of the Moon Goddess (The Celestial Kingdom Book 1) by Sue Lynn Tan
SYNOPSIS: A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess.
A young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm, setting her on a dangerous path where those she loves are not the only ones at risk…
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when her magic flares and her existence is discovered, Xingyin is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.
Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service, learning to master archery and magic, despite the passion which flames between her and the emperor’s son.
To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies, across the earth and skies.
But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream ―striking a dangerous bargain, where she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice ― where love vies with honour, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
Published January 20th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*
A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle
SYNOPSIS: November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail to New York with 2,000 passengers – and a killer – on board . . .
When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye.
Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner . . . and the dead man.
With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple’s purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch’s search for the culprit is fraught with danger.
And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst . . .
When Megan discovers photographs of her estranged identical twin sister on her husband’s phone, she wants answers.
Leah already has everything Megan has ever wanted. Fame, fortune, freedom to do what she wants. And when Megan confronts Leah, an argument turns to murder.
The only way Megan can get away with killing her twin is to become her.
But then lockdown hits. How can she continue living two lives? And what happens if someone else knows her secret too?
HER PERFECT TWIN IS THE MOST ADDICTIVE, TWISTY THRILLER YOU’LL READ IN 2022. DON’T MISS THIS WILD RIDE OF A NOVEL.
Published January 20th by Hodder & Stoughton. Buy here*
Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
SYNOPSIS: ‘Weaves together Ancient Greek myth with suspenseful mystery and beguiling romance…utterly irresistible’ Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne
A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.
Perfect for readers who loved The Binding and The Essex Serpent.
London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.
Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora is a story of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.
Published January 27th by Harvill Secker. Buy here*
The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews
SYNOPSIS: A beguiling tale of superstition, myth and murder, perfect for fans of The Binding, The Essex Serpent and Once Upon a River.
SHE IS AWAKE…
Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.
Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.
Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.
Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political and religious turbulence. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding mystery and a story of impossible things.
SYNOPSIS: An expansive epic spanning the turbulent decades of Korea’s fight for independence, perfect for fans of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko
Beasts take many shapes…
It is 1917, and Korea is yet to be divided into north and south. With the threat of famine looming, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school in cosmopolitan Pyongyang, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. But the city’s days as a haven are numbered.
Jade flees to Seoul where she forms a deep friendship with an orphan boy called JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets. As Jade becomes a sought-after performer with unexpected romantic prospects, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence. Soon Jade must decide between following her own ambitions, or risking everything for the one she loves.
From the perfumed chambers of the courtesan school to the glamorous cafes of a modernising Seoul, the unforgettable characters of Beasts of a Little Land unveil a world where friends become enemies and enemies become saviours, where heroes are persecuted and beasts take many shapes.
Published February 3rd by Oneworld Publications. Buy here*
The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield
SYNOPSIS: Brimming with romance, betrayal, and enchantment, The Embroidered Book reveals and reimagines a dazzling period of history as you have never seen it before.
‘Power is not something you are given. Power is something you take. When you are a woman, it is a little more difficult, that’s all’
1768. Charlotte, daughter of the Habsburg Empress, arrives in Naples to marry a man she has never met. Her sister Antoine is sent to France, and in the mirrored corridors of Versailles they rename her Marie Antoinette.
The sisters are alone, but they are not powerless. When they were only children, they discovered a book of spells – spells that work, with dark and unpredictable consequences.
In a time of vicious court politics, of discovery and dizzying change, they use the book to take control of their lives.
But every spell requires a sacrifice. And as love between the sisters turns to rivalry, they will send Europe spiralling into revolution.
Published February 17th by Harper Voyager. Buy here*
A Good Day to Die (Pretty Boy Thriller 1) by Amen Alonge
SYNOPSIS: Meet Pretty Boy. Vengeance is on his mind.
His real name: Unknown
His code of conduct: Don’t be a pawn in someone else’s game. Never underestimate the enemy. Above all, survive. There is no glory in death.
His mission: It’s been ten years since Pretty Boy left the big city – today he’s back. No one knows why, but it’s clear that revenge is on his mind: he is determined to make the person responsible for his exile from the London scene finally pay. But his plans seem derailed when he takes possession of a bracelet, unaware that its original owner has set a high price for its safe return. Suddenly, the hunter becomes the hunted and Pretty Boy will have to find out if it is indeed a ‘good day to die’.
Jam-packed with action, an unforgettable cast of characters and peppered with dry humour, A Good Day to Die marks the arrival of a fresh and exciting new voice in thriller writing.
SYNOPSIS: From debut author Carolyn Tara O’Neil comes a thrilling alternate history set during the Russian Revolution.
Russia, 1918: With the execution of Tsar Nicholas, the empire crumbles and Russia is on the edge of civil war–the poor are devouring the rich. Anna, a bourgeois girl, narrowly escaped the massacre of her entire family in Yekaterinburg. Desperate to get away from the Bolsheviks, she offers a peasant girl a diamond to take her as far south as possible–not realizing that the girl is a communist herself. With her brother in desperate need of a doctor, Evgenia accepts Anna’s offer and suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the war.
Anna is being hunted by the Bolsheviks, and now–regardless of her loyalties–Evgenia is too.
Daughters of a Dead Empire is a harrowing historical thriller about dangerous ideals, loyalty, and the price we pay for change. An imaginative retelling of the Anastasia story.
Published February 22nd by Roaring Brook Press. Buy here*
Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook
SYNOPSIS: Fortune favours the brave in Lizzie Pook’s mesmerising debut novel, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter.
1886, BANNIN BAY, AUSTRALIA.
The Brightwell family has sailed from England to make their new home in Western Australia. Ten-year-old Eliza knows little of what awaits them on these shores beyond shining pearls and shells like soup plates – the things her father has promised will make their fortune.
Ten years later and Charles Brightwell, now the bay’s most prolific pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. Whispers from the townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder, but headstrong Eliza, convinced there is more to the story, refuses to believe her father is dead, and it falls to her to ask the questions no one else dares consider.
But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the truth can cost more than pearls, and she must decide just how much she is willing to pay – and how far she is willing to go – to find it . . .
SYNOPSIS: Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old female contract killer who is considering retirement. A fighter who has experienced loss and grief early on in life, she lives in a state of self-imposed isolation, with just her dog, Deadweight, for company.
While on an assassination job for the ‘disease control’ company she works for, Hornclaw makes an uncharacteristic error, causing a sequence of events that brings her past well and truly into the present.
Threatened with sabotage by a young male upstart and battling new desires and urges when she least expects them, Hornclaw steels her resolve, demonstrating that no matter their age, the female of the species is always more deadly than the male.
SYNOPSIS: Ben Harper’s life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben’s family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.
Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best true crime journalists in the country and happily settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But when a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother’s death and throws suspicion on those closest to him, Ben’s world is turned upside down once more.
He’s about to discover that Haddley is a town full of secrets. No one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.
And someone will go to any length to keep the truth buried . . .
SYNOPSIS: With every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time.
It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.
Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?
Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the search for a place to call home.
SYNOPSIS: In the aftermath of the First World War, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel.
On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface. But Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbour to be a witch.
When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline’s extravagantly illicit parties, Annie is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money cannot; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death.
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn
SYNOPSIS: THE MOST HOTLY ANTICIPATED DEBUT OF 2022 WITH A HEROINE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH
The Nigerian accent Dictionary Huzband (pronounced auz-band) noun 1. A male partner in a marriage E.g. Yinka’s younger sister, Kemi, is married to Uche 2. A non-existent man in a non-existent marriage whose whereabouts is often questioned, usually by Nigerian mums and aunties to single British Nigerian women E.g. So, Yinka. Tell me. Where is your huzband? Ah, ah. You’re thirty-one now!
Yinka wants to find love. Her mum wants to find it for her.
She also has too many aunties who frequently pray for her delivery from singledom, a preference for chicken and chips over traditional Nigerian food, and a bum she’s sure is far too small as a result. Oh, and the fact that she’s a thirty-one-year-old South-Londoner who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage is a bit of an obstacle too…
When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka commences ‘Operation Find A Date for Rachel’s Wedding’. Armed with a totally flawless, incredibly specific plan, will Yinka find herself a huzband?
What if the thing she really needs to find is herself?
The Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer
SYNOPSIS: Today I might trace the rungs of her larynx or tap at her trachea like the bones of a xylophone . . .
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.
When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is a story of coming-of-age at the end of a life. Utterly heart-breaking yet darkly funny, Maddie Mortimer’s astonishing debut is a symphonic journey through one woman’s body: a wild and lyrical celebration of desire, forgiveness, and the darkness within us all.
SYNOPSIS: ‘Your ability to change everything – including yourself – starts here’ ELIZABETH ZOTT
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
Meet the unconventional, uncompromising Elizabeth Zott.
SYNOPSIS: THE AERIALISTS is a rich historical novel based on the true story of Louisa Maud Evans, a fourteen-year old girl who died during the Great Exhibition in Cardiff, 1896, and whose demise – tumbling 8,000 feet into the Bristol Channel – captured the imagination of the city.
Paris, 1891 Laura is living on the streets, far from the American Prairies where she was born. When aerialists Ena and August Gaudron, believing Laura to be English, decide to rescue her, she soon finds herself ensconced in the family hot air balloon business, and offered the chance to learn how to fly.
Cardiff, 1896 The Gaudrons accept an invitation to be part of the Cardiff Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime Exhibition, presenting a show of balloon ascents and parachute descents. Late one night, a young girl, Grace Parry, knocks on the door. She is desperate to fly, whatever the cost.
As Grace’s dreams begin to take wing, can Laura be the one to keep her grounded? Histories real and invented intertwine as the novel explores the many risky ways girls are expected to perform.
Published April 14th by The Borough Press. Buy here*
The Honeybee Emeralds by Amy Tector
SYNOPSIS: Alice Ahmadi has never been certain of where she belongs. When she discovers a famed emerald necklace while interning at a struggling Parisian magazine, she is plunged into a glittering world of diamonds and emeralds, courtesans and spies, and the long-buried secrets surrounding the necklace and its glamorous former owners.
When Alice realizes the mysterious Honeybee Emeralds could be her chance to save the magazine, she recruits her friends Lily and Daphne to form the “Fellowship of the Necklace.” Together, they set out to uncover the romantic history of the gems. Through diaries, letters, and investigations through the winding streets and iconic historic landmarks of Paris, the trio begins to unravel more than just the secrets of the necklace’s obsolete past. Along the way, Lily and Daphne’s relationships are challenged, tempered, and changed. Lily faces her long-standing attraction to a friend, who has achieved the writing success that eluded her. Daphne confronts her failing relationship with her husband, while also facing simmering problems in her friendship with Lily. And, at last, Alice finds her place in the world―although one mystery still remains: how did the Honeybee Emeralds go from the neck of American singer Josephine Baker during the Roaring Twenties to the basement of a Parisian magazine?
Published April 14th by Turner Publishing Company. Buy here*
Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth
SYNOPSIS: Behind the spectacle there are always secrets.
Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress, Zillah, is headlining tonight. An orphan from the slums of St Giles, her rise to stardom is her ticket out – to be gawped and gazed at is a price she’s willing to pay.
Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has ever dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger?
Her pursuit of the truth takes her into the underbelly of the city – from gas-lit streets to the sumptuous parlours of Mayfair – as she seeks the help of notorious criminals from her past and finds herself torn between two powerful admirers.
Caught in a labyrinth of dangerous truths, will Zillah face ruin – or will she be the maker of her fate?
A deliciously immersive tale, Theatre of Marvels whisks you on an unforgettable journey across Victorian London in this bold exploration of gothic spectacle.
Ever since she was adopted from an orphanage in Sri Lanka, Paloma has led a privileged Californian life: the best schools, a generous allowance and parents so perfect that Paloma fears she’ll never live up to them.
Now at thirty, Paloma has managed to disappoint her parents so thoroughly that their relationship will never recover. Unemployed and friendless, the only person still talking to her is Arun – the Indian man subletting her spare room. That is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her fragile place in this country, and the next day is found face down in a pool of blood.
On finding Arun’s body Paloma flees her apartment. But by the time the police arrive, there’s no body to be found or signs of struggle – and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.
The police may be quick to dismiss everything, but Paloma knows what she saw. Is this tangled up in her childhood in Sri Lanka and the desperate actions she took to leave so many years ago? And did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
SYNOPSIS: Pre-order this immersive, emotionally gripping novel about jealousy, loyalty, and the secrets we keep to protect those we love . . .
1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth . . .
1975: Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn’t understand – until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.
Soon after her mother’s departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to ‘Apartment 3B’, it contains a photo of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she’ll discover the answers she is seeking – and meet the woman at the heart of it all . . .
SYNOPSIS: Get ready for summer 2022’s biggest historical!
The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.
With only twelve weeks until the bailiffs call, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her, and Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.
The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost, especially when it comes to his own brother falling for her charms.
Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…
SYNOPSIS: THE BUNKER IS DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM ALL SAFE.
In the end, very few people made it to the bunker. Now they wait there for the outside world to heal. Wolfe is one of the lucky ones. She’s safe and employed as the bunker’s pharmacist, doling out medicine under the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic and paranoid leader.
BUT IS IT THE PLACE OF GREATEST DANGER?
But when the leader starts to ask things of Wolfe, favours she can hardly say no to, it seems her luck is running out. Forming an unlikely alliance with the young Doctor Stirling, her troubled assistant Levitt, and Canavan – a tattooed giant of a man who’s purpose in the bunker is a mystery – Wolfe must navigate the powder keg of life underground where one misstep will light the fuse. The walls that keep her safe also have her trapped.
How much more is Wolfe willing to give to stay alive?
Beautifully written and utterly gripping, The Pharmacist will be a guaranteed conversation starter when it is published.
SYNOPSIS: The wise and gloriously big-hearted debut novel from the much-loved broadcaster, Sara Cox
Becky: a single mum who prides herself on her independence. She knows from painful experience that men are trouble. Louise: a loving husband, gorgeous kids. She ought to feel more grateful. Jameela: all she’s ever done is work hard, and try her best. Why won’t life give her the one thing she really wants? Sheila: the nest is empty, she dreams of escaping to the sun, but her husband seems so distracted.
The inhabitants of the Inventor’s Housing Estate keep themselves to themselves. There are the friendly ‘Hellos’ when commutes coincide and the odd cheeky eye roll when the wine bottles clank in number 7’s wheelie bin, but it’s not exactly Ramsay Street.
The dilapidated community centre is no longer the beating heart of the estate that Becky remembers from her childhood. So the new pottery class she’s helped set up feels like a fresh start. And not just for her.
The assorted neighbours come together to try out a new skill, under the watchful eye of their charismatic teacher, Sasha. And as the soft unremarkable lumps of clay are hesitantly, lovingly moulded into delicate vases and majestic pots, so too are the lives of four women. Concealed passions and heartaches are uncovered, relationships shattered and formed, and the possibility for transformation is revealed.
SYNOPSIS: 1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.
Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.
What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.
The first in a captivating new historical fantasy series, Ordinary Monsters introduces the Talents with a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world, and the gifted, broken children who must save it.
SYNOPSIS: All that stands between Meredith and the world is her own front door . . . but what will it take for her to open it? ________
Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.
She has her cat Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.
But something’s about to change. Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . . Does she have the courage to overcome what’s been keeping her inside all this time?
SYNOPSIS: Your fate arrives in a box on your doorstep. Do you open it?
It seems like just another morning.
You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.
On your doorstep is a box.
Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.
The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.
Do you open yours?
IT’S THE DECISION OF A LIFETIME.
Published July 7th by The Borough Press. Buy here*
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
SYNOPSIS: This is not a romance, but it is about love
Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over, fades from view.
When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.
This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest as it examines the nature of identity, creativity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and, above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.
SYNOPSIS: A wedding in a small English village attracts a malicious spirit, forcing secrets from the deep past and troubled present out into the open–a hypnotic tale of sisterhood, first love, and hauntings from the acclaimed author of The Quick
As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church right on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself. But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, and started bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.
Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up in. But, days before the ceremony, she starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels. And worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.
Now, Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself.
An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and the memories that show us the way forward–this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.
Today I’m delighted to be partnering with Midas PR and The Reading Agency to reveal the covers for 2022’s Quick Reads.
Published April 14th 2022, next year’s Quick Reads include stories written by M.W. Craven, Paula Hawkins, Ayisha Malik, Santa Montefiore, Kate Mosse, Graham Norton, Lemn Sissay and Alex Wheatle. Forming part of the life-changing literacy programme tackling the UK’s adult literacy crisis by helping less confident readers start reading, these eight, new short books will also be included in the World Book Night 2022 list.
The Cutting Season by M.W Craven Publisher: Hatchette, Constable
Poe’s just hanging out on a Saturday afternoon… Hanging from a hook in a meat packing plant isn’t how Washington Poe wants to spend his weekend. He’s been punched and kicked, and when the Pale Man arrives it seems things will soon go from bad to worse. The Pale Man is a contract killer, and he and his razor are feared all over London. But Poe knows two things the Pale Man doesn’t. And now things are about to get interesting…
MW Craven said: “In my sixteen-year career in the probation service I witnessed the devastating impact of illiteracy and low-level literacy on an almost daily basis. From the first-time offender being unable to read the community order he was being asked to sign, to the coping mechanisms and the myriad excuses used to avoid reading out loud on the offending-behaviour courses we ran. Many of these men and women had basic reading skills, but little to no confidence, and that is why the Quick Reads programme is such a wonderful thing. Reading is such a vital part of communication and I couldn’t say yes to being involved fast enough.”
Blind Spot by Paula Hawkins Publisher: Penguin Random House, Transworld, Doubleday
‘How can you say things like this? How can you be so blind?’ Since they were kids, Edie, Jake and Ryan have been the closest of friends. It’s been the three of them against the world. Edie thought the bonds between them were unbreakable. So when Jake is brutally murdered and Ryan accused of the crime, her world is shattered. Edie is alone for the first time in years, living in the remote house that she and Jake shared. She is grief-stricken and afraid – with good reason. Because someone is watching. Someone has been waiting for this moment. Now that Edie is alone, the past she tried so hard to leave behind is about to catch up with her…
Paula Hawkins said: “I jumped at the opportunity to write a Quick Reads. Reading is such a joy for me – it has been since childhood. Books have formed the cornerstone of many of my friendships; they connect me to people and places I might never go. They’re fundamental to my understanding of the world. But I’m acutely aware that, for all sorts of reasons, people might struggle with reading, so it’s a great privilege to be invited to write a Quick Reads. I can only hope that Blind Spot will help someone else discover the pure pleasure that can be found within the pages of a favourite book.”
Sofia Khan: The Baby Blues by Ayisha Malik Publisher: Headline, Review
Sofia Khan is going about everything the wrong way. At least, that’s what her mother, Mehnaz, thinks. Sofia is twice-divorced, homeless and – worst of all – refusing to give up on a fostered baby girl. Sofia’s just not behaving like a normal woman should. Sofia doesn’t see it like that. She’s planning to adopt Millie, and she’s sure it’ll be worth it. (Even if it means she and Millie have to stay at Mehnaz’s place for a while.) And as Sofia finally begins to live the life she’s chosen, she finds both romance and happiness start to blossom.But then someone comes back from the past – and not even Sofia’s own past. Suddenly, she’s faced with a choice. To do what’s best for those she loves, Sofia might have to break her own heart. And she might find herself needing the last person she expected…
Ayisha Malik said: “Growing up, reading was such a huge part of my understanding of the world and myself. That experience should be available to everyone and Quick Reads is a brilliant way of trying to make that happen. I’m honoured to be a part of something so crucial, and to have had such fun with the story along the way.”
The Kiss by Santa Montefiore Published: Simon & Schuster
Sometimes your biggest mistake can also be a blessing… Madison has always known she had a different father to her siblings. But it wasn’t until she turned eighteen that she learned his name. And now she wants to meet the man who shares her fair hair and blue eyes: Robert. Robert is a very lucky man. A big house, beautiful wife, three handsome sons. Eighteen years ago, he made a mistake. A brief fling that resulted in a daughter nobody knows about. Robert must finally tell his family the truth. Will they ever be able to forgive him and accept Madison as one of their own?
Santa Montefiore said: “The main reason that I write is to entertain. It gives me enormous pleasure to know that people enjoy my stories. It’s what drives me and propels me from book to book. However, I’m aware that there are many people out there who might find my novels too long or perhaps too densely written for their tastes. That’s why I agreed to write a story for Quick Reads. It gives those readers who wouldn’t normally pick up one of my novels the opportunity to give me a go. With this in mind, I wanted to write something special for them. I know how much my readers love stories based in Italy, so I set mine in Tuscany, and I made sure that I added all the things they enjoy, like romance and mystery, into the mix. It was a story, based on a true story I had heard, that I had been sitting on for a while and wasn’t sure what to do with. So, in a way, Quick Reads benefited both me as well as their readers, because I was able to use this gem of an idea which was too small for a larger book. I thank Quick Reads for inviting me to write for them, and my readers, longstanding and new, who enable me to do what I love doing best. I really hope they are entertained and perhaps, if they are, I might have the opportunity to write for them again.”
The Black Mountain by Kate Mosse Published: Macmillan, Pan Books
It is May, 1706. Ana, a young Spanish woman, lives in a small town on the north-west coast of Tenerife with her mother and twin younger brothers. The town is in the shadow of a mighty volcano, which legend says has the devil living inside it. However, there has been no eruption for thousands of years and no one believes it is a threat. One day, Ana notices that the air feels strange and heavy, that the birds have stopped singing. Tending the family vineyard, a sudden strange tremor in the earth frightens her. Very soon it will be a race against time for Ana to help persuade the town that they are in danger and should flee before the volcano erupts and destroys their world. Will they listen? And Ana herself faces another danger…
Kate Mosse said: “I wrote my first Quick Read in 2009 and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life. Meeting new readers, many of whom were just starting to fall in love with stories on the page, transformed how I thought about storytelling, about language and about the barriers some people face to engaging with fiction. It made me question how I wrote, and why I wrote, and I’ve been grateful for everything I learnt because of it. The programme is exceptional – always innovative, always exciting, always finding ways to support literacy but also to give emerging readers access to the widest possible range of books. It genuinely changes lives and it’s an honour to be part of the 2022 list.”
The Swimmer by Graham Norton Publisher: Hodder, Coronet
Helen is a retired teacher living on the Irish coast. She enjoys the peace and quiet – despite the burden of Margaret, her unpleasant sister. Margaret arrived three years ago for a short holiday, but somehow managed to stay and worm her way into Helen’s life. One day, Helen sees a man struggling in the sea and decides to investigate. She doesn’t quite know what it is, but something about it feels very strange…
Graham Norton said: “Being involved with Quick Reads was a huge pleasure as well as a real challenge. I loved the discipline involved in shaping a story that was accessible at the same time as being exciting, emotional and hopefully rewarding. Books and stories are an extraordinary escape for so many and I am thrilled to work with Quick Reads in helping to unlock the world of words for new readers.”
My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay Published: Canongate
An abridgement of his bestselling memoir of the same name. How does a government steal a child and then imprison him? How does it keep it a secret? This story is how. This story is true. My Name Is Why is a true story about growing up in care and fighting to succeed despite the cruelty and failures of the care system.
Lemn Sissay said: “This is why I wrote My Name Is Why. Family is a collection of stories between one group of people over a life time. For some it is an anthology of disputed tales over a lifetime. Families can uphold what they believe to be a fact which is in fact pure fiction. What matters most of all is harmony: the truth has little to do with it. The same could be said for storytelling. I wrote My Name Is Why because no member of my family knew who I was or what I had been through. I have found an extended family in the readers of my book and I am thankful to every one of them.”
Witness by Alex Wheatle Published: Serpent’s Tale
Cornell is having a bad time. Kicked out of school for a fight he didn’t start, he finds himself in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here he makes friends with one of the Sinclair family. You just don’t mess with the Sinclairs, and when Ryan Sinclair orders him to come with him to teach a rival some respect, Cornell witnesses something that will change his life. Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make. Witness is Alex Wheatle at his best: a thrilling story about street violence, friendship and making the right choices.
Alex Wheatle said: “I may have been nominated and short-listed for many awards, but I believe my greatest success in this old writing game is when a school librarian informs me that one of their students, who has never picked up a book before, cannot put an Alex Wheatle book down. ‘They have found a story they can finally relate to,’ I am often told. Reading for pleasure is a crucial gateway to all learning. If I can engage a reader with my characters, my narratives and the themes that are important to me, then I believe I’m passing on my humanity.”
ABOUT THE READING AGENCY & QUICK READS:
The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading. We work closely with partners to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council England. www.readingagency.org.uk
Quick Reads, a programme by The Reading Agency,aims to bring the pleasures and benefits of reading to everyone, including the one in three adults in the UK who do not regularly read for pleasure, and the one in six adults in the UK who find reading difficult. The scheme changes lives and plays a vital role in addressing the national crisis around adult literacy in the UK, engaging the one in three adults who do not regularly read for pleasure and the one in six adults who find reading difficult. Each year, Quick Reads works with UK publishers to commission high profile authors to write short, engaging books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. Since 2006, over 6 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 5 million library loans (PLR) have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes. The titles are available for just £1 at bookshops and are free to borrow from libraries. They are used across the country in colleges, prisons, trade unions, hospitals, and adult learning organisations.
Do any of these take your fancy? Let me know in the comments.
I can’t quite believe that I’m doing my June wrap up and that we’re half way through the year already. One of the hardest things I had to do this month was to decide my list of favourite reads so far, so look out for that post coming soon. It was another great reading month for me and I read a total of 15 books. I enjoyed them all and most of them were four stars or above.
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas
Threadneedle was one of my most anticipated books this year. The first book in the exciting new Language of Magic Series, it is a story of secrets, lies and self-discovery interwoven with a hidden magical world. It is a magical and bewitching story that slowly hooks the reader in as the author introduces us to the characters and the hidden magical world around us. I loved the world building and following Anna on her journey and can’t wait to see what the author has in store for book two. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
One Last Time by Helga Flatland
Beautiful, moving and heartfelt, One Last Time is a portrait of an ordinary family dealing with the realities of terminal illness. This was my first foray into Helga Flatland’s books, and I was struck by the beauty, warmth and compassion with which she writes. She skillfully created a book centred around terminal illness that manages to be elegant, poignant and funny that I would highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book
The Forever Home by Sue Watson
Taut tense and twisty, this gripping thriller that had me hooked. It was my first time reading this author and I enjoyed her compelling characters and how she kept me guessing. I will definitely be reading more of her books. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
The Wolf Den was another of my most anticipated books this year and I was also excited as it was the first read with the SquadPod Book Club. It did not disappoint. I am yet to post my review as I am struggling to do the book justice. It is an absolute masterpiece. Lush, evocative and enthralling, I couldn’t get enough of Amara and the women who worked at the Wolf Den. It felt like I had been transported back in time and was walking on Pompeii’s dusty streets alongside them. And that ending. Omg! I am so relieved that this is a trilogy as I have to know what is next for Amara and the others. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Keep an eye out for my review soon Buy the book*
Fragile by Sarah Hilary
Nothing was what it seemed in this mysterious and sinister thriller that had a chilling gothic twist. The suspense crackled on every page and the author had me in the palm of her hand. It was a perplexing tale full of red herrings that kept me guessing right until the end. Fans of the genre will love this book. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen
I am still shook that this extraordinary novel is a debut. It seeped into my heart and soul and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The author bravely draws on her own experiences of grief and losing a child to tell Rachel’s story, injecting an authenticity into the book that is searing. It took me through a kaleidoscope of emotions, including tears, but this book is far from depressing. Sharp, witty, sarcastic and full of dark humour, you will laugh as often as you cry. Maybe more. Everything Happens For A Reason is a powerful, moving and unforgettable story that everyone should read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
The Stranding by Kate Sawyer
This glorious debut was nothing like I was expecting. It was better. Captivating, imaginative and original, The Stranding is a richly imagined and evocative tale about the end of the world. It follows two survivors, Ruth and Nik, as they attempt to navigate this new existence alongside a complete stranger. An absolute triumph, this swept me away. This is a debut you don’t want to miss. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
Murder at the Fair by Verity Bright
This was another witty, fun and compelling cozy mystery in the Lady Eleanor Swift series. I love the combination of historical fiction and mystery and even after just two books, this feels like putting on a cosy cardigan and sitting by the fire. Great as a standalone or part of the series. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
I’ve been listening to the fifth book in the Harry Potter series on audio for a few months now. I often listen at night as I fall asleep, which is why it’s taken so long to get through it. I love the Harry Potter films and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios was one of my favourite parts of our 2016 visit to Florida, but I’d never finished reading the books. I decided to start where I left off reading in audio as I knew that sitting down with one of the books is something I’m not as likely to do. I loved Stephen Fry’s narration and thought it was a fantastic adaptation that was entertaining and compelling. I’ve downloaded the next book in the series and am looking forward to listening to that next. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
Suspects by Lesley Pearse
Suspects is an ensemble piece told in the third person, all of the residents of the idyllic Willow Close narrate the story, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades as the police try to solve the murder of thirteen-year-old Chloe Church, who lived on the close. This was an entertaining and steadily paced whodunnit I’d recommend for those who like their mysteries without gore. Rating: ✮✮✮.5 Read my review here Buy the book*
Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza
I read Shadow Sands as part of a buddy read organised by the Tandem Collective and devoured this fast-paced and addictive thriller. I really enjoyed the first installment in this series, so I had high hopes for book two. Thankfully, the author delivered once again and I couldn’t put it down. My review will be posted soon, but I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys tense and twisty thrillers. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book*
The Beresford by Will Carver
Wow. Just wow. Will Carver is a twisted genius, and The Beresford is another outstanding and original novel from one of the most unique voices in Fiction and his best book yet. I’ve never read anything like this and it’s taking me some time to put into words what I thought of this book, so the full review will probably be up closer to publication day, which is July 22nd. What I can tell you, is that you need to read this book! Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Buy the book
One Child Alive by Ellery Kane
I didn’t need anther crime series when I read the first installment of the Rockwell and Decker series, but I’m so glad I started it. This is a compelling series with great characters, back stories and plots that are readable, tense and twisty. One Child Alive is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰ Read my review here Buy the book*
Truth or Dare by M. J. Arlidge
The DI Helen Grace series has been a favourite of mine ever since I read the first book and anything the author writes is a must read for me. Truth or Dare is the tenth book in the series and sees Helen under pressure like never before. Not only is there an unprecedented crime wave sweeping the city, but she’s facing mounting tension in her personal life and fighting for her career and reputation. Once again, M. J. Arlidge has written a dark and cunningly crafted novel that weaves multiple plot lines together in unexpected ways. An unmissable read for anyone who loves crime fiction. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book*
This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
This Is How We Are Human is a truly astonishing novel that explores the nuances and complexities of being human. Full of heart, warmth and wisdom, this beautiful story is one you will never forget. I really can’t say much in a short paragraph about this book, it needs so much more, so please go and read my full review. But I can tell you that this is a story that needed to be told and one that needs to be read. It is one I believe will help create more awareness and compassion for those who are neuro-diverse and I am so grateful to Ms Beech for writing it. It is quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. Go and read it. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮ Read my review here Buy the book
With so many five-star reads that made it onto my favourite books that were also some of my favourites this year, choosing a book of the month was no easy task. I had five contenders: The Wolf Den, The Beresford, The Stranding, Everything Happens For A Reason and This Is How We Are Human. After a lot of consideration, I narrowed it down to two and chose The Wolf Den and This Is How We Are Human as my books of the month.
What did you read in June? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month😊 Emma xxx
Thank you to the publishers for my gifted proof copies and eBook ARCS.
Today is my stop on the blog tour for this magnificent debut novel. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted proof copy.
HER WORLD FELL TO PIECES.
FROM THE BONES SHE BUILT A NEW LIFE.
Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.
When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand.
But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before.
When all has been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?
The Stranding is a story about the hope that can remain even when the world is changed beyond recognition.
“A rush of air, a groan so forlorn it hurts her heart. A noise that connot be unheard. A white frame above her, a spine, the ribs splayed wide, the jaws like pincers, brackets. The bones of the whale glow slightly in the dark. She closes her eyes. My old friend, she thinks, my home, my sanctuary.”
This is a story about the end of the world. About humanity, love, survival and hope. Utterly magnificent, captivating, imaginative and original, it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I read exceeded anything I could have imagined or wanted.
“They sit in silence, watching the sky grow pinker and pinker. She gestures to the reddening sky. ‘It’d be beautiful, if it wasn’t, you know, The End.'”
With spectacular storytelling the author crafts a richly imagined story filled with evocative imagery, transporting me to the shores of New Zealand as the apocalypse dawns and taking me back to the bustling streets of London as Ruth talks about her life before. It is all so vivid that I felt like I was watching it in technicolour on a movie screen. The scenes describing the apocalypse: Nik and Ruth’s terror as they seek safety in the stomach of the whale, the devastation of the world when they re-emerge, and their burned and blistered skin, are seared into my mind as clearly as if I had experienced them myself. I could hear the deafening silence of a world where only the two of them appear to have survived and feel their bewilderment and grief. Ruth and Nik were fascinating characters that I enjoyed reading. Their love story felt authentic and inevitable and I thought they made a great team.
“How ironic, she thinks. Now she is marooned in silence, and despite her best efforts to avoid it, the conflict of mankind caught up with her in the end.”
I was swept away by this glorious tale; in awe of the author’s imagination and talent. Exquisitely written, beautifully observed, atmospheric, and with an almost dreamlike quality, it is a masterclass in storytelling. I was transfixed. It manages to be strong, powerful and thought-provoking, but also mellow, peaceful and soothing, a riveting contrast that pulls you into this wonderful story. I never wanted the story to end and felt bereft and hungry for more when it did. I still can’t believe this is a debut and will be buying any future books she writes without hesitation.
An absolute triumph, The Stranding is a magnificent debut that you don’t want to miss.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Katewas born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where she grew up in the countryside as the eldest of four siblings. She lived in South London for the best part of the last two decade (living briefly in Australia and USA) but recently returned to East Anglia.
Kate trained in acting at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and has worked as an actor since. She is a founding ensemble member of award-winning theatre company The Faction and established her own theatre company The Curious Room.
Previous writing includes adapting Lorca, writing short films and plays and recipes. The Stranding is her first novel.
She is the mother of 1 year old daughter as a solo mother by choice.