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Saturday Spotlight: New Book Releases June 2024

By Claire Buss, Deputy Editor, Write On! 

At Write On! and Pen to Print, we want to help connect authors and readers, playwrights and audiences, so we’ve created a Spotlight page on the last Saturday of the month, showcasing some of the exciting new reads and plays available. The curated list is based on books and plays that you send us, so if you’re an author or a playwright and you’d like your book or play in the spotlight, reach out to us at Whether you’re an indie author, with a small press or mainstream publisher, established or brand new playwright, we’d love to hear from you and shine a light on your new work.

Write On! offers other opportunities for writers as well. If you’d like us to feature an extract from your book or a short story, please send the extract, book cover and blurb to with the subject: Write On! Showcase (ensuring you have your publisher’s permission, of course).

Pen to Print are also looking for short videos from people reading a passage from their favourite book, or authors reading extracts from their own books. These videos will be featured on the Pen to Print YouTube channel and across our social media. Please send in your videos or links to with the subject: Video Stories.


Spycraft by Nadine Akkerman

A fascinating exploration of the devious tricks and ingenious tools used by early modern spies: from ciphers to counterfeiting, invisible inks to assassination.

Early modern Europe was a hotbed of espionage, where spies, spy-catchers and conspirators pitted their wits against each other in deadly games of hide and seek. Theirs was a dangerous trade―only those who mastered the latest techniques would survive.

In this engaging, accessible account, Nadine Akkerman and Pete Langman explore the methods spies used in the period, including disguises, invisible inks and even poisons. Drawing on a vast array of archival sources, they show how understanding the tricks and tools of espionage allows us to re-imagine well-known stories such as the Babington and Gunpowder plots. Exposing the murky world of spies, they demonstrate how the technological innovations of petty criminals, secretaries and other hitherto invisible actors shaped the fate of some of history’s most iconic figures.

Spycraft explains how early modern spies sought to protect their own secrets while exposing those of their enemies, showing the reader how to follow in their footsteps.

Available to buy here

Second Chance Summer by Phillipa Ashley

From the moment Lily Harper arrives at a remote retreat on the breathtaking Scilly Isles, she’s itching to get back to civilisation – and her thriving business.

Slowing down simply isn’t in her vocabulary, and so she quickly clashes with the gorgeous but dour Sam who runs the retreat.

Just as Lily is about to give up and leave, disaster strikes, and she is involved in an incident that changes her perspective on everything.

Lily is no longer sure she wants to return to the life she thought she loved. But will she have the courage to give the retreat, and Sam, a second chance?

The Heart In Winter by Kevin Barry

What if we ride out tonight?
What if we ride out and never once look back?

October, 1891. Butte, Montana. A hard winter approaches across the Rocky Mountains. The city is rich on copper mines and rampant with vice and debauchery among a hard-living crowd of immigrant Irish workers.

Here we find Tom Rourke, a young poet and balladmaker, but also a doper, a drinker and a fearsome degenerate. Just as he feels his life is heading nowhere fast, Polly Gillespie arrives in town as the new bride of the devout mine captain Long Anthony Harrington.

A thunderbolt love affair takes spark between Tom and Polly and they strike out west on a stolen horse, moving through the badlands of Montana and Idaho. Briefly, an idyll of wild romance perfects itself. But a posse of deranged Cornish gunsmen are soon in hot pursuit of the lovers, and closing in fast…

Kofi And The Secret Radio Station by Jeffrey Boayke

The Cautious Traveller’s Guide To The Wastelands by Sarah Brooks

It’s said there is a price that every passenger must pay. A price beyond the cost of a ticket.

It is the end of the nineteenth century and the world is awash with marvels. But there is nothing so marvellous as the Wastelands: a terrain of terrible miracles that lies between Beijing and Moscow.

Nothing touches the Wastelands except the Great Trans-Siberian Express: an impenetrable train built to carry cargo across continents, but which now transports anyone who dares.

Onto the platform steps a curious cast of characters: Marya, a grieving woman with a borrowed name, Weiwei, a famous child born on the train and Henry Grey, a disgraced naturalist.

But there are whispers that the train isn’t safe. As secrets and stories begin to unravel, the passengers and crew must survive their journey together, even as something uncontrollable seems to be breaking in.

Available to buy here
Connect with Sarah Brooks

Murder At The Monastry by The Reverend Richard Coles

Canon Daniel Clement has suffered a secret humiliation and to recover takes respite at the monastery where he was a novice. But the monastery doesn’t allow the break he needs, for tensions are building there too. There is a death at the monastery, and Daniel thinks it might be murder.

Meanwhile, back at Champton, Daniel is the subject of village gossip, his mother Audrey is up to something again, there’s trouble at the dress shop, trouble up at the big house, and the puppies are running riot.

As dark secrets unfold, can Daniel solve the mystery at the monastery without the help of Detective Seargeant Neil Vanloo?

Available to buy here
Connect with The Reverend Richard Coles

Parade by Rachel Cusk

A path-breaking novel of art, womanhood and violence, from the author of the Outline trilogy.

Midway through his life, an artist begins to paint upside down.

In Paris, a woman is attacked by a stranger in the street.

A mother dies. A man falls to his death. Couples seek escape in distant lands.

The new novel from one of the most distinctive writers of the age, Parade sets loose a carousel of lives. It surges past the limits of identity, character and plot, to tell a true story: about art, family, morality, gender and how we compose ourselves.

Available to buy here

Little Rot by Akwaeke Emezi

As Kalu drops Aima at the airport, it marks the end of their four-year relationship.

Shattered and broken open, he thinks that’s the last he will see of his ex-girlfriend. But, reeling from the break-up, both Aima and Kalu find themselves drawn back to Lagos; to separate nights of decadence. When Kalu visits an exclusive sex party, hosted by his best friend, Ahmed, he makes a decision that will plunge them all into chaos.

On the other side of town, Ola and Souraya, fresh off their first-class flight from Kuala Lumpur, are getting ready for their own nights of pleasure, unaware that everything is about to go awry. Pulled into a whirlwind descent through the city’s corrupt and glittering underworld, they’re all looking for a way out, fueled by a desperate need to escape the threat that looms over them.

Available to buy here
Connect with Akwaeje Emezi

Back To The Local by Maurice Gorham

In this love letter to the London pub, our genial guide takes the reader through all aspects of the local hostelry as it was in the 1940s – a time of dark wood, dark corners and dark beer. 

Back To The Local is a fascinating nostalgic ramble around the post-war pubs of London. We are introduced to The Regulars and Barmaids Old and New; we venture into the familiar surroundings of the Saloon Lounge, Saloon Bar and Public Bar and squeeze into possibly the lesser-known Jug-And-Bottle Bar, where customers queue to buy ale to drink elsewhere; we learn about ‘lost’ drinks such as ‘The Mother-in-Law’ or ‘The Snort’. A truly memorable pub crawl, illustrated by the wonderfully atmospheric drawings of Edward Ardizzone.

Available to buy here

Team Spirit by R J Gould

Everything seems straightforward enough when an agreement is reached for the tennis club to hold social events at the nearby Dream Café while the clubhouse is being rebuilt.

When the current chairman is forced to resign, Laurie, his young and inexperienced deputy, is left in charge, accepting the role on condition that the attractive Helen is prepared to support him as the new deputy.

The pair face an unprecedented run of challenges. The builder is failing to deliver on time. A player’s dubious line calls are infuriating opponents. The WhatsApp group has become a hotbed of salacious gossip. A middle-aged flirt is offending the young female members. And poor behaviour at the Dream Café is threatening the agreement.

Helen and Laurie are struggling to cope, though tennis club problems are a distant second for Helen as she attempts to start a relationship with Laurie. She’s sure he also wants that but something major is going on in his life to prevent progress. What is that something and can it be overcome?

Available to buy here
Connect with RJ Gould

The Love Of My Afterlife by Kirsty Greenwood

If she wasn’t dead already, Delphie would be dying of embarrassment. She’s entered the afterlife wearing the sort of pyjamas you don’t want anyone to see and finds herself face-to-face with the most handsome man she’s ever encountered. And he’s smiling at her.

As they start to chat, everything else becomes background noise, until someone comes running out of a door, yelling something about a huge mistake, and sends the dreamy stranger back down to earth.

In a twist of fate, Delphie is offered a deal in which she can return to her previous life and reconnect with the mysterious man she’s sure is her soulmate.

The challenge? She only has ten days to find him.

Ten days to make him fall for her.

Oh, and he has no recollection of them ever having met…

Available to buy here
Connect with Kirsty Greenwood

The Riveria House Swap by Gillian Harvey

Would you swap houses with a stranger?

Nina has always played it safe. But when her divorce papers come through on her fortieth birthday, she decides enough is enough.

She’s always chosen the sensible route, staying in her stable job and marrying her rather boring ex. In fact – she realises – she’s chosen security over excitement for years. Ever since she refused to elope with her first love: beautiful, poetic, thoughtful Pierre, the man she met aged 17, on her French exchange. The only man who ever made her heart race.

Maybe it’s time to take a few risks?

Impulsively, she goes online and finds another kind of French exchange: a house-swap. She can’t imagine what French businessman Jean-Luc wants with her terraced home in rural England, but she can’t wait to stay in his beautiful, spacious, bougainvillea-strewn villa on the French Riviera.

She’s not just there for the house, though. She’s decided to find the love she missed all those years ago. But will Pierre still be the man of her dreams after all this time?

Available to buy here
Connect with Gillian Harvey

The Phoenix Ballroom by Ruth Hogan

When it’s time to face the music, all we can do is dance…

Recently widowed Venetia Hamilton Hargreaves is left with a huge house, a bank balance to match and an uneasy feeling that she’s been sleepwalking through the last 50 years. Determined to live fully again, she embraces life with an enthusiasm and purpose she’d forgotten she could muster.

Buying the dilapidated Phoenix Ballroom and, with it, a drop-in centre and spiritualist church could be seen as reckless, but Venetia’s generosity, courage and kindness provide a refuge for a touching cast of damaged and lonely people who find their chosen family. As their stories intertwine, long buried secrets are revealed, missed opportunities seized and lives are renewed as the Phoenix lives up to its name.

Available to buy here
Connect with Ruth Hogan

Asa: The Girl Who Turned Into A Pair Of Chopsticks by  Natsuko Imamura

Asa tries to give her classmate a biscuit. Nami evades her classmates’ playground game of acorn-throwing.

Happy decides she’s not interested in doing anything other than lying down on her sofa.

Each of these three stories begins in a reasonable place, but by the end you’ll find yourself in another world altogether.

Available to buy here

The Mark by Fríða Ísberg

The Icelandic Psychological Association has prepared a test.

They call it a sensitivity assessment: a way of measuring a person’s empathy and identifying the potential for anti-social behaviour.

In a few days’ time, Iceland will vote on whether to make the test compulsory for every citizen. The nation is bitterly divided. Some believe the test makes society safer; others decry it as a violation.

As the referendum draws closer, four people: Vetur, Eyja, Tristan and Ólafur, find themselves caught in the teeth of the debate. Each of them will have to reckon with uncomfortable questions: Where do the rights of society end and the rights of the individual begin? When does utopia become dystopia?

No matter which side wins, they will all have to find a way to live with the result.

Available to buy here
Connect with Fríða Ísberg

Up Late by Nick Laird

Nick Laird’s powerful new collection reflects on the strange and chaotic times we live in.

Reeling in the face of collapsing systems and the banalities and distortions of modern life, the poet confronts age-old anxieties, questions of aloneness, friendship, illness and death, the push-and-pull of daily existence.

Laird is a poet capable of heading off in any and every direction, where layers of association transport us from a harbour in County Cork to the library steps in New York’s Washington Square, from a face-off between Freud and Michelangelo’s Moses to one between the poet and a squirrel in a Kilburn garden. And at the heart of the collection lies the title sequence, Up Late, a profound meditation on a father’s dying and winner of the 2022 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

There is conflation and conflagration, rage and fire; neither of which are seen as necessarily destructive. But there is great tenderness, too, a fondness for what grows between the cracks, especially those glimpses into the unadulterated world of childhood, where everything is still at stake and infinite as ‘the darkness under the cattle grid.’

Available to buy here

Zeb, Jet And The Ice-Cream Calamity by Mirabel Lavelle

Zeb the fox cub loves to play outside. He wants to find a friend to have fun with. But will humans and dogs chase him?

Jet the puppy dog loves to play outside. He wants a friend to share his adventures with. Jet has a milk allergy. He must be careful not to touch or drink milk. He mustn’t even lick ice-cream because it has milk in it.

When Zeb meets Jet, he learns about Jet’s allergy. He learns how to be allergy-safe aware. What will these two friends get up to?

This beautifully illustrated book includes a sing-along song and exercises to help discover more about allergy awareness. It can be used as an educational resource to encourage readers to find out more about allergy and allergy prevention.

Available to buy here
Connect with Mirabel Lavelle

The Heart Of The Woods by Wyl Menmuir

Just as a parent leaves a legacy to their child, a tree leaves a legacy to its surroundings. A deep and explorative companion piece to the Roger Deakin Award-winning The Draw Of The Sea.

Throughout history, trees have determined the tools we use, the boats we build, the stories we tell about the world and ourselves, the songs we sing, and some of our most important rituals. As such, our lives are intertwined with those of the trees and woodlands around us.

In this journey deep into the woods, Wyl Menmuir travels the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland to meet the people who plant trees, the ecologists who study them, those who shape beautiful objects and tools from wood, and those who use them to help others.

Wyl also explores how our relationship with trees is enduring, now and in the future: what we get out of spending time around trees, the ways in which our relationship with them has changed over time, and the ways in which our future is interconnected with theirs.

Written in close collaboration with makers, crafters, bodgers and woodsmen and women in order to better understand the woods they know so well, the joys and frustrations of working with a living material, and the stories of their craft and skills, The Heart Of The Woods will delight anyone who enjoys walking among the trees, and anyone who, when lost, has found themselves in the woods.

Available to buy here
Connect with Wyl Menmuir

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore

High up in a New York City hospice, Finn sits with his beloved brother Max, who is slipping from one world into the next.

But when a phone call summons Finn back to a troubled old flame, a strange journey begins, opening a trapdoor in reality. It will prompt a questioning of life and death, grief and the past, comedy and tragedy, and the diaphanous separations that lie between them all.

Available to buy here

How To Be A Genius Kid by Waldo Pancake

Why is misspelling stuff a sign of ‘grate intelly-genz?’

What have the hours in the day got to do with FINGER BONES?

Why does rain on a pavement smell so delish?

Zany and laugh-out-loud bonkers, this graphic novel of large and small facts is The Best, and that’s official! You’ll want to quote from it, repeat the gags, and reread it again and again. Plus, Waldo Pancake shows you how to draw stuff, as well as ‘learning you’ to be the biggest genius ever.

Available to buy here
Connect with Waldo Pancake

Eruption by James Patterson and Michael Crichton

A once-in-a-century volcanic eruption is about to destroy the Big Island of Hawaii.

But a decades-old military secret could turn the volcano into something even more terrifying.

Now it’s up to a handful of brave individuals to save the island – and the entire world.

Available to buy here

Ellie Pillai Is Not Done Yet by Christine Pillainayagam

Ellie Pillai has decided to be a better friend, daughter, future sister and all-round Better Person. Which means Trying To Help and sometimes doing the exact opposite.

Armed with Dr Jada’s podcast on how to beat heartbreak, she’s determined not to get distracted from her mission by Ash Anderson (ex-boyfriend), Shawn Kowalski (current bandmate) or the cute guy she just met at her Aunt’s wedding (future husband?). Because Ellie Pillai is better than the boys she thinks she loves.

But then the song she wrote about heartbreak goes viral and, suddenly, all anyone wants to talk about is love and who she’s going to choose, when Ellie Pillai wants to choose anything except that feeling of not knowing what you want. Throw in some exams, an audition for drama school, a record company in New York, a heavily pregnant Mum and a Granny with a penchant for emotional blackmail and Ellie Pillai is more confused than ever.

Why is being a better person so hard? And can you beat heartbreak, if you’re not really sure you want to?

Available to buy here
Connect with Christine Pillainaygam

Giant by Mollie Ray

One morning, a teenage boy wakes to find that he has grown to the size of a giant.

Inspired by the journey of the author’s younger brother, this wordless wonder of a book follows the experience of a family as one of their own faces a life-threatening illness. As his health declines, can the family remain resilient on his long journey through treatment?

Deeply moving and tender, with gorgeous illustrations, Mollie Ray’s debut graphic novel is a resonant story of empathy, healing and hope.

Available to buy here
Connect with Mollie Ray

The Suspect by Rob Rinder

When the UK’s favourite breakfast TV presenter dies live on air in front of millions of viewers, the nation is left devastated.

More devastated still when it becomes clear that her death was not an accident.

The evidence points to one culprit: celebrity chef Sebastian Brooks. But junior barrister Adam Green is about to discover that the case is not as open-and-shut as it first seemed.

And, although her angelic persona would suggest otherwise, she was not short of enemies in the glittery TV world.

Can Adam uncover the truth?

Available to buy here

Conflicted Copy by Sam Riviere

Sam Riviere is a past master of taking and exploiting ‘found’ content and process and transforming it into poetry that captivates and unsettles.

Here, he harnesses anxiety about AI only to exploit it for his own extraordinary ends. In this case, Generative Pre-trained Transformer 2 (GPT-2), an open source neural network, is used to produce poems that, stripped of the usual authorial clutter, find themselves nonetheless cohering around a voice that speaks of the uncertainties, fears and desires of a world that is desperately, poignantly and recognisably human.

Available to buy here

Blue Elegies by Helen Ruggieri

A collection of poems about the birds.

Ruggieri’s poems witness and pay homage to the many bird species vanishing in a rapidly changing world. Her words place us amongst the birds, rendering their lives and the places they inhabit real to involve us on a person level.

swallows capering
in the purple twilight—
the life

Available to buy here

The Switch by Lily Samson

Two couples. Elena and Adam are housesitting in Wimbledon and are instantly seduced by their new upscale surroundings.

Sophia and Finn are their beautiful, enigmatic neighbours who invite them into their world.

One twisted game. When Sophia proposes a wicked game to Elena whereby they will swap partners in secret, it’s not long before Elena starts to experience a sexual awakening that blossoms into an illicit love affair.

But Sophia’s plans are far more complex and dangerous than Elena could ever have imagined…

Who will survive?

Available to buy here
Connect with Lily Samson

Billy Waters Is Dancing by Mary L Shannon

The story of William Waters, Black street performer in Regency London and how his huge celebrity took on a life of its own.

Every child in Regency London knew Billy Waters, the celebrated ‘King of the Beggars.’ Likely born into enslavement in 1770s New York, he became a Royal Navy sailor. After losing his leg in a fall from the rigging, the talented and irrepressible Waters became London’s most famous street performer. His extravagantly costumed image blazed across the stage and in print to an unprecedented degree.

For all his contemporary renown, Waters died destitute in 1823, but his legend would live on for decades.

Mary L. Shannon’s biography draws together surviving traces of Waters’ life to bring us closer to the historical figure underlying them. Considering Waters’ influence on the London stage and his echoing resonances in visual art and writing by Douglass, Dickens and Thackeray, Shannon asks us to reconsider Black presences in nineteenth-century popular culture. This is a vital attempt to recover a life from historical obscurity, and a fascinating account of what it meant to find fame in the Regency metropolis.

Available to buy here
Connect with Dr Mary Shannon

The Stanzas Of Dreams by Palak Tewary

In every wish, there is a poem.

In The Stanzas Of Dreams, Palak Tewary delves into the hidden desires that reside within every heart: whether they yearn for a brighter future, seek solace from burdens, or wish to accept themselves or trust their destiny. This collection of 36 poems, crafted in 15 distinct forms, captures the essence of human longing and hope. Each verse is a testament to the power of wishes, offering a poetic journey through the dreams that shape our lives.

Included: ‘Guess the form’ quiz at the end.

Embrace the magic of these words and let your heart’s deepest desires find their voice.

Available to buy here
Connect with Palak Tewary

All The Colours Of The Dark by Chris Whitaker

Late one summer, the town of Monta Clare is shattered by the abduction of teenager Joseph ‘Patch’ Macauley. Nobody more so than Saint Brown, who will risk everything to find her best friend.

But when she does, it will break her heart.

Patch lies alone in a pitch-black room, until he feels a hand in his. Her name is Grace and, though they cannot see each other, she lights their world with her words.

But when he escapes, there is no sign she ever even existed.

Left with only her voice and her name, he paints her from broken memories, and charts an epic search to find her.

As years turn to decades, and hope becomes obsession, Saint will shadow his journey – on a darker path to hunt down the man who took them – and set free the only boy she ever loved.

Even if finding the truth means losing each other forever.

Available to buy here
Connect with Chris Whitaker

31 Days Of Writing by Jennifer C Wilson

31 Days Of Writing draws on the prompts and exercises from seven years of North Tyneside Writers’ Circle.

Whether you’re wanting to build scenes for a work-in-progress, or generate ideas for short stories or poems, there’s something for everyone in this collection to keep the inspiration flowing for a month of writing.

Available to buy here
Connect with Jennifer C Wilson

The Wisdom Of Sheep & Other Animals by Rosamund Young

We talk about people behaving like sheep, which assumes that sheep all behave in the same way. That’s not been my experience.

Some are affectionate, others prone to head-butting. Some are determinedly self-sufficient, others seek our help when they need it. And some can be trusted to lead the flock home. They are as individual as we are.

Farm animals are familiar to us from childhood stories and their inner lives are full of unexpected complexity, deep bonds and family dramas. Rosamund Young has been an organic farmer for over 40 years and this is her record of a life at the beck and call of the animals, while observing and preserving the abundant wildlife at Kite’s Nest Farm. It’s a story of joy, discovery, co-operation and sometimes heartbreak. We learn about sheep growing old disgracefully, the intelligence of supposedly ‘bird-brained’ hens, ‘conversations’ between cows and why you should never send a text whilst milking.

Available to buy here

Remember, if you’re an author and you’d like to see your book in our Saturday Spotlight, email: and send us the details of your new novel.

For details of Penguin RandomHouse new releases, visit their website here.
For details of Hachette new releases, visit their website here.
For details of HarperCollins new releases, visit their website here.
For details of PanMacmillan new releases, visit their website here.
For details of Simon & Schuster new releases, visit their website here.

Disclaimer: Amazon links are given for ease but please remember there are a number of other online retailers operating, including hive (which helps to support independent book shops), Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play and Nook as well as online stores for bookstores such as Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and WHSmiths

Issue 21 of Write On! is out now and you can read it online here. Find it in libraries and other outlets. You can find previous editions of our magazines here.

You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on

We want to help connect authors and readers, so our Saturday Spotlight page showcases some of the exciting new reads available each month.